Why every summer camp should be running Facebook Ads

Is your camp using Facebook ads? If the answer to this question is no, ask yourself why. Go another level down and look at your own marketing plan and budget. Most summer camps I talk to have the same answer, which is: “We have the same marketing plan and budget that we did last year.” Simply put, change for camps is a hard thing. There are many reasons for this but in the area of marketing budgets, it’s usually because camp directors are not a marketing professionals and do not have the time and resources to invest too much time into this area. Hopefully this blog post will share some knowledge of how you should be looking at your marketing budget and the benefits to putting more $$$ into digital and social media marketing.

The global digital advertising market grew 21% to $88 billion in 2017. Year after year, digital advertising has been growing, especially with the boom of changing medias such as social media and even on-demand TV. Look at your own media consumption. How long do you spend on Instagram vs. sitting down and watching cable television? How much time do you watch cable TV vs Netflix? How long do you spend reaching a print magazine vs reading that Buzzfeed article you saw on Facebook? Review how you and your camp’s parents are viewing media content and get your camps advertising in front of them there. The easier, impactful and measurable way to do this is running Facebook ads!

Unlike print marketing, digital marketing provides clear data for you to see what is working and what is not working with your marketing efforts. With print marketing, you might be doing something like putting up posters around your YMCA or community center and hoping that people see it and contact you for more information. That is just not how the world works anymore...Sadly, people sit on their sofa watching Netflix whilst they scroll on Facebook. This is where you ads need to be placed. With this you can see how many people saw you ad on their social media feed, how many times they clicked on it, and how much it cost you per a click.

When I run ads for camps, I send a report at the end of the ad’s duration informing the camp director of what they are getting for their money. I also look at the data and suggest some changes for the next ad. In reviewing many of these reports, I have made some observations. For instance, I have found that 30-45 second videos have a much higher click through then still photos. By making the small change of changing the media with a post from photo to video, you can make sure you are getting the most for your money. I normally say camps should try it and look at the results and data in order to make decisions going forward. But being able to see where and how your money is going is powerful and an important distinction between print and online advertising.

If you haven’t used Facebook business before, just log in with your Facebook login and start playing around. When I first started to learn, I just watched YouTube videos for a day and then ran some ads and learnt from there.

One of the other great things with running Facebook ads is being able to target your audience in many different ways. Let me explain with an example of a high end music summer camp. Part of the marketing plan is running weekly ads during high times of registration. I worked with them to define a perfect target audience. First, we considered the physical location of the audience members. You may be a small camp which pulls campers all from the same city or you might pull camps from all over the country or even world. This music camp pulls campers from all over the country. So I targeted 10 of the largest cities in the states as the location. Then, we considered the fact that their camper program age is 9 years old to 18 years old. You are able to target JUST parents in Facebook Ads, but also further define your target audience is parents with kids within an age group. Ultimately, I targeted parents who have kids aged 9 to 18 years old within 10 of the largest cities in the States.

Within this group I also targeted parents who have a BA or higher. Okay, so I have targeted highly-educated, parents but I want to target parents who have an interest in my music summer camp. So, for our final criteria, we targeted parents with an interest or hobbies and activities in the following: arts, music, drums, performance arts or singing.

The power of having all of Facebook’s data to target your audience is crazy, and you should 100% be using it.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post and got some ideas about your camp’s marketing plan and using Facebook ads. If your camp is interested in running social media ads and would like TSCS to help, send me an email to setup a time to talk.

A list of commonly forgotten footage & photos that you need to remember to capture this summer

We all know the feeling: It’s time to make your marketing materials for next summer, and you just don’t have the photos or videos that you need--and won’t be able to capture them for several more months. Unless you want to use that photo from 2009 that has already been on the brochure (we all know the one!), or cross your fingers that no-one recognizes some corny stock images, you’re stuck.

Knowing what marketing images and videos to get can be hard, especially if you try to make a list during the throes of staff training. Don’t worry. In my 5 years overseeing the media team of Camp Echo, I learned a couple of key things for our team to capture. The rest of this blog post is my guide of what to get and how to get it. Getting this footage and these photos can be key to getting some great content for marketing (including for social media) during the off season!

