instagram for summer camps

How To Use Instagram For Your Summer Camp

Right now, there are about 1.1 billion Instagram users worldwide. In fact, it’s growing faster than giants like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. Instagram’s users come from around the globe, span age groups and demographics, and have thousands of different interests. And if you’re a summer camp director looking to enhance or improve your camp marketing efforts, it’s time to start getting connected!

In our increasingly digital world, most people use social media for their personal purposes. Sites like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn are fantastic for connecting with friends and family members and learning about current events. They can also be a major benefit for your summer camp. There are more than 14,000 summer camps in the U.S. right now, and many of them are using social media to market their programs.

So how can you use social platforms as efficiently as possible, and what do you need to know about each platform to be successful?

In this post, we’re going to discuss Instagram. Why it matters, how best to use it, and what to know about the way your campers are probably using it right now.

Let’s dive in!

Why Your Camp Needs Instagram

When you use it correctly, Instagram is one of the most effective ways to interact with campers, attract new audiences, and keep your camp’s registration docket full. In addition to the fact that 71% of Instagram’s users are age 35 or younger, the split between male and female users is virtually even:

Here’s a Hootsuite graphic that breaks it down:

Here are a few Instagram statistics to chew on:

  • 72% of U.S. teenagers use Instagram
  • 34% of millennials use Instagram
  • 22% of all Instagram users log in at least once daily
  • 38% of users check Instagram multiple times a day
  • 25% of smartphone owners use Instagram

If you take a look at how businesses use Instagram, the numbers get even more interesting:

  • 71% of companies in the U.S. use Instagram. This is a higher percentage than Twitter, for example.
  • Instagram is home to more than 25 million business profiles, and at least 200 million users seek out at least one Instagram business profile daily.
  • 60% of users discover products on Instagram, and…
  • 75% of users take action

While a summer camp isn’t indeed a “product,” it’s clear that people are out there looking for things to discover on Instagram. If your summer camp has a presence, there, it will be easier for them to find your program, as well. Need an example? Check out these must-follow camps on the Instagram platform.

How to Navigate Instagram Like a Pro: Tips to Build Your Following

If you’ve ever used Instagram in your personal capacity, you probably understand how the platform works: you create a profile (either private or public), people follow you, you follow them, you post pictures, you can use hashtags, and people like them. Sounds simple enough, right?

Assuming you already have an Instagram profile for your camp (if not, here’s a tutorial on how to set one up), here are a few ways your camp can use Instagram this upcoming season:

1. Go in with a plan

Of the summer camp administrators that use Instagram, the biggest mistake most of them make is not having a documented Instagram plan. Sound like overkill? Think again. Instagram is not a place to post randomly and hope something sticks. If you’re going to interact with the platform, do it intentionally.

One smart way to start is to develop an overarching theme for your upcoming posts. Here are a few example themes to choose from:

  • Spotlights of your campers. This is a great way to showcase the culture of your camp, encourage parents to hop in and share posts, and create an organic feel for your profile. Before you share camper photos, of course, you’ll have to collect consent forms from families, which many camps do in their intake form.
  • What’s cooking? Get people “hungry” for your camp’s programs by featuring the yummy things coming out of the kitchen. This also gives you an opportunity to do a weekly shout-out to your kitchen staff and volunteers.
  • Camp activities. This is a gold mine for social media content. Pictures of your campers enjoying your camp activities draw people in and make your Instagram a true must-follow.  

This is an area where you can get creative. Don’t allow yourself to be hemmed in by what you think you “should” do. Whatever approach you decide to take, be sure it reflects your camp’s mission, philosophy, and culture.

Bonus points for documenting the social strategy (putting post types and dates on a calendar and charging a camp staff member with carrying the plan out). You can also use some of this photo content to popular your camp’s internal photo interface.

2. Use your bio link to drive traffic

Instagram post text is important to explain the importance of your images, but if it’s not a clickable link, it won’t do you any good. That’s where your bio link comes in handy. Using a tool such as Later, you can add specific links to a grid. All you have to do is direct people there by adding “link in bio” to your post text.

This is particular useful if you’ve updated links. You can add or remove specific posts from your grid, if they’re outdated, or change what webpages they link to.

While you won’t be able to add direct links until your business account reaches 10,000 followers, a bio link grid is a great place to start.

3. Post frequently

Most administrators know they should post frequently on Instagram, but how often? Most experts recommend posting at least once a day, and as many as three. The rate you choose is up to you.

If you decide to post three times a day, make sure you’re keeping your content high-quality and relevant. While some people believe that social media is a game of quantity over quality, that’s not true. Your account will perform much better with a handful of high-quality posts than it will with lots of rushed ones.

If you want to post frequently but you’re not sure you have that much fresh material, consider creating some user-generated content. This could come in the form of counselor takeovers, images shared by parents or campers, or updates from past campers.

4. Use hashtags

Hashtags are a critical part of Instagram success. Designed to help users find and share content, hashtags can help you reach larger audiences, boost discoverability, and get more traction on your posts. In fact, Instagram posts with at least one hashtag get  12.6% more engagement than their tag-less counterparts.

