Small tennis program hits a grand slam on Facebook

Most youth tennis programs on Facebook have only a few dozen fans. The chicken and egg of small pages is that they don’t get seen by parents or kids in the neighborhood, so they get no engagement.
But you’re supposed to be posting dutifully on Facebook and twitter each day– because there are 1.2 billion people there, right?
Keith Wilcox is the administrator of the Gonzo Tennis Facebook page and is a daddy blogger. They’re a small academy in Boulder, Colorado. Here’s one post where 10,236 people saw it and 31 people liked it.
But normally they get about 100 people seeing their posts. That’s about 1/6th of their fan base of 650 fans.
If you’re not seen, you don’t get likes, comments, or shares.
But if you don’t get likes, comments, and shares, then you’re not getting the word spread, which is necessary to grow your audience.
A local tennis program should be 500 fans, which should approximately mirror the size of your email list, the people who come to your website each month, and the size of the folks in the community who care about you.
People care about what their friends, fellow parents, coaches, and community members are doing.
Especially when they’re winning.
Or having a good time.
Notice how people are more likely to engage on these posts?
What parent, teacher, or coach doesn’t want to see their kid win?
That’s the fuel for your social fire.
But when Keith started building the page over a year ago, In his words “I got no likes, comments, or shares.”
No matter what we posted, nothing.
We tried cool videos, photos of our kids winning, group shots of everyone having fun. Almost nothing.
Does this describe your situation?
Most coaches don’t even know how to measure the effectiveness of their program on Facebook or Twitter.  They just keep posting, not aware that nobody is seeing their content.
It’s like being blindfolded and constantly hitting the ball into the net.
Some people blame Facebook for this — that they’ve made the News Feed (your homepage and that of your friends) so competitive, that posts from pages don’t show up. After all, your posts are competing with the updates from all the friends of the people you’re trying to reach. You need to beat them on engagement and relevancy.
Good luck.
So we discovered, somewhat by accident, the solution to this problem.
Keith’s Toyota Highlander was part of the big Toyota recall. The dealer botched the service job and ripped him off in the process. He was so incensed that he wrote this blog post about it.
Then I targeted just the folks who work at Toyota in Japan and are executives.
In fact, there are 440 of them.
Next day, we got a call from the General Manager of the dealership. He was getting barraged by calls from management in Japan.
“Okay, I’ll fix the problem. Just stop whatever it is that you’re doing.” he said.
That’s the most effective $10 that we’ve ever spent.
This is not about targeting people who happen to like Toyota. These are people who work at Toyota — all the way down to their specific job titles. Yes, everything that is in your profile in fair game on Facebook.
And everything you do on Facebook, where you check in, the things you like, the friends you hang out with — it’s all available to marketers.
So we targeted people who work at the United States Tennis Association.  There are 280 folks on Facebook.
And now our posts are showing up in the News Feeds of the people we want to reach, but haven’t been able to.
It’s not just fans of Gonzo Tennis, but ANYONE.
We learned that you could use this microtargeting technique to immediately solve any customer service issue, like this or even anything you’re not happy about.
You have to pay to play.


I get it — you don’t have time or money to properly market your program.  Your website may be in disrepair. Your email list and marketing materials are old.  You’re not posting to Facebook as often as you know you should be.
You’re a great tennis coach, but aren’t a social media expert or a programmer, nor do you have the money to hire a pro.
That’s okay.
But if you have $3 a day and 60 minutes, you can set up your program for success on Facebook to make sure your students, parents, and prospective students are seeing you on Facebook.
Set up a page post ad that targets your fans, choosing the News Feed placement.
Notice how I selected the “promote page posts” option? This supercharges my content to show up in the News Feed.  So as long as you’re posting a couple times a week — ideally with photos and saying interesting things, you’re set.
You can post something promotional every 4th post — sign up for private lessons, register for the party, bring your friends to an event, etc. But oversell and Facebook’s algorithm penalizes you.
See how I checked the box to always promote the most recent post?  Now I can set it and forget it — no need to meddle with ads again after we’re done.
I opened up the “advanced options” and unchecked the “right hand side” ads.  Those 7 ads on the right are lame — nobody clicks on them.  You want to leave only the “News Feed” option checked, which ensures your posts show up in a natural looking way.
For connection targeting, I chose just fans — people connected to Gonzo Tennis.
Put it in a new campaign you call “News Feed reach”.
Set a budget of $3 a day and let it run forever.
Go ahead and submit it and you see a “success” screen.
But don’t stop there.
In your ads view, you can expand the ad and hit “create similar ad”, which clones the ad you just made.
Tweak the ad to be just your city with a 25 mile radius, or however far your new students might drive.
I’ve chosen Boulder, Colo. here. This narrows down the audience from 180 million people in the U.S. (way too big to try to target), down to perhaps 100,000 people.
Still too big.  For our micro-budgets, we must have super precise targets.
I’ve added in some interests into the “precise interests” box.  Go ahead and type in a bunch of tennis player names, tennis brands, tennis organizations, and all things tennis.  After you type in a few, Facebook starts suggesting more of them.
Don’t worry about the ones that have hashtags next to them or not, just keep adding interests until you have a few hundred people.
If your audience is too big (over 20,000), then you can expand the “broad categories” and under family, restrict this to just parents with kids of a certain age.
You can go absolutely bananas here, targeting folks by the type of car they drive, the phone they own, their ethnicity, whether they have an airline loyalty card, or whatever.
For marketing a local youth tennis program, you can ignore it. If you’re a business that runs Google AdWords, then you can play with this later. For our purposes, we just want to bring in new students and increase our awareness.
Now let’s do the final ad — to target the local media.
Under “workplace targeting,” I’ve selected the local newspapers and TV stations.  You might even add in various associations and tennis-specific outlets.
Keep in mind that smaller organizations might not show up.  Think about magazines that you’d like to be featured in — target those folks.  If Facebook estimates your audience to be fewer than 20 people, keep adding targets and expand your geography (maybe to 50 miles from your city or even the whole state).
If it’s above 5,000 people, then you’ve got something in there that’s too big.
This ad works like a charm to get media attention.  The media will see it, for sure, but won’t necessarily call you right way.  As long as you have interesting content, it might get you a spot on NPR.
Or maybe brands will notice and send you free products in the mail to review.
I suppose you could target folks who work at Prince, Penn, Nike, or whatnot.  Super effective PR strategy, if you really want to get ninja about it.

Final thoughts

No matter how small you are, this will work for you, since you’re targeting only a few hundred people in your town. As long as your content is solid, this works like a charm.
But don’t ever hit the boost post button. That just squanders away your precious money on everyone in your town and the friends of your fans who may or may not care about your program. It’s the equivalent of a billboard on the freeway– not targeted and made for the unsophisticated.
So let us know how this technique works for you.
Please share your stories and I’ll feature the best of them.

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