Getting quality b-roll footage

High-quality video is taking over social media. I say the ratio of social media content should be to have 1 video for every 4 photos, which will keep your content fresh and engaging. All most all DSLR cameras have the ability to record HD or even 4K video now. This is a simply add on to your photographer’s role--put capturing this footage into the job description or a make it a mid-summer task for your photographer. Give them a shot lot of 20-40 second clips you want, which will give them a hit list so there are not just taking random footage. It will also be helpful if the photographer has access to a tripod to use for some of these shots. Some footage ideas could be:

  • Camper water skiing

  • High ropes shot from on top of the course

  • Panning shot of campers on a horseback ride

  • Panning shot of the dinning hall in full action

  • Close up of a campfire (make sure to include audio!)

  • Winning the end of session awards

Ask them to give you an update and show you some examples mid-summer. Another tip is have them edit the clips down to 20-40 seconds so it’s easy in the off season to post right on Instagram or use as b-roll footage for your annual campaign.

Countdown to summer

Scrolling through another camp’s social media in the dead of winter, have you seen their sunny photos of a camper holding up a cute chalkboard saying ‘100 days until camp starts!’? Countdown photos are super cool and a good reminder to parents to get their kids signed up for camp. So again with the video, give this task to your media team or photographer in the summer. Give them some ideas of shots:

  • Classic 100/75/50/25 days until camp shots

  • Happy Valentine’s Days shot

  • Happy New Year shot

You get the idea. Make sure you also give them a list of different people to hold the signs. Have a diverse range of campers and staff, any alums who come by camp or, for extra points, the camp director whilst wakerskiing. Keep the ideas fresh and different. Schedule these posts in the right part of the off season. Using software like Hootsuite can be super easy for this. Once, I even got the summer photographer  to schedule them out in the off season. You can also use these countdown photos for off season events/information sessions and more. Think outside the box.


Camper and counselor shots

Having great camper and counselor shots are fantastic content for recruiting staff and also for your print marketing and more. Shots that show staff engaging in role model behaviour have always been my favorite. Some shots could be:

  • Staff member helping a camper carry his luggage, with the staff member holding one side & camper holding other

  • Staff member checking if life jacket fits right

  • Staff member teaching camper how to swim whilst in water or supporting their back as they do backstroke

  • Staff member teaching camper a new sport like archery or tennis

  • Staff member teaching camper how to make a campfire

You see the theme here--teaching or showing campers how to do a new skill or sport. Essentially, teaching them the values of camp. These photos are great for new staff to show them the impact there will have on a campers life and for parents who want to see staff being safe and showing their campers how to do new things. Planning these shots are key to creating the perfect image which will be used a couple of times in the off season!

I would love if you would share in the comment section below photos or videos you like to plan out before the summer. Above are just some of ones I have developed over my time. Feel free to email me for more ideas!



6 Ways To Have a Killer Camp Instagram Feed

1) Create a great bio

When people are choosing to follow your camp, they will head to your profile to check out your feed and also view your bio. Having a great, eye-catching bio could make the difference between them following you or not following you. Bios are important, but you only have 150 characters.

Start off with something descriptive yet to the point, like ‘We are a music summer camp.’ Then, follow with something fun. One idea is to throw some emojis in for your camp’s personality and then have some type of CTA (call to action), like ‘Click below to start the best summer of your life.’ Check out The Walden Schools for a great example. Feel free to follow them, too!

2) Setup Instagram Business

If you don’t use Instagram Business, DO IT NOW. There’s no need to download a new app or anything; just head to your settings then tap ‘Switch to Business Profile.’ The advantage to having Instagram Business is that it opens all kinds of great data to you. This data will be helpful to see what posts are doing well and what you should keep doing or maybe change.

It will tell you when your audience is using Instagram and what days and times you should be posting. This is helpful to get to your audience when they are on the app.

You can also create CTA button on your profiles, which is great for SEO for your website. If you are doing an event or selling a product, you can create buttons right on your profile now! There are so many reasons to get Instagram Business.  

3) Develop a strategy and goals

Many of us are posting on Instagram just to post on Instagram, but there are huge advantages to setting some goals and strategy. You know us camp people...we love goals!

