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Katie Boué's advice for being a social media rock star

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Katie Boué utilized social media in a transformative way to expand the outdoor industry when she took a part-time job running social channels for Outdoor Industry Association. While she continues to write for OIA, she now leads as an industry advocate and is helping to develop a new support hub that encourages people to get involved with causes they feel passionate about.

Katie Boué // Photo by Adam Wells

It is no exaggeration to say that sets of 140 characters were life-changing for Katie Boué. In 2014, she took a part-time job doing social media for Outdoor Industry Association, which had struggled to manage its channels and expand its audience. She quickly turned the opportunity into a full-time gig traveling around the country to tell the stories of OIA members. Boué grew 120 Instagram followers into more than 10,000 as she took conference calls in the back of the OIA Road Show van. And she says she saw the future of the industry in the young entrepreneurs she met. This past fall, Boué went freelance. In addition to writing for OIA and helping with their new hub to make it easy for people to get involved with causes they believe in, she made a new job for herself as an industry advocate.

1. What was the biggest thing you took away from the OIA Road Show?

I was amazed by the power and size and, in many ways, untapped potential of the outdoor industry community. It’s huge, and everyone is so passionate. I really learned a lot about the young generation. Our voices aren’t quite heard enough yet, and being on the ground, on the road, meeting with people, I really saw what the future looks like for the outdoor industry. In a few years, we’re going to be the ones in charge.

I see a big shift coming in the way we collaborate and have conversations. I see so much brand crossover and collaboration, because you have people who aren’t competing in the office, they’re friends. In San Francisco, for example, many brands are part of a huge network that forms a sort of outdoor industry squad. For our generation, this isn’t just a job. This is our life. The lines between work and life are so blurred, and I think that’s a really positive thing.

2. You’ve expanded OIA’s social media following so much in a short period of time. What advice do you have for others?

It’s so important for social media managers for brands, athletes, influencers, and professionals— including on their own personal accounts—to use these platforms as tools for creating impact. It’s not enough anymore to just post beautiful landscape photos with quotes from John Muir at the bottom. Use those channels to activate, and to inspire the outdoor community to do something. Now, more than ever, there’s so much to be done.

The first step is to figure out what you stand for and where your voice’s power is. Maybe you’re a really talented writer and you have a way with words. Maybe you’re a photographer and you can really capture moments with your lens. Maybe you’re really great in person and your power is using social media to engage people in real life, whether it’s getting out to hearings for Bear’s Ears or the EPA hearings [about pollution] in Utah. You don’t have to start big. We all start small. It’s not the size of your audience that matters, it’s how engaged they are.

3. How do you encourage engagement?

Listen. Learn. It’s not always about you, it’s about joining those conversations. It’s about making connections. I have made some of my greatest friendships through social media and the outdoors. I’ve gotten career and travel opportunities through it. I think social media used to have this stigma of being frivolous millennial tools, and now we’re seeing the power. Twitter isn’t just announcing you’re going to the bathroom anymore. It’s your megaphone to
the world.

4. You’ve talked to people throughout the industry about so many issues and hopes and dreams. What role can the outdoor industry play in the aftermath of an election with so much negativity? 

One of the most important and beautiful things about the outdoor industry is that it truly is bipartisan. You have Republicans and Democrats and everyone in between. It doesn’t matter where you stand on other issues, because we all want to see our public lands, national parks, and national monuments protected. I think our shared values really unite us in a unique way, and you don’t see that in any other industry. I think it’s an important time for us. There’s so much division right now, and I think it’s been really beautiful on social media to see unity [around the outdoors]. You can feel however you want to feel about religion, income taxes, and reproductive rights, but you can put that all aside and come together on this one issue. I don’t think that’s the full solution for society, but it’s a start.

5. What’s the purpose of OIA’s forthcoming advocacy hub? 

It will be an interactive, constantly updated central hub where anyone who is interested in outdoor activism and advocacy can see what issues are affecting them, the places they live, or the places they love. You can go in and say, “I’m from Colorado, and I want to find out how I can get involved here.” Or, say you just visited the Everglades. You can ask, “What can I do to support this place that I love?”

I think that the instant, “now” nature of social media and the huge reach that you can achieve through your network can create a considerable splash. Everyone who works in the outdoor industry is also a consumer of the outdoor industry. This industry is full of people. It is a really dynamic, engaged community.

—Kassondra Cloos

This article was originally published on p. 59 of the Day 2 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily Winter Market 2017.