Bigger than Product. More than Marketing. Beyond Sales. | RockClimberGirl

The news broke recently that in a few short days I’m headed for Nepal with a team of Canadian climbers sponsored by a large (ginormous, perhaps?) baselayer and innerware (otherwise known as underwear, or “Extreme Knickers” if you’re @basecamper on Twitter) company based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. (Actually, Sara is currently en route.)

This strange sequence of events can be traced back to a Public Relations executive in Chicago discovering me on Twitter, and striking up a conversation about rock climbing and mountain biking. Most of the whole story is here, on my own blog.

If that all sounds a bit improbable — I am, after all, a beginning mountaineer — well, I got nothing. “Improbable” may be the understatement of the year. But that’s not my point.

When the news broke, the tweets and emails and phone calls and Facebook messages started to pour in immediately. Some were from friends and family, but many were from my acquaintances in the outdoor industry.

One of the very first messages I received was from Frank Meyer with Adventure Medical Kits, offering a care package from AMK and encouragement based on his own experiences in Nepal. Others have just taken time out of their day to email their encouragement and tips from their own travel in the region.

When I put out a call last weekend to my Twitter and Facebook friends that what I’d really like to have for my trip are CDs of music to fill up my iPod with, a number of industry folk responded. When little anonymous voices pipe up to question my qualifications for this adventure, my peeps (I’m trying so incredibly hard to not use the word “Tribe”) have got my back.

This is bigger than product. It’s more than marketing. It’s beyond sales.

It’s about genuinely connecting with others, and seeing value in their adventures, whether they’re on the summit team, or stationed in basecamp.

As much as the summiteers (and the hard-climbing pros, and the other elite of your chosen specialty segment) have the power to inspire, there’s also a place for those of us who don’t necessarily set the “top” as the goal. We also have the ability to inspire the over 50% of Americans who don’t enjoy exercise or are not motivated to do it, that I heard about through tweets from the Outdoor Industry Association Rendezvous this morning.

Something tells me some of those 50% might identify more closely with someone like me, who five years ago was a desk jockey that had dropped out of her last sport (road biking) because of chronic knee issues, than with the elitist of the elite of our sports. Inspiration can and does come from both places, without question.

I’ve observed before (and I’m sure others have, too) that a uniting characteristic among those of us who really engage deeply in social media as a way to build genuine relationships is that we’re constantly asking the question, “What can I do to help you?” And, the benefit of being that kind of a participant, is that you’re constantly surrounded by others asking you, “What can I do to help you?”

The ones who “Get It” rise to the top. The ones who don’t “Get It” may have other types of successes — I don’t know. I just count myself as incredibly lucky, that I’ve connected with so many other folks who are as excited about playing outside as I am.

In chemistry, strong “bonds” are associated with the sharing or transfer of electrons between the participating atoms. Whether it’s gear, advice, music, cards, well-wishes, or what have you… there’s a lot of “electrons” being transferred here in the social media subculture of the outdoor industry. We’re united by our common decision to live lives of adventure; by supporting and encouraging the adventurous lives of others; and by opting in to that “what can I do to help you” culture.

If you’re reading this blog, then I’m probably preaching to the choir. If that’s the case, then consider this a long-winded thank you note for the good that you’re casting out into the world.

But in the spirit of inclusiveness… of not keeping exclusive that which we treasure, I wanted to shine a little bit of light on our open little subculture, to help it grow.

This week, industry “big brains” got together at an “Unconference” both in person and online. Billed as an “Ad hoc gathering of outdoor industry professionals and deviants” (which, I guess, makes me a deviant) this get-together attracted all sorts of smart people from the industry, and a number of “end users” of outdoor gear who followed our conversation about the Unconference on Twitter. I thoroughly enjoyed the questions from the “end users” in the chat screen… trying to figure out who was who, and why we were all gathered, and then contributing meaningfully to the conversation. It’s gratifying to see “outsiders” being welcomed into rooms where, in other industries, or in other times, we never would have been invited before.

Thank you, from the bottom of my nervous, tired, travel-immunization-ridden little heart.


