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Social Bite: Shaping Our Industry’s Future Through Outdoor Social Media

Aug 31, 2016


Tandem Stills + Motion

Social Bite: Shaping Our Industry’s Future Through Outdoor Social Media

In a culture that is increasingly influenced by the power of social platforms, how can the outdoor industry tap into these channels to achieve lasting impact?

When it comes to communicating a brand story, there are few tools as effective, efficient and as far-reaching as social media. The value of a social media strategy to a company’s bottom line is undeniable. And now countless companies are using their broad and deep social media reach to convey messages above and beyond their own brand stories. Individually, those messages are powerful. But imagine how much more powerful they’d be if they were coordinated.

Last month at Outdoor Retailer, OIA hosted a luncheon for industry social media and content managers. Inspired by OIA Executive Director Amy Roberts’s Industry Breakfast presentation about “The Power of Collective Action,” we wanted to start a conversation about how brand and retail managers, athletes and social media influencers can better align their individual voices toward a collective movement for good.

Watch Amy Roberts’s Industry Breakfast presentation

From public lands activism to issues of inclusion to sustainability initiatives, the power of the outdoor tribe is exponential.

“There’s no other industry better positioned to take on those issues than ours,” said American Alpine Club Marketing and Communications Manager Whitney Bradberry, who was among the attendees at the social media luncheon. Bradberry noted that social media pros can influence how the industry, as a whole, is perceived.

Catalysts for Change

Ryan Fliss, managing editor of The Dyrt, agreed the luncheon was an important catalyst. “Coming together and discussing actionable steps to effect real change made it clear that we can start to push the needle now,” he said.

The general consensus in the room: It’s not enough to populate our Instagram feeds with nature and adventure porn anymore. Social media isn’t just a place to generate inspiration through epic landscapes and perfectly timed action shots. It is now a legitimate and powerful vehicle for communicating shared messages.

What are those shared messages our industry wants to convey?

  • Inclusivity: The big message here: the outdoors are for everyone, and it’s our job as social media professionals to give voice to every type of outdoorist–from novice recreationalists to extreme professional athletes.
    How can we diversify our content to include all skill levels and recreation types in order to make our industry inclusive?
  • Authenticity: There’s no doubt that having an authentic voice on social media is crucial, but has the term become just another buzzword?
    If a photo is posed or curated or manipulated, can we call it authentic? How do we straddle the line while still producing high-quality custom content?
  • Education: We’ve done a good job of inspiring more people to get outside, but have we encouraged and empowered them to do so responsibly?
    How can we make sure outdoorists are well educated and incorporate a sense of stewardship into their outdoor experiences?
  • Diversity: This topic could have had its own roundtable. The first observation: It was valuable to have women like Maricela Rosales of Mad Rock and Latino Outdoors and Rozanne Cassone of Mountain Matron in attendance to provide candid guidance on how social media managers can effectively use our content and campaigns to highlight diversity, but our group wasn’t nearly diverse enough to properly represent the outdoor industry community we hope to serve
    How can we introduce more diverse perspectives and voices into our content and campaigns?
  • Connecting Brands + Consumers: What is the best way for brands to connect with consumers on a meaningful level? Athletes, brand advocates and influencers are powerful conduits bridging the gap between brands and end-users.
    How can we leverage these relationships and tap into public figures to inspire action, support campaigns and create outdoor impact?

“Everyone in that room spoke honestly [about] inclusion,” said Cabela’s Social Media Manager Jon Bausman, reflecting the group’s exploration of what it means to make the outdoors accessible to all. Brand managers shared their strategies for ensuring that content streams portrayed a range of skill levels. Influencers described their pursuits to share content that shows aspirational and attainable outdoor moments.

“Small changes matter,” said Tiffany Costello, Ethnotek’s social media manager. “And yes, that roundtable was [a small subset of the] big industry, but small changes make the way for big impact–especially when you have some of the loudest voices in the industry, a.k.a. social media managers.”

Next Steps The roundtable eventually concluded, but the conversation hasn’t—it’s just moved online, naturally. Want to join in? Request an invitation to join our Creating Outdoor Social Impact group on Facebook. It’s a closed group where outdoor industry social media professionals and content creators can come together to share resources, host honest discussions on the issues facing our industry, and collaborate to move the needle on bold ideas.

Want to join the conversation and get involved as OIA connects social media professionals for collaboration and collective impact? E-mail kboue@outdoorindustry.org