I’ve been known to wear a lot of hats. This tweed number in particular was a gift from my friend the artist and climber Jeremy Collins. He gave it to me as we walked over to the Prana booth during the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Jeremy put together two beautiful collage installations facing the aisles. Showing images of climbers, yogis and environmental activists the works of art gave passersby a glimpse into the company’s corporate culture. Depicting its social values, a blend of conservation, fashion sense and athleticism Prana is sending a message. By supporting Jeremy’s work in the media of painting, photo illustration and sculpting, the lifestyle clothing company is reaching out and connecting with its customers. With the help of an influential professional artist who graciously and generously shares his talent with the world, Prana is engaging in social media.
Among the many other hats I’ve been wearing lately is that of a journalist. I’ve been wading through our ideas about social media and I’ve taken it upon myself to help better define our understanding what it means. The first thing I can tell you is that it’s not all about technology. Social media has been around long before the creation of the iPhone and the Blackberry. Throughout human history people have engaged one another through works of art, literature, cuisine and music. For millennia we’ve gathered around the campfire sharing stories, singing songs of day’s events. We’ve painted on cave walls and communed in the passing of food. These artifacts of our society endure to this day.
Media, plural of the word medium, are intermediate agents that communicate information. In ancient times a medium was a person or thing that conveyed specific spiritual messages. Today we use various media as social currency to communicate our ideas, our beliefs and our understanding of the world in which we live. Really the only difference now is that new social media offers everyone the opportunity to communicate and freely exchange their ideas on a global scale.
Throughout the week at OR there’s been a lot of talk about social media. The proliferation of online networking web sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter has manufacturers, retailers and PR professionals in the outdoor industry scrambling to figure out how they’re going to make this new technology work for them. The common belief is that by capturing the attention of a large audience of consumers companies will be able to successfully sell all kinds of products and services.
But the reality is those actively engaged in social media aren’t interested in being shouted at by some 800-pound corporate gorilla. People who send tweets and texts and post their images and updates to Facebook want to find themselves in a dialog sharing ideas in a social exchange on equal ground. This new generation of social media users wants every bit as much to be heard as they are eager to listen in.
When companies engage their customers as equals there’s a wonderful opportunity to communicate the values they both share. One of the best examples of this was an event I attended at the Depot in Salt Lake City. The companies KEEN, Marmot, Suunto and others partnered with Backpacker Magazine to put on a concert performance of Big Head Todd and the Monsters. Playing to a sold-out crowd the rock band raised money and awareness for the fight against cancer. The event benefited the organization Love Hope Strength who registered more than 100 bone marrow donors between the opening act and the headliner. Sharing the medium of music each of the sponsoring companies designed a custom made artistically rendered guitar that they raffled off to show attendees.
What matters most in social media is human interaction. Sharing art and music, food and literature we can communicate to one another those things that are important to us. And as we shift hats from one medium to next we can use the power of online networks to connect with more people who share our values and perhaps (though not necessarily) engage as well in commerce. Just so long as we keep in mind that media (plural) at they’re best are social.
Powered by Facebook Comments