95% of today’s parents of preschool and school-age parents are millennials. Think about that a minute. What does that mean for the way you communicate?
It means they’re hyperconnected to both their smartphones and on social media, and if given the option, they’d rather do just about everything online and on their phones. From researching the best childcare centers in the area, to interacting with you, to shopping for pretty much everything, it’s just easier to do it in the moment with the tools they have at hand… or should I say in hand.
But just because they use social media platforms like Facebook doesn’t mean it’s where parents want to do their initial searches to find you. It is, however, a great place to keep them engaged once they’re on board.
Let’s explore some Facebook best practices, beginning with our take on a hot debate: should you use Facebook Business instead of a standalone website.
Why not just use Facebook Business alone?
While Facebook has billions of daily active users, including almost every parent of every child in your program’s age range, that’s not necessarily a good thing for your business. Here’s why you shouldn’t rely solely on Facebook as a business website:
Lack of visibility
Although “everyone” is on Facebook, that’s actually part of the problem. Because there are so many users and so many advertisers, it’s hard for your posts to be seen and stand out, organic or otherwise.
Organic posts, or posts you share on your own without cost, can be a challenge to spot on your own personal account, let alone your Facebook business account. With ever-changing algorithms, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make it onto newsfeeds.
Too many distractions
Even when you’re lucky enough to make it to the newsfeed, don’t expect to have the viewer’s undivided attention. Facebook wins by keeping people on its site for endless hours, because that increases the demand for advertisers to post ads and increases the cost of those ads.
So there’s a constant bombardment of ads, posts, and notifications that are sure to divert those eyes away from the content you put a lot of time – and potentially money – into!
Requires more attention
Part of Facebook’s algorithm is that more active pages will have more visibility. That means you have to keep content fresh and post regularly to keep audiences engaged. And who has time for that?
There is a way to be seen by prospective parents on Facebook through ads, but like the lottery, your chances of “winning” are only as good as the money you put into it. And your competition is every other business in the world, including your competitors!
It’s no Google search
Despite the fact that 23% of consumers use Facebook search prior to visiting a business, it’s nothing compared to the 63% that use Google. If I want to know more about childcare centers and preschools near me, I am likely to go search engine first.
Lack of control
Although you can show personality through posts, you’re very limited in how you can present your brand on Facebook. Facebook is in total control of the look and feel of your website, which makes your page similar to, well, every other page for every other business.
Bottom line: People still expect a websiteEven if you do go the route of using Facebook in lieu of a website, visitors to your Facebook Business page will expect to continue their research about you on your website, which they also expect to be linked in your “About” section.
Fail to deliver one, and they may take your business less seriously. After all, what kind of classroom tech could you be offering if you can’t even pull off a website?
Your Facebook Business page is just the bait.
There’s no harm in creating a Facebook Business page. It’s free to set up, after all, and why not get as much visibility as possible?
For prospective parents who do happen to stumble upon your Facebook page before your website, you want to eliminate as many obstacles as you can to get them interested in learning more about you. And since you’ll want to invest more of your advertising and tech money on your real website, here’s what you can do on Facebook on the cheap:
Direct prospective parents to your website
This should be the goal of your Facebook Business page. Chances are, if they’re discovering you on Facebook, prospective parents will look for a link to your website first, so at the very least, be sure to include the link in the “About” section of your Facebook Business page.
Give them the details
In your “About” section, you have an opportunity to share what’s most compelling about your center. Is it your rates? Your ratios? Your accreditation? Although the goal of your Facebook Business page should be to direct prospective parents to your website, your page may be the first interaction they have with your business, so make it count where you can.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” – Will Rogers
Provide ways to contact you
Along with your phone number, provide an email address. This is the best way to score email addresses from prospective families who are interested in your program and to complete a sales cycle – not Facebook Messenger.
Think about it, once you have that email address, you can stay in touch with your new prospective parent with registration information and news about activities and special events. Set up your page to add prospective parents automatically to your email list by connecting your email provider’s app to your Facebook Business page (you can also collect email addresses manually).
Use high quality profile pictures
You’ve seen it. The distorted images used as cover photos and profile pictures for school Facebook pages across the continent, zoomed in so close you can’t even tell what they were supposed to be. If a picture is worth 1000 words, what does your cover photo say about you?
Choose images that best fit your mission – and Facebook’s dimensions – like your school crest, logo, or a fun school activity that captures the spirit of your school community.
Although most of us showcase our best selves on Facebook, it’s a place where many share very honest opinions. It’s a good place to learn what parents are looking for in a childcare center, preschool or school-age enrichment program. Whether you’re peeking at competitors’ pages or scrolling through Facebook groups, you’re sure to find treasure troves of valuable information.
