Held in Rome on September 18th, the 'Using Social Media to Our Advantage' workshop organized by the World Forum on Shooting Activities ends with great expectations: the firearms industry is behind many other sectors, but it's finally starting to understand the strategic importance of the Internet and Social Media to promote and safeguard its interests and the rights of the shooters' community
Communication experts in this field – and that includes us at GUNSweek.com – have been saying out loud for a long time: despite the wide availability of professional services on the market in the field of web-based and Social Media communication and marketing, the firearms industry is pretty much backwards under that point of view. And that's simply due to ignorance – in the sense of lack of knowledge of the modern means of communication and of the best ways to use them.
Most of the communication budget of the firearms industry is dedicated – and badly so – almost exclusively to traditional advertisement and communication (printed catalogs, traditional press, trade shows, etc.), neglecting anything that refers to a correct management of on-line communication.
This gap is more marked in Europe than in north America, as the firearm industry of the United States has been historically more versatile, more open-minded, and skillful at managing and mastering the potential of Web-based communication. As a matter of fact, nowadays, the presence of most American gunmakers goes way beyond the classic "virtual catalogue" provided by standard company websites, and they're better than their European counterparts in communicating with their potential customers through Social Media.
What the shooting community sorely lacks is a full awareness of the potential of modern social network and social media as a whole, in terms of communication with potential customers and as a weapon in the ongoing fighters against the international front that supports draconian gun control measures.
And this is exactly what the Workshop titled Using Social Media to Our Advantage, was all about. Held in Rome (Italy) on September 18th, hosted by professor Andrea Luminati – a marketing and communication expert and one of the greatest professionals in the field, as well as an active contributor to WFSA – the workshop was aimed at developing a sort of "common conscience" about the importance of Social Media and their correct handling within the shooting industry... and not just the Italian one.
Professor Luminati's workshop was part of a spot-on schedule of meetings organized by the World Forum on Shooting Activities, first introduced at the 2016 edition of the IWA OutdoorClassics expo in Nuremberg (Germany) during the yearly WFSA plenary session; the first meeting in the schedule was held in Scottsdale (Arizona, U.S.A.) last Autumn.
The WFSA – the "international voice of shooting sports" and an officially-recognized consulting NGO with the Economic and Social Council of the UN General Assembly – seems to have clearly taken a path towards a forced, if need be, modernization of the communication techniques for the entire industry and for the shooting community as a whole: Social Media are the best weapon we've ever had to reach out and educate the public opinion outside the classic pool of shooters and gun enthusiasts.
But as professor Luminati's workshop clearly put it, it's paramount to distinguish and operate different communication strategies between the so-called "Converted" – those individuals and elements that are already non-hostile, if not completely sympathetic and supportive to our world – and the so-called "Unconverted" – those who are not openly supportive, if not openly hostile, to the shooting community.
So it's not just about improving your business – which is actually stille feasible, given the unlimited potential of Web-based communication – but about knowing what to do and developing adequate strategies to do it.
Given the important role that each major gun manufacturer could play within an international communication strategy, the industry should start allotting dedicated budget figures for Web-based communication – including Social Media communication strategies – to concoct and send out positive messages that would counter the lies that the global anti-gun front spreads against the gun industry and law-abiding shooters on a daily basis.
Unlike the shooting community, the global anti-gun front has long learned how to master the social network to spread their hate and falsity. Once again the situation is different from north America to Europe, but there is still a gap that we can no longer afford to ignore as the year 2020 closes in to bring the Third Millennium into a new era.
If the shooting industry will keep neglecting or ignoring the potentials of Web-based and Social Network-communication in favour of grossly outdated means such as conventional mass media or printed media, it will risk being cut away and literally crushed by modern communication dynamics.
These are the reasons why WFSA established this calendar of events dedicated to the knowledge and correct management of Social Media-based communication; the events and workshops were strongly sponsored by WFSA Executive Secretary, Mr. Mauro Silvis, a man who's well aware of the issues and opportunities of the global shooting industry and is currently covering the right position (if an uncomfortable one!) to push for a change in the right way.
What we saw and heard during the workshop dedicated to using Social Media to our advantage was indeed a pleasurable and remarkable departure from the usual, dangerously retrograde ways of thinking and communicating so common within the industry.
Our hope now is that the global shooting industry will put professor Luminati's lesson in practice: while modern Social Media and Web-based communication tools may be free of charge or extremely cheap to access, the necessary knowledge and practice to use them correctly to deliver the right message requires the indistry to make consistent investments for the training of professional within the companies or, even better, to buy the services of external professionals who have been mastering this sector for years.
There is an old joke in Italy:
An engineer bills a customer who asked him to tighten a simple screw.
“That would be one thousand bucks”, the engineer says.
“One thousand bucks just to tighten a small screw?!” the customer asks, astonished.
“Of course – the engineer answers: One buck to tighten the screw, 999 bucks to know which screw to tighten”.
We can imagine many managers in the shooting industries would answer "Yeah, I've already heard that story...", but how many of them actually understood its meaning?
Investing in advertisement is one thing. Investing in communication is another. Investing too little or nothing at all... is yet another.