The concept of blacks spending free time in the outdoors might be the butt of an occasional joke (have you seen the black hiker video starring Blair Underwood?) but connecting with nature is a way of life for many people of color across the country, and OutdoorAfro.com is a central meeting place for many of them.
Since launching in April 2009, site founder Rue Mapp has been building a community “where black people and nature meet” across the web. Her site has become a destination for people of color looking for information about outdoor activities. While the activities aren’t all specifically tailored to African Americans, just seeing images and video of black people taking part has been a critical icebreaker for those who haven’t engaged with nature previously, or who want to do more.
Social media is a critical element of Mapp’s outreach. In addition to her main website, Outdoor Afro has more than 2,300 fans on Facebook and nearly 1,000 Twitter followers. Mapp also maintains an active Ning site with more than 300 members, and uses Flickr and YouTube.
Mapp, who grew up between her foster parent’s home in Oakland and their farm in nearby Lower Lake, Ca., started out using the Blogger platform, but switched to WordPress a few months later so she could more easily incorporate additional functionality and engagement with social media platforms.
“Social media is a big part of my strategy,” said Mapp. “I got involved with the social media community at a critical time–going to Tweetups, attending WordCamps. It was important that I could promote Outdoor Afro, but I was also talking to the larger environmental movement about using these tools to reach new audiences.”
Analytics show that readers are almost two-thirds female and predominately African American, and boast a high concentration of advanced degrees and high incomes. Readers are located along the coasts in California, New York, Virginia and Atlanta.
Beyond the information on top hikes or summer camps for kids, OutdoorAfro.com has also become a place for people to discuss stereotypes about blacks and nature, proving that many people of color ski, swim, hike, and engage in myriad other outdoor sports. The site also links to services that people can take advantage of across the country. The site is a great starting point for people seeking more information on outdoor activities for themselves and their families.Category: Featured, Interviews | Tags: nature, OutdoorAfro.com, social media