08 May 2013

Social Media-Bane or Boon to Trail Running?

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I would say that it's pretty impossible to refute the claim that social media is here to stay. If you have a child between the ages of 12-18, how are they communicating with their friends? My point exactly. Kids are Snapchatting, Instagraming and Twittering (Facebooking is already old news) while most adults are falling over themselves in an effort to keep up.

The current generation is growing up on social media and smartphones and once they become adults and the formative years are over, so is any hope of turning back the clock to a time before all this came to be.

Godspeed I say. Boon in other words. Big time.

What's the point of social media? The same reason people carry their cell phone in their hand 24/7; they want to be connected ALL THE TIME.

And it isn't just kids. Take a close look at most television advertisements these days; instead of listing their own website address they will list their Facebook page. Ditto for magazine ads. Can you think of any progressive company that does not have their own YouTube channel? I can't.

Running is no different. It seems pretty much every savvy race promoter has a Facebook page, posts to Twitter and instead of using traditional, static HTML sites employs blogs that have an RSS feed to automate the entire social network updating process.

Not to mention all savvy running stores like this one and this one are doing the same thing.

Why use social media at all? Because it works. People are abandoning tradition email in droves and instead are camping out on sites like Facebook and Twitter. And when is the last time anyone has given direct mail a second look before round filing it? You see what I mean. To be successful you need to reach people and if people are going to choose to stay connected via something other than what you used to use well then you better change ASAP or get left in the dust.

Not only are people camping out on social media sites and apps, they get notifications from the sources they select. In the age when choice ultra trail races sell out in a matter of hours, getting the word out quickly is a big service to runners. Ditto for last minute updates. Ditto for results or even live progress reports. Who doesn't like to follow the action when they can't participate themselves? I love it. Did I mention that people want to feel connected...?

Social media is also great for creating and fostering community and intimacy. Facebook Groups, Pinterest and picture and video sharing services all not only help people feel like they are members of an exclusive few because they have 'liked' or discovered it; pictures and video also help to tell your story. As tired as the expression is, a picture really does paint a thousand words. And video hundreds of thousands. Throw in a cool soundtrack and it might be millions.

That sense of community also helps to grow interest. How many things have you tried because your friend already did it? Or because they asked you to join them? Social networking today is like the Faberge Shampoo commercial from the 1970s.

What about living vicariously through others? Personally I'm just your average amateur endurance athlete who aspires to something more. Being able to 'follow' or read about or get updates on anyone faster than me is a huge thrill. Watching these amazing people post course records and move like I can't is a real inspiration!

it would be ludicrous for trail running not to jump on this band wagon.

How can giving people what they want the way they want it when they want it be a bane to trail running? That's rhetorical, it can't.

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