By Gerri Baum

You’re gearing up for your fall Open House, school tour and parent “parlor” meetings in parents’ homes. You want to spread the word. Publishing details of the upcoming events on your school’s/college’s Facebook page is a given. But have you considered Facebook advertising as another way to reach prospective families far and near?

Why Use Facebook Ads?

According to the Pew Research Center, Facebook’s global audience is approximately 1.5 billion users, which is one-fifth of the planet’s population. No other social network comes close to this achievement in growth. The advantage of advertising on Facebook is the ability to find the right people, as opposed to the most people – a model that is unlike that of TV and other types of media advertising. As Facebook users continue to grow, the more granularly advertisers can target their prospects.

Additionally, Facebook has one of the most dedicated monthly users per month of any other social site. According to VentureBeat, 727 million users only access Facebook on mobile. The advantage being that you have greater insight into where your audience is and where you need to target your advertising.

Facebook Organic Reach is On the Decline.

“Pay to play” is now an absolute on Facebook. That’s because organic reach – the number of unique people who see your post in news feeds or on your page through unpaid distribution – is on the decline. In 2012, Facebook Business reported that content published by brands “reach about 16 percent of their fans on average.” As of 2014, it was reported by OgilvyRed, that organic reach for pages “hovered at 6 percent.” And, for pages with more than 500,000 Likes, organic reach was as low as 2 percent.

Last summer, Facebook announced that it will prioritize posts shared by friends and family over those published by brands and pages. Following an ongoing survey of Facebook users, the social media giant learned that people much prefer seeing content provided by the people they socialize with rather than self-promotional organic content on pages. This means that brands and pages are lucky if 3 to 5 percent of their followers see any organic content of a promotional nature. Facebook made it clear that brands who choose to post promotional content “should expect their organic distribution to fall significantly over time.”

So, if you think that your promos asking people to register for your School Tour or sign up for an Open House are seen by those thousand or more followers you have, it ain’t happening.

Does Facebook Advertising Work?

The truth? Facebook advertising does work. And here’s how. While paid search on web browsers such as Google will help prospects to find you, paid advertising on Facebook will help you to find your prospects. Facebook allows you to precisely target your prospective audience by their interests, demographics and psychographics – helping you to find those people who may be most interested in your school, college or university.

Not only can you target individuals by location, gender and age, but you can tap into their purchasing behaviors, life-cycle events, social involvements, education, family status and more. You can combine and layer targeting option and fit ad creative to your various types of audiences.

Facebook gives you the ability to expand beyond your current audience, offering options to create custom “Lookalike Audiences” – audiences that are similar to your prospects, those who visit your website, your school’s database or page followers. In doing this, Facebook displays your ads to 10 percent of users in your locations who are most like your target audience. And if that’s not enough, you can even upload your database of prospects and send them ads to remind them of your school.

Most users don’t convert during the first go-round of ads. And no other social media platform offers as many re-targeting options as Facebook. You can create “custom audiences” based on people who’ve visited your website and fine-tune your targeting right down to the precise pages they’ve shown an interest in. From there you can fortify brand recognition, craft content that meets their needs and interests, and increase traffic back to your site.

Facebook Advertising: A Case Study.

Notre Dame Preparatory School (NDP), a Kalix Marketing client since 2012, located in Baltimore, Maryland, needed to increase enrollment at both the middle school and high school levels. NDP wanted to understand how it was perceived by prospective families, particularly how to enroll more families who visited the school during open houses. The objective was to use Facebook to boost awareness, reach and engagement with NDP’s target audience to ultimately increase conversions.

Kalix and NDP put in place the following tactics:
  1. Baltimore Research, a Kalix strategic partner, facilitated a series of in-person focus groups with prospective high school and middle school families. The purpose was to discover the participants’ perceptions compared to the completion.
  2. A multi-phased social media strategy was crafted from the results of the focus groups that included Facebook, Facebook advertising and the use of other social platforms.
  3. A custom ambassador program was developed and launched to energize NDP loyalists and reinvigorate an affinity to the brand. The program capitalized on the social media strategy to stimulate online and offline conversations, and organize fan bases to boost brand loyalty.
  4. Kalix also created a highly targeted and coordinated radio campaign, a digital campaign in an online magazine and a targeted email campaign.

Following four years of coordinated campaigns, NDP’s engagement and fan growth has increased exponentially. Metrics indicate that Facebook advertising yields about 34 registrations annually for open houses and continue to increase NDP’s awareness among their target audience.

To learn more about the NDP campaign, tap here.

While it’s important to discover where your school’s prospective audience is on the social grid, most likely a majority are on Facebook. Make use of Facebook’s Audience Insights to learn more about those users who matter most to you. Take that information and test the various ad types available, craft custom content and optimize, optimize, optimize until you get the results that meet your goals and objectives.

What has been your experience with using Facebook ads?

Talk to the Kalix Marketing team to learn how we can help you launch a Facebook advertising campaign that’s right for your school. Contact us here.

Stay up-to-date on the Kalix Summer Marketing Series.

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#2 7 Easy Ways to Take the Blah out of Blogging for Your School

#3 Best Ways to Work with Graphic Designers

#4 How to Execute a Social Media Audit for Your School

#5 What’s Your Position on Brand Positioning?

#6 Showing Your Website Some Summer Lovin’

Gerri Baum is Digital/Social Media Director for Kalix Marketing.