When we kicked off the new decade, people embraced resolutions to travel, exercise and more, just as they do every year. However, throughout the year, the pandemic has influenced where we go, who we see and how we entertain and care for ourselves.

With travel and tourism down due to the pandemic, people are leaning into activities and outings that are close-to-home. While indoor activities are limited due to risk, rather than staying cooped up, people are embracing and exploring the great outdoors.

Using Sprout’s Social Listening platform, we gathered insights from recent conversations about outdoor activities to learn which ones people are taking part in most, how they feel about these activities and what brands are doing in response. We analyzed over 103,200 Tweets between October 10 and November 17 and found that being outside is in.

Some of most frequently discussed outdoor activities right now are:

  1. Golfing – 27,985 messages
  2. Camping – 27.035 messages
  3. Hiking – 16,527 messages
  4. Biking and cycling – 13,592 messages
  5. Fishing – 13,256 messages

Within the context of those activities, we found certain themes and trends that kept popping up.

Weekend warriors getting outdoors

Most adults spend at least five days a week working, so they want to make the most of their weekends. According to our data, over 85,500 unique authors Tweeted about their plans to spend part of their weekend outside.

Travel and leisure publications, weather outlets, national parks and local governments provide particularly useful content for people looking for guidance on where to go and what to do. For those interested in hiking, the outdoor activity that had the highest positive sentiment on Twitter (55% positive, 31% neutral, 14% negative), content from those types of brands can help them plan a day-trip, discover new trails and find the most picturesque landscapes.

Fresh air does the body and mind good

Another reason people explore the great outdoors is that it’s good for the mind, body and soul. When looking at conversations that included mentions of mental health, self-care and stress in the context of outdoor activities, we found that 66% of messages showed positive sentiment.

World Mental Health Day (October 10) and Stress Awareness Week (November 2 to November 6) both occurred within the date range we looked at, and to honor those days, many people spent them outside. These types of awareness holidays create opportunities for brands to engage with their audiences while expressing the benefits of outdoor activities on mental health.

The Royal and Ancient Golf Club in the UK organizes world-renowned golf tournaments and works with the United States Golf Association to govern the sport worldwide. On World Mental Health Day 2020, they shared a health report with their massive global audience to teach them about the physical and mental benefits of the sport.

Similarly, to promote stress awareness, Cycling UK, a cycling charity, encouraged bikers to hit the road and provided cycling routes for inspiration.

Get outside for a cause

Another common theme we found among the top activities was the combined element of community involvement and climate action. According to the World Wildlife Fund, 2020 has been a critical year for the climate and six in 10 Americans are now either “alarmed” or “concerned” about climate change. In our own research around social media activism, we found that 58% of consumers will buy from a brand if it demonstrates shared values. So, if your brand cares about climate change, let your followers know.

When we applied keyword filters related to “climate change” in the listening topic, “local” was one of the top associated keywords, which clued us in to the fact that people are looking to make a difference in their own communities.

Brands like Patagonia, which naturally fits into the outdoor lifestyle, use social to promote climate initiatives and community cleanups like this one at Broad Creek in South Carolina—which people could participate in by kayak, foot, boat or bike.

Trek Bicycles is encouraging people to choose their bike for transportation in order to reduce carbon emissions and help the planet. According to the brand, riding is climate action and a gift to the planet. To build a biking community and measure the impact of their call-to-action, they ask bikers to tag the brand in photos from their ride and use the hashtag #GoByBike.

“There’s never been a better time to hop on a bike and go for a ride –whether it’s for essential travel, exercise, to let off some steam or to reduce your personal carbon footprint,” said Haley Ludwick, Social Media Manager at Trek Bicycle. “It’s clear that collective action can drive change. Replacing trips made by a car, bus, train or subway with a bike trip can reduce emissions and in turn impact our environment in a positive way.”

The #GoByBike campaign spans across platforms, but on Instagram alone, people have used the hashtag over 88,000 times. And with the extra boost from paid social, the campaign garnered a reach of 43,944,118, making it a major success for both Trek and the climate.

Go forth and explore

As we enter the colder months in the northern hemisphere, it will be interesting to see if people retreat to the warmth of their home or if they’ll continue to explore and travel a bit to enjoy outdoor activities. We’re not out of the woods with COVID-19, so it’s important to stay in tune with your audience’s interests. Use social listening to keep a finger on the pulse of what’s in and what’s out.

Check out this piece explaining 40 different ways to use social listening or request a free Sprout listening demo to learn more.