It has been several years now that I have been doing sessions at the American Camp Association National and Regional Conferences on using technology and social media in the camp profession. Each year a camp director will raise his or her hand during a session and ask how to find out who is putting information on-line about their camp. Here are a few tips to keeping track of you camp’s brand on the internet. They are still surprised that conversations are happening on the web without their consent. I had one camp director tell me they are trying to keep their name off the web with the exception of their own web site. This person had a fear associated with not having control of when and where their name was mentioned. Let’s face it, camps will have as much luck controlling who writes about them as they do controlling the weather. Their fear is understandable yet misguided. Camps are often small private run family businesses and if parents perceive a poor quality camp based on whey they find in a google search, it will mean a loss of business. Their strategy of trying to keep people from writing about them is the wrong approach.
Here are my strategies for helping camps manage their online brand:
1. Develop Your Own Web Presence: Everywhere
By this day and age all camps should have a web site with their own domain name. If you do not already own your camps domain name go directly to a site such as godaddy.com and register your domain name (hint; google “godaddy discount code” to save money). Don’t forget to register misspellings. It is also beneficial to register your camp name at additional sites such as twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Yelp, etc. At all these sites put your your camp’s avatar (a small and often square logo of your business), camp’s web address, and a brief camp description. Then post some of your camps marketing photos and videos. Since you cannot control who writes about you on their blog or myspace/facebook page, you may as well flood the internets with with messages you do control. The more data you have out on the Internet that links back to your site the greater chance you have of someone searching for your name and coming up with the information YOU are controlling rather than the message that is then posted by someone else. There are many free camp directories such as MySummerCamps.com, KidsCamps.com, SummerCamps.com, etc. These directories usually run on a freemium model where there is a free listing and the opportunity to pay for additional services. I recommend having good lead tracking in place before you start to pay for additioanl directory services, mailing lists, etc.
2. Google Alerts
Google offers a free service called Google Alerts which allows you to enter in search terms and google will send you an e-mail when there are new Google results for your search terms. You can also choose to have your alerts delivered via feed to the feedreader of your choice. The obvious terms to search for in your Google alerts are: your camp at name, your camp web address, and your camp director or owner’s name. Be sure to search for misspellings if you have a camp whose name is typically misspelled. Additionally you may want to set up a Google alert for any local camps or programs for which you compete with. If you were camps draw heavily from specific schools or school districts you may also want to set up an alert for those schools. You can set up an alert to the American Camp Association or the term summer camps or any other news item you would like to follow. You can control how often the alerts are delivered to your e-mail box and cancel or change the alerts at any time.
3. Twitter Search
Twitter is becoming a very popular social media tool. While I have been using it for a few years, it was only this summer that my college staff began to signing up for the free service. Even if you’re not sure if you’ll be using it, I recommend you go immediately to twitter.com and sign up for an account with your camp’s name. Follow me while you are at it. Remembered to go to the settings page and put in a brief profile, website, and avatar. Then go to Twitter Search and set up a search for your twitter name as well as your camp name and any other terms you would like to track. On the right side column you can get the RSS feed for this search and be alerted when anyone posts a tweet with that term in it.
4. Social Search
There are a number of search sites that allow you to search various types of social media, videos, bookmarking site, blogs, etc. Google Alerts does catch some of these but no one site grabs them all. Here are a few to test out: SocialMention & WhosTalkin.