Getting to Know Sara…



Sara Lingafelter has recently added “aspiring mountaineer” to her bio, which also includes that she is a climber, writer, gear junkie, attorney and half-time dog mama based in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to blogging about the climbing life at, Sara is the unofficial #climb community den mother on Twitter, where she met and grew fond of Pemba Serves and the people involved.

In her free time, Sara climbs as often as possible at home crags between Squamish, BC and Smith Rock, OR, and is a prolific writer lacking the patience necessary for the print cycle. In addition to her own sites and guest posts here at PEMBAspeaks, Sara is a reader blogger for Climbing Magazine.

9 responses to “Bigger than Product. More than Marketing. Beyond Sales. | RockClimberGirl

  1. “the ones who ‘get it’ will rise to the top” …..of what? The top of twitter? The pinnacle of Facebook? Social media is by nature superficial and involves only positive feedback, perfect for narcissistic personalities and self-promoters. Don’t fool yourselves that these are “relationships” or “bonds.” At the end it’s all still about marketing, sales, and bottom lines. If social media didn’t advance those things, don’t think for a minute that it would still exist in the industry.

  2. You Sir/Madam, obviously don’t get it. And I would venture to say that you are a lonely, angry person that doesn’t care much about anyone but yourself and are failing with your own busisess.

    I have personally met Sara and hundreds of others that I’ve first met through twitter and I can honestly tell you that the relationships that we’ve built are genuine, sincere and supportive.

    Yes, many of us use social media to build our businesses, but as with other traditional business building measures, relationships are a natural result of the process. Unless you’re a hard ass.

    As a small business owner working alone, I am grateful to have met Sara and others from around the world. Perhaps you shoud give it a shot.

  3. “Neither irony or sarcasm is argument”. Rufus Choate (1799-1859)

  4. Sorry about that, my 75 year old mountaineering grandfather was just wishing a return to the good old days. We’ve finally made the call to the assisted living facility to get him the help he desperately needs.

  5. Hmmm. Good points, I guess. Still, most forms of art and communication both have at one point in their existence been labelled “superficial” or “narcissistic.” Not even television has lived up to these labels, fully. (Hard to believe, I know…) The jury is still out on this new medium, that’s for sure. It’s probably just a fad without any depth at all, much like rock&roll music and long-distance calling plans.

    At the moment, perhaps the only good things about social media tools – and the diagnostics that come with them – are that they make anonymous, sad little trolls a lot less anonymous and even more little. They don’t do much of anything for “sad,” sadly – Sorry.

    Thanks for your comments.

  6. Funny that “Reader” is not brave enough to disclose his/her name. That’s brave. Through Twitter, I’ve met and ridden road bikes with more than a dozen very solid folks whom I now consider friends. We have in-person, real-life relationships. Go to Interbike. Ride hors categorie climbs. Brainstorm ideas. Plan epic goals. Try to be supportive. Help out. Just like regular people. Social media, however vapid critics may claim, is a tool to connect. Simple as that.If you think it’s lame, hey, don’t log-on. No need to bash. There’s enough hate in the world already. Try and be happy.

  7. avatar David Sweeney

    Meaningfully participating in any social network (on or offline) has the potential of manifesting the energy you put into it.

    Garbage In = Garbage Out

  8. I actually get comments along those lines fairly regularly. Perhaps my next batch of cards for OR should read: Sara Lingafelter: Superficial Narcissistic Self-Promoter. Actually, that’s kinda catchy. I dig it. I’ll have to see if I can work in the word “Dreck,” since that’s another insult I received that I enjoyed.

    Friends and colleagues mock, if I admit that someone I’m speaking of is a “Twitter friend.” Others can mock; that’s their prerogative. In the meantime, I’ll continue thoroughly enjoying the business and personal connections I’ve made through these mediums, both with folks I’ve since met in the real world, and with folks I haven’t.

    My trip, which I wouldn’t have been a part of were it not for Twitter, was a first in a lifetime adventure. I’m just back — still jet lagged and trying to get used to the idea of being home. Also, getting used to the idea of plugging back in to social media — which, ultimately, I will. The out of office autoresponder is going to stay on a wee bit longer, though.

  9. I dig it too. One edit?: “SUCCESSFUL and WELL-LIKED Superficial Narcissistic Self-Promoter.” Just a suggestion…