76 percent. That’s the percent of teens 13-17 who use Instagram. Do you see what I see? Potential.
As I mentioned in my last post, Instagram has huge potential for connecting with returning campers AND new campers. If you’re not there, you should be.
But just being on Instagram isn’t enough. Camp is about making connections, and our social media should reflect that. So how do we make that happen?
Start out strong.
Build Your Profile
Begin by making sure your profile is complete. Choose a profile picture that screams your camp’s name. It doesn’t have to be your logo – it may even be better to have a recognizable shot of camp. Pictures mean a lot more than text. Make sure you have a fun, quick bio with your link included. Convert your profile to a business profile, and make sure you have a few pictures posted before going after followers.
Share your Instagram with your current families! You can do this through Facebook, an email blast, a handout, or a mailout. Ask them to follow and engage with you.
Next, go out and find your campers! An easy way to do this is to find staff members and current campers, follow them, and look through their followers. It may feel like you’re falling down a rabbit hole, but that’s what it should feel like! Don’t be afraid to follow friends of your campers. Many tweens and teens will follow back without a second thought. Make sure you follow all your followers back!
Posts are a big part of Instagram success, but so is interaction (especially if you’re using it to recruit new campers or stay in touch with current families). If someone comments on your picture, be sure to respond with at least a like (preferably a comment). Take your engagement one step further and be sure to like or comment on photos from the people you follow.
On top of that, ask users to engage with you! Ask questions in your caption or specifically tell them to like your post. A good way to do this is using a phrase like “Double tap if you’re missing Taco Tuesday!”
Create awesome content.
Instagram seems like a great place to let your campers know what’s going on – and it is. But you’ve got to create content that draws them in instead of making them roll their eyes and scroll through. No matter what you’re posting, make sure it’s genuine and reflects your brand appropriately. Don’t go for trendy, and don’t talk down. Be you!
It’s also important to think about how often you’ll post. One a day works for some people. Some bigger brands post 3-5 times a day. Some businesses only post 2-3 times a week. Whatever you choose, make sure you can keep up, and make sure you have enough valuable content to fill the space. Don’t post just to post!
Great images (without a text overlay) that show great camp moments – think a favorite game, cabin bonding, meals, etc. – appeal to both current and potential campers. If you have something important to say, say it early in the caption rather than on the picture itself. If you bury the important thing later in the caption, it could be lost on followers who don’t choose to show more. Strive to post original photos unique to your camp; teens and tweens are likely to scroll past things that blend in. Use filters, new angles, or Photoshop to help your images stand out.
Avoid trying to sell camp with every post. “Sign up today – link in bio” is great every once in a while, but teens and tweens are using the internet more than ever, and they’re skeptical when it comes to advertising. Instead, ask them to engage by saying things like “double tap if you agree” or “tag a friend you’d like to see at camp.”
If you recognize the campers in a photo as followers, tag them! They’ll love their 15 minutes of fame, and their friends are more likely to give it a like.
It’s easy to throw up a clip of your camp video, but other than giving a few campers their 15 minutes (which you should do at some point!), how much value does that provide? Instead, create videos of camp-related things that potential campers can use and current campers will appreciate. Here are a few ideas:
- Quick craft (starting a friendship bracelet, making a God’s eye, etc.)
- Favorite camp recipe (you’ll have to edit and put in slides with instructions, but that’s okay!)
- Best Gaga technique
- Swim stroke demonstration
- How to light a campfire without a match
Videos are extremely engaging, but try not to post more than one or two a week (depending on how often you post). Too many videos can clutter a feed.
Make sure your posts convey value, especially when targeting new campers. Tweens and teens are growing up more quickly than ever, and they like to A) know a product is worth its cost and B) be spoken to like adults. The things we sell to parents (independence, resilience, etc.)? They can also be used to sell to campers if done the right way. A great picture showing two campers having a conversation with a caption or quote about relationship-building can be extremely powerful.
Users love to feel special, and sharing their content helps them feel that way! Run contests asking for people to tag you in or direct message you pictures, then post them all and have your followers vote.
You can also repost camper or staff posts to give them recognition. If someone posts about an award they won or something they’ve done that reflects your values, repost it and congratulate them.
Create a camp hashtag (or a few hashtags) and ask your campers and staff to use it! This way campers and parents can easily see many of your photos from several different sources. Need some help finding your hashtags? Check this out. Want an example? Check out #gileadbuttontrading.
