The PEMBAway: Dive In, The Water’s Just Fine.

Darren Bush of Rutabaga (@canoelover) doing what he does best

In advance of our OIA Outdoor University Webinar on August 18th, the story of how and why we do things the PEMBAway continues. This time: How to dip into social communications without drowning yourself, or others.

Structure dictates behavior, and the structure of our territory defines who we are. We have 777,044 square miles of terrain to cover for #OIBIZ vendors and dealers here in the Upper Midwest. That’s a lot of ground to cover.

In this territory, there are times when we drive twelve hours in a day, and see two accounts, for an hour each. This sort of travel is difficult to sustain and definitely cannot be scaled. The way we see it, there are two ways we can span this distance frequently:

  1. Lots and lots of butt-time
  2. Social communications.

So, how does this work? Well, we spend a lot of time on our butts.

(Have you seen my butt lately? It’s HUGE.)

The social communications part? That’s where many are just finding their way. For those who are interested in learning the PEMBAway, here’s our straight-forward plan for swimming – and not drowning – in the social media waters:


Dive in: This isn’t discretionary. If you’re a professional in #OIBIZ (or ANY biz, for that matter) you have to learn how to use social media. Here’s why: You know that guy who can’t use a spreadsheet, or connect to the internet, or – let’s just say this out loud – even consistently turn on his computer? You know, that guy? He’s the one you wonder how he still has a job. If you don’t learn how to communicate using social media, that’s you in about three years.

Or maybe sooner.

Here’s how big of a deal it is: The Pope is requiring priests to blog, and Britain’s MI5 is firing spies who can’t use social media. In a world where 11% of young people will interrupt sex in order to respond to a text message, and where only 11% of the Millennials regularly use e-mail, if you’re not on social, you’re not long for it.

(Sorry, Dude…)

But this isn’t just about keeping a job. By using the new tools, you can become more effective at what you do and reach more people in more substantial ways, all while reducing the overall volume of your communications, particularly e-mail. (And who really loves e-mail all that much, anyway?)

This all starts the moment you decide to stop drowning and start swimming, so dive in.

Swim under water: Swimming isn’t all about not drowning, or only about staying on the surface. Get comfortable getting your head under water, because that’s where the interesting things live. Oh, and that’s where things are going to happen, going forward.

Now, hold your breath: Prepare to be a life-long learner, because this isn’t about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google-du-jour, or any other particular tool-of-the-day. Used properly, the tools are interchangeable, interlinked, and – in fact – they disappear in a sense because they’re all around you. (These things are all in the Cloud, after all.) Further, they’ll be upgraded, exchanged, and some will go away only to be replaced by others. You may favor one for a time, switch to another, and then switch back again.

What you need to learn: Communication is now multi-channel and three dimensional (like being under water), rather than the back-and-forth exchange of ideas between two people. The tools that make this work will change, but what’s important to know is that this type of communication requires different skills. Most people need to learn these skills, and some (the Millennials, for instance) are already using them as second nature.

Think of it this way: What’s important? The phone? Or what you’re talking about? Don’t get so invested in the tool, just focus on what you have to say and to whom, and then pick up the tool that’s best available to you in that moment, and use it.

Breathe air, not water: The default complaint about using social media as a business tool goes something like this:

“I don’t have time to sift through what everybody had for lunch to get to the good stuff.”

To us, that’s a little like saying that you won’t go to a cocktail party unless you are assured that everybody is going to pull you aside and whisper into your ear: “Plastics.”

The world doesn’t work this way. The truth is that in everyday personal encounters we do talk about the weather, sports, and politics. We show each other pictures of our kids, our bikes, and what we did over the weekend. Yes, we even talk about what we had for lunch, today, yesterday, AND the day before.

(Man, that guy is BORING! Too bad he’s one of your largest accounts, eh? How do you deal with him?)

We make small-talk in person. And – now – we do it on social media. We all have our own filters in the real world to get by (we’re partial to the always effective smile-and-nod), and we have the same online. But don’t over-use these. Just like in the real world, these mundane interactions online are the ones that foster connection, and understanding, and – studies say – even genuine bonding. It’s relationship building, at a very basic level. You’re just using different tools to accomplish the same things.

Here’s the trick: It’s just like breathing. When you breathe in, breathe in once. When you breathe out, breathe out once. That’s all you have to do.

Here’s how we do it…

Air, the dry stuff – Breathing in: Air has different flavors, and we prefer some flavors over others at different times. When we’re hungry, we like dinner flavored air. Sometimes, we like air the flavor of damp trails and fresh leaves. Then, when we want a contact-high, there’s always Phish concerts. (Okay, you get the idea…)

The main thing is that we’ve set up our feeds by type of information. I use TweetDeck, personally. It’s a one-stop dashboard for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a number of other social media feeds. TweetDeck allows me to set up feeds for friends, business associates, thought-leaders, and the like. So, when I want to catch up with my business reading – and have time to do so – there’s a feed for that. I can breathe in what I want, when I want, and can spare the few moments to take a breath.

Breathing out: When we post something, no matter where we post it, we can choose where it ends up . This way, we only have to post something once and people will get it where they want it, when they want it, and have a few moments to take a breath.

So, suppose in my business reading I find something that I want to share with PEMBA’s social circle. A quick click on a preset button on my browser throws it out onto our Delicious feed. From there, it splits out to Twitter, Facebook, our blog, and our newsletter, automatically. This way, people can engage with it wherever they want to find it.

Lastly – it goes without saying, but it seems as if we should: In social communications, it’s really important that you have something to say. More importantly, be ready to listen, too.

So, what are you waiting for? Dive in!

3 responses to “The PEMBAway: Dive In, The Water’s Just Fine.

  1. avatar Brad Werntz

    For those who want to know the facts and figures in regard to ROI: We’re going to go through some metrics during our OIA Outdoor University Webinar, rest assured.

  2. avatar Brad Werntz

    New to social media and aren’t sure how to get your feet wet? Here’s a recent article from the NYT on how to tell one service from another.

  3. avatar Brad Werntz

    Also, this is an interesting series of predictions about what social media will be in ten years. Check it.