Yesterday, Jay Kumar, Bass fishing expert, wrote a provocative column (http://www.theoutdoorwire.
Jay thinks it is. According to Jay, “you’re probably wasting your time and money.” Well, everyone’s entitled to his own opinion, but let’s not throw the proverbial baby out with the bath water here.
First, let’s talk facts. Facebook, for example, has nearly a billion users. That might be hype, but – then again – ask your wife, husband, kids, friends, “Are you on Facebook?” Chances are many of them will say, “yes,” and chances are that many use Facebook nearly every day. Or, take YouTube. Do people watch YouTube? Again, ask your friends, family and others – have you ever watched something on YouTube. Perhaps fewer will answer yes than on Facebook, but especially among the younger set, many are watching YouTube. And isn’t the younger set precisely the “future” of any industry? So the first fact is that a lot of people are on Social Media and sooner, rather than later, the outdoor industry should adjust to this reality. Oh, and ask yourself how many bookstores you’ve been to lately vs. Amazon.com, or how many record stores you’ve visited vs. downloads from the Apple store.
Change may be brutal, but change does come.
Second, let’s talk about marketing. Marketing is not just about BUY BUY BUY your products. Marketing is also about creating a positive climate around your company, product or service. A great website, a great blog, a YouTube channel, a vibrant Facebook page sharing tips and tricks about (I don’t know, let’s say, Bass Fishing?) might not immediately sell someone… but they do create a hard-to-measure brand image. And for those of you who don’t live in California, it’s pretty hard to bass fish in December, but you can certainly watch tips and tricks on YouTube or share them via Facebook during the winter months to get ready for Spring and Summer. Does that mean that social media is an instant sale? Nope, but lots of marketing is about brand image and making customers feel good. So it’s not fair to critique social media for being as immeasurable as that hearty handshake at a conference, or that speaking engagement at a trade show, or the atmosphere in one’s physical store.
Does social media take work? Yes it does. Is it easy? Not at first. But what in life, that’s worth doing, is easy at first? What new technology or new way of doing things is simple at first? That this media revolution is messy and confusing and frightening… makes a lot like every other revolutionary change.
Third, let’s talk measurement. Do people watch YouTube and click from YouTube to your website? They might not for you, but they do for many people. Just because you don’t know how to set up overlays on YouTube or measure inbound referrals from YouTube to your webstore doesn’t mean it can’t be done. I can’t bass fish my way out of Red Lobster, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t smart people who can catch bass.
Having a humble, “let’s learn” attitude is the best way to start measuring. Beyond direct measurement (from Facebook to your website as measured via Google Analytics), you can also measure Facebook likes, YouTube views, or Twitter retweets. Do those matter? Well, perhaps not directly, but they do matter in a more general branding sense. Does everyone who sees a Dorito ad at the Superbowl go out and buy Doritos? Nope, but that doesn’t mean that that brand visibility isn’t valuable. Or does everyone who walk into a Bass Pro store, buy something? Nope, but that visit and that mental impression are valuable nonetheless. Does it matter that Bass Pro shops have 2.3 million (!) fans on Facebook? They’re not all buying right this second, but that’s a lot of people who have a positive brand image.
Fourth, let’s address this whole issue of “the media.” Jay complains that a lot of the “old media” types can’t learn the “new media” and so they’re social media efforts will just be white noise. That’s probably true. There are those people who say “I can” and those who say “I can’t.” Guess what? They’re both right. The fact that your blog isn’t working, that your YouTube channel isn’t getting views, that your Facebook page isn’t getting engagement might mean not that the media is the problem but that your methods are. I could try fishing all day long, and because I am a lousy fisherman I probably won’t catch any fish. Does that mean there aren’t any fish in the lake? Or maybe… I need to have a positive yet humble attitude about learning and learn from people who are succeeding. I think one is never too old to learn – it’s all about attitude.
Fifth, let’s circle back to trends. Is social media confusing? Yep. Is YouTube a bit crazy? Yep. Is Facebook full of friends, family and fun-seekers wasting time? Yep. But ask yourself, do your friends, family, and others spend more time today on social media than they did a year ago? Five years ago? Does your grandma have an email? Is your Mom sharing photos on Facebook? And how many times did you go to the bookstore last year vs. order something on Amazon? How is that local record store doing in your town?
Change is hard, and the media is definitely changing. It’s a bit rough, it’s a bit crazy, but it is only getting more important. Is it measurable? It is, if you have a positive attitude and learn from people (such as those who understand Google Analytics). Is it perfect? No. But what is perfect? What form of marketing is 100% measureable? Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater here, and most importantly: never stop learning.
– Jason McDonald
Jason McDonald (http://www.jm-seo.org/) teaches SEO and Social Media online. You can find Jason by Googlging his name; he’s number one of course. He has taught workshops at two POMA conferences and has a great respect for the outdoors. Jason is an avid outsdoorman, in the sense that while he sets at his computer and does SEO and social media, he dreams of the day when he can be out turkey hunting. But first, he has to learn how.
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