You understand the community value of your school Facebook and Instagram page. They allow parents and the community to peer into the wonderful community that you’re building.
The other face is data
Facebook’s other face isn’t quite as warm and fuzzy. This part of Facebook lives in the world of big data, and has managed to capture the personal details of millions of Americans – including the families that are a great mission fit for your school.
Its power to reach people is almost unparalleled in the world of communication, and it can help transform your enrollment growth, if you understand how it works and how to harness its data.
Start by understanding where each face fits the journey
The parents that you want to win for your school are on a journey of decision that begins a couple of years before they are ready to make a decision. For those who are pregnant, they starting thinking about school before the baby is even born. They take a break during the early diaper years, and then start focusing again a couple of years before preschool.
For middle school and high school parents, the journey might begin very early or could start just a couple of years before they decide to place their child in private education. Of course, some parents have an awakening moment while their child is in school, often because of a negative experience and short-cut the process.
The social use of Facebook is for the end of the parent journey
The social part of Facebook supports the end of the journey, when parents are checking out the “life of the school,” when parents are connecting with friends about their school choices and looking to see what it might be like to have their student in your school.
Facebook has restricted how much you can use the social part of Facebook (the posting and sharing). It’s restricted to somewhere between 0 and 2%. If you have 1,000 followers X .02, you’ll see that without heroics you’ll only reach 20 people with a post – not very good for outreach and marketing.
The other face of Facebook (the data and ad platform) is where the early engagement and outreach really happens. Facebook restricted the organic free reach of your page so they could sell you ads- thoughtful wasn’t it? The advertising platform that Facebook uses is one of the most sophisticated in the world, and has access to amazing amounts of big data – if you can just figure out how to use it.
How Facebook can help you with enrollment
When it comes to Facebook, parents are a lot like teens. They spend 30% more time on Facebook than non-parents, and almost all of that time occurs in their personal operating device (their mobile phone). When you combine the social power and the presence of Facebook on the mobile device with the data that Facebook holds, it is a marketer’s dream tool.
But Facebook is not a nonprofit. Its ad strategies, especially those billed as DIY, are designed to cost a pretty penny. That boost button for example, is the most expensive way to use Facebook. You can plan that unless you understand the full power of the ad platform, the first money that you spend on Facebook will be the most expensive money.
When it’s used well, the ad platform inside of Facebook can deliver lots of interest from parents and that most important quantity – visits. What’s important though is that you build ad campaigns that aren’t just presenting the school as just another commodity that is on sale. When you jump from “hello” right to “can we get married” you’ll scare more people off than you win. Like dating, Facebook ads require a courting process that helps people along their journey. Simply running ads for your open house isn’t going to get the job done. Here is the process that you should be using:
- Build your brand on Facebook first. Facebook allows you to reach people and then to respond to their behavior as the basis for future ads. People that demonstrate an interest in your brand are the ones that you want to target for more marketing.
- Plan to offer real value to parents. Your opportunity to show them that you are truly a potential partner that they can trust begins with what they experience online. Quality of content is critical to success.
- Make visits easy – super-easy. The less frustrating the response opportunity, the more people you’ll win. Don’t assume they will call the school to schedule if they are motivated enough, or force them to complete a long-form interest inquiry before visiting. They’ll be thinking about school choices long after your phones go to voicemail, and a long-form inquiry feels a lot like a commitment.
- Understand the role of the admissions team in the “sales” process. Yes, we used the word, “sales.” Admissions is a competitive activity, and the process and skills used are best supported using tools adapted from sales.
The equation for making Facebook pay off for enrollment is to combine these four factors so that you are increasing your visits and working effectively with people who show interest.
Keeping the social side of Facebook going is a completely different role than operating in the sophisticated ad platform. Both roles are vital, but they require a completely different set of skills.
About Story Collaborative
Story Collaborative helps schools to reach their enrollment goals by improving their “first look” opportunities and through Facebook advertising. We used advanced data in addition to what Facebook offers to reach the right parents at the right time. We provide admissions/ sales tools that leverage the time and impact of admissions teams in a powerful way.