Your counselors and staff are all stepping up, your activities are have never been better, and your campers are having so much fun that they’re already talking about which cabin they want to be in next year.
Then a crisis occurs.
As a Director, Owner, Assistant Director or Head Counselor what do you do? You lead.
You develop a plan, you understand that it’s flexible, and you communicate effectively and often to everyone around you. You inspire.
This is what a good social media strategy does during a time of crisis. It inspires those around us and those connected to us by communicating. At a time when everyone is staying a kayak length apart, the thing that everyone most wants is what camp provides – community. Until it can happen in person you need to lead by bringing it online.
1. Use Instagram Story Polls. Upload a background photo, click on the sticker function, then click on “Polls”. Come up with something fun – that’s all it takes! Ideas: Hot dogs or hamburgers, color wars or lake day, red team or white team, first or second session…the possibilities are endless and require very little for someone to interact.
2. Instagram This or That polls. Use Canva or a similar program to create a graphic (they have a ton of really great templates) and post to your Instagram Story. The steps to take are: Open IG Story, scribble on top of it using the black marker feature, then write “screenshot our This or That, circle your favorites, repost and be sure to tag us!”. Then add an unmarked poll as the second slide.
3. Pose a question on Instagram. A great one we’ve seen is a “Visiting Day Wish List”. All you need to do is post a simple IG story saying “What’s on your visiting day wish list? Send us your favorites!”. Then two days later once all the answers are in, do a new story or even a post with the top answers. You get two posts out of one idea.
4. Bio Links. Put a link in your bio to your camp’s official statement regarding the crisis, and update it there. Make it a living document you can reference rather than needing to redraft new announcements.
5. Q&A Session. Gather questions you’re hearing on the phone or reading through email. Even include those you know you’ve gotten throughout the years and keep answering (we know this is probably on the FAQ section of your website, but not everyone is reading it). You can even gather questions through Instagram stories. Then either go live on Facebook for parents’ questions or live on Instagram for campers’ questions. Prep your answers beforehand so your “live” is as controlled as possible!
6. Answer all your DM’s in a timely manner. You can utilize the Facebook Pages app to set up standard answers for both Facebook Messages and Instagram DM’s. No one wants to feel like they’re being ignored. Leave no message on “Read”! Want the coveted Very Responsive badge? You’ll need to respond to 90% of your messages with a median response time between 5 – 15 minutes. That’s the code. For the record, setting up Automatic Instant Replies does not count toward this.
7. Post Tone and Cadence. Make sure your posts and messages convey leadership. You want to sound optimistic yet trustworthy. Don’t go silent during a time of crisis. Stay active to maintain that leadership regardless of the unpredictable future.
8. Updates. As COVID-19 updates become available, do not shy away from them. Distribute the information and post the way you would want any great leader to do. Remember, when posting, you’re the camp director getting all of the campers and camp families moving in one direction! To ensure your message is received the right way, it also may be wise to send this information out to parents a few days before posting so they can anticipate any questions their kids may soon have. Give parents a chance to be in the know – you’re on a team here.
9. Make it easy for someone to ask questions. Do this by running FB Messenger ads, making the contact form easier to find on your website, creating a group (it’s much easier to ask a question in front of 30 people than it is to ask a question in front of 3,000), or sending a personalized short email. Reminder on that last part – if you send an email, keep it short.
10. Boost! If you see a post starting to gain traction, Boost it. Organic posts reach ~6% of your target audience. Think about all the hard work you’re putting in to come up with these ideas – don’t let that only get seen by 6%. As little as $25 will go a long way toward getting your best content out there. If you do Boost, make sure to wait at least 24-48 hours before your next post to ensure you get the most out of it. Want your message seen? Boost.
11. Staff Ads. If you are in a position to hire there are a lot of great people who need help with employment right now. There may also be roadblocks to hiring international staffing for the summer, so developing a pipeline of potential domestic employees (should you end up needing them) will get you prepared for a potential hiring rush. Remember that Facebook has changed your targeting on Job Ads, so you have to run staff ads for slightly longer than in the past in order to get the perfect candidate you’re looking for.
12. IG = Campers, FB = Parents. Think about who your audience is for each post, then choose which platform to post to appropriately. Posting to both does no harm, just recognize which platform will have which interactions.
13. Non-Profit Google Grants. Is your camp a non-profit? Does your camp have a non-profit branch or cause? Google gives you FREE ad credit each month to promote this non-profit. If you don’t want to use this towards driving leads on Google right now you can at the very least use it to make sure you come up for your camp name or branded terms. No matter the circumstances applying for this grant is something you should absolutely do, since it’s at no cost. Think we’re crazy saying that Google will give you free money to advertise your non-profit? Here’s the page on their website: Google Non-Profit Ad Grants.
14. Zoom Hangout or Song & Dance Night. Host a Zoom call with either your entire camp or just a small group. Play camp songs and encourage participation! You’re helping friends talk to friends across the US, and potentially the world. Community is just as important, if not more, than amenities.
15. Everyone’s Friend. Have your most popular counselors go live on Instagram. You can even recruit a former camper who has gone onto success, or anyone that has a great camp story to tell. If you don’t want to give your login information out to team members, you can do a 2-person Instagram Live with a member of the leadership as well as the popular staff member. If you want even more control, you can pre-record a video and tease the video throughout the week instead of going live. One of the most impactful things we found that campers like is a message or an “interaction” with an on-the-ground team member. If you want to take it a step further, videos with captions see an increased viewing time by an average of 12%.
16. Screenshot a Meeting. If your staff conducts meetings via Zoom (or any other video conference system that shows all the participants at once), take a photo or a screenshot and post it to let the campers know you are working hard. Because you are.
17. Amazon Store. There is so much potential here and could lead to an annual tradition regardless of how this year unfolds. Create a custom Amazon store – don’t be intimidated, countless engaged couples and soon to be parents make wedding registries and baby shower wish lists every day on Amazon. Your list is simply a “Your Camp at Home” wishlist. Fill it with items like a coloring book, a puzzle, or an interactive game and send it to your camper parents and post about it on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter (maybe even Tik Tok). Imagine how cool it would be if even just a handful of your campers were all at home coloring the same page or working on the same puzzle and sharing it online. That’s exactly how you lead and create a community in this unexpected time.
18. Use ReallyColor. Simple service that allows you to turn any picture in a unique coloring sheet for all of your campers. If you have a picture of your camp’s waterfront, bunk, fields, or other scenic and iconic environments, these would be great. Remember to encourage your campers to post and tag you when they create them.
19. Twitter. Make sure your posts are pushed to many people’s forgotten social media platform, Twitter. Daily use is up over 23% right now. You don’t need to commit to having conversations on Twitter, just think of it as a billboard your messages need to be on.
20. Relax. Take a deep breath, and don’t ever feel like you need to post…just to post. Realize that folks are busy and they’re experiencing a crisis that’s adjusted all of the rules of their normal lives. They might not have time available when you think they do, and it’s ok. Understand that when someone interacts with your post they are giving you the gift of their time and attention at a moment when that’s a bit difficult to come by. Respect that, provide them with some much-needed comfort and planned entertainment, and empathize.
Nick has spent the last 12 years helping companies of all sizes across industries grow their business through digital marketing. As a former camper at Camp Stewart, Nick understands the unique and pivotal experiences that camp can provide and merges that experience with his background in digital advertising to help summer camps reach new campers and increase revenue. Nick is a graduate of the University of Texas and MIT’s Entrepreneurship Program and currently resides in Austin.
Nick recently presented on Social Media, Camps, and Facebook Groups at the 2020 ACA Tri-State Camp Conference.