A goose hunter takes a photo with his cell phone for social media.

Written by 5:20 pm Marketing in Hunting, Social Media

Understanding Social Media Marketing in the Hunting Industry

How to be in the top hunting social media accounts of 2019.

The hunting industry has always struggled on social media. Disinformation and misperception have sadly been the norm. Glaring examples range from the early heydays of every pop-up hunting “production company” faking likes and traction to now what seems like the inevitable ban of hunting content on some platforms. Note I said, “seems.” That’s because platforms like Facebook will never actually ban hunting on their platform; do not forget Mark Zuckerberg dabbles in hunting.

The most evident and actual enforced change that happened in 2018 (and will set a tone for 2019) is the ban of promoting gun sales. No longer can we promote gun reviews, auctions or just about anything that mentions firearms in any capacity. Some may be wrongfully flagged, but good luck on getting the ad review appealed. Most will sit in the appeals review process for the next decade.

Gloom and doom always seems to dog the hunting industry. But I will say with optimism: this more than anything is forcing us to get better at what we do and become less isolationist in the process.

Instagram and the Hunting Industry

Instagram is without a doubt the platform of 2019. Don’t like Instagram? The world does not care; it will move on without you. Instagram is the core social media home of millennials, and for those producing high quality content it has proved an effective medium. Although very different than Facebook, Instagram is owned by Facebook. Therefore, many of its new methods in deliver spill over. Most notable was the 2018 Facebook change of “meaningful engagement”.

I am not going to waste time on Instagram and its relationship with “meaningful engagement” (I’ll save that for Facebook). The key focal points for our purposes are consistence and hashtags. Rule One: only use hashtags that matter. Rule Two: try and gain traction on a hashtag specific for your brand. For example, our platform @Project_Upland uses #ProjectUpland which has become one of the most popular tags for upland hunting on Instagram.

Consistence matters a lot to Instagram. Why? No idea, but it does. What does that mean? It means if you post every other day around 4 p.m., then keep doing that, do not take a break. We normally post once a day on each platform to maintain our consistency. On top of that there is a proper way to write a post and all that fun stuff but that’s for another time.

Lastly, Instagram Stories are “so hot” right now. If you have over 10,000 followers you can embed links which proves to be a majorly effective tool. Using stories should be daily and finding what fits your brand can be everything from behind the scenes, a look back, or anything else that people actually care just a little bit about. We have measured a direct correlation between increase in Instagram followers and the use of stories. Do not ignore it.

It is important to note that Instagram ads have never been friendly to hunting. We should not act shocked when promotions are not approved or get flagged. Organic traction is very achievable here. And despite what anyone may tell you in some story blown out of proportion, non-promoted content does not get banned.

Facebook and the Hunting Industry

Oh Facebook! What a love/hate relationship we have. As mentioned earlier, 2018 was the year of “meaningful engagement.” If you failed to actually understand what that was, your Facebook brand page probably crashed and burned to a level that has left you bitter about all the marketing money you spent there. Not to mention the fact that ads got a lot more expensive. The days of video views for .001 on the dollar are long gone. Now it’s the world of .01 or .02 if you know what you’re doing.

Organic reach was the hardest hit for most brands, but if you cracked that “meaningful engagement” code things were tolerable. Our testing grounds page did an organic reach of 796,011 people in October to December of 2018. Compared to the previous year of 1,035,428 in the same period. At slightly over a 20 percent loss which is respectively better traction than most pages experienced. We also experienced around a 40 percent loss on organic Facebook video views from 2017 to 2018.

Add in the increasing issue of hunting ads being flagged as firearms promotion and Facebook is a painful place to be. The core audience found here is usually Generation X, along with a decent showing of baby boomers (who do not care for Instagram) and some millennials who stop by to check on family.

Although we do not advise a shift from Facebook, if you have not diversified on other social platforms, this is a good time to panic and do so.

YouTube and the Hunting Industry

YouTube has quickly become my favorite of all our social platforms (yes, it is a social media platform). The underlying goal of YouTube is to hold the audience on the platform for as long as possible. What does that mean for brands? Your film work better be top notch; YouTube figures out and shows preference to higher end content and storytelling because people will stay longer. It is not rocket science, but rather — pure genius.

We started our YouTube channel in response to the decline of Facebook in February 2018. We went from around 30,000 minutes of view time and 10,000 views per 28 day interval in the early year, to now more than 500,000 minutes of view time and 100,000 views per 28 day period.

The crucial thing to point out here is the stark difference on view time ratios compared to Facebook. Facebook videos on average experience only one minute of view time per every two views. Compare that to YouTube, which is showing five minutes of view time per every one view! That points out the biggest flaw Facebook is experiencing: Facebook is not a streaming platform and YouTube is. YouTube brings higher quality traction and viewership.

Now I know plenty of people in the industry are up in arms on the “black gun” ban on YouTube. Let’s first get the facts straight. “YouTube will ban videos that promote or link to websites selling firearms and accessories, including bump stocks, which allow a semi-automatic rifle to fire faster. Additionally, YouTube said it will prohibit videos with instructions on how to assemble firearms.” (Bloomberg 2018) Ominously, that sounds a lot like Facebook’s new rules.

Believe it or not, hunting is not all about guns . . . This leads to my next point. Do not become an isolationist.

Hunting Specific Social Media Platforms

If you want to meet new people, go to places you have the opportunity . . . It is a rather basic concept that legitimately applies to both life and marketing. If R3 is your goal, then go somewhere where there not just hunters. Isolation is creating more rifts for the public perception of hunting than we can imagine. That is a lengthy story for another article or speech.

Just because YouTube has created the “black gun” ban, do not be tempted to simply run away. Turning the tide of public perception in hunting means we need to be in the public eye (and platforms) in constructive and accurate manners. We never stand a chance if we do not participate in society. I often say that it is not society’s job to comply with hunting culture; it is our job to comply with society.

Other Social Media Platforms

Twitter is for people to say funny things and rant on politics. Word of advice: in the changing world of hunting marketing, leave politics at the door and do not joke about killing things. SnapChat is a great place to capture Generation Z; good luck figuring out how to monetize it. SnapChat cannot even figure that one out for themselves. Vero came and went in it seemed like 60 days. Great attempt to turn the norm but Facebook proved to be the “too big to fail” edifice for social media.

Top platform to look out for in 2019 is Twitch. Twitch, for those of you who do not yet know, is a live streaming platform — and most notably for its live streaming of video game play. In fact, Money Magazine reported that Fortnite player Tyler Blevins earned about $10 million in 2018 with live streaming and marketing directly related. This is by far the most influential of Generation Z platforms. Twitch (which is owned by Amazon) intends to become more than just video games and they have now begun experimenting with live streaming a “lifestyle” portion of the site. We will be experimenting in this realm in the very near future.

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Last modified: May 30, 2020