Recently TweetChat got the chance to speak with Eva Bland and Shawn Parry of #HikerChat. They gave us insight on how #HikerChat began and what their mission is. The two also share how #HikerChat was used to build a community that reflects their brands while implementing a digital marketing strategy.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Eva Bland and I am the social media manager for American Backcountry. American Backcountry develops destination graphics tees. Our target audience is the outdoorsman/woman. The majority of our tees are moisture wicking for comfort on and off the trail. Our aim is to reach the passion of outdoor enthusiasts through tees that are not only built for performance but honor the achievements of individuals. As our Twitter profile says: “We think our customers appreciate the difference between “any old mountain” and the mountain they just climbed.”
Howdy, I am Shawn Parry and I oversee marketing and development at TETON Sports. We design, manufacture, and use adventure/ camping gear. We focus on 5 categories tents, cots, backpacks, camp pads, and backpacks. That focus allows us to zero in on three different segments of people and we do so with laser precision. We love the outdoor industry because the people are amazing and who doesn’t like hitting the trail to test our prototypes. We are a very social and open company and operate with a very different business model. Our model allows us to focus on the customer and products. This allows us to craft an experience instead of a sales transaction.
Why Twitter and TweetChat?
I started American Backcountry’s Twitter profile with one goal in mind: to connect with outdoor enthusiasts. Of course this goal was built behind our general brand theme in mind. I participated in a few chats to begin with, but because of our specific audience, I came up with the idea of #hikerchat start conversations with the outdoor hiking community online. It started VERY slow with one or two participants (one being myself) over time and with lots of outreach I started bringing more in and then the magical day came when Shawn at TETON Sports inquired about partnering up… it wouldn’t be what it is today without Teton Sports partnering.
For TETON Sports we see the value in social and digital marketing. Two of our three primary target groups live on the internet and talk via social channels. We have made our company very social and very open to new platforms. Twitter chats fit right in with our goals and strategy. I was prepping to launch a Twitter chat of my own for TETON, but then stumbled on #hikerchat that Eva from American Backcountry had started. I contacted her about joining forces and from that day #hikerchat has literally been and still is the most successful and largest outdoors minded Twitter chat. It’s amazing, we trend almost every week, it’s all due to the amazing partner we have (Eva) and the overwhelmingly awesome group of people that join in every week.
Hikerchat is an Question and Answer tweet-chat that takes place every Friday at Noon, EST. Our themes change every week from “Thru-Hiking longer trails” to “Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse” Teton Sports and American Backcountry take turns posing questions.
#hikerchat is about motivation, it motivates us as a company to do better to serve those who reach out to us. It also is an amazing teaching platform where we are able to collaborate with massive amounts of people and get new insight on various topics like gear prep, navigation, etc. It’s a platform for people to ask questions about the outdoors and to get answers from people all over the world. The neatest thing is that #hikerchat is global, so if someone asks about a trail, the responses are detailed and quick. It’s an amazing group of people making awesome things happen and we only facilitate it.
What inspired the chat?
The chat came about as a way for American Backcountry to engage and get to know the outdoors community online. Really it’s the participants that inspire the chat. Every week we hear different amazing stories, triumphs and lessons from these hikers. Every week we come away with new ideas and goals.
We were about to start our own chat that would bring awareness to the outdoors and allow us to teach and engage with people in real time. Teaming up with Eva at AB was a natural fit. The name of the chat was right and she has some amazing insight. She laid the groundwork and we both built the platform (questions), but the people who participate every week really inspire the chat now that it is running. They inspire the topics and the motivation to keep doing it. They are amazing.
Tells us about your community?
Our community is very unique and diverse from first time day hikers to extreme thru-hiking survivalists. Overtime we have gained some great insight on hiking from bloggers, gear reviewers, outdoor organizations, outdoor non-profits, and other outdoor brands. Gather together your best friends, the really outgoing, super friendly, and all-around awesome people. Throw in some adventures, fun, tacos, knowledge, and a thirst to never sit still and you nailed the amazing community of people who make #hikerchat with it is.
Can you share with us one or two success stories from TweetChat?
One of the most memorable #hikerchats we have had came from this crazy idea Shawn (Teton Sports) had: #hikerchat #SecretSanta. We paired the participants off, gave them their Secret Santa contender and a week to find them a present and send it to them. Of course all presents were gear or outdoor based. The photos, the stories and the connections that came out of it was amazing. We all opened them during #hikerchat and shared via photo and tweets who and what our presents were. It was really remarkable to think that people all over the country were getting presents from their virtual friends.
Something that sets our Tweetchat apart from others is how connected the group is both online and offline. Because our participants are all over the nation (and the world!) Hikerchat TweetUps and MeetUps are pretty common for the hikerchat group. A few (including both Shawn and I) have traveled to meet #hikerchat friends.
It’s been fun to see how the hikerchat hashtag has really taken on a life of it’s own. It started in Twitter, but it’s now a regularly used hashtag for instagram and Facebook. It goes beyond the chat itself and is now an identifier for hiking content online.
We are always evolving #hikerchat, we are working on incorporating some offline strategy as well. For me the events we do are a blast. Twice a year on the last day of Outdoor Retailer we hose adventures where we gather friends of #hikerchat and take people out snowshoeing, hiking, or whatever. We want people to take that relationship offline and into the real world. So far there have been spinoff #hikerchat events in California, Hong Kong, and more planned for this year. It’s amazing to see everyone meet digitally and grow into amazing friends, then take it offline and adventure in the real world.
The problem with Hikerchat (which it’s not really a problem) is how fast it is. For 3rd party applications, it’s hard to keep up. Also we get a fair amount of spam, especially when we are trending. Finding a way to work around these two problems will be key in the future. Video integration with #hikerchat has been something we have been trying to accomplish for a while as well. Google Hangout works well, but it doesn’t integrate with Twitter as seamlessly as one would hope.
With the info from the above questions, we growing #hikerchat as fast and strong as we can, having support that allows the chat questions to be posted after that chat would be great, then those who missed it can easily read the questions. A strong spam filtering system is also great!
How can TweetChats help build your community? Is there anything about TweetChat that you would like to convey that’s not covered by this questionnaire?
What I love about TweetChat is how dedicated you all are to making a comprehensive list of every Chat on Twitter. I think the next step is pushing these Chats out to audiences that would be interested in them.
Eva nailed it, we are looking at doing more targeting and promoting of the chat to build the audience. People who find #hikerchat join in and become amazing fans of it. The community is open to new people and very very very welcoming. We want to share it with as many people as we can. One awesome thing I want to point out is Eva or myself never push product on the platform. If the community asks about our gear, we answer but we never use it as a platform to peddle product. We want people to get answers to their questions and to love the outdoors like we do. We don’t want to commercialize it and have it be a “look at us” channel. It really is about education and getting to meet other like-minded people. Assistance with that would be fantastic.