Vannin’ and Social Media

Being a child of the 70s, I was fortunate to witness many iconic moments in popular culture.   One moment in particular has always stayed with me and led to a hobby that has become a lifestyle.

In the twilight of the 70s there was a popular motor-cross and bmx course behind the local Kmart in my small Kansas hometown. The “Kmart Trails” became the meet up place for any pre-teen, teen or young adult clinging to their youth.  On one fateful, late summer day, The Guitar God pulled up in his Chevy Supervan. We all called him the Guitar God because that was the name airbrushed on the side of his van.  After plugging his guitar into the custom Marshall stacks in the carpeted interior, GG entertained the troops with a free concert of mostly passable Van Halen covers. It was just enough to convince the 100 or so of us in attendance that he was the coolest person alive. That performance left an impression on me in particular.

Fast forward to today, the custom van movement is experience an incredible renaissance.  Magazines like Rolling Heavy are showcasing the re-emergent culture in Southern California around the custom van and the “vannin” lifestyle. I’m a very good example of why this is happening. Ten years ago people thought I was nuts for talking about vans as often as I did then. Having collected items from Van Culture in my adult life, I now have countless die-cast replicas of custom vans from manufacturers like Johnny Lightning and Hot Wheels, model kits of famous custom vans, collectables, and a subscription to Rolling Heavy magazine. More importantly, this private hobby is now a conversation with a growing network of friends and fellow collectors on Facebook and Twitter. I connected with several people who I chat with weekly about our finds in swap meets or to exchange photos on Pinterest. We even have a Central Texas meet up scheduled this summer. Social media enabled that conversation to happen. Intersections were created between my conversations on Facebook and images of Pinterest pages with people who shared similar interests. Manufacturers who sold custom parts and publishers with niche publications were sourced. Years later, my hobby has become a very profitable enterprise for many businesses. And I’m not alone- interest in Vanning, the Van culture and lifestyle- is all over social media and poised to follow the custom and vintage motorcycle movement as the next hot pop cultural phenomenon. Again.

All this stemmed from one event…one impression from my youth left on me and the conversations I have had with others about the topic. These conversations and marketing impulses help me feel that moment again and cause me to spread the word. It was not about how many people were at the original event, or how many followers any of these social media pages have in their stable. It’s about the message and the related impressions that this movement has had on me over the course of my life, to the point where I am now a part of the national conversation.

That is the power of social media for a person, for a brand, and for a movement.

The power of conversation.

PS– My first custom van restoration is in the works.  Look for the “Gold Digger” on the streets of Austin later this summer!