Skateboarding's Social Media "Coach"

Tadashi Yamaoda

Fred van Schie is a new type of consultant in the world of skateboarding -- he works with brands and pros on their social media strategies.

Ten years ago, skateboard brands and pros could only reach their fans by going on tour, appearing in print advertisements and filming video sections. Today, social media has obviously proven to be a major force in directly connecting brands and pros to their fans. The instantaneous feedback, interaction and communication is priceless. But, it's also a relatively new concept that's hard for many pros to wrap their heads around. Fred van Schie is an entrepreneur that understands this. And recently, he started a consulting business that's "coaching" skateboard brands and pros to help them correctly use various social media platforms. got the chance to speak with van Schie. When do you think brands started to recognize social media as a platform to connect with fans?
van Schie: I'm not sure if that has really happened for most brands, since most brands (and pros) still use it to spam their audience with one-way messages. But when Facebook passed MySpace in mid 2009 and approached 300 million users later that year, I think a lot of people wanted to get involved. They saw it as another chance to inform their fans and consumers.

In 2010, you ran social media for Sole Tech (Etnies, Altamont and Emerica). What did that entail and what did you learn doing it?
I started in June 2010 and worked there for 18 months. I basically started up most of their social media. At the time the Emerica Facebook only  had like 47 fans. Within a week, the page had 20,000 fans. Back then people really didn't "know" how to do it so I just figured it out and quickly, I started to realize it was all about the interaction. That's what I think a lot of people like pros and brands don't do. You need to build the relationship with people, build trust, and then they will help you by pushing out your information to their friends as well and even potentially buying your products. 

So social media should be used "socially"?
Yes exactly, it's like the word doesn't do it justice! A lot of pros and brands are just posting information but don't respond to the kid's questions.  99% of the people reaching out on Facebook and Instagram deserve a response. They just want to be heard. And half the time, it's not really what you say back, it's that you were there to respond. At the end of the day, these are your fans and the people that buy your product. It takes hard work to keep a consumer coming back.

Regarding your business, what's the first thing a new client wants you to do?
Everyone wants to get a million fans, but there's only a few that can reach huge numbers. I usually start by syncing up all their usernames and URLs, as that is the foundation. People look you up on social media before they come to your site, so it's a big part of your branding to have all the names the same. Once they have a solid foundation it's time to teach them how to be social. I always tell new clients that the second you start to care about your fans, like responding and interacting with them, is the second that they will start to care about you. You need to built a relationship with people.

ESPN Images

X Games vert skater Pierre-Luc Gagnon is one of van Schie's many clients, and he has a presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You consult pros such as David Gonzalez, Corey Duffel, PLG, Jamie Thomas, and Omar Salazar to name a few. As a consultant, what do you do for pros? Do you run Jamie Thomas' Instagram?
I definitely don't run the social media for any of my clients, but I do help them. It's different for every client, but I mainly "coach" them on how to be better at social media. It sounds whack to say "coach" in skateboarding but that's what it comes down to. Of course if they are on the road or out filming and they have something that needs to go up, I can post it for them, but that's not more then 10-20% of the time. And mostly only for Facebook. It's a team effort between the pros, their sponsors, and myself. But the pros have to be into it. It only works if they are on the same track, then I can help them. One of my services for both the brands and pros is to run their Facebook giveaways. Also I'll work on longer term goals, like looking at stats on patterns of posting to even simple things like hashtags. I deal with fake accounts a lot too. Again, it really comes down to interacting and asking questions.

What do you think of companies that just run print ads and don't like using social media?
Too bad, it's not up to a brand to make that decision, unless you want to go out of business. I even think people should include social media (URLs/usernames/hashtags) in all their other marketing assets. Why would you not want to interact with your past, present, and future consumers? Facebook has over a billion users, Twitter has 300 million active users, Instagram has more than 160 million users. And you don't think your consumer is on these platform? All day, every day. And half the kids around the world don't even see the actual print mags anymore. You have to adapt, you can't sit still.

Do you think print media still works?
Absolutely! I also grew up with it so I love reading magazines. I do think that's it's on it's way out, slowly but surely. A print ad can still have an impact but it needs to be part of a plan and mixed with video and social.

What's the deal with the book "The Thank You Economy?"
That book is my bible. Jim Thiebaud (of Deluxe Distribution) told me in November 2011 to read this book from Gary Vaynerchuk. I hadn't read a book in almost ten years, but I wasn't gonna tell Jim that . I finished the book in four hours and that just hit something. Even though I thought I was doing a decent job at Altamont and Emerica with social media, the book showed me I just had my toes in the water. Around the same time my friend Brent Koops showed me a blog post of Amy Jo Martin, the social media coach of Shaq and The Rock (among others). I basically combined Gary Vaynerchuk's ideas with Amy Jo Martin's execution. Later I added in some theories from Scott Stratten and Brian Solis, along with all the things I learned from working with my various clients.

Where do you see the future of social media heading?
It will be quicker and faster on your phone. And purchasing will become based more on by people who have influence. And not just famous people, but people with lots of followers.

Final words?
Social media is like the front yard of your business. If it looks bad, then no one is gonna come in. Want to learn more check out for some social media tips and of course, he's got an Instagram!

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