The Death of an Outdoor Industry Business on Social Media

Outdoor Industry Marketing | Investing in Your Business, Not Social Media

Jeremy Flinn, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Stone Road Media, was a recent guest on the Bent and Ballistic Outdoor Show discussing social media marketing. This spawned from Mike McKnight’s, host of Bent and Ballistic Outdoor Show Podcast, interest in a recent blog Jeremy wrote titled “Why Your Business Will Die on Social Media”. A bold, but true statement from an outdoor industry marketing agency that lives in the realm of digital and social media marketing. The fact that businesses small and large operating with a consumer base primarily on social media channels are standing on an unstable foundation.

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“If you haven’t noticed a drop in organic activity on platforms like Facebook, then you likely didn’t have a very active business page to begin with. For those businesses who grew large followings on social media platforms and possibly even their bank accounts via incredible branding and product sales, the “heyday” is long gone. All of those who laughed when Facebook valued itself in the billions of dollars, yet was making no money, now have seen the grand plan unfold with even the smallest businesses “boosting” posts in hopes of reaching more customers. You can shake your head at it, but the over quarter TRILLION dollar valuation of the ZERO profit Amazon that you likely use regularly will likely pull a rabbit out of its hat soon as well in order to justify the number. Regardless, the bottom line is social media marketing is critical to every marketing strategy, but if used incorrectly it can cost businesses in the hunting and fishing sector more than just fans.”Jeremy Flinn, Why Your Business Will Die On Social Media

At the end of the day, a brand cannot control its own Facebook page. That page, who sees it, who engages with the content, or even what content can be posted is all controlled by Facebook. A business model with social media as the foundation of the business whether its Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc., is far from stable.

Pay to Play

One of the main reasons social media is a big concern for the outdoor industry besides the lack of control is that at any time these channels can strip the ability to market your business away from you. In recent years the entire industry has seen this from a politically driven limit on hunting/weapon related content. However, it goes further than this by mandating through algorithms how many of your followers you as a business can organically reach with a post. Even with a great following and consumer base, you have to “pay to play”. This means that in order to reach an audience, you have to create a social advertisement or put money (boost) behind a post. Even with an extremely good following and a great engaging piece of content, Jeremy estimates that you might only reach 10-15% of your audience organically. From there the numbers plummet to 5% for content that does not spark engagement.

Jeremy continues to report that just last month, January 2018, Zuckerberg wrote 3-4 posts that could bring big impacts to businesses and specifically businesses in the outdoor industry. These changes revolve around Facebook’s algorithm. Essentially, if a post does not immediately start drawing organic engagement from a small portion of followers, the algorithm will shut down the post’s visibility to the rest of your followers. Click here to find out more about Facebook’s Recent Algorithm Change.

Why “pay to play” might be a quick fix for businesses outside of this industry, outdoor related businesses are running into an entirely different problem. Even when you agree to advertise on social media, these channels can still deny you the ability to market your business!

Restricted Content

Restricted content, you likely know or have dealt with this in recent years…so is it getting better or worse? Unfortunately, even once you agree to “pay to play” with social media advertising you are now entering policies that are…you guessed it, restricted! Guns, knives, bows, arrows, and basically anything weapon oriented means that Facebook has a right to deny the advertisement of that content.

The most concerning aspect of restricted content is that an actual human being is denying or approving each advertisement!

This means that the only thing standing between an outdoor industry business’s success or death on social media is an opinion…

Of course, you can challenge the post being restricted, often resulting in a “win” for that post, but restricted content means that you are flagged. A decision to ban your content now means that you have a higher likelihood of posting weapon related content again. This means that Facebook is profiling for weapons-related businesses, which as you know means hunting and outdoor related businesses. This is political influence directly affecting businesses. With organic traffic limited, and even social media advertising limited, where should an outdoor industry business turn?

What is the Solution?

Is this influence and content dampening just on Facebook? Jeremy reports that this impact is not seen on other channels like Twitter and Instagram as much due to the nature of those channels (limited content/characters). However, this could always change. The fact is that what brands and businesses are currently experiencing with Facebook, could happen to any and all social media platforms. It could also happen with platforms like YouTube, staple foundations for many businesses with video content.

Jeremy explains that the only solution to get around this is to invest in yourself, not these channels. Invest in marketing that results in users coming directly to where your business lives, the website. You control your website, so investing in content that lives there is investing in a solid foundation. Social media is and will always be a place the consumer lives, just accept that social media marketing only supports for your business, not a platform your business should be completely dependent on.

Want to learn more about social media marketing, digital marketing, or outdoor industry marketing in general? Read more blogs or contact Jeremy today for help in marketing your outdoor industry business.

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