Selling Camp Online is About Giving Not Taking

Social Media Marketing in 2018 is All About Content

Your phone is the new TV and Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are ABC, NBC, CBS, and HBO.

Recruiting campers through social media, the slang term for the current state of the internet, is about networking, not yelling. We need to stop thinking about ourselves and start figuring out how to connect and provide value, then ASK if folks would be interested in learning more. If you showed up to a party and only talked about yourself no one would like you. Facebook, Insta, Snapchat, Twitter, Linkedin, they are all just different parties. It doesn’t make them a bad place to sell camp. It just changes the conversation.

The TV Industrial Complex

“TV and stuff like TV made it really easy to spread ideas in a certain way.”

- Seth Godin 

Seth Godin has been talking about this for almost 20 years. The old way of marketing is that things like TV commercials, newspaper and magazine ads, and bill boards are built on the idea that if we know where people are paying attention and then interrupt that TV show or magazine with a little ad people will see it and then buy our stuff. It worked for a long time.

The problem now, is that people have way more choice about where to spend their attention. Instead of choosing between 3 channels, ABC, NBC, and CBS, or even 57 channels with nothing on we all have access to nearly infinite channels to give our attention to.

Think about it like this. If your phone is the new TV and Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are the new ABC, NBC, CBS, and MTV but instead of airing Senfeld at 8:00 Monday nights and Friends at 9:00 PM Tuesday each of those “channels” are airing 1000s of Senfelds, Friends, and SportsCenters for people to choose from every minute of every day.

How do you like it when an ad interrupts your screen? You get annoyed. Think about it. We hecking hate when we have to watch a 30 second Youtube preroll that we can’t skip. I have absolutely stopped visiting because of their obnoxious ads. A 15 second ad before a 30 second clip, are you kidding me!?

So if we hate it, don’t you think our camper parents hate it as well?

Let’s look at what most camps’, really most business’s, Facebooks or Instagrams look like. We post pretty pictures of kids having fun, maybe a nice video of how awesome camp is, even cool cover videos of drones looking down at the beautiful landscape that is camp.  They look nice, but if I am a busy mom or dad why do I care? All those posts say to me, if I see them, which I won’t unless you pay to interrupt my newsfeed, is “Look at me look at me we have cool stuff.”

We get lucky here because some parents are already looking for our camps, and our current parents go out and sell camp for us through word of mouth marketing, but all these posts about how pretty our waterfront is don’t help new parents fall in love with us. The best case scenario for all these campsentric posts is that our current campers and alumni see them and are reminded of their camp memories. This isn’t bad, but I think we can do better.

I am not interested in just keeping my current families happy. I want my current families to be able to use my content to sell camp for me. I want them to be so proud and excited about how useful I am to them that they yell from the mountain tops about how great we are. So how do we use social media to do that?

We partnered with Peter Gray to share learning fundementals. Something our parents could share and be proud of. 

Let’s mix some metaphors

If all people in general, and our current and potential camper parents in particular, have infinite choices in what to look at on their new TVs, their phones, how do we get them to want to choose us?

When we are at a party and instead of Gary, the new guy, talking about how great his law firm is, he is telling a compelling story about this new local restaurant or sharing an interesting new idea about education, we pause. We listen, and a lot of the time we chime in or make a comment.

We tell our story about a new restaurant and then we tell our friends about this new restaurant we heard about from Gary at the party. The next time we see Gary we are excited to hear from him. We ask him about other restaurants, but then something magic starts to happen. Because we know Gary is a person, we start to ask him about other things. We build a connection and learn about his kids, his job, his history.

If he had lead with all that stuff about him we would have thought he was weird, but by acting like a human and just chatting, telling stories, and sharing cool ideas, we slowly get to know, like, and trust him. If we ever need a lawyer, of course we are going to ask Gary. He is a great guy and that restaurant he recommended was tremendous. Plus our friend Pam hired him a few years ago and things seemed fine.


When we show up to the Facebook party we need to provide value. A video series about parenting from experts, an interview with farm to table restaurants in our town, a funny video about cats. On social media people are just getting to know us and we are just getting to know them. What we are hoping for is that some folks, some small percentage of the people on Facebook, fall in love with our take on parenting or the way we think about nature. It connects with them the way Gary’s story about the restaurant did and they want to tell their friends.

The difference is when they “tell their friends” all they have to do is click share and hundreds of people that trust them see that they trust us. If they trust our take on parenting, is it so big of a stretch that they might trust us as a camp? Maybe, but with each engaging and valuable blog post we write, video we edit, or meme we create, we slowly earn their trust. Then after spending the time to get them to trust us, earning their attention with each carefully crafted post, we ask:

“Hey if you are looking for a summer camp for your kids I hope you choose us. Look at all these other people that have loved our camp. You can register here. Thank you!”

We need to get away from marketing that is about us and focus on marketing that is about the people we serve. This takes tons of time and we aren’t perfect at it, but you can see us stumbling through this process here

Jack Schott Stomping Ground.jpg

Jack Schott
Camp Director
Camp Stomping Ground