Back ten years ago if you wanted to have a “voice” as an outdoors writer you needed one or more of the following. You needed:
- To have a columnist gig writing copy for either a local or regional newspaper; or
- To be a free-lancer or staff writer for some monthly print magazine; or
- Perhaps become a radio/TV show host; or
- Even a published book author.
Oh sure, there were other possibilities that existed to make a name for yourself as an outdoors communicator, but to be honest what I have just listed comprised at least 80% of the outdoor communicating opportunities existing a mere decade ago. To become established in this field you worked your tail off perfecting one or more of the communication mediums I outlined above. In fact, not much had changed about the communicating profession during most of the 20th Century.
So, maybe the thought of entering a new Millennium began to change people’s mindsets. Even six years ago when I began blogging few people took the effort seriously. At that time the Outdoor Writer’s Association of America had not yet taken bloggers, or for that matter, most other online publishing content very seriously. And the Professional Outdoor Media Association was just forming so this group was in a perfect position to grasp all the crucial changes taking place.
The point I’m trying to emphasize here is we are living in a fast-changing, and I dare say a very exciting time to be a communicator. Before the Internet a person could work their entire career and not be known outside a 25–mile radius. Today, such a statement would be almost impossible to make. Even small town newspapers post content to the Internet for potential worldwide search access.
Let me demonstrate the power of the Internet, and more specifically Social Media (SM) Marketing. Back in January of 2006 I wrote a blog piece about Diamond Dog Food as the company was embroiled, at the time, in a controversy regarding some of its products. In fact, due to a suspected aflatoxin fungus found in certain dog food, 100s of dogs allegedly became sick and died. I chastised the company in my blog for this carelessness and days later was contacted by none other than the president of the company to explain their position and how they were trying to make things right with the consumers.
Over the course of several weeks I received dozens upon dozens of e-mails from readers ranging from those who were just highly concerned, as well as individuals who suffered the heartbreak of losing their dogs. Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head realizing these occurrences could not have been made possible before the Internet.
Hardly a day goes by and my blog does not generate e-mails of some kind. It ranges from people wanting to buy fillet knives I’ve discussed to others seeking advice on how best to market their father’s estate with all his outdoor gear. It’s part of what makes this blogging effort exciting—in fact, I consider it the fuel that keeps me wanting to further develop the blog.
Alright, but you say what does any of this have to do with Social Media Marketing. Well, I consider blogging to be sort of the original hybrid of SM marketing. Still, most experts would agree that sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are evolving so quickly that marketing and public relations professionals simply cannot ignore the developing trend.
Here’s another example. Did you see my blog post yesterday on the return of Shakey’s Pizza coming back to Minnesota in 2011? Yeah, I know…it didn’t really relate to what I typically do with this blog site talking about the outdoors…but it was something personally fun for me. That restaurant chain has some awesome childhood memories for me and my mouth is already salivating as I remember the great pizza it once sold.
Why did I post the news release? Simple. I made a comment last Friday on Twitter “re-tweeting” this exciting local news of Shakey’s return. It turns out some public relations firm read my tweet, investigated a bit more as to who I was, and then made contact with me. They e-mailed me not only the press release I posted, but they also offered interviews with folks at the pizza joint’s corporate office. In other words, Shakey’s Pizza has such a pro-active PR agency they were out hustling the news to gain maximum exposure. (as a side note, I have every reason to believe this blog post will likewise catch their eye…that’s how all of this works)
Here’s another example of the power of Twitter. Last year my stepson was at the Minnesota State Fair and stayed in the encampment with all the other youths from around the state. To make a long story short…last August he ended up contracting one of the first widespread outbreaks of H1N1 flu here in Minnesota. I made a simple statement on Twitter how my stepson was a 4–Her at the fair and is not home sick with the “swine flu.” Within minutes various news agencies were sending me messages wanting to interview me on the topic! WOW!
The point is whether I post something in this blog or talk about it on my Facebook page or Twitter, I can give you numerous examples as to how the world is reading it. The mere mention of a product name — good or bad — is going to get you noticed these days. The savvy companies have marketing firms monitoring this “chatter” and often times contact is made with the party who makes the comment. In fact, what better way to minimize bad publicity than to locate it, mitigate it, and turn a once upset person into a happy person again.
Just a few days ago I received an e-mail from an executive of the National Shooting Sports Foundation asking my opinion on SM marketing as it relates to outdoors writers. Turns out he was soliciting my thoughts in preparation for an upcoming talk on the subject. I shared lots of information with him, but essentially I told him to drive home these few points.
Make sure outdoors writers don’t continue living in the past thinking SM marketing is just some passing fad. Instead, tell outdoors communicators to embrace SM marketing, strive to understand it, and attempt to overcome any natural objections so that it may be used to its fullest potential. The sooner those of us in the outdoors industry (both communicators and companies) grasp the potential of what the Internet has to offer, the quicker those same folks will achieve 21st Century success. The times…more than ever before, they are a changing!
©2010 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.
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