- On competitors’ pages – read reviews. If you identify a competitive edge where your school particularly excels and competitors fall short, be sure to highlight that on your page. Additionally, use competitors’ pages to see what they’re doing differently that’s working.
- In Facebook groups – Gain insight into what parents are talking about in Facebook groups to learn what’s important to them regarding the care and education of their children. Consider following local parenting groups and organizations that post kid-friendly events and activities.
Facebook Groups Are the Prize Fish
Parents want to engage with you to know exactly who is caring for their children and how, and also to feel confident that their money is being well spent. Here’s where “meeting them where they are” on social media is most appropriate.
By creating a Facebook group for parents, you’re not just adding value to your program through expanded parent engagement efforts. You’re also offloading some of your day-to-day tasks. Here’s how it works and, more importantly, how it works for you:
The Value of Facebook Groups
Facebook groups are free to create, and you can create as many as you want. Parents are likely current members of various Facebook groups already, and they know how they work. That makes them more inclined to interact with what you share.
Sharing helpful tips for homework and study time, reinforcing good reading habits at home, inexpensive craft projects, and quick and easy healthy recipes can prove a great perk for parents – and a differentiator when they go to share and brag about your childcare or preschool program.
The value to your organization is the communal nature of these groups. Those extra-helpful parents might be able to jump in answer another parent’s question before you see it, or even help point a new parent to resources. It can also end the awkward silence when you ask for volunteers as parents see who else is willing to get involved.
Facebook allows you to be a bit more personal and creative, allowing parents to get to know you and not just your logistics – and it’s a lot easier for the average non-IT person to update and maintain than a website!
Use Cases for Facebook Groups
Use Facebook groups to engage parents in a community setting – like Facebook’s general platform, but exclusive to your center. Not only can you share posts to your group’s page, but you can also host topic discussions, create polls, and add files for quick access. See the below image for all of the posting options available to you when you click “What’s on your mind?” in your group.
Information you might share and/or encourage parents to share includes:
- Volunteer opportunities
- School holidays and closure information
- Healthy kid-friendly recipes
- Inexpensive crafts to try at home
- Advertisements for events or additional services
- Babysitter program availability
- Tutoring or homework hotline information
- Parenting blog posts and videos
- Important forms or your handbook
- Polls for voting on the next healthy snack purchase
- Local kid-friendly activities
- Photos from events (with parent approval, of course!)
Although it may sound overwhelming to manage multiple groups, parents may appreciate being segmented so as to avoid being inundated with information irrelevant to their family – and receiving less notifications on Facebook!
Groups you may want to consider creating:
- Parents who are new to your school
- Parents who are new at being parents
- Groups for each grade level or classroom
- Groups for volunteers and committees
Privacy and Setup
Whether you believe a Facebook Business page is right for your school or not, you’ll need to create one in order to create your Facebook group. Understandably, parents will want to be sure that what they share in your groups is for members’ eyes only.
You can assure their family’s privacy by making the group private, as well as hidden, so that it’s invite-only by one of your admin and searchable only to members (When you go to create your group, the settings should look something like the image here – that is, if Facebook’s interface hasn’t changed).
There are additional settings to ensure only the right folks join your group, as well as follow guidelines, like requiring admin approval of new members and posts and establishing rules. Rules you may want to consider are things like no swearing or sharing photos of children who aren’t your own.
With Facebook groups, posts are more visible than those on a personal or business page, and they’re easier to organize and locate. Parents can choose to receive notifications about activity in your Facebook group, see your posts in their regular newsfeed, and seek out and select your group when they are looking for updates from you.
Although whatever you post to your Facebook group will be shared on the group’s general timeline, you can organize your posts in one of two ways: units and topics (Note: In this tutorial, the host states that topics are not available on Facebook for mobile devices. Facebook has since added this as a feature).
Here’s the difference:
- Topics categorize your existing content, with each category displayed at the top of the Facebook group for easy access of specific information. You can only select the topic after you’ve shared your post.
- Units have more features than topics. You can add a description for each topic and even see metrics how many folks are viewing your posts, so regardless of “likes” or comments, you’ll know what types of content get the most engagement. (Note: To create units, you must set your group to be a “social learning” group.)
With these tips, hopefully you’ll feel less like a fish out of water and more like the engaging school and Facebook admin you have the potential to be! Learn more about our EZSmiles app, a tool teachers love to use and parents love to use to share all that’s great about you and your program.