REI Emerging Media Specialist Derek Konzelman

Derek Konzelman's career in social media started when he became a contestant on a reality show.

Understand your place in the industry and how to cut through in a way that resonates with your purpose and your people, and this will be reflected in your product/service.

He studied communications and business at the University of Washington and worked for several small start-up companies out of college. And in 2012, he was a contestant on the NBC reality show, Escape Routes, a branded effort with Ford to launch their 2013 Escape.

A big component of the show was real-time social media engagement with the contestants. For example, in one challenge, teams had to rely on their Twitter followers to solve a clue-based challenge. And in the end, Derek and his brother, Drew, won.

“After this experience, I recognized my interest specifically in the social media side of marketing,” says member Derek. “I learned and grew a ton through that experience. Being surrounded by strong, motivated, and competitive individuals, it challenged me to take some risks in pursuing my dreams.”

For the next three years, Derek worked in a variety of roles at REI in areas like sales and customer service.

In 2015, he joined REI's social media team as their Emerging Media Specialist.

“Little did I know that those three years would prove to be incredibly useful and the best preparation for the work I do now for REI social channels,” he says. “With this understanding of operations, procedures, policies, and a familiarity with REI’s customer base, it prepared me for my current role.”

Now, Derek is responsible for community moderation and issues management. His days revolve around reactive engagement, resolving escalated issues, and communicating between REI's customers, store managers, contact center reps, and public affairs. He's a part of the integrated marketing team which works closely with content strategy, paid, and local media teams.

He curates for REI's UGC engine which feeds their Instagram channel and supplements their Facebook and Twitter channels. Derek also creates and manages REI's Instagram Weekend Projects, Twitter chats and polls, and Facebook Live events.

“We're not all going to climb Everest, but we all share a common bond with our love for the outdoors.”

Derek recently lead his team on an off-site snowshoeing adventure for an afternoon. “I have a wonderful team. They are all young, passionate individuals that come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences including agencies and other brands like Nordstrom and Porsche. We work hard and play hard.”

He acknowledges that REI has a unique opportunity to connect with an engaged, enthusiastic audience on an interesting topic — an opportunity that not every brand can enjoy.

“My recommendation for other companies is first and foremost, to be excellent at what you do. Do this by being in-tune with your customers. Understand your place in the industry and how to cut through in a way that resonates with your purpose and your people, and this will be reflected in your product/service.”

Looking forward, Derek says REI will stay focused on their mission — and not as much on the platforms.

“Ultimately, things change so quickly in social media, it is hard to predict what platforms, tools, and technology will shape the way we communicate in five years. What will not change, is our passion to equip and inspire our members and customers for a life of outdoor adventure.”

Derek's been a member of since 2016. Find him on Twitter here.