November 12, 2015
Case Study

Inbound Marketing: Entertainment venue Topgolf increases Twitter followers 182% with relevant outreach

SUMMARY: Nearing the announcement of a flagship location in Las Vegas that was part of a larger 25 location expansion, entertainment venue Topgolf wanted to improve social media engagement to facilitate conversations and reach out to potential customers.

See how, by integrating social media with in-person interactions and events and reaching out with relevant social media conversations, Topgolf was able to increase its Twitter followers 182%.

by Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content


Entertainment venue Topgolf was created for "all ages, all skill levels, all year round," according to Adrienne Chance, Director of Corporate Communications, Topgolf.

"We have microchips in our golf balls that track the accuracy and distance of your shots, so it's almost like a bowling experience when you get that immediate feedback on how you did. And it's a both indoor and outdoor facility, with climate-controlled hitting bays, so you can play it and enjoy it year-round," she said.

Topgolf facilities also have a full service restaurant, live music, theme parties, golf lessons, leagues and tournaments, among other types of events and activities "regardless of whether or not you want to play golf," she said.

More than half of Topgolf guests describe themselves as non-golfers, Chance said.

"A lot of them do end up playing because it's a very non-intimidating experience. But if you don't want to play, you can still enjoy the scenery and atmosphere, go for the drinks, music," she added.


Topgolf's latest Las Vegas location is opening late spring of 2016, and the company announced it in February of this year.

"We're just going through a period of extremely rapid growth right now. We're opening 10 locations a year for the next three years," Chance said.

The Las Vegas Topgolf is unique, she added, because it will be the flagship location with an entirely unique design.

"It's going to reach an entirely new demographic of guests, and it's also going to draw an international audience unlike we've seen before at our other locations. So there's a lot more complexity and consideration behind marketing the Las Vegas location," she said.

Topgolf is partnered with the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and is actually located on its property on the Las Vegas Strip.

"With the announcement of Las Vegas, it's very hard to really make a true splash among all of the major casinos and the entertainment that's offered on the strip. It's hard to really make yourself known as a smaller golf entertainment company that isn't truly nationwide yet," she said.

The marketing team realized the importance of this announcement as an opportunity to present Topgolf to a large audience who may not be familiar with it yet.

"We really wanted to create a lot of buzz around the location, inform people of what Topgolf is and ensure that we started off our marketing plans there with a big bang," Chance said.


The marketing team switched to a new social media vendor a few months before the launch, Chance said, in order to be more proactive about seeking out conversations with followers.

They also wanted to reach people who weren't yet followers and to begin using the brand's social media content to its full potential, she added, utilizing the hashtag "#ILoveTopgolf."

"Typically with an announcement, we issue a press release and we will have somebody just monitoring what people are responding to online. We don't have a very big team, and I'm the only person who is overseeing social media," she said.

Since there aren't any dedicated resources at the main office for social media, Chance rededicated other employees' time to this special announcement to engage with customers and amplify the message.

Step #1. Integrate social aspects into the physical space

The marketing team came up with an idea, through Topgolf's partnership with AT&T, to install a social media wall at all locations.

"The purpose of the wall was to raise awareness about Topgolf social media at the site, make it more top of mind so people wanted to interact with us on social," Chance said.

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#ILoveTopgolf was created for people to use to appear on the social wall. When someone tweets with that hashtag, the tweet appears on the wall at all locations.

"So you can see what Topgolf looks like from Phoenix to Chicago to Dallas, wherever you are. It's a really neat visualization at our site," she said.

Topgolf has a marketing manager at every location, and overseeing location social media, including the wall, became part of their role.

The marketing team also put social media handles on all printed collateral, with a street team who regularly goes to community events, festivals and charity events to engage with people.

"When they engage with people, they offer them swag in exchange for, 'Hey, give us a like on Instagram or tag us in a photo.' Or they play fun games with them that involve social media," she said.

Those one-on-one interactions that bring social media to people at events help to drive Topgolf's following in a more natural way, Chance said.

"We try to make social media integrated into our full experience. Even on the game itself, you can share your score on social. And so everything that we do, we always think, 'Is there a way that we could involve social media?' And that's just to make the conversation even bigger," she said.

Step #2. Dedicate team resources to social conversations

"It's really a team collaborative effort," Chance said, adding that only about 30% of her time is dedicated to overall brand social media.

Since there aren't any dedicated resources at the main office for social media, Chance scheduled members of the marketing team for a period of three days, during this announcement, to be actively seeking out conversations in and around Las Vegas.

With the Las Vegas opening, "it was such a big deal that we had people who … all they were doing for three days was seeking out those conversations, responding to people, making sure we were amplifying our presence — especially regarding the Las Vegas conversation — and making sure that all of our fans knew about the location, but also people that we had never even interacted with before," she said.

The team wanted to reach people who weren't yet followers — so those who were engaging on social media using words like "Las Vegas" or "The Strip," even specific casino names.

