Tuesday 4 May, 2010

Connecting through Facebook

Jim Carter has been traveling with EF Explore America and EF Tours since 2005, alternating between both domestic and international tours.  Here he tells us how he began using social media, and specifically Facebook, to connect with his students about his tours.

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.  That’s certainly how I began my relationship with Facebook.  I resisted and resisted, but the allure of that blue, lower-case ‘f’ eventually entrapped me.  Since joining, I’ve learned that not only can this be a fun way to stay connected with friends, family and colleagues, but it’s also a fun way to promote your tours with students who use Facebook as their primary mode of communication.

One of the great tools for me, as a group leader, is the EF Explore America fan page.  They keep this up to date with interesting factoids that help as we prepare for our trips.  Recently, I saw that Michelle Obama’s inaugural gown is now displayed at the Smithsonian Institution, I checked out the cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin, and I saw photos of a monstrous snow storm that engulfed our capitol.  I shared these images with my students as an exciting reminder of our upcoming trip to the Eastern Seaboard.

Seeing the power of this social media outlet, I decided to branch out and establish my own group.  Prior to our journey this year to Puerto Rico, I created a group called “Traveling with Carter” and asked my current travelers to join.  On that page, I posted pictures from all of my previous trips, and within days my group grew to over 75 members, mostly travelers on previous tours.  I see this as a great tool, as the past travelers often become repeat travelers, and this constantly generates excitement.

Additionally, I added an “events” tab to the left of my page where I placed enrollment information about upcoming tours.  Within days, I saw that my students were inviting each other on Facebook to attend our tour, which has already yielded one or two new enrollments.  I plan on using this tool to remind students of deadlines, group meetings and to keep them excited about trips. 

As for Facebook privacy, I must say that I do have a personal practice of not adding students as “friends” on my Facebook account.  By establishing this group, I am able to be in keep in contact with them using this powerful medium. 

Feel free to check out my little home on Facebook and let me know what you think.  Happy travels!

Jim Carter

Belton High School   

Jim Carter’s group in Puerto Rico