Heard above the noise

When it comes to social media we all have to make ourselves heard above the noise of the roaring crowd. As we head to Salt Lake City this week for the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market the social networks are all-a-Twitter (pun intended). Manufacturers and PR agents have been flooding the Internet with bits of information about their new brand offerings for weeks now. But unless we each step it up bit and start pushing up more substantive content the messages we send are just going to be drowned out in the clammer.

This show promises to allow attendees to be better connected than ever before. Several different platforms both online and on the show floor have been established to network new ideas and messages. Bloggers and tweeters of all varieties are going to post detailed information about the latest outdoor products in real time over the Internet. When the show opens on Thursday outdoor manufacturers and their retail customers will have an unprecedented opportunity to build strong brand identity and communicate their company’s compelling proposition. All anyone has to do is post a thoughtful message over Twitter with the call sign #ORWinter, and the conversation will take care of itself.

“Having the #ORWinter channel to communicate about events and what’s cool is a fantastic use of the technology,” said Seattle-based blogger Sara Lingafelter(@theclimbergirl) in a recent post. “It’s completely appropriate for brands to use that channel wisely… this time around, someone is definitely listening.”

The feed is being monitored and managed by the new social media company Channel Signal. The wisdom of following the conversation comes when people on the show floor share their thoughts on what they’ve seen or heard and allow others to comment. But industry professionals like independent sales rep Megan Kress(@repgirl) are concerned that any good information she might glean will be drowned out by all the noise.

“I’ve been watching the tidal wave of #ORWinter tweeting this week and a couple things have caught my attention. But so much of the time it seems like regurgitation of press releases and self-promotion,” she said in response to Lingafelter’s post. “I’m curious if “they” are listening. And will “they” have time to listen at the show where it’s running from one side of the Salt Palace to another?”

There’s nothing technology can do to slow down the frantic pace of OR. But as you’re race-walking to your next appointment or standing in line for coffee there will be brief moments when you can jot down and post an observation to the feed. In the morning while checking your email take a few seconds and respond to a thought someone else has shared about an event or a new product that interests you.

There will be three flat screen monitors set in high-visibility locations on the show floor. Plus you can always use your web-equipped cell phone or wireless connection on your laptop to stay connected to the feed and get involved.

Retailers like Darren Bush (@canoelover) of Rutabaga here in Madison recognize the value of social media. But he doesn’t look at it as a silver bullet that will instantly bring success to his business.

“It’s just another (means) to get your message out there in a different way,” he said in a text exchange on Facebook. “Your message, I believe, should reflect who you are as a person, group, or corporation. If done correctly, it’s great. If it’s done poorly, it’s a complete waste of time.”

Re-tweeting press releases shouldn’t be your only contribution to the feed. Any observation that reflects your personal opinion is value added to the conversation. Even short expressions like Loved it! Hated it! Good concept but flawed application!, help to move the conversation forward. Just make yourself heard.

By sharing your thoughts you’re encouraging others at the show to share ideas about your business as well. The benefit to you is a candid analysis of the things you can do to improve the quality of your product. Or perhaps you’ll get feedback that affirms the decisions you’ve made to keep moving forward in a positive direction.

And if you absolutely have nothing to offer, you can always work at connecting with the many influencers out there who have nothing but opinions to share. Many are professional journalists. Some are athletes. All will be chiming-in with their thoughts, suggestions and criticisms. There will be hundreds of blog and twitter posts uploaded to the Internet throughout the week. Make a good impression. Tell your story. Talk up your products. But if you want to be heard above the noise share ideas that are interesting, thoughtful and compelling enough for those who listen to share them others. This week at OR even your silence will be saying something.

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I’m a freelance journalist that specializes in telling stories about outdoor recreation, environmental conservation, acts of charitable giving and practices of sustainable living.

  • good piece- looking forward to some face to face time, though to talk about the things that matter within and for the industry as well as business.

  • good piece- looking forward to some face to face time, though to talk about the things that matter within and for the industry as well as business.

  • Same here Shannon. Had a nice chat with your hubster the other day. You must be so proud. I look forward to connecting with you both.

  • Same here Shannon. Had a nice chat with your hubster the other day. You must be so proud. I look forward to connecting with you both.

  • Malcolm Daly

    I have high hopes but low expectations for the #ORWinter channel. It's already inundated with 140 character versions of the 40 year old press release, posted (tweeted) up by people and companies who don't get it. Why would I bother to take notice of those if I never even bothered to take notice of them before? As @theclimbergirl so well notes above, regurgitation implies something old. Let's create a new channel, something that will separate the signal from the noise, for compelling thoughts that add to the conversation rather than trying to shout over the din of the PR flacks. #ORSavvy anyone?

  • jonathanzarov

    You've identified the challenge, for sure. Too much of a good thing eventually turns into noise. I'm not familiar with Channel Signal, but at Networked Insights (your Madison neighbors), we fuel insights from those conversations–which is very different than monitoring. Check out our most recent blog post, which gets at some of the challenges of social media listening. http://tinyurl.com/yejyn2a

    You and I have worked together in our previous incarnations. I'm glad to see there's still some crossover in our work. Drop me a line if you want to sit down and talk. Would be good to catch up.