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Celebrate successCelebrate success

Learning to fly is a big deal. It’s one of the few structured educational experiences an adult will go through, not to mention the big investment and cool perks. So if learning to fly is so special, why don’t we celebrate it more?

Traditional rituals call for the student’s shirt tail to be cut upon solo, and maybe a bucket of water is washed over his head, à la a Super Bowl-winning coach. While these are fun and should absolutely continue, there is a twenty-first century way to recognize students that can pay dividends for your school as well.

Like it or not, Facebook and other social media channels are here to stay. If your school doesn’t have a Facebook page (or Google+ and Twitter for that matter), it is behind the times. And while business gurus are getting rich off writing self-help books about marketing via social media, one of the easiest and lasting ways is to recognize your students through it.

It’s no secret that people like to be recognized. Business experts say the youngest generation of professionals is more motivated by it than almost anything else. And even the most modest among us likes a pat on the back every once in a while.

Doing this over Facebook, Twitter, and other sites is incredibly easy. First, make sure you have a digital camera, or even an iPhone, handy at all times. Designate someone the official celebratory employee. A customer service representative is perfect for this. Make sure to take a photo of the student at the time of accomplishment, which means first flight, solo, stage check completion, and any other big point in the curriculum. Then upload that photo to Facebook, Google+, etc., and make a simple note, such as, “Congrats to Steve S., who broke the surly bonds and flew an airplane solo for the first time today.” Most important, don’t forget to tag the student.

The beauty of Facebook is that not only does your network see it and get motivated, but so does the student’s network. That gets your name out to a huge number of new prospects, and shows what a positive, fun environment you cultivate.

Twitter works almost the same way. Photos can be uploaded to third-party sites. Students will retweet this and your network will grow.

Obviously a handshake and a simple word will always work wonders, but social media is unmatched in its power to touch people far beyond your current students.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

"Flight Training" Editor
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.

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