The victory of high touch

In the last couple days, the map of “how the future voted” has gotten tons of play on Facebook.  You've probably seen it.  And if you're a Democrat, you probably "liked" it, along with 200,000 others.  But it’s a sham.

The “future" voting map is a supposedly a statistical illustration of how 18-29 year old voters swung hard for Hillary on Tuesday, and how that means the future will be a bright blue "D" from sea to shining sea. What it doesn't mention, however, is that only 19% of the 18-25 demographic actually bothered to vote: the lowest of any age group. So what's being spread around as a fact that Democrats can curl up with as they lick their election wounds, is just a fifth true. A little less, actually.

But because the piece is something many social media users would like to be true, because it appeals to emotions first and foremost, it gets shared and "liked" and elevated in the Facebook algorithm to a noble height of truthiness. Clickbait stories like the "future map" are everywhere for a reason.  They work.  

Let's face it.  One of the big areas of scrutiny from the 2016 election is the current state of social media -- how it made an indelible imprint in some areas, and how it was clearly impotent in others.

As a generation of social media natives, we’re definitely overdue for a social media checkup. The 2016 election has provided a valuable moment to take a look under the hood as a group, and in the mirror as individuals, to evaluate how we're using this tool. It's time to really understand the positives like connecting with friends and family, as well as the negatives -- how it reinforces the ideas we already have, how it insulates users from diversity in thought, and how it is steadily ushering in a new age of emotion over reason.

We've all felt the thrill of posts that get a ton of attention, and we've all felt the stank of posts that go nowhere. We've learned that joy and anger and passion (and cats!) get the most likes. And so, we continually adjust our internal algorithm, consciously and subconsciously, to perform.

In the morning after the election, Trump staffers praised their victory as one of "high touch defeating high tech."  In other words, while the digital tools at our fingertips were certainly amazing and powerful in many ways, they simply couldn't outperform real world face-to-face persuasion that was going on in the red states.

Since August, I spend a few dozen hours behind the wheel in Utah and Colorado, New York and Pennsylvania ('m pretty sure that the only place where it's illegal to be on social media is while you're driving a car).  As a road tripping distraction, I decided to keep score every time I saw a presidential election yard sign.  At first, I thought it’d be an interesting straw poll to measure the support for each candidate, but after a couple hours in the car I realized there were almost no Hillary signs to count at all.  In those areas, Clinton had no touch.

It’s a lot to take in, still.  How did our country become so clearly divided? How were analysts so completely wrong?  How come everybody on my Facebook feed was wearing pantsuits on Tuesday and Hillary still lost?

While you can't simply point a middle finger at social media -- you can definitely pause and think about it a bit.

If you're looking to connect with others like yourself, social media has proven itself to be an incredible and robust tool.

But nobody ever increased market share by only speaking to their current customers. And to change somebody's mind, you've got to meet them on their turf ... wherever that may be.

Millennials at the tailgate

Leather-and-plaid wool backpacks that weigh 8 pounds, empty. Mom jeans that somehow totally work. Ironic facial hair that looks like my facial hair. Unfathomable new fans of Lionel Ritchie.  A generation with the world at their fingertips. A demographic wave that dwarfs all previous waves.

These are the Millennials.

What do Millennials like most about the Outdoor experience in 2016?

a. Creative and engaging social media content. Memes! Contests! Instagram takeovers by @hikinghispter420!

b. Beards and plaid.

c. Summits, descents and the personal challenges overcome in a blue-sky outdoor setting.

d. The opportunity to get away from the Boomers and Slackers.

Like every other generation – the Millennials include all kinds. The rock stars and the rockheads. The passionate dolts and troublemaking geniuses. The perfect and the flawed. To consider them a homogenous pool is a big time error.  But to ignore the sheer generational girth is also a massive mistake.

In less than a decade, Millennials will make up 50% of adult consumers. Put down your kombucha and think about that for a second. Voting with their wallets, voting at the polls, it’s going to be their world.

On one hand, I’m admittedly jealous. They’re showing up in my world (known as the "Outdoor Industry") just as the party is hitting full stride. Outdoor is a place of true opportunity, of careers in nearly every category and every geographic market.

On the other, however, I feel for these kids. The downside of Outdoor's maturity is that it’s becoming saturated, increasingly broad and definitely diluted. All that great gear we make may never get that much better from a technical standpoint, other than becoming more easily available. And the expectations being laid at the Millennials feet are nothing short of momentous (while the expectations they put on themselves are equally staggering).

For Outdoor, how to deal with the coming Millennial wave is a minor conundrum with major implications. It goes without saying that Outdoor is going to move toward them and greet them with open, merino-clad arms. The question is how far are we going to go, exactly?