Saturday, June 27, 2009

Camps do Social Media, sort of.

Yesterday my daughter left for summer camp, 7 1/2 weeks away from home. Yes, it’s hard on us, but it’s something that she loves.  I’m sure that’s something that many of you who send your kids to camp struggle with. In fact, we like to say that she goes to camp for 2 months and then talks about it for the other ten.  If you’ve never experienced it, here’s how one of her counselors describes summer camp in his blog. Alex’ feelings resonated with me (as a former camper) and I know the feelings are shared by my daughter. Hopefully, Alex will blog throughout the summer about his wonderful camp experience.

I met Alex through the camp’s Twitter account. That’s one of his roles at the camp.  He was just told, “you’re the tech guy, you should handle the Twitter account”.  Although it is a similar analogy to the intern managing a company’s Twitter account, the difference here is he is a camp veteran with some strong experience in social media.  He gets Twitter and has the voice of the camp. However, like many employees of companies starting in social media, he wasn’t really given much direction nor does the camp even have a goal for social media. He’s not even sure he can follow parents back. Certainly not the best way to manage your social phone.

One thing that I am finding is that many counselors are using Twitter to connect with their homes and outside the camp world. Most likely they are using it on their cell phones, which obviously is one of the benefits of Twitter.  In the old days (last year), camp was a technology-free place. We could only call our kids once per week and see some photos posted on the website.

Now they post photo’s and videos all the time, and even tweet as you can see below. 

Picture 1

That’s a great way to keep us abreast of the day to day. It helps to explain the invariable, “we did stuff” that we are told on our weekly phone call.  Camps may see Twitter as a broadcast channel, a way to give parents short, frequent updates of the day’s activities.  But we know it can be so much more.  What happens when parents start asking questions about those activities?  Specific questions/comments about their children. Are the camps prepared for that?  What happens if they don’t answer?  Now that’s with the official camp account.  What about those counselors that are tweeting?  Just like at a conference, there is now a back channel.  I don’t have to worry about only communicating with my daughter once a week.  I can tweet her all the time through the back channel. I can find out what’s really going on. Will the camp director establish a social media policy and try to restrict his employees and control the message?  How old school!  Will he be successful?

You see the same disruptive revolution that social media had on companies is coming to the camping industry and enabling customers(parents) to communicate with employees (counselors) all the time.

What do you think? Should a summer camp be the bucolic, quiet, relatively technology-free place?  Or should the social media revolution come to camp? And what would be some beneficial changes that you see occurring?