If you’ve noticed your social media news feed featuring more pictures of your friends running marathons and trail races in recent years, there’s a reason for that. According to RunningUSA.org, “general U.S. running participation” has seen a “70% overall growth over [the] past decade.” Fueling this growth has been the simultaneous rise and adoption of social media. A 2010 article in Runner’s World, “Social Media Making Running Cool Again,” explains the value and appeal of social media for all types of runners:
“Instead of a top-down or ground-up approach, it seems that runners of every level have simultaneously thrown themselves head first into the realm of social media. While not all elites are checking up on what their competitors are eating for breakfast, many sneak a peak at each other’s online training logs and videos…. For the sub-elites and everyday runners, social media sites provide an outlet for discussion and motivation.”
Riding this wave of running and social media, Altra Running was founded in 2009 by cousins Golden Harper and Jeremy Howlett, offering runners a solution to foot and leg injuries with their Zero Drop™ shoe design and FootShape™ toe box. Through a strategic use of social media, they have since grown to become a top 10 running shoe brand in the United States, with distribution in over 20 countries.
In the following interview with Jeremy Howlett, Co-founder of Altra Running, we see how social media sites don’t just connect businesses with customers, they allow interactions to happen that otherwise wouldn’t. We also see a need for social media sites to keep focused on their central role — empowering the common man and his interests to connect with others in real, intimate ways without corporate interference and clutter.
Q: Which social media sites do you use for your business? How do you use each one and how do they connect viewers to your website?
JH: We primarily use Facebook two-fold. First, it is a community. We like to keep our fanbase informed, educated and updated. We push out blog content, valuable information, current events and news as well as new product and sales. Second, Facebook is an ad platform. We utilize the advertising to attract new customers, re-engage old customers and influence those at the bottom of the funnel to complete transactions with us. We work to balance the information and advertising to keep our fans interested, informed and engaged. Also, we want to maintain a strong relationship with our retailers. We are also looking at some unique ways to utilize groups on Facebook as well.
Twitter is another key platform. It is used for timely news, press releases, sharing information, and connecting with the community. I am a huge fan of the availability to directly reach potential customers and be a key part of the community. We use twitter to engage in twitter chats, comment on peoples running and racing successes, and engage on events that they are taking a part of.
Instagram is our third key social medium. We love sharing images that inspire and entertain. We also love to follow and engage with others that are doing great things. Just like Twitter we can engage one on one with these individuals.
Q: How do social media sites help or hamper your business?
JH: They help us to find potential customers, but also to engage current fans and customers. Social Media helps to level the playing field. It encourages brands and customers to communicate directly in real time. There is a lot of interaction that happens on social that otherwise wouldn’t. It also helps us to talk to a lot of people that we know are our proper demographic without paying too much money to reach them.
Q: What do you wish social media could do that it doesn’t do at the present time?
JH: Let us talk to our community in a more intimate fashion. Basically, get back to what Facebook was 5 years ago. I am hoping to achieve this with groups a little bit, but it seems like so much gets lost in the minutia. Also, would love to simplify. It is a lot of effort to stay up on all social platforms and technologies.
Q: What challenges and opportunities do you foresee for small businesses as society goes deeper and deeper into cyberspace?
JH: Fighting through the clutter. There is so much content and news out there that it takes a lot to fight through the clutter. Not only are there a lot of platforms that need to be balanced, but the noise on each of those continues to get louder and the cost for entry is getting higher.
Q: Any other thoughts about how social media affects your business?
JH: We love social. We built our brand on social. I just hope that we can see social improve, not decline. Personally I have seen Facebook lose touch with too much noise. I rarely use it as a user anymore. I hope they can improve the platform to maintain voice without too much cost for a business.