Getting Social With It

Angela Ambrosini
March 2015
It is said, even among the youngest of audiences, that if you are not on social media you don’t exist. Think about it: You may have already researched my credentials on LinkedIn® or checked to see if I have a Twitter®, Google+® or Facebook® account. While I am a social creature by nature, I teach my students that it is not about how many media outlets you have, personally or professionally. It’s about two things: Are your social media goals attainable and can you keep up with all your social outlets and foster successful engagement with your audience?
 
It was 8 a.m. on a Monday morning and my inbox was flooded with e-mails from friends alerting me to the ALS® Ice Bucket Challenge on social media. The challenge, which encouraged nominated participants to dump a bucket of ice water on their heads within 24 hours of being nominated or make a monetary contribution to the fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), was a social media sensation that raised awareness of ALS in addition to millions of dollars. “Now this is marketing,” everyone said. “Why can’t we do something like this?” This went on for weeks and eventually turned into phone calls from my marketing friends who were worried that they needed to come up with their own version of the Ice Bucket Challenge.
 
“Maybe we can roll down the hill in a potato sack,” a friend of mine said. I thought about her brand and mission — which was helping homeless children in grassroots communities — and asked, “What does this say about your brand and message to help provide kids a safe home?”
 
She was quiet for a few minutes and finally answered, “I guess it shows that we are all willing to roll down the hill in a potato sack.”
 
In analyzing the incredible impact of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we can break it down into a few different components. It was one of the best social media marketing campaigns to date because it was simple and anyone could participate, including other organizations and companies. It was fun, added a timeline to perform the task, and the challenge easily identified the goal and cause.
 
This is not to say that you cannot do something similar for your camp or organization, but make sure you know the answer to these questions first:
  • Have you clearly identified your camp’s or organization’s brand and message?
  • Does the intended campaign fit your brand and message?
  • What does your audience care about and why?
  • To what are they responding?
  • Most importantly, are they sharing your content?
 
As my friend and I continued our conversation about her potato sack idea, she realized she had a lot to consider: Did everyone within her target audience have access to a hill? Could everyone physically roll down a hill? What does rolling down a hill in a potato sack express about our mission and brand? If you are not thinking about your brand when you lay out your social media campaign, then success may elude you.
 
Once you know you have an amazing fundraising brand, you won’t need to imitate another organization’s campaign. You will have your own unique story to share with the world, be it through Facebook, Google +, Twitter, etc.
 

Connecting with Fans

Everyone is always in an uproar over their fan base. You can definitely be proud to have a billion fans across your social media outlets, but how many of those fans are engaging with your fundraising campaign content (or your content in general)? How many are actually sharing your content? If it’s a billion then I want you to call me — immediately.
Social media is about telling your story. It is a tool that brings generational stories together in one place. For camps, this gives you the opportunity to tell online campers, potential campers, and camp parents your camp’s story about the value of the camp experience.
 

Know Your Subject

To be successful with your social media campaigns, you want to start with five simple steps:
  1. Define your goals. Create a strategy for what you plan to post and why.
  2. Decide who your audience is and what you know about them. Keeping tabs on what’s most popular among your audience is key to growing and becoming successful on social media.
  3. Provide useful content based on your audience’s needs and wants. Make sure you have easy-to-digest content that is exciting and relevant.
  4. Make your content easy to share. Add links to additional content and brand all your messages and posts.
  5. Pick the top three to five social media outlets and commit to them. If you can only choose one, then choose the one where most of your audience is and stick with it through the good times and bad. Commitment means answering your messages and posts in a timely manner and creating stimulating and impactful engagement daily.
 
Success with social media is like making first impressions every second. You have to be prepared and with so many different generations looking at your content you cannot make it hard for people to understand your content, find your content, and share it with others in their circle.
 

Simple Methodology

With the five core steps to social media success as a foundation, let’s dive a little deeper into the methodology of storytelling.
 
  1. Tell your story in a visual way. It’s camp! You have great subjects to photograph to help convey your story. People don’t have much time to devote to you and usually log in to their social media accounts during their lunch break, late at night when the kids are asleep, or early Saturday morning in bed. Make this time count. It’s a scientific fact that the human eye first sees objects over text, so you will attract more attention if you say it with a picture. If you don’t have an applicable photograph, consider using an infographic. If you don’t have any of those readily available, there are several great resources, such as piktochart.com, to help you create them.
     
  2. Always include in your images/messages your branding/logo and URL so if they are shared your brand goes with them! For text and image posts, always try to include a call-to-action for readers. What do you want your readers to do? Go to your website? Donate to your camp? Sign up for camp? Then provide a link that takes them to where you want them to be, easily, in one click.
     
  3. Remember, social media is global, and you are reaching all generations and all time zones. So don’t think twice about re-sharing your content on outlets like Twitter. With slight modifications your re-post can reach new audiences, and you can track what impact you are having with tools such as twittercounter.com. If your message is clear and engaging, then others will follow you.
     
  4. Don’t lessen the value of your message with constant sales tactics and promotions. Once in a while it is expected you will run a campaign with a promotion or discount to drive more traffic to your site or outlet. However, if you are sharing why your camp has value in the lives of children and young adults, stick to this message. Only post items that match your story line. If you advertise, keep it visual and simple. Make it part of an engaging conversation and ask others to join or give them another call-to-action.
     
  5. With the powerful media outlet that Facebook and other social sites represent today, you have the ability to tailor your published content to what is most popular among your audience members. For example, you could utilize Google analytics and learn that your audience is interested in content on mommy blogs and then create more content about camp for that forum to increase your visibility and market share. This takes some of the guesswork out of choosing your topics and gives you a head start on successfully integrating social media into your overall marketing strategy.
 
Now that you have these simple tips for creating an effective social media presence for your camp, take some time to think about what your brand says and what your camp’s personal story is. I guarantee there will be no other story like yours, making your social imprint fresh, relevant, and uniquely your own. You won’t need to imitate anyone else or roll yourself down a hill in a potato sack. You already have what some other organizations desperately need — a powerful and impactful story about the value of the camp experience.
 
Reference:
Bullas, J. (2014). 6 powerful reasons why you should include images in your marketing — infographic. Retrieved from www.jeffbullas.com/2012/05/28/6-powerful-reasons-why-you-should-include-...
Burst Media (2013, August). Online insights: The online mom — mobile, savvy, influential, and decisive. Retrieved from http://burstmedia.com/pdf/burst_media_online_insights_2013_08.pdf
 
Angela Ambrosini is a former director of marketing for the American Camp Association. She is now director of strategic communication, marketing, and media management programs for both graduate and undergraduate programs at New York University.