The Guelph Turfgrass Institute opened its doors in 1987, the result of a partnership between the University of Guelph, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and the turfgrass industry. And while the people who have helped it thrive over the last 36 years have produced great research and helped advance turf in and out of Canada, its messaging has most definitely evolved the last couple of years.
Sara Stricker is a big reason for that evolution.
Stricker earned both her master’s in environmental science, plant pathology in 2017 and her doctorate in plant pathology/phythopathology in 2021 from the university — the latter within weeks of also starting as the communications and outreach coordinator for the Guelph Turfgrass Institute. Interact with the institute on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, or their new podcast, Canadian Turf Talk? Odds are good that was Stricker, who has tried to bring more personality and, yes, communication to the various accounts.
And those accounts are why Guelph Turfgrass Institute is one of our 2023 Super Social Media Awards winners — for Best Overall Use of Social Media — honoring the best of turf on social media. All 2023, 2022 and 2021 winners will be recognized at the 12th annual Golf Course Industry Tweetup — #GCITweetup23 — scheduled for 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8 at Aquatrols Booth #2373 at the GCSAA Conference and Trade Show in Orlando.
In advance of #GCITweetUp23, we spoke with Stricker about how she uses social media to help the institute.
What do you hope others learn from your social media usage?
One of the most important elements is continuing to use social media. If you’re just posting once a year, what’s the point? Continuing to post keeps you in the mind’s eye of the user and gives you a better chance of being viewed. And adding a bit of your own personality is also kind of important. I spend a few minutes once a week scrolling through Instagram or Twitter and liking and replying to other people’s posts and tweets and looking for people to follow. If you’re just shouting into the void, you’ll have less of a chance to have a meaningful impact on people who are viewing your work. People notice when you’re a real person and not just a brand. One of the best Twitter accounts right now is Wendy’s. They just roast other fast-food brands and everyone loves it. Does that not make you think about having a burger at Wendy’s? But they never tell you what the deal of the day is.
What advice would you give peers looking to boost their social media game?
Understanding your hashtags is really important and tagging other people is really important. I always use the hashtag #GuelphTurf if I can fit it in the character limits. And before I use a new hashtag or invent a hashtag — like for our upcoming conference, #OTS2023 — I use a hashtag checker to make sure that doesn’t mean something else, like the Obstetricians Teaching Schedule or something other the Ontario Turfgrass Symposium. Those can be very helpful for amplifying your message.
What do you see the future of social media being in the turf workplace?
Who could have predicted TikTok, right? No one predicted this random Asian karaoke app blowing up like it has. Will the TikTok fad fade? Mmmm, probably. I’m a millennial. I’ve seen the coming and going of MySpace, the fading of Facebook, the fading of Instagram. When businesses and adults clue in — “This looks like a fun place! I can connect with the youth here!” — the youth leave. Each generation gets its own platform and I imagine there will be a new platform coming in the next 10 years that the youths of tomorrow will be on, and businesses will try to sell them things, and then they’ll move on.
I don’t want to make a prediction, but I think LinkedIn is a consistent, forgotten player, and I think we should engage it more within the turf industry. The second-most-common call or email I get is people wanting to post jobs for our students — just share it on LinkedIn!