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Aspen Skiing Company Bonks On Social Media

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ASPEN--Story is the new black.

Any company emblazoning "story" in their branding (i.e., Jose Cuervo) is saying, in effect, that they understand stories are a way to socialize their communities--a fast way to get down the hill.

They get it. Only sometimes they don't.

Nowhere is that more obvious than in Skico's newest boffo "Our Story" promotion. In our workshops this fall at The Isaacson School for New Media at Colorado Mountain College in Aspen, we have been using Skico's ambitious "story" project as a social media cautionary tale--a near-miss all too explicable in the context of Skico's uber-confident corporate culture. It is an equally telling lesson for the work we're doing here at the Digital Story Lab at the school.

Here's the rub: two or three years ago, the six mini-documentaries produced by Skico and Vital Films would have to be considered pretty damn near flawless: tales of the mountains, from a champagne bar to a greenish coal mine sans canaries. From a documentary standpoint, don't be surprised if "Our Story" wins its share of awards. As a standalone project, like the powerful "The Power of Four" almost ten years ago, it's killer stuff.

But the social media opportunity goes begging for reasons large and small.

The large: Aspen Skiing Company is bragging on THEIR story and not the stories of their customers, thereby ditching any true social juice to the ether. To be truly socialized, this would have to be "Our Story" encouraging skiers to tell THEIR stories, the way SmartWool and many others have done. Social media is not about breast-beating and telling the world how great you are. It's about identifying and energizing your community through storytelling.

The small: "Our Story" is a complete bust as the hashtag #ourstory on Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and even Facebook. In practical terms, that means whatever social buzz Skico and related properties like The Little Nell have been trying to generate from the campaign is dissipated by #ourstory tweets and posts about everything from Janis Joplin to the Aga Khan School. The hashtag is too general and generic, a situation that could easily have been avoided by a soupcon of research. This small mistake is actually a big deal because it all but kills all possibility of virality.

There are still tweets to be had, like this one from Skico's Aspen/Snowmass, but they're little more than links swathed in self-congratulatory prose:

Want to watch @SteepSkiing rip pow on 230 acres of new terrain at @Snowmass? Watch this week's episode of #OurStory - http://ourstory.aspensnowmass.com/ep06/

The Aspen Skiing Company runs a first-class, four-mountain operation, but that kind of competence bred over-confidence in the more inclusive realm of social media--for the simplest of reasons.

It's not about you, the company. It's about us, the customers.

Social media is about storytelling that leads to engagement that culminates in community. That's our story, in plain black and white.