Setting goals can be super easy. For instance, a goal could be to schedule 5 posts for this week or get 10 followers a week. These goals can be tracked and reported. I would suggest creating more impact-oriented goals such as getting 50 people to your website from Instagram or engaging with followers 6 times a week. Set goals, report them and evaluate often.

Creating a strategy can be a bit harder and I suggest doing this as a comprehensive marketing exercise including print, digital and social mediums. Each medium should have a different strategy as your audience is different on each one.

Posting the same content on Facebook and Instagram is a start, but if you want to have a killer presence, this content should be different and each platform have a different strategy. For Instagram, your strategy should be created around your audience which is typically campers, staff and young alumni. Be visual and have a solid feed for people to follow. Also post! There’s nothing I hate more than going to a profile and seeing 6 photos from the past 6 months--there’s no way I am going to follow that account. I need to reason to follow.

4) Know your audience

Carrying on from creating your strategy is knowing your audience. As I mentioned previously, your Instagram audience is going to be campers, staff and young alum. With that build your Instagram calendar around that. Have posts directed at those audiences specifically and seek engagement. Ideas for this might look like this:


  • Post a group shot and ask them to comment what session they are coming this summer and who they are coming with.

  • Post a photo of a cabin and ask them what cabin they were in last summer.


  • Share memory highlight posts from last summer that only staff is know like some themed event during staff training, or the end of year banquet.

  • Ask them questions about the best night out they had last summer, etc.

Young Alum

  • Highlight them in more recent TBT from the past 10-15 years. Say something like ‘Check out the Coroado Backpacking trip from 2006, spot anyone you know? If so comment them below.’

  • Highlight a popular staff member from back in the day and have a quick Q&A with them as a video or a photo and in the caption section.

5) Share high-quality photos

Most camps will have media staff during the summer who use a DSLR. I encourage camps to only post high-quality photos and videos on Instagram. Yes, iPhone photos are getting somewhat amazing but I can still tell the difference between a high-quality photo and a bad iPhone photo. If you have the photos, use them.

Having organized digital files to key to this success for social media in the of session. You can make digital organization a required component of your media staff members’s jobs. Check out McGaw YMCA Camp Echo’s feed for an example of high-quality photos; there are very few phone photos on this feed.

6) Share high-quality videos

To have a killer Instagram feed you will also need video! I like the ratio of 3 photos for every video. Having them mixed in your feed is key to have audiences engaged and your feed looking fresh. If you have a camp photographer or media staff during the summer set a goal with them to have 100 videos by the end of the summer edited down to 15-45 seconds. Having these ready to post and scheduled for the off season will be a game changer. Don’t over think it: it doesn’t have to be anything amazing; just a stable shot of something at camp which is shot on a DSLR. These small clips also help for b-roll in larger videos like your annual campaign or informational videos.

Having a great camp Instagram should be on your marketing hit list! I truly believe in the impact this social media platform can have on your community--it can influence staff culture even bring new campers to camp. I check my Instagram maybe 100 times a day (seriously!) and, anytime I see something from my home camp on my feed, I like it and it brings a smile to my face.

If you are interested in having a review of your Instagram and giving you some free trips, send me an email! I am happy to help.



3 Things To Ask When Interviewing a Camp Photographer

3 things to ask when interviewing a camp photographer

Hiring photographers, videographers, and media staff for your camp can be challenging. How do you know what questions to ask? Don’t worry, I have you covered. I started my career as a camp photographer back in 2011, and since have mentored, hired, and trained some great photographers for McGaw YMCA Camp Echo. Below I will explain three things you should ask every photographer who applies for a role at your camp. These same questions can be asked to other media staff like videographers, social media staff, and general media staff.


When first reaching out to set up an interview, ask them to send you a portfolio. Request to see the photos that most represent the images they will create this summer. It doesn’t have to be a fancy website. I normally just ask them to share a Google Drive of photos. This is a great way for you to see a few critical things:

  1. What photos they think represent camp. When I look at these portfolios, I’m hoping for outside portraits that include candid shots of people.

  2. What type of camera is used. If they are using a DSLR, this is a good sign that they have made the investment into photography.

