You invest thousands of dollars in your school website, produce and print a 4-color newsletter 4 times every school year, run countless email campaigns, place billboard ads and run radio spots. The competitive landscape of schools these days requires a good mix of marketing tactics that reaches your audiences at the right place and time. What about using Facebook advertising?
Facebook advertising for schools? Us? You might say, "We keep our Facebook feed pretty current, that’s plenty, right?"
Many of you are already using Facebook to promote your school and engage parents. In addition to flowing info to your school’s Facebook page news feed, you might want to take a look at using Facebook’s “paid” side for reaching your audiences. Businesses and nonprofits are using Facebook to reach the young adult audiences. This article in AdAge indicates that Facebook advertising is now more effective than television advertising in some sectors due to how mobile we all are these days and shifting demographics.
If you’re serious about getting parents’ attention and attracting students, Facebook advertising is one more tactic you should consider to get your school’s messages in front of them.
Facebook ads can help schools build enrollment, pass levies
As more and more businesses and nonprofit organizations use Facebook advertising to build their reputations and build their business, your school could follow suit.
For public schools, Facebook ads can help you compete for students on the school choice/open enrollment battlefield, or help pass that school levy. For the private and charter school communicator, Facebook ads present a way to get in front of the parents and other influencers who can help your school meet its enrollment goals.
Attract new families, get out the vote, tell your school stories – all in a social media setting that enables you to advertise in a precise, measured way. School of all kinds are using traditional marketing tactics like outdoor advertising to attract students. Why not try Facebook advertising?
Facebook is still the mother of all social media, with, in fact, lots of mothers using it to check in on everything from recipes to school news. is one of the largest social media sites, with 1.49 billion user accounts and recently topping over 1 billion daily visitors. On average, a single user spends 18 minutes on Facebook per visit.
Placing ads on Facebook can be one of the most targeted methods to reach your school audience. With such a huge reach and regular usage, Facebook ads represent one of the best ways to amplify any school message, and reach your parent base, and in the case of private and charter schools, attract new students to help you meet enrollment goals.
Well-positioned ads on Facebook can reinforce your public relations efforts and help pinpoint your promotion on such issues like important tax levies.
How Facebook ads work
Facebook Ads are more than just images displayed on different parts of the Facebook site. Based on the user’s profile, Facebook displays the ads best fitting with a user’s interests. This means that if a user displays a huge interest in sports in their profile, then Facebook will display sports-related ads on that user’s Facebook page. If that user (i.e., parent) happens to be into your school, Facebook ads will find him or her.
Facebook structures their ads to capture the specific audience’s attention, displays them in strategic areas of the Facebook homepage. The Facebook ad engine also displays ads between a specific number of new posts, guaranteeing that your ad will be part of the user’s Facebook experience.
These ads can be displayed on the profiles of users in a specific geographic area, or you could set them up to be placed for a specific number of days, or just a specific number of user clicks. There are lots of options when creating ad campaigns, which are important when it comes to the unique kinds of messaging schools require.
We’ve learned from Andrea Gribble at SocialSchool4EDU what some of the best-performing Facebook posts for schools are. Let’s look at what works on the Facebook ad side of the ledger.
Types of Facebook Ads
Facebook provides different kinds of ads for different needs. Some ads can invite users to download an app, write a review, answer an essay, among others. However, most ads are designed to build an audience, promote specific offers and invite the user to engage with you or take some kind of action like reading more information or registering for an even.
On the surface, many of these uses may not appear to be relevant to a school. However, when it comes to registering for an event, selling tickets to sports events, buying fundraiser products, or other kinds of campaigns, you can quickly see different ways a school can leverage the traditional marketing aspects of Facebook.
The Anatomy of a Facebook Ad
The Four core parts of an Facebook ad are:
- Body Text
- Call to Action
A “Call to Action” is a button that will be automatically displayed depending on the type of ad you are building. A call to action (CTA) is critical in marketing. For the most part, unless you’re simply just trying to build awareness, it’s what you want the reader of that ad to do after he or she reads the ad.
