Online community manager ‘AuPairMom’ shares her unique insight with WETM-IAC 2015 delegates

26 March 2015
26 Mar 2015 -

AuPairMom, Celia Harquail, presents at WETM-IAC 2015

WETM-IAC 2015 delegates joined Celia Harquail – better known as AuPairMom to the au pair world – for a unique and inspiring insight into her online community through two educational sessions.

Having played host to an impressive 11 au pairs from across the globe, Celia – who is also a Management Professor with a PhD in Leadership and Organisations, plus expertise in digital business – knows a thing or two about being a good au pair host parent.

Changing the world, one host family at a time

Through, Celia hosts the world’s most popular conversation for host families and au pairs who want to build strong relationships with each other. With almost 1,000 posts spanning six years, AuPairMom has tackled just about every au pair-related question you could imagine, and some you might never have thought of!

Having started out as a blog when Celia was playing host to her seventh au pair, over the years the site has evolved into an informal community offering practical advice and information for families looking for or hosting au pairs.

In her first session, Celia provided some interesting statistics about her website, including:

  • It’s received over 5 million visits
  • It includes almost 1,000 blog posts
  • There’s an average of 35.4 comments per post
  • It includes 30 resource pages and 75 topic categories
  • It has so far provided 97,200 hours of advice
  • It is ‘sticky’ – the average visitor stays on the site for around four minutes.

While the forum was initially aimed at families based in the US, Celia revealed that almost half of all  visitors are now from outside the US. Accordingly, the site has evolved to support an international audience and Celia noted that international visitors spend three times longer looking at the guidelines and rules section than US visitors do – this could be because in other countries this information may not be as clearly defined as it is by the US State Department.

How to be a better host parent

Celia defines her approach to AuPairMom by asking herself “How can I be a better host parent?” She stressed that au pairing should not be seen by families as low cost flexible childcare or by the au pairs as a chance to meet a guy in the US; it’s about providing high touch care and sharing culture in the most personal and influential way.

“The secret to success is how you care for your au pair and build your relationship over time. It’s not about matching – it’s about working on a relationship. It’s important to see past perfection and towards growth,” she said.

Celia also provided some tips to help au pair agencies prepare their au pairs and host families:

  1. Sell the truth – au pairing is hard work and not the most glamorous way to see the US!
  2. An extra person to look after – parents need to realise that they are parenting the au pair in addition to their own children
  3. Teach more host parents to be parentable – families need to include their au pair in family events and activities, but ensure there’s a balance
  4. Treat problems as predictable opportunities – when problems are predictable you are better placed to resolve them. Consider how you would handle situations such as “What happens when an au pair crashes the family car?”

Finally, she reminded the group that children will often think about their au pair long after the experience has come to an end and parents need to consider how they can support and facilitate this.

AuPairMom, Celia Harquail, presents at WETM-IAC 2015Building an online presence as a smaller business

In her workshop session, Celia shared some key tips for building an online presence, drawing on her own experiences.

She began by explaining that many businesses fail to ensure their proposition is reflected on their website and social media presences, so delegates should check that they include the following:

  • Why should families choose to use you? Share your personality and your experiences – it is important to get your emotion across in order for clients to better understand why they should trust you
  • Why have you chosen to take the au pair route?
  • How did you become an expert?
  • How do you solve problems?
  • What traits and experiences do you offer that are unique to you?
  • Exactly how can you help a family in their au pairing journey?
  • Who is the ‘you’ behind the site?

“I chose my au pair agency as its employees all have international experience and understand what it’s like for families and au pairs alike; even the IT guy has been an au pair,” explained Celia.

Celia also suggests:

  • Include a blog on your website and update it at least weekly. This helps to keep the content relevant and up-to-date, provides reasons for visitors to return, and can facilitate search engine optimisation
  • Offer what matching sites can’t – high touch, lots of experience and inspiration

Beyond a website – building a community

When building an online presence, it’s important to build a community spanning multiple channels. Celia suggests creating a Facebook community, for example, in addition to your website. This offers  an additional platform for those with questions or needing support t, is also a great way to share more about yourself, and provides you with the opportunity “to speak to one person but teach many”.

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