Small private schools often feel that they cannot afford to market their schools. Facebook is free. Here is how to use it effectively.
This article originally started out as an overview of the top private school Facebook pages. However, as I began my research, I discovered that the Facebook private school landscape was in worse shape than I had first thought. What am I getting at? Simply that apparently many private schools are not implementing the measures necessary to create an effective Facebook presence. That is a shame because creating an effective Facebook presence is something which can scale to match your resources of both time and money. Put another way I literally cannot think of one good reason why even the smallest private school shouldn't be taking advantage of all that Facebook can do to help market your school.
Build brand awareness
Am I beginning to sound like a marketing professor? If so, I will plead guilty on the one count: my thrust is very definitely marketing. But, no, I am not a professor nor have I ever been. The closest I ever got to that august title in academia was Adjunct Instructor. But I digress. This short video gives you an idea of what is involved.
Marketing is critical for any small business. Every school has to pay attention to marketing. Marketing comes in many forms. Which ones you use depends largely on your and your budget. Marketing informs current and future parents of your existence.
Marketing drives your future intake of students. For many private schools even five or ten empty seats can have a huge impact on their finances. Yes, I get the fact that the well-established schools have their future applicant pipelines full. In many cases their pipelines are full for several years out. The small schools on the other hand sometimes seem to have to live from hand to mouth in terms of their future applicant pools. Those schools can be buffeted by the winds of change in local demographics. Consider what happens when real estate values rise. The young families who are your usual applicant pool move out of the area because they have been priced out of the market. Or businesses close and move to other areas. Again one of your sources of potential applicants shrinks.
Facebook is a proven medium for attracting the demographic your school needs. What is really ideal for any school with a limited or even non-existent marketing budget is that Facebook doesn't have to cost you anything. The Facebook Page per se is free. It will take less than an hour to set up. To get started really all you need is a smartphone to take pictures. Yes, I am advocating that you start small. What have you got to lose?
Facebook will help tell your story and that is what brand awareness is all about.
Presenting a consistent message
Once you have decided to use Facebook to help market your school the next step is to schedule regular updates to your Facebook page. Ideally you should post one message every day. As the old saying goes "A picture is worth a thousand words." That is why I always advise new Facebook Pages users to post a photo or two with an article of a maximum of 80-100 words. We all love photos. Make sure that the photos you post tie in with your message. Sending a consistent message is very important. Let me give you an example or two of what I mean.
Let's say that your school is easy to get to for parents living within a ten mile radius of your school. Stress that fact regularly by posting a photo of a map showing your school as the red dot in the center with all the major roads showing clearly. Highlight those roads on the map so your prospective parents can see how easy it is to get to your school. The last thing parents want to do when dropping off their children for school is to sit in traffic.
Perhaps you offer an after school program. Parents will want to know about that. Take pictures of the various activities and programs you offer. They will sell your school.
Hunt for your prospective clients
I know that all you want to do is to teach and to run your school. Been there. Done that. But the reality of running a private school in today's world is that you need to be constantly selling your school. It provides an essential service. It enjoys an excellent reputation. It is a caring, safe environment for young people. You employ well-qualified professionals who have been thoroughly background checked. These are all attributes of your school which have to be communicated to future families. I use the term families advisedly. Why? Because you need to get your message out not only to parents but to grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. In short you need to communicate your message to anybody who can influence a decision.
This video shows you how easy it is to set up a Facebook Page for your school.
Facebook does that very effectively. 24/7 too. Imagine a scenario where you have been at a gathering. Naturally you encouraged conversation about your school and thought that you handled things rather well. Within the next 24-48 hours some of those people who are interested in your school will google it or look for it on Facebook. Either way they will soon be viewing your Facebook Page. Ideally your Facebook Page will draw prospective families in enough for them to call or email for more information. Don't forget to 'like' other business and organizational Facebook pages. That helps widen your exposure.
What to put on your Facebook Page
Here is a list of things I think that you should include on your schools Facebook Page.
Photos of every classroom
Photos of every activity.
A map with directions to the school.
Photos of the exterior of the school and its grounds.
Photos of yourself, your staff and your teachers.
Information about your school calendar and schedule.
Information about your admissions procedures.
Information about open houses and tours.
For safety reasons be careful when you include face shots of any children. Photos of past students will keep them from being recognized. You can safely include pictures of classes and activities in which the students are looking away from the camera.
How to curate your Facebook Page
Curate is just jargon for managing your Facebook Page. It is very easy to set up posts using Facebook Pages Manager. Manager is available as an app for your Apple and Android devices. It is also available for Windows. I curate the Facebook Pages for our local classical music station. I put up at least one post daily, sometimes as many as three posts depending on what special shows we are airing. You can schedule your posts days or weeks in advance using Facebook Pages Manager. If you check out my work for the radio station, you will notice that a group my photos in collages. I like my photos to 'pop'. I want my readers' eyes to be drawn to the photos and the information which accompanies those photos. There are dozens of free collage editors on the web. I happen to like PicMonkey. It is simple to use and produces acceptable results.
Need help? Have questions? You can contact me via Twitter @privatschl.
Advances in technology have changed the way businesses market themselves. This section provides tips on social media marketing, information on the latest technology being used and SEO basics for private schools.