How REI created sustainable user-generated content

REI’s social media team set up a website for photos of their fans’ outdoor adventures. They didn’t realize they were creating a huge storehouse of PR and marketing content for REI.

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REI isn’t just an outdoor gear store—it’s a co-op.

Its employees love being outside. In her recent session at the Brands-Only Summit, Lulu Gephart, REI’s Manager of Social and Earned Media, recaps one of her own adventures:

“Two lessons: If you get a chance to hike the Spanish Pyrenees, do it. And don’t drink the water, because you’ll get the ‘Spanish Plague,’ and you’ll want to die.”

For every outdoor adventure REI’s employees go on, thousands of their customers do something similar. To capitalize on that, Gephart explains, REI asked them to share photos and stories from those outdoor pursuits.

The goal of REI’s 1440 Project: Gather photos from customers’ outdoor adventures captured at every minute (1,440 of them) of the day.

Gephart’s team created a Project 1440 micro-site about two years ago and promoted the hashtag #REI1440Project on social and display ads. In just a few months, there were more than a half million visits to the site and 10,000-plus photos uploaded.

“We were floored by its success,” Gephart says.

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