By Mike Watkins//Contributor | Thursday, March 23, 2017
#SwimBiz Spotlight shares leading practices from clubs to promote themselves – through social media, sponsorship, communications and marketing. Please join us for the 3rd Annual #SwimBiz Conference on April 9-11 to learn from industry experts and other leading swim clubs.
Three years before he returned to full-time coaching for Southeastern Swim Club, Ben Wachtel worked for an agency focusing on creating advertising, marketing and social media messages to increase business for clients.
“I spend between 5-10 hours each week posting fun photos, results, events, etc., for our team,” said Wachtel, the team’s Social Media Director in addition to coaching the Seniors practice group. He swam for the Boilers his junior and senior years of high school, and is a recent inductee into the Indiana high school swimming and diving Hall of Fame.
“I believe in this club, and because of that, I believe in the things we’re doing. I want to share those things with our members, parents, alumni like myself and the community. It creates stronger ties.”
One thing Wachtel said he can count on with his swimmers as well as their friends and connections is their innate need for FOMO – fear of missing out.
Because they and society as a whole are so focused on the immediate availability of information, social media is the perfect, fastest, most efficient (and least expensive) platform in which to communicate to them.
“As we continue to grow, social media will become more and more important both with and outside the team, because that’s how this generation communicates with each other, and their parents and grandparents and friends are all doing it, too,” said Wachtel, who enjoyed a successful collegiate swimming career at Purdue University.
“The power is in the message – the information, the photos, the video, whatever it might be – but it’s also in the connectivity of swimmers and parents sharing posts with grandparents and friends who then share and like. This way, we reach an audience who had little or no previous knowledge of our team. That’s amazingly powerful.”
Wachtel’s time running the team’s social media has been so well done, he’s presenting at the upcoming #SwimBiz conference on the subject.
It’s a subject he not only enjoys, but he said he also knows what he’s learned along the way – what works, what doesn’t, etc. – can be beneficial for other clubs who may or may not be using social media as a communication tool.
“I’ll be talking about fostering interaction – how to get started, what to do, etc.,” he said. “I want coaches to leave feeling empowered to do some things they haven’t felt comfortable doing before and help them recognize and identify strong stories, ideas, methods, etc.”
Wachtel said, in addition to feedback and reaction from club members and family and friends, he has also heard from people with whom he swam regarding what they’re seeing about the club’s activities and success on social media.
“They’re texting me and responding to posts about what they’re seeing on Facebook and Instagram, and it’s great that they’re staying connected even though they’ve been gone for a while,” Wachtel said.
“I know that if I weren’t here coaching and doing the social media, I would also be following the team’s progress the same way. It’s just a great way to connect and stay informed.”
As far as planning team content for social media, Wachtel said he looks ahead monthly (if not further) and identifies meets and events that he knows will make for good content – but he also likes to let things happen organically as much as possible.
He said he knows you can control certain things about practice and meets, but it’s the spontaneous things that happen that show the fun and joy the swimmers and coaches are having in and out of the pool that can make for the best connective posts.
“It’s tough (when I’m coaching), but I usually try to have my phone handy when I’m on deck because I don’t want to miss anything,” he said. “But coaching is still my main directive with the club. I want to help the kids become the best swimmers they can be. That’s the most important thing.”
“But as far as social media is concerned, just like in coaching, consistency is the key. People will only come back to your Facebook page or look for you on Instagram if you get messages out to them regularly. They expect it, so if you stop and take time away from it, they may not return. Once they leave, it’s can be hard to get them back, so I make sure to have regular posts for everyone to enjoy and learn about our kids and team.”
Wachtel said one thing he’s learned to do – particularly during times when he isn’t able to record video or take photos to make posts – is to engage parents at meets to get involved by taking video and photos with their phones.
“Believe it or not but I’ve learned it’s really powerful to ask for help when I need it,” he said. “Parents can get bored at meets, but if you get them involved, they’re happy to take photos and video and send them to me to post. They’re eager to help, and they really enjoy being part of things.”
And while he said the team isn’t maxed out as far as membership is concerned, Wachtel said he doesn’t necessarily view social media as a means for club growth.
It’s really more about highlighting club members and coaches and telling people about their accomplishments.
“One thing I learned in my previous career is that it’s easier and less expensive to retain a customer than to lose one and need to find a replacement,” he said. “By featuring the successes and accomplishments of our current members, we are able to keep them engaged and excited so they want to stay with us. The same goes with their parents.
“We want them to want to be part of a club that’s having the most fun – and we show that we are through our social media posts.