  3. The quality of photos and if you like their style and framing. This will help in the interview process.

If the portfolio is not what you are looking for, this is also a good time to filter your applications and not move forward in the interviewing process.


Being able to take photos is one part of being the camp photographer. Knowing who the audience is and how to take photos for that audience is key. In the interview, ask the candidate, “Who do you think the audience of your photos will be this summer?” Hopefully this will tell you a lot about what type of photos they think they will be taking this summer. The answer you are looking for is parents! Bonus points if they talk about safety as well. You are looking for a candidate who understands the importance of their role as camp photographer and how they are representing camp to the outside world--and how their photography can help support the mission of the camp.


A great camp photographer will look to go above and beyond in their role. They can do this in many ways. During the interview process, ask them about ways they could go above and beyond in their role this summer. Positive answers could include:

  1. Social Media: creating content, making a social media calendar for the summer, and posting photos. Push them to think of new ways to engage with followers like asking questions on Instagram stories, or making a poll on Facebook, or vlogging on YouTube.

  2. Video work: video is key to create engaging social media content, b-roll for your annual campaign video or interviews with campers and staff. If you can find a candidate with a good background in video, this is great!

  3. Year-round projects - It is hugely beneficial to have a photographer who can create materials that can be used for year-round communications and promotions. Some ideas are Valentine’s Day messages from campers, interviews with staff and campers about why you should sign up for camp to post when registration opens up, or asking donors to give around giving season.

If you can find a candidate who can talk about going above and beyond in their interview in any of these ways, then they are definitely worth your consideration!

I hope these tips help you on your quest to finding a great camp photographer. I feel this is one of the most important roles you will hire this summer. The photographer gives your parents an eye into what is happening at camp. A great camp photographer will provide visual memories for campers to hold onto for a lifetime. Alternatively, a poor hire will lead to lots of angry parent phone calls. Enough said!

If you would like any other advice or support with this process feel free to email me (Gavin)! Good luck!

Gavin watson
Social media strategist 

4 ways your summer camp can benefit from drone videography

Have you seen summer camps with awesome drone footage? Drone footage is becoming a key part of summer camps’ marketing plans as camps adapt to create new, visual content that will stop people from scrolling on their phones. This is an especially important type of footage to capture in our industry, as most summer camps have beautiful landscapes that look even better from a drone! Here are the top four ways that you can utilize drone footage to benefit your camp.


Let’s face it: It is hard to get customers to stop scroll on their phone when they see a basic post about your camp on their social media feed. As social media becomes more visual, you have to keep up. Having some beautiful drone footage set to some relaxing music on your Instagram, for example, will do that.

Click here to view one example of how awesome this looks! Once, I interviewed a potential international staff member. He had applied for our camp after seeing some cool drone footage on our Instagram account.


Drone videography is a great way to do a tour of your camp for new families. You can put footage over a voiceover narration, pointing out key buildings and areas of camp. This can be a great resource to have--imaging sharing a quick YouTube link with a prospective parent via email after you talk with him or her on the phone or at a camp fair about your program.  It’s an excuse to reach out and keep the conversation going, and helps seal the deal on enrollment as they get a visual perspective of what your gorgeous camp is like. This type of video can also help new campers who are nervous about coming to camp, turning their nervous anticipation and excitement.


Almost all camps leaders have information sessions with parents, go to job fairs or do in-house parties for prospective parents. Having a reel of drone footage of your camp to play on a screen before or during your event is a great conversation starter and enhances your camp’s professionalism. Check out this 30 minute reel I made for McGaw YMCA Camp Echo.


Drone footage can be used in almost any piece of marketing material you are making for your camp. The breathtaking aerial photos can be used on print advertising, and the video footage can be used for b-roll on anything from your annual campaign video to your end-of-session slideshow or the cover on your Facebook page. This type of content will elevate your marketing to a whole new level.

Thank you for reading. This was written by me, Gavin Watson, here at The Summer Camp Society. I have now had my FAA pilot license (drone license) for more than 2 years and have logged almost 100 hours of flying. If you are interested in having drone videographer at your camp this summer, click here to send me an email and start the conversation.

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Gavin watson
Social media strategist