I bet some of your best memories were formed around a campfire. Making s’mores with mom? Check. Uncle Larry’s story about that huge trout? Check. What about the time ol’ Ranger got tangled up with the skunk and your brother-in-law bought every can of tomato juice he could find?

You’ve heard those stories—or some similar—hundreds of times. And they tend to improve with the telling. The s’mores taste better, the trout gets bigger, and your brother-in-law gets more animated every time that story gets passed around the fire. Especially so if there’s a jar of something getting passed around with it.

Social media is the campfire

That’s the beauty of stories and the power of the campfire. As much as we outdoor gearheads love our carbon-fiber-this and our titanium-that, the real reason we spend time in the backcountry is the stories. We like hearing them and we like sharing them. And most of us would like more opportunities to sit around a fire with a few good friends and a few good stories.

That’s true for us. And if we make or sell things for other people who like the outdoors, then it’s true for our customers, too. They buy our stuff because it helps them with their own stories. If it’s great stuff, better than the stuff they were using before, then their stories are bound to include bigger fish, more epic trails, tastier food, and better what-did-you-do? conversations. They share those stories, those adventures, with the people they know. And the things they buy from us get carried along as those stories are shared.

Except now those stories get told and retold at the speed of Twitter, with the power of Facebook, and the infectiousness of YouTube. It’s not just chatter around the water cooler. It’s around the globe.

Awhile back I was chatting with Kath Baird of Bogong Horseback Adventures. Kath, her husband Steve, and their sons Clay and Lin run 45 horses and take folks into the high country of the Great Dividing Range, in Australia. She wondered if all the effort that social media seems to take might be better spent on other things, like running her business, or sitting around the fire with her guests. We talked quite a bit about the topic, flung out several opinions, and even complimented one another on our choice of hats.

And this entire conversation happened via social media. Kath and I have never met face to face. But we did meet in a group called “Adventure Tourism and Travel Professionals,” on LinkedIn. Prior to that I had never heard of her company and had never thought about taking a pack trip into the mountains in Australia.

But I’m thinking about it right now. Maybe you are, too. A few days high up in the Snowy Mountains, riding with Kath and the lads. Besides wrangling horses, Steve Baird is a talented poet and painter, Clay studied film and television and rode his bicycle across Cuba, and Lin grows organic vegetables. Both of Kath’s sons have spent time in the Sierra Nevada, the mountains that are my backyard.

Those are some interesting people and I know they’ve got some great stories to share. I wouldn’t know any of this if not for the social media campfire.

There must be other people running packtrips in Australia. I bet they do a fine job and take great care of their guests. But here’s the thing: When I go to book a horseback adventure in Oz, I’m not going to spend any time looking for other outfitters. I’m going to go out in the bush with Kath and her crew. Because I already know their story and I want to be a part of it. And I think they might be interested in hearing a couple of my stories, too.

It’s going to be awhile before I make it to Australia for a packtrip with the Baird family. Meanwhile, Kath and her business have gained 100 percent of my personal mindshare for this sort of adventure. I’m just a market of one person, but Kath owns that particular market. Because she uses social media and that’s where I found her. Or rather, she found me. If those other outfitters are using social media, I haven’t come across them. I’m sure some of them don’t and maybe never will. But I’ll never know about them, because they didn’t share their story around the fire where I happened to be sitting.