For an example of how to use summer camp hashtags, check out how music-centric Bucks Rock Camp does it:

If you’re wondering how to find hashtags for your summer camp programs, there are a ton of great tools out there. Hashtagify, for example, is a powerful hashtag research platform. You can also take a look at the hashtags other camps in your industry use, and get some inspiration there.

For best results, use a mix of branded hashtags (if you don’t already have a camp hashtag, now’s a great time to create one) and community hashtags (which are more general, and don’t necessarily have anything to do with your camp’s “brand”).

5. Use multiple images, stories, and videos

When Instagram first appeared on the social media landscape, it was a simple concept. Take a photo, post a photo, wait for people to like it. Now, there are so many new features, and the best social media managers take advantage of them all.

  • Carousels with multiple images in a single post – Posting frequently is important, but if you post too often, your followers could get fatigue. The ability to post multiple images in a single post means you can combine related photos into a single post. Imagine if you did a profile photo of every staff member. That could get overwhelming. This is just one instance where a carousel with multiple images works better.
  • Stories – Instagram stories are great for timely content. Have an event coming up? A contest? A group you want to promote? You can do it in your story without creating permanent posts that might quickly become irrelevant. We also like cross-posting content between posts and stories. If there’s something really important, you can add it in both places, and users who interact differently will be more likely to see it. We also love stories for re-posting content from other groups, people, and influencers. It’s a nice way to give a shout out, and you might just get one back. Get really attached to a specific story? Just make it a highlight and it’ll stay in your profile until you remove it.
  • Videos – For short, digestible video content, Instagram is great. You can post one-minute clips as posts, or longer videos using the Reels feature. Shorter is always better, but videos can help animate the people, places, and traditions of your camp in ways that sometimes a photo just can’t.

5 Benefits of Instagram for Summer Camp Administrators

Most camp administrators know they need to use social media to market their camp. For many, though, the idea inspires some dread.

After all, there are dozens of social platforms out there, and some (like Facebook, for example) have become increasingly challenging to navigate. Instagram, however, has remained a social media unicorn.

The premise of the platform is easy to understand, it’s accessible, it has a massive user-ship, and it can even be fun to post, share, and interact on the platform.

In many ways, Instagram stands out as the golden child of the social media environment. Here are a few things summer camp administrators will love about Instagram as a marketing vehicle.

1. It’s an excellent way to share your camp’s culture

Since Instagram is so visual, it’s a fantastic way to let your campers in on the experience of your camp. Regardless of whether you’re a specialty or a general camp, images are a powerful way to get people excited and make people want to join you this season.

For example, check out how Pine Forest Camp in Pennsylvania does this:

Filled with pictures of campers and counselors having fun in the scenic Pocono Mountains, this Instagram profile is enough to make anyone want to sign up.

2. You can use it to share updates

Instagram doesn’t have to be all fun and games. In fact, it’s a great place to share news and updates. Check out how Pierce Country Day Camp does this.

Whether it’s info about updates to camp amenities, or reminders about registration dates, Instagram is a great way to share the news in an eye-catching and easy to digest format. This is an excellent example of how camps can use the platform to keep current and former campers informed. Instagram allows you to stay in touch with your past campers and counselors, and encourage people to continue engaging with you, in turn.

3. The algorithm means new users can see your content

Staying connected to those currently involved with your camp is important, and how those people interact with your posts can actually help others see what you’re sharing. This means that Instagram can be a small part of the recruitment puzzle.

As explained in this post from the experts at Later, a great tool for pre-planning content, “The Instagram algorithm wants to prioritize posts from your friends, family, and accounts that you care about. So in order for Instagram to show you what you want (what you really, really want), the algorithm uses your interactions to piece together who is closest to you.”

This means that when your community members like your content, Instagram may serve that content to the people they love. These people could very well become future campers, staff, or camp parents.

4. Its ease of use means you can get information out efficiently

Before social media, camps had to announce info sessions and Q&A sessions via email. This process is more involved and can take longer. The ease of using Instagram means you can get the same information out much faster. Camp Pinnacle, for example, used Instagram to announce a virtual information session featuring camp leaders and returning parents. When that session filled up, they were able to easily post a follow-up. Instagram was the vehicle that generated interest initially, and that helped spread the word when there was an important update.

5. Instagram drives more engaged traffic (than any other social channel)

Instagram is fun and easy to use, yes, but it’s also incredibly productive. The traffic that you’ll earn from your Instagram posts is incredibly engaged.

In fact, research that evaluates time people spend on various social sites, like Facebook, Pinterest, Reddit, and YouTube shows that Instagram beats them all.

Here’s a graphic to break it down:

Instagram also makes it easy to engage with the audience you bring in from your posts. This, in turn, boosts the chance that you’ll convert them down the road.

A Powerful Marketing Tool for Your Summer Camp Program

When used correctly, Instagram can be a fantastic platform for growing and promoting your summer camp. Simple, straightforward, user-friendly, and more welcoming than a few of the other social sites out there, Instagram is an essential platform for any summer camp looking to make its mark this season.

By paying particular attention to how you build your following (and focusing on things like using the right hashtags, creating a strategy for your posts, and sharing everything across multiple platforms), you can enjoy all the functionality Instagram has to offer, starting right now.

Looking for additional ways to streamline and simplify your summer camp operations? Check out our solutions today.