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  • Jackson Clark

A Guide To Facebook Ads For Schools & Educational Institutions

We have all heard of Facebook. It is the largest social network in the world with over two and a half billion monthly active users. It is where the parents of potential students spend hours of time each day.


Facebook was launched in 2004 and initially required a Harvard University e-mail to be granted membership to the site. It shortly expanded to allow anyone with internet access the opportunity to share their photos and thoughts with the world. In 2012, Facebook owner Mark Zuckerberg made his biggest purchase to date when he acquired Instagram for a clean billion dollars in stocks and cash. Instagram is a photo and video-sharing social network service which naturally appeals to more visual and creative content.


One of the key purposes for brands developing a presence on Facebook and Instagram is to build a community, and this becomes especially relevant in a school context. Both platforms offer tremendous versatility for how a school could be effectively marketed.Fortunately for the ease of marketers, Facebook and Instagram are covered under the same advertising platform, which makes running ads a simpler process. With the exception of a handful of limitations, when ‘Facebook’ is mentioned in this advertising section, the strategies and tactics are likely to also apply to Instagram.


Facebook’s advertising platform is one of the greatest ad-targeting products ever created and offers excellent potential and versatility for school marketers. Advertising campaigns can be targeted to users with incredible specificity based on age, gender, occupation, interests, behaviours, purchasing history, and many other options. It also allows an array of retargeting options, the ability the create custom audiences, and a handy feature called ‘lookalike audiences’ which identify users with similar characteristics to your current audience with remarkable accuracy.


Sometimes paid advertising is necessary for the simple fact that organic reach – the number of people who view a post created without paid distribution – has declined so rapidly over the years. Advertising works immediately, even if your existing audience is minimal. Don’t yet have a thousand future and prospective parents liking your Facebook page? Not a problem! Just run an advertisement to parents on Facebook or target people who like popular parent-related pages.


The daily budget for running advertisements starts at as low as five dollars per day, and marketers have observed noticeable results with surprisingly little ad-spend. It would come as no surprise to learn that generally the more dollars you spend the greater the reach and results.


Naturally, the content you generate for the paid advertising campaigns will be more specific to the audience that is receiving the message than regular organic content. When drawing from what may already be a limited marketing budget, it is crucial to ensure that the message sent to your audience is carefully crafted so that it has the maximum effect.


Make sure that there are no spelling and grammatical errors, or anything else that would represent the school in a bad light or make it look unprofessional. While it may seem petty, something as simple as bad lighting or sound quality in a video can portray a school in a bad way and turn people away.


There is certainly no need to go overboard with special lighting or sound equipment or hire professional videographers to shoot videos. Most smartphones, let alone whatever other equipment is available at some schools, have the technology available to shoot professional-looking videos or photos.


When placing an ad, it is vital that the targeting is relevant. Take location, for example, unless marketing for a boarding school, it is a waste of ad-spend to be targeting parents or students who do not live nearby. This applies to age and gender demographics, too. For example, if you’re advertising to students for an all-boys school, it would make no sense to show these advertisements to females.


Regarding budget and placement strategies, many tips, tricks, and hacks for the Facebook ad platform can be found online. However, as always, for optimal results, it is best to test and determine what is relating best to your audience.


ADVERTISING TO PARENTS


In most cases, the majority of a school’s marketing efforts will revolve around advertising to parents and guardians of children. Facebook allows us to send advertisements directly to parents, but the fun does not stop there.


You can segment the parents based on the age of their children, which can allow school marketers to craft their advertisements with great specificity. We can target new parents and create branding and awareness campaigns so that when the time comes to enrol that child in a school or program, yours will be top of mind. You can also target types of Mums with the option to choose from ‘stay-at-home mums’ to ‘soccer mums’ and a whole variety of other choices.


Campaigns to parents could be centred around a mother or father sharing a story about the positive effect that the school has had on their child.


Let’s say you market for a middle school or high school. You could send valuable marketing materials specifically to parents of Year 5 and Year 6 students within the local area, which can aid in the decision-making process when the time comes to choose a school.


This could be in the form of a downloadable PDF titled ‘5 Reasons to Attend an All-Girls School’ or something similar. You could create an audience from the people that engage with these posts and continue retargeting these people, delivering content that will keep your school top of mind.


A similar process can be repeated for different ages too; for example, a primary school could send valuable brand-building content to the families of pre-school aged, or younger children. You can also go super long-term and run advertisements to parents of toddlers, directing them to sign-up to your school’s newsletter or e-mail list. Long-term approaches can build trust in your school and lead to an increase in enrolments.


ADVERTISING TO FUTURE STUDENTS


This will be most applicable to those catering for older students, who are more likely to make decisions about their education and see advertisements on social media. Older students these days have more choices and freedom regarding their education and which school or program to enrol in than ever before.


With so many different pathways for senior school-aged students, from university extension programs to vocational education and training, securing an enrolment can be a competitive process for schools. To appeal to this demographic, the ad campaign could include a video of a former student delivering a message to prospective students about the great experiences they had at the school.


The graduate could talk about all the facilities that the school has, the lifelong memories they forged through one of the extra-curricular activities, or how its curriculum has equipped them to succeed in their career.


It could be an organisation trying to attract international students. They could feature a video of an international graduate or current exchange student discussing all the positive aspects of the school. The school could survey a list of international students about what their biggest concerns were before enrolling and then create a video with a current student responding to those queries. If targeting international parents or students, ensure that the geo-targeting and language settings are relevant.


ADVERTISING TO FAMILIES WHO HAVE RECENTLY RELOCATED TO THE AREA


Facebook also allows us to target specifically to parents who have recently moved to a new location.


Many families would indeed have already decided on a school for their children before arriving in their new location. However, this technique could be especially useful for other businesses trying to attract the parents of children, such as guitar teachers, martial arts instructors, little athletics, etc.


A PDF file or short video detailing what to look for when deciding on a guitar teacher could be sent to new parents as a way of building authority and name recognition. Design the ad-copy to be as specific and relevant as possible by calling out the audience you are targeting: “New to Hobart?! Six Things to Consider Before Choosing a Guitar Teacher”.


ADVERTISING FOR COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT


Brand awareness and image-building campaigns should be key staples to any brand’s advertising strategy regardless of what industry, so the same can be said when it comes to promoting a school.


Parents in social gatherings often discuss the reputation of different schools – what facilities they have, the quality of their teachers and leadership staff, the physical and mental well-being concerns for their children, and much more. If your school has a bad reputation, the chances are that most of the parents within your local area are well aware of that.


Unfortunately, the reputations of different schools are often formed through falsehoods. A second-hand negative story relating to a school can be distorted and blown way out of proportion, causing irrevocable damage in the process. Perhaps the source of this damage is an untrue media report or opinion piece that was published in the local newspaper, a fight at the school captured on a phone and posted online or something as trivial as teenage gossip that spreads and is taken too seriously.


Schools must show initiative and get on the front foot about what they represent, their values and culture, which will strengthen their voice and reputation within the community. Be clear and strong in the messaging.


Has the school won an award? Is a teacher or student achieving great things within the community? New facilities installed that will boost the music program? Your audience needs to know about all of this, and paid advertising can help spread the reach of this message way beyond what was possible even a decade ago.