By Jess Haverstock and Cindy Moen of Lake Minnetonka Sailing School
Social media platforms are powerful promotional tools for sailing schools, yacht clubs and sailing organizations to reach the sailing audience. Sure, you have a Facebook page. Okay, you are on Instagram. Now how do you positively and meaningfully engage with your audiences to reinforce your key messages, develop long-term relationships and build your organization’s brand?
Facebook and Instagram are the two leading platforms to reach sailors and their families today. Facebook’s users skew towards adults, with more than 93 percent of users over the age of 18. It’s a great platform to reach adult sailors and the all-important parent decision-makers. Instagram’s users skew slightly younger, with 30 percent of users under the age of 24. Instagram is the platform of choice to build affinity and engage with youth sailors and young adults.
Neither platforms should intimidate you and posting meaningful messages to either platform should not be difficult. As an organization, you should determine your key messages, and then tweak these messages to be relevant to the age of the user.
Tools to promote your program
First, you’ll need Instagram and Facebook accounts, if you don’t already have them. You also may want to use a free tool like Hootsuite, which allows you to connect both Instagram and Facebook accounts and post to both at the same time.
Are you more likely to read a post with only words, or are photos or the movement of videos more likely to catch your eye? Social posts receive 37 percent more engagement when they also include photos. That means you’ll want to invest in videos and photos, taken with drones, mobile phones, or good old-fashioned cameras.
Tips on how to maximize your reach
For the past 10 years, the Lake Minnetonka Sailing School has maintained a steady presence on Facebook and increased our usage of Instagram to help build affinity with our young sailors. Using the strategies below, we’ve steadily built our following to more than 1,000 Facebook users and 450 Instagram followers. Try some of our strategies in your own plan:
- Post frequently with mixed material – Don’t let a week go by – even in the off season – that you don’t post some news and include a photo, video or some other eye-catching image. If your season picks up in the summer like ours does in the Midwest, post more frequently as your season builds.
- Tag people and community organizations – To increase your reach and reposting, consider tagging people (adults) in photos, local chambers, your partners, US Sailing, and local media.
- Share other’s material – Are you following US Sailing? It posts great content every day and you can often find articles relevant to your target audience (youth, adults, both) that you can share. Did a local publication run an article about your regatta? Share their post!
- Use hashtags – Hashtags categorize your message by a key word, and some people follow posts that contain key words like #sailing, #sailingschool or #LakeLife. Many communities have their own local, relevant hashtags. For instance, when LMSS wants to get noticed by our local lake community, we post with the hashtag #LakeMinnetonka.
- Share your location – Many people are using social media to search for local businesses, and posts with a location tagged result in 79 percent higher engagement than posts without. When someone clicks on your location tag in Instagram, they can see all the posts and pictures with your location tagged.
Important key messages to highlight when promoting sailing
Help parents understand why and how to sign their sailors up for classes with continuous education. While sailing is a bit different from school, it has many parallels. Highlight your offerings and how sailors are taking away lifelong skills. Consider implementing US Sailing Reach programming within your classes.
To many of us, being on the water has become 2nd nature, but for many new sailors swimming, sailing, and power boating is not the norm. Highlight your safety practice to ensure parents feel sailing is both fun and safe. Take part in US Sailing Instructor Training courses? First Aid & CPR classes? How about that you always require shoes and life jackets? A parent wants to make sure that their child is in good hands, so be sure to share this information.
We all agree that the best part about summer is spending time outside and on the water. Show how much fun sailing can be! Use videos. Take photos. Talk about the friendships made and the positive experiences on the water.
Partner with your community to strengthen your organization and the community around you, such as with YMCA, local schools, chamber organizations, etc. We are only as strong as the people we surround ourselves with.
A three-month summer organization will have different goals than a national race program. Here at LMSS we have over 750 sailors in our program. We run programs for sailors ages 6 through adults. At the end of the day, our main goal is to keep our sailors in our community sailing. This equals support for our yacht club and the transition into Inland Scows. Not only do we find them fun, keeping sailors in our community is a feeder for more sailors in the long run.