Perhaps one of the most fundamental questions asked by anyone new to the world of social media is ‘Why should I bother with social media?’ The answer to this question might seem obvious to some but, to others, it takes a little explaining and I can understand why. After all, fishing for sport has been around for thousands of years and its never needed social media before, right?
Well, if you think angling never needed social media to grow into the sport it was in the 70s and 80s then you have clearly never picked up an angling magazine before. If you have read angling magazines but you still cannot see what I mean, then you probably are not remembering what angling magazines seemed to be all about back in the day. You are forgetting the letters to the editor, the questions pages where top anglers answered the questions of us mere mortals, or the photos that proud anglers would send in. THIS is what social media is all about; it is just that it used to take a lot longer than it does today. My point is, social media has not really changed anything much, it has just made it better! We can all be the experts now, and we can all get our questions answered quickly, share our photos, or just talk about how great it is to join our club, or buy products from our small business. More than this, social media serves several functions better than old printed media.
Social media makes your current members/customers into your marketing team:
Traditional media is between two people essentially, a writer speaks to one person and that is the end of the exchange. Sure, the magazine probably goes to thousands of people but that is where it ends… if someone does not buy the magazine, they do not hear what you have to say. That is, unless someone take the time to snip out your article and post it to his or her friends, which is not impossible I suppose, but is very unlikely.
This is where social media wins; if I see something and like it then it is a simple case of sharing it with my friends through the click of a button. I think we all know that we can share a post, and that alone makes digital media more effective than printed media. Less people know that, the more someone expresses an interest in something (through reading, interacting with or sharing), the harder Facebook and similar social media platforms work to show you more related content. That means that your posts can be seen, and are more likely to be found, by more people. This is the true hidden power of social media.
Be where your members are:
Fundamentally, magazines are dead. Printed media declines year on year with most of the information we consume today consumed in a digital format. The angling magazines, which once boasted huge subscription rates, now struggle by on the number of readers that a single well designed post can gather in a day or two. The problem comes from the mass migration to the internet. In the late 20th century and early 21st century, access to information became instant and anglers adopted this trend readily. Think about it logically, when you can have your question or opinion shared in an instant, why would you choose to wait a week or a month in the hope that an editor might like your question or pick your photo out of the masses received? So anglers have migrated online, where they can share their images, their ideas and generally get to know each other in a, relatively safe, and freely available environment. This means that the people you are trying to attract are already on line, you simply have no choice but to be there too.
Your Members are already online:
It is not all about attracting new members or customers; it is also about keeping in touch with and, hopefully, not losing your existing members and customers. There really is not much to say here, if you do not think that your members are active on social media then you may have been asleep for the last decade.
The simple fact is that, if you want to be able to communicate with your members and customers, then you need to be where they are and where they are is on social media.
Social media evens the playing field:
Yeah, wouldn’t it be great if we could tune in to watch angling at any hour of the day on our TV’s? Then, angling would have the attention of the media, of big money sponsors, and we could get the message about angling out to more people! That would be great wouldn’t it? Sadly, it’s not realistic.
I can’t remember who said it, or about what sport, but it has been said that a sport is safe the day that a child can, seriously, go to his or her mom or dad and say, when I grow up, I want to be a professional [insert sport of choice]. I think angling has a while before it can reach that heady height. In fact, I don’t think that the latest exploits or lifestyle of the hottest celebrity angler is ever going to make front page news on the gossip mag shelves (although part of me hopes I am wrong). So how are we going to make fishing an aspirational sport if there is no ‘celebrity’ to aspire to, why can’t angling have its own cover boy or girl angler? Simply, because the decision making power of magazines and what we might consider ‘mainstream media’ is still in the hands of the few. Editors are not interested in promoting angling (or anything really), what they are interested in is selling magazines; their decisions are driven by the stories that people will pay to read. Sadly, people are not currently that interested in what goes on in the world of angling and so we don’t get any exposure beyond the confines of our own community.
Social media levels the playing field; we have the opportunity of share our stories with people who are interested in angling both as a current participant and as a prospective participant. Better still, we can interest those people without resorting to the sensationalism that drives mainstream media. Social media is in the hands of the many, of people like you and I, we can build our own celebrities, create our own culture to aspire to if we wish to. All we need to do is develop the skills to use social media effectively.
Social media can lower barriers to participation:
There are many reasons that prospective anglers don’t take up the sport. Perhaps they think the sport is too difficult to get into, perhaps they don’t know where to start, where to go, who to speak to. Out there, right now, there are thousands, hopefully tens of thousands, of people who don’t even know, YET, that angling is their reason for living! Mainstream media is not going to help you reach those people; again, they are only interested in sharing the information that people are willing to pay for. How do people know they are willing to pay for the information you have to share if they do not know it exists? Social media, because it is controlled by the many, puts the power in our hands to reach those anglers who do not, yet, even know they are anglers.
Social Media Allows Us to Control The Message:
Angling is a strange sport really, not only do we have to deal with the gradual decline of recreational activities experienced across many sports caused, possibly, by the increasing demands on peoples time in modern society, but we also have to contend with the ill-informed who actively seek to discourage participation in angling. The message is mixed, certain organisations (and I am not going to give them the coverage by mentioning their names here) would seek to convince people that angling is wrong and, sadly, these people, for whatever reason, are often given a louder voice than those who are pro-angling. With the creative use of social media, we can help steer that message in our favour, we can give the facts rather than allow the propaganda continuously degrade the public perception of angling. In fact, I would go as far as to say that, if you are not convinced by any of the other reasons why we should be using social media given here, the opportunity to put the record straight should be reason enough.
So, I think I’ve covered enough reasons to convince even the most sceptical that they should be using social media to promote, or simply talk about, their club, organisation or small business. The question now is, ‘With so many social media platforms, what ones should we be using?’ but that is for next time.