Source:  CommScope via Flickr/Creative Commons

The times they are a changing

In 2001, when John started his career as a Kenai River fishing guide for Cooper Landing Floating and Fishing Company, times were different to say the least.  Cooper Landing Floating and Fishing Company had no website and no cell phone.  Business was conducted via the landline and by folks stopping by to book a fishing trip.  There were scores less of both fishing guides and fishing guide services in Cooper Landing and everyone worked together as a harmonious community, sending overflow business here and there.  No cutthroat competition, no commission based businesses, just fishermen and fisherwomen who liked to live and work together in a tiny mountain town.   Business was good overall, and John had plenty of trips to keep him on the river every day if he wanted the work.

Fast forward to only 3 years later when we started Kenai River Float-n-Fish in 2004.  At the time I built the first website for our business, we were easy to find online due to our business name and the fact that at the time there weren’t too many guide services around or the websites to go along with them.  We had a landline and a dial-up internet connection.  Business was still pretty “normal” for the times.  There was nothing instant.  No one expected you to reply to an email within ten minutes or less, folks left phone messages for you and were willing to wait for you to reply.  Maybe even until the next day or two.  People would stop by the shop and sit down and talk, even for hours sometimes.

This last fall, I built the fifth and latest incarnation of our website.  I researched all the tools and tricks for the latest trends in web design and built accordingly.  I brushed up on the latest in SEO and ranking, the most current tips and tricks on engaging an audience on social media.  For awhile I bought in, doing everything I could to help our tiny family business along, so that we’d be found in the now giant sea of Kenai River fishing guides, social media pages, and blogs.  In 15 years of doing business, we have earned a great online reputation, but sadly not the highest visibility or page rank.  We lack really any advertising or SEO budget to pay out thousands to have someone do this for us.  All we really have is our time and love to put in here and there where we can.

Now here we are in 2019.  Many people expect to book a fishing trip online using their smartphone without ever talking to a human being.  Many fishing guides don’t even have an actual office or storefront now (doesn’t anyone notice how many of these companies list the same address?  Did you know that is the address of the Cooper Landing boat launch?). No offense at all to any of these companies who have no doubt cut costs by not having a physical location.  I just want to point out how much the industry has changed.  No one really stops by for face to face interaction much these days, anyway.

So here comes the burden of online business in the 21st century.  There is an expectation now that you must be constantly engaged, continuously producing content on social media for your followers on a prescribed schedule.  There is the expectation to curate a set of images and words on the regular in order to inspire others to want join us for a day on the Kenai River.  An expectation to pen a blog with just the right keywords and backlinks to your own website, so that you get more site authority and your page ranks higher.  An expectation that you are available 24 hours a day 365 days a year to conduct business.  The mindset now is instant everything.  If you miss a call in this business environment, it is almost not worth returning that call, as the majority of callers have already moved on to the next business and their phone number.  Even if you just had to take a quick break to go pee and missed the call.  It is really that quickly that the business opportunity is gone.  If you don’t reply to an email within 10 minutes, other emails have been sent to other guides, and the quickest reply fills the boat.

Blogging is really what?

I started this blog on our new website to share with you our Drift Worldwide project.  After so many years, we have made some great friends and great connections in our business.  This is our audience.  Our audience knows we are a real family, we really live in Cooper Landing, Alaska, and we are really in this business for our love of the Mighty Kenai river and for sharing its specialness with others.  Our Drift Worldwide videos were created to share our adventures and inspire others to have their own adventures.  It is real and intimate.   After posting the videos, I decided to do a bit of writing as well.  When I learned in my page rank research that most other blogs, as written by some other fishing guide services or really any other niche business in general (again, no offense meant to anyone here), are just a tool utilizing carefully crafted words and phrases to trick google into ranking pages higher, it gave me the worst feeling.  For all the time I have personally wasted in my life, reading this blog or that, in search of pearls of wisdom and information, only to realize these are just keywords, with verbs, nouns, adjectives, sprinkled in to lend a bit of coherence.  These are not authentic writings, no, not at all.  I felt hoodwinked to discover this.  Not real at all.

Social Media Authenticity and the Price of Our Attention

Do you really need to see a picture of me every other day with my makeup and nails done just right, my perfect side braid just brushing the top of my Patagonia waders, the collar of my cool-chick plaid button down shirt open just suggestively enough, my Simms/Sage/Ross/Rio/Damselfly/trendy fly fishing company of the week hat tipped just right on my head, showing off my fancy rod and reel and finally the prized fish I have landed (or maybe not?) framed oh-just-so at the bottom of the picture, for you to decide that yes, you want to fish with my husband on your Alaska vacation?  Do you know what it looks like to get that picture?  You do know that picture isn’t real, right?

What happens if I don’t post that picture?  What happens if I don’t write a blog post just for keyword content to boost my website?  What if I check and respond to emails on a twice daily schedule?  What if I don’t post, or like, or comment at all?  How much business does it really bring to us to bombard our tiny group of followers with pictures from who knows when and a couple clever captions?

If we don’t subscribe to the digital status quo, will it hurt our business?  Will our family suffer? 

I’m not sure.  I do know that we have always directed our family life and business based on a set of values.  And now, more than ever, I think it is important to include digital technology and its use within that set of values.  Digital technology is a great tool and has a place in business, but there is a limit for us personally.  We want to have a deep and meaningful connection with you, but on our own terms.  We want to be ourselves, not who we think you want to see us be.  We are real, and I am sorry but social media is not.  What I am sure about is that our most treasured value is spending time together as a family, and our kids are growing up really fast.  We realize now more than ever, that it isn’t just our time that is important, but our attention.  We want to be present.  We want to put the devices away. 

So friends, we are joining the attention resistance movement and going on a digital diet.  I’ve decided that I love writing and sharing with you, but when I do, it will be my own authentic musings, not some SEO keyword laden BS treatise created only for my own professional benefit.  I want to write blog posts to share our world with you, inspire you, inform you.  Yes we will still share these blog posts via instagram and facebook.  We will still enjoy producing videos when we can, and writing a newsletter here and there and will still share those with you on these platforms, too.  But, we aren’t there on those platforms waiting to interact with you.  And we won’t be.   We will be checking and responding to emails at 9am and 1pm AKST (thanks, Tim Ferriss).  We do our best to return your phone call promptly, and hopefully you haven’t already called someone else.  Because, guess what?  We are real, and we are worth waiting for!

Put your phone down and go hug someone you love~

Much love,
Heather