Last month, members of the UK's Outdoor Industry Association attended a workshop on social media at Lancaster University as part of the E-business and Innovation curriculum. The members were apparently astounded at how fast internet and social media are evolving and the opportunities and challenges that presents for outdoor businesses.
Social media is about building relationships with customers and finding out what is being said about your brand on the Internet. It is not enough to set up a blog, Facebook fan page, post some videos to YouTube and wait for the community to develop. Brands must also contribute and monitor the conversation.
Social media involves customer engagement and has the potential for customer contribution to innovation. Consumers searching for a specific brand or product are increasingly likely to see and be influenced by results from blogs and Twitter than they are from the official brand pages.
I think Patagonia and First Ascent are two companies in particular that understand how to use social media and have built up some great communities. With some of the other outdoor brands I feel like I am simply on the receiving end of a big promotional funnel. How about you- which outdoor brands do you feel more engaged with? Why?
Channel Signal, run by industry veteran Paul Kirwin (a guy who really gets it), will have monitors at Outdoor Retailer displaying a live Twitter feed of #ORWinter and are encouraging everyone to tweet their honest perceptions throughout the day. There is even a "guerrilla panel" that has popped up consisting of group of outdoor industry people that are engaged heavily in social networks.
OK- I promise tomorrow is back to cool new gear coming out of the show! Follow @theGearcaster on Twitter if you want to get live updates on what I am seeing or who I have met.