Before next summer, think through images you’d like to have and make sure your photographer (or whoever has the camera) gets some important moments. Make a list of what you want, and check in on the progress!
Instagram ads can be run through Facebook, and studies show they’re effective. Instagram recently looked at 400 campaigns and found their ad recall was 2.8 times higher than ad recall for normal online advertising.
Because they’re run through Facebook, you can target a certain audience (age, location, gender, etc.) which can help make sure you’re getting the right messages to the right people. You can also promote existing photos directly through Instagram.
When putting ads together, make sure to keep your audience in mind and stay away from the hard sell. Instagram ads, especially for camps, are just the start of building a relationship. It’s unlikely potential campers will see one photo (or video or whatever) and rush to sign up for camp. It’s likely, however, that one photo will draw them to look at others on your account and possibly hit the “Follow” button. You may not gain a customer, but you can easily can a lead.
When marketing to new campers, look for content that doesn’t require prior knowledge of camp. Focus on the values camp provides – unplugging, independence, etc. – and highlight those. You may occasionally want to run ads targeted to existing campers. These are great opportunities to let campers know (in the captions) that registration is open or deadline is approaching. You can also use this technique to push weeks that aren’t filling as quickly.
Lifetimes for Instagram ads generally run about a week. You can get more in depth with your reach and frequency as you learn more about ads, but that’s a good amount of time to start with.
If you navigate to your profile (you’ve gotta be logged in to your account), you’ll see four staggered bars in the top right corner. Clicking on this will lead you to insights.
Insights allow you to see your growth (followers, posts, impressions, reach, profile views), information about your followers (gender, age, area), and your post effectiveness. These can all help you learn more about what content works best on Instagram.
Have you gained or lost followers in the last week? Insights will tell you. It can also tell you how your link clicks compare to the previous week. If you set aside time to really look at these statistics (along with the week’s posts), you can find out more about what works and what doesn’t. If you’re not growing (or if you’re losing followers), that’s okay! Sit down and rethink your strategy.
Instagram will also tell you more about who your followers are so you can better tailor content. For example, most of my camp’s followers are from the Jacksonville area, so it might be in my interest to regram some cool beach pictures or pictures from Jacksonville churches.
Clicking “See More” beside followers gives you another cool insight: popular days and times. You can click “Days” to see what days your followers are most active on, and then click “Hours” to see fairly exact times. If you see a big increase lasting from 3 p.m. until 9 p.m., consider scheduling your posts for 2:45 so it’s ready when they log on. If you schedule a post too far before your users get on, it won’t get much immediate engagement, and Instagram will give it lower priority.
Clicking on “Posts” will let you sort your posts by impressions, reach, engagement, likes, comments, and saved. This awesome feature can help you see what type of content performs best for you according to your goal. If you just want your posts to be seen, filter it for impressions or reach. If you’re aiming for engagement, filter it for that. You can also filter by content type or period posted.
Just checking these things doesn’t accomplish much, but reading into them, analyzing them, and creating a strategy based on them can help improve your future content.
Final (Important) Note
Instagram is great. It has incredible potential to reach new and current campers. BUT Instagram is a little more difficult than other social media. Why? Because you can’t exactly schedule posts.
If you navigate to your Facebook page, you can find a way to schedule. Twitter: you can do the same. But so far (even though they’re owned by Facebook), Instagram doesn’t have that capability. That means Instagram takes a little more time and effort than other social media.
The best way I’ve found around this is using a scheduler (I use Hootsuite – there are free and paid versions). These schedulers can’t post for you, but they’ll at least send you a push notification telling you when it’s time to post, and most of them will open the picture for you and copy the description with the click of a button. You just have to go through a few final steps before it’s posted. No big deal!
Here are a few camps I’ve found who’ve got awesome Instagrams.
- Camp Gilead
- Camp Takodah (They also have (I’m sure unsanctioned) Camp Takodah Confessions – If you (or a staff member) created this for your camp and monitored the submissions it could be really cool!)
- Jameson Ranch Camp (seriously – who is taking their photos?!)
- Fernwood Cove (great contests)
- Mountain Meadow Ranch (awesome job at communicating their values!)
- Camp Merrie-Woode (check out their book preview video and more!)
TTFN (Ta-Ta For Now)
Hopefully, this will help you get your Instagram strategy started! Leave comments or send emails (firstname.lastname@example.org) with any questions or feedback!