I advise and follow many outdoor recreation and product companies that are all trying to have a social media presence. There are many that do this quite well. Patagonia is my favorite, largely due to how their social media message stays true to the brand and their customers. Companies like Simms and Sage tend to be a little more disjointed but stay on point for the most part even if there are a few things that seem to fall through the cracks like regular blog posts and coordinated postings on various social media sites. However; there are many small to mid-sized companies in the outdoor consumer market that fail miserably at branding and marketing their specific service or product. The one factor that I see over and over in the SMM presentation of these companies is they tend to alienate their target demographic by making electronic media all about their employees or themselves.
Planning social media campaigns for outdoor products and services companies should be premised on a few things. First, and foremost they should be fun, informational, and engaging. Secondly, the business owner/company needs to realize that the customer doesn’t need YOU! The customers are spending their discretionary income on the promise of joy that your products and/or services will provide. Many companies in the outdoor niche have forgotten that they aren’t the electric company-no one needs a $200 dollar Guatemalan shirt or a $10,000 fly-fishing trip to Alaska to survive in today’s world.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was from Sonny Petersen, owner of Katmailand Inc. and Katmai Air in Alaska. His main credo when it comes to media pieces for his fly-out fly-fishing lodges is that; “No one wants to see guides fishing or holding fish.” This is one of the most insightful statements that I have heard about, not only social media marketing, but marketing in general. Restated simply, the customers want to see people like themselves being successful in the outdoors with your product or service. The most relevant and successful SMM campaigns and strategies follow this statement, not only for outdoor products and services companies but businesses in general whom have had success in the SMM realm.
Currently; I have been working with one small company that has vision. Yet, the owner and marketing team can’t stop posting about themselves through the defined company social media channels. Video and various other media are consistently posted of the owner and employees, not of clients having a great experience with the company’s products and services. Even the attempts at online engagement via social media have been, at best ego-driven and at worst condescending. The rose-colored glasses only see the well-composed pictures with great lighting or the wonderfully worded caption explaining that was a great cast. Even though it is obvious that the person in the picture is not a customer, but an employee.
Making the customer come first in any business is important, but in the outdoor services and products world, it is paramount. The customer has to feel empowered by using your goods and services. They want to live the life that your company markets. Vicarious emotional experience should be driving SMM campaigns for these outdoor companies. That is why the most important focus of the social media campaign should be on the customer’s ability to identify with the picture, video, or statement that is representing your brand and message. A picture of a guide holding the biggest fish or the backcountry guide dropping a huge air only make the customer think that they can’t do that.
Nike summed it up best; “Just Do It!”. They didn’t say; “Let us Just Do It and you can tag along.”