Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Social Media and the Silent Sports

This post is part of the Lightspan Digital#MarketingHop on social sports, in which bloggers were asked to share their story about how social media is connecting people in the silent sports community.

Are our sports more social than ever before? I would say absolutely yes. I think it started as more and more people started getting involved with less emphasis on competition. That, coupled with modern technology, brought us to where we are today.
Social media isn't something I saw coming or really felt a need for as I looked for ways to spread the word about the sports I love and the events I direct. Now, as I move forward, I can't imagine not having such a technologically saavy tool at my disposal and yours as we move up the high-tech social ladder.
As a dedicated provider of information, advocate for change, organizer of races and events and as an active participant in the silent sports, particularly running, cross-country skiing and, to a lesser degree, road cycling, I am thankful to the pioneers who came up with this social networking concept back in the 1990s -- namely Tina Sharkey, Ted Leonis and Darrell Berry -- at least they did according to a Forbes Magazine article in 2010.
We really can engage like never before. Quick examples in my own sphere of influence include getting the word out that last year's Community Bank of Elmhurst 4 on the 4th running race was a go despite major storm damage and a power failure at the race venue. Two minutes on Facebook from a restaurant in a neighboring town erased any doubts the best runners in Chicagoland had. More recently, a Holiday Lights Fun Run I organized through the Door County Silent Sports Alliance in Sturgeon Bay, WI, was entirely a Facebook enterprise, and I might add, a total success.
In the cross-country ski world of northern Illinois, a hard-core group of several hundred snow-chasers is linked both through Yahoo Groups and Facebook. If there is snow, good ski conditions or a race nearby, those are their lifelines for information and commentary.
Finally, as an advocate (or activist -- take your pick), I was one of many who spoke up and prevented a new law in Wisconsin that allowed hunting in state parks to be implemented as originally intended. It was cut from 7.5 months of open hunting and trapping to two months after ferocious efforts by silent sports lovers. Through Facebook and the Door County Silent Sports Alliance, my statements as well as television and newspaper interviews I did, got wide exposure and helped the overall cause immensely. I did not seek this publicity, but the information spread freely. It happened in this new technological era of open communications on a platform called Facebook, a word that didn't exist not too long ago. I just had to smile when I saw how it worked and what was accomplished in the Wisconsin political arena.
As a Chicago-area running blogger since 2005, I tend to bring some of my traditional journalism skills from years at the Sun-Times, and Milwaukee Sentinel before that, to the modern world. In other words, I really do try to keep myself out of it most of the time and report the who, what, where, when, why and how. But as Facebook has evolved in my daily routine, I do find myself becoming more and more a part of this human story-telling phenomenon in which we engage others day and night.
At any rate, social media certainly enable race directors and potential participants to meet in cyberspace, engage in conversation and move ahead loaded with information.
Do we go too far sometimes? Yes. Do we come up short sometimes? Yes. Are the silent sports better off with social media? I think so.
For the silent sports and me, it's two states, two sports I love and two fabulous platforms (Facebook and Google). Once upon a time, we said "right on." Now, it's "log-on!"

Check out other views (links below--updates coming) from runners, retailers, coaches and race organizers about how social media is connecting the silent sports community. To continue the conversation, join us in a Twitter Chat with the hashtag #marketinghop on Jan. 8 at 1 p.m.
Tim Cigelske, The Beer Runner,(@thebeerrunner):
Myles Dannhausen, Door County Half Marathon, (@mylespulse): How Social Media Helps Us Improve the Door County Half Marathon:
Tom Held, The Active Pursuit (@tomheld): An Antenna, Not A Mic - Reporting With Social Media):
Maggie Wolff (@not_maragret): How Social Media Changed My Running:
Ashley Kumlien, MS Run the U.S. (@MSRuntheUS): Raising Funds, Awareness With Social Media:
Lauren Matricardi, Fleet Feet Chicago (@fleetfeetchgo): The Conversation: Our Social Media Strategy:
Lightspan Digital: How Social Media Changed Running:

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