2018 ACA Conference Recap: ACTIVE Network’s Camarin Wanamaker on “Kids Today”

The 2018 American Camp Association (ACA) National Conference took place February 20-23 in Orlando, Florida. The event brings together over 11,000 professionals in the camp and after-school industry to learn new skills and share their experiences in forming the minds and lives of young people across the country.

This year, ACTIVE Network’s Camarin Wanamaker, Digital Marketing Consultant, was a featured speaker at ACA. With more than a decade of camps and classes experience at ACTIVE, she has great insight into the market. We caught up with Camarin to get a few of the major takeaways from her presentation, “Kids Today.”

Kids Today are Partners in Decision Making

According to Camarin, kids are more influential over their programming choices than organizers might think, and at even younger ages. Nearly 60% of 13-year-olds report they had their first opportunity to choose their own activities as early as age eight, compared to 33% of 17-year-olds.

“Much more so than previous generations, young Gen Y and Millennial parents see their role as consultative, not managerial,” Camarin says. “Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to their children’s interests and activities.”

In fact, child interest is the #1 factor in choosing a child’s activities, according to research conducted by ACTIVE in partnership with an internationally recognized data and market research firm. Parents are there to help generate awareness, facilitate access and act more as consultants than managers.

“When I look at the content that camps create on their websites, in ads and on social media, it’s clear that they don’t totally understand kids’ media habits or the relationship they have with their parents in the decision-making process,” Camarin continues. “The goal is to adjust the dynamics of the conversation, not to leave parents out, but to bring kids in.”

Tailor Your Social Content for Kids

Says Camarin, “The best advice for generating worthwhile content for your camp is to think like a teenager.”

YouTube is the most-used social media platform for kids today, with Instagram and Snapchat following close behind. This means if you want to reach young people, you need to be making video content for social media–and don’t forget to ensure it’s optimized for mobile.

Record video of activities at your camp to share on your channels, and pepper your social media with contests and interactive content. You’ll get more out of quality content and organic visits via social sharing than you can pay for in advertising, so this is well worth the effort.

“Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a real concern for kids and their choices,” Camarin adds. “Show how fun your camp is and how many kids want to be there, and others will sign up!”

Aim for Skill-Building Programs

Many young people today are looking toward their futures, and their extracurriculars are as much about skill-building as they are about having fun. Parents, of course, are interested in helping their kids get off to a good start, too, and will be more willing give their stamp of approval to programs that teach valuable life and career skills.

This is especially applied to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills. Also consider programs that schools may no longer offer, such as home economics, shop, financial skills and specialized music and arts.

Let Campers Speak for Themselves

If kids like your camp, they’ll tell their friends, and this is the very best way to generate buzz and recruit more campers. While quality programming and online content are both important, parents are much more likely to approve a child’s choice if they have personal recommendations.

Focus on making it easy for parents and kids to post and share positive reviews. Also be sure to have a plan for responding positively to negative reviews. Actively seek out testimonials and share the responses across multiple digital platforms.