Common CTA’s for a school ad might be registering for an event or pointing the visitor to a website link for further information. You can have a CTA that asks people to take a quick only survey. That’s an excellent way to create some engagement by getting valuable input and then sharing the results of the survey.
Facebook’s ad tools are quite advanced, and will help build the ad. It can assign the best image in order to reach as many prospective audience users as possible.
The title must be written in a way that invites people to read the rest of the text, which then has to be good enough to catch the user’s attention. The ad must be engaging enough to make the prospect click the ad to find more information. This click is the first step towards what is called a conversion. A conversion is ultimately the end goal of the ad: someone reads more information on your website, someone registers for an event, buys some spirt wear or some other fundraising goal, etc.
Ad Display Areas
As mentioned before, Facebook ads will be displayed on different areas of Facebook’s site. This provides the you more opportunities of a parent, student, staffer or community member clicking the ad.
The primary area where ads are displayed is in a user’s newsfeed as shown here:
Another area where ads are displayed is in the right column on the desktop browser as shown here:
On a mobile device – and we know that’s how more and more parents are engaging your school’s communications – there are even multi-image carousels where you can place multiple images and messages that are swiped by the user for a more engaging experience. This also provides ways for you to show more information and even target each image in the carousel to a different URL landing page somewhere else.
Benefits of Facebook Ads
Cost Effective: This starts with your school’s Facebook page, which costs you exactly $0. By having a vibrant Facebook page for your school, you can start to build your fan base and audience with no cost. Just create your school’s Facebook page and start inviting people. Your Facebook page is also the starting point for ad campaigns, since you will be promoting your ads as part of your page - even through promoted posts on the page itself to your page audience.
Targeted audience: Before starting your campaign you must determine your targeted audience. You can create targeted ads with targeting parameters. You can post your Facebook ads targeting your particular geographic region, and then specify users with a particular demographic age profile, their areas of interest, age and likes.
PPC and CPM pay structures: Facebook offers cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-thousand (CPM), and Optimized CPM (OCPM) methods to its advertisers. A school may choose a campaign according to their budget and even set spending limits for a single day or overall campaign.You can choose to not pay for an ad unless someone clicks on it – or even until someone takes the final action determined to be the “conversion” such as registering for that event, buying some spirit wear, etc…
Graphic capabilities: With every Facebook ad, schools can add vibrant images with text as well. Studies show when images and graphics are embedded with an ad, the interest rate of the targeted audience is much higher.
Exposure: Even with the advent of social media, it is still very difficult to reach your audience. Most Facebook pages reach 6% of the people who have liked them, and many pages get fewer likes. To overcome this situation, Facebook ads can be one of the best ways to maximize your reach.
User popularity: Most of people use Facebook, and so there are huge opportunities for schools to amplify their messages. If users and fans find you active and responsive, they will be more likely to do further engage and listen.
Grow traffic/subscribers: Schools can use their Facebook page to drive traffic to the school website by using link posts on their Facebook page.
Grow enrollments: Facebook users will be able to find you easily if you have an account or page on Facebook.
Facebook advertising can be a low-risk promotional tool for schools
For any number of reasons, you might think Facebook advertising is not a good fit for your school. It helps first if you have a strong social media program going – including a freshly updated Facebook page – and a belief that social media is a great way to reach today's audiences.
You may not immediately recognize the opportunity that Facebook advertising provides. It is in fact, one of the greatest opportunities to amplify your messaging and reach users around the clock. The cool thing too is that your audience is so finite and manageable, that the overall cost of using it in a campaign is really not that cost prohibitive.
While there aren't a whole lot of schools currently using it, yours might do well to follow the lead of many businesses and nonprofits that are embracing Facebook advertising and having great success with it.
Now that you’ve learned some basics about Facebook advertising for schools, get creative and start coming up with some ways that your school can leverage the power of the medium to reach your widest audience.
Michael is the founder and Chief Disruption Officer of Intellig8, a marketing technology consulting company. He is a lifelong student of business, financial models, marketing, communication, and behavioral science. He loves solving business problems, and helping techies and non-techies alike use technology to their advantage.