"We can also see who are the most influential people who are talking about Las Vegas or who have talked about it in recent history," she said.

This is how the team began fully utilizing the brand hashtag "#ILoveTopgolf" and capitalizing on the buzz around the announcement.

These types of organic conversations from Topgolf to customers, or potential customers, is where the marketing team focused its energy, Chance said.

"We really haven't used paid advertising much at all. I mean, I'd say 1% or less of our budget. So we've really relied on grassroots marketing, organic social media conversations, word-of-mouth," she said.

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This approach works well for them, she added, because Topgolf is an inherently social brand with customers who are social media enthusiasts. Around 85% of customers are active on social media, according to Chance.

"When people come to Topgolf, they naturally want to document it because there's this amazing outfield, great food and drinks. It's something they want to take pictures and video of their swing … that kind of thing," she said.

Step #3. Work with partners for announcement

Topgolf has been fortunate enough to not have to rely on advertising and paid media to get the word out, she said, and at the time of the announcement, "we wanted this to really be, again, organic, grassroots, that kind of thing," Chance said.

To achieve this, she said the team leaned on partners quite a bit with this announcement, including MGM Grand, and set up a schedule in advance for when they were going to post on social media. Other key partners included Red Bull, who provided a DJ at the groundbreaking ceremony in Las Vegas.

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"We had hired a photographer and videographer to capture the groundbreaking ceremony and turn around the pictures very quickly, both to the media and to social media. So the event was kind of the culmination of everything, with the announcement. We did do a press release … but the event was the biggest focus of the announcement," she said.

The team made sure heavy-hitting speakers were in attendance, she said, including Topgolf's CEO and Chairman, as well as the President of MGM Grand. All guests were provided with Topgolf swag as well.

"For the people who couldn't be at the event, most of the experience was on social media, so having good pictures and video was key for us," Chance said.

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In addition, Chance utilized a media relations person who was dedicated to reaching out to reporters about Topgolf Las Vegas. This lead to tweets from writers from The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal about the announcement as well as a story by the Los Angeles Times.

One of the biggest housekeeping parts of the strategy was coordinating the release of every piece of media with time zones because Topgolf employees from across the country were working on this announcement.

"We didn't want any information to slip before, for anyone that was at the actual event out in Las Vegas. So it was definitely a balancing act in real-time communication between all the teams to make that happen," she said.

Step #4. Implement a post-announcement social media strategy

"We followed through with the account for that full week, and we've made periodic posts here and there to our followers, just to update them on our progress," Chance said.

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Topgolf Las Vegas recently had a topping out ceremony, she said, "which is where you put the last piece of steel on the building. And we shared some pictures on social media."

But overall, she said, social media on projects such as this "go dark" during the construction process, because it's so long and intricate. Facilities take nine to 12 months to build, she said, and in this case, 16 to 17.

"It gets a little bit confusing — we've noticed with previous locations — if we're constantly posting during that entire construction process, because then people start to think we're already open, and start showing up at the facility. Even if we're clear about it, it still happens," she said.

Because of that, the team keeps posts fairly minimal during construction, but a few months before opening, "we'll really start to pick up the pace in terms of the posting and the content that we're putting out there. But for right now … we'd rather save that engagement and excitement for when they can actually do something about it, and come and visit the facility," she said.


One of the biggest surprising takeaways, Chance said, was how excited the current fan base would be about Topgolf Las Vegas.

"We were really humbled and surprised and blown away that so many of our fans were so passionate and so excited about the new location. So that was really great to see that kind of brand loyalty coming through, and the level of excitement that was shown," she said.

The results the Topgolf team was able to garner in this social media push across February 2014 through August 2015 were:
  • 193% increase in Facebook fans

  • 182% increase in Twitter followers

  • 1,476% increase in Instagram followers

Chance believes that Topgolf's decentralized marketing model has been especially strategic in growing brand social media.

"It's so many more eyeballs and so many more ideas for how we can grow social. And because our towns have truly local content that's relevant to that community, it's enabled us to grow quite a bit," she said.

Because local marketing managers are able to be at community events in person, engaging one-on-one with customers, integrating social media into those interactions, conversations can be especially compelling.

"For example, our marketing managers, if there's a big sporting event going on, they'll search intelligence for that topic, and then we'll see who's talking about it, what are they saying … [and] we can engage with them and offer them [surprising and delightful types] of opportunities," she said.

Creative Samples

  1. Social wall

  2. #ILoveTopgolf

  3. Groundbreaking ceremony

  4. LA Times article

  5. Topping out ceremony




Related Resources

MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 — At the Bellagio in Las Vegas, February 22-24

Inbound Marketing: 14% event attendee participation from New Relic's social media campaign

Inbound Marketing: How to turn your customers into brand enthusiasts [From the MarketingSherpa blog]

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