March 25, 2010

Keeping track: FBML first, promoting camp, outdoors

Launched March 20 is GSSEM Camps The Facebook site is devoted to camps owned by Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. Big plans under way but for now the focus is on filling 39 programs offered in June and July for girls 5 to 17 years old.

There's a text version of the programs under Summer Camp. Two photo galleries also feature the programs, with links to registration of the individual programs. Rounding out the content are interviews  with three camp staffers, the 4-1-1 on Camp and Paying for Camp. Two discussion boards are set up to discuss favorite camp experiences and tips for the first-time camper.

Most of the pages link back to the Girl Scout council's web site, which is designed to be its communication hub.


The big picture goal is to get more girls camping and enjoying the outdoors.

A more immediate goal is to fill every one of the 1,274 residential camping spots by May 1.

The strategy is make girls want to camp through the right programming and ensuring the girls and the decision makers know what is available.

Also playing into this is
  • moving from an emphasis on camp as a place to camp as a program so that loyalty is to what is done as opposed to where.
  • helping people to connect the Girl Scout leadership components with the outdoors, especially camping.

National problem

Girl Scouts across the nation are faced with too much camping space for the number of girls who camp. That is leading to the closing of camps, which upsets alumni with fond memories. When the camp properties are sold, the council also loses the opportunity to use the property differently in the future.

This Michigan council, formed in January 2009 from a nationally directed merger of  parts of five councils, also finds it spends 25 percent of its budget on 5 percent of the girls who do summer residential camp. However, commercial property, including camps, is not selling in Michigan, a state with high unemployment.

The challenge is getting more girls to camp. A long-range properties planning team of staff and volunteers spent eight months looking at the best use of all of the council's facilities, including camp. The Girl Scout community will hear those findings and the recommendation at town hall meetings that start March 29.

But staff and volunteers started taking some ideas from the group immediately. That has led to some new camp programs and services, such as a geocache searching trip, adding more times for troops to camp together, and the formation of an advocacy team.

Attract through comfort

One effort focuses on making the decision makers and the girls feel comfortable going to camp. That can be done by offering information, showcasing stories of people who camp, providing photos and schedules of typcal camp stays.

Looking at the demographics of Facebook explains why a Girl Scout council should consider a Facebook fan page for its camps and programs. Facebook is where the moms, and to some extent, the girls are.

Avoiding overload

GSSEM wanted its camps separate from its main Facebook site but wanted the camps launched from one Facebook site, the "mother ship." It took less then 24 hours to grab enough fans to get an easy to remember name ( It took three days to get to 95 fans.

A quick search uncovered at least 15 pages and groups set up for the current properties: The Timbers, Camp O'FairWinds, Hawthorn Hollow, Camp Innisfree, Playfair, and Camp Metamora. That search provides a good reason why the organization should have jumped in early. For instance, some of the sites were started by employees who have moved on and there's no way for the council to recover the access.

Using FBML

This is the first time I used Static FBML, the Facebook version of html. That led to uncovering some great resources and a reminder of how much  Jessie Stay of Stay N'ALive and SocialToo knows about Facebook and FBML. (He wrote FBML Essentials and I'm On Facebook, Now What?)

The first place to stop is the fan page for Static FBML, with a look at the discussions.

Then, I went to Stay's post: How to create the perfect fan page 

Also helpful:
Plus, I looked at a lot of fan pages to see what people responded too.

I'm pleased with the start of this Facebook effort. I'm hoping to add more interviews with staff and more details on the programs. I'd like videos of girls who are passionate about camp.

I think it would be fun to have photos posted during actual camp sessions.

Another idea would be to let a team of girls armed with Flips roam the camps and produce same day videos, much like the effort I helped with at the national Girl Scout convention in 2008.

I didn't find any other Girl Scout camp on Facebook.


Post a Comment