Well, maybe and maybe not. Maybe you aren't using your preschool Facebook page ALL wrong but you may not be using your business page to its fullest potential!
When I review many Preschool Program's marketing plans, there are 2 common themes I see, specifically with regard to Facebook.
Theme # 1: The Preschool either does not have a Facebook page or, if it does, it is used like an online marketing flyer with the top post being some version of,
"Enrolling now! We have openings! Call Today!"
Theme # 2: The "photo dump". The photo dump is when you take awesome pictures of your classrooms and children and then dump them onto the Facebook page either separately or in a photo album named something like:
"January--3-Year Old Group"
"March- Tues/Wednesday Group"
"Preschool Fun in May"
"PreK Happenings in June"
I have been guilty of this myself when running my previous program's Facebook page!
The intention is great! We want to share the fun, laughter and learning with the children's families!
However, adding captions can help with your marketing and educating families about early childhood education! I share more about that later!
Now, if you have NO Facebook page, have very scant posts on your page or simply "photo dump" on your program's Facebook page, you are missing some incredibly amazing opportunities to communicate and educate families and potential families.
There are many benefits to having a Facebook business page for your program. The most important are:
Each and every post you put on your program's Facebook page should address ALL THREE of these benefits (yes, even your "photo dumps"!).
If not, you are "leaving money on the table" by not utilizing the opportunities and power of social media!
Having a business Facebook page for your program gives you the opportunity to:
1. Communicate with families by sharing the activities and fun happening in your program.
2. Educate families about Early Childhood education via comments to go along with those cute pictures.
3. Market your program through those families.
In talking with preschool administrators and owners, there are 4 common responses as to why a program either does not have a business Facebook page or why the posts are far and few between.
And I think we all can relate to each of them. They are valid that deserve discussion and consideration.
Here are the 4 responses I commonly hear regarding Facebook from administrators:
Let's look at each of these 4 areas, shall we? I'll give you some information and some pointers for each.
Okay, I cannot relate to this first part! I LOVE Facebook-personally and professionally- but I get it.
Who wants to read all that drama and all the posts and, if we're being totally honest, some people have very thin (if ANY) filters when it comes to what they share on Social Media!
However, consider Facebook as a business tool, not the dramatic personal drama ;)
Did you know that 75% of your families check in on Facebook multiple times per day?
Did you know that the average Mom has 313 friends of Facebook?
--Let's look at the numbers:
As of December 2015 (just 11 years after its inception), Facebook sees over 1,000,000,000 daily users.
Read that last part again--- That is one BILLION--as in, 9 zeros after the 1!
And, that is DAILY users!
You may or may not be one of those billion, but your program certainly should be!
Because the families (and families' friends) of the children in your care are on Facebook.
And Moms? They lead the pack in Facebook usage! Here are some Facebook Mommy facts according to Edison Research:
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU:
3/4 of the Moms of your little ones are on Facebook and check Facebook many times a day!
Also, the average Mom has 313 friends on Facebook. Guess who many of their friends are?
Yup, other friends with YOUNG CHILDREN!
Facebook is all about social sharing (being social and sharing information). Posting on Facebook is a way for you to communicate with your families and prospective families!
Let's get all geeky with the numbers for a moment.
Let's say you have 32 non-related children in your program.
3/4 of those families are on Facebook and checking in. That's communicating to 24 of them each day!
Those 24 families checking in have an average of 313 friends: 24 X 313= 7,512 friends.
You have the potential to reach over 7,500 people and show them how AWESOME your program is!
Now granted, many of those friends are other family members, friends without children, co-workers or perhaps people who are not local.
Even still, having 24 family members share awesome pictures with educational comments on their newsfeed helps get the word out and is the least expensive form of targeted marketing you can do (can you say FREE?? It's being shared.....for FREE!)
If you are in a larger center, one with 50 families.... WHOA!
3/4 of 50 families is about 37 families online. 37 people X 313 friends = 11,581 potential people your program's Facebook business page could reach!
Even if you do, here's my motivation for you:
Too bad. It's not about you!
Seriously, it's NOT about whether or not you like Facebook.
You don't have to get active on Facebook personally, but you DO need to consider Facebook as a marketing tool as well as a form of communication with families.
Can you really afford to not reach families where they are?
This brings me to the 2nd response I hear from program administrators:
And I get it. And we do need to be responsible (and transparent to families) about our intention of sharing photos online.
There is a myriad of reasons a family may not want their child's picture online such as:
There are two items I want to address about this concern:
A. Obtaining PROPER permission to share the children's images online.
B. How to use a Facebook page without sharing children's images.
Most of us have a photography release form that families sign upon enrollment. If you do not, you NEED to add one right now and have current families read and sign it.
Please note, however, that a PHOTOGRAPHY RELEASE form does not mean you have permission to share photos online, unless your release form specifically states that.
I suggest having 2 lines for your parents to sign on a Photo Release form. One that states you have permission for in-house use (see below) and a second signature line that asks if you have permission to post pictures on your Facebook page and/or your website.
Each signature line should have a Yes and No option where the parent must check off or circle one and sign for each line.
Taking photos of the children in a program is part of the day! We use these pictures for many purposes: Name tags, Birthday boards, name recognition activities, and perhaps even in your monthly newsletter that you send home to highlight a child's birthday.
These, however, are what I call "in-house use" purposes.
A parent does not necessarily assume you will be using the pictures on the internet (your website or Facebook page) for the world to see.
The parent/guardian has the right to allow or deny permission for online photo usage.
If a parent denies permission for online use, you AND EVERY STAFF MEMBER MUST RESPECT AND ABIDE BY this denial.
And it does not matter why a parent denies permission. If and when a parent denies online usage, please DO NOT ask them why! They do NOT have to justify their choice--it is THEIR child!
We simply need to respect and abide by their choice.
Be very clear with families about how you will use photos that you take in your program.
I recommend a Photography release form that has both intentions (in-house use and online use) listed separately and requires a parent to check off YES or NO for each intention, separately.
WHAT THIS MEANS TO YOU
This means before uploading any photos to Facebook or your website, they must be reviewed to be certain that any child on your "no internet photos" list is not in that picture.
A personal gripe: Please, do not just use an app to "smudge" out the child's face in the photo.
Instead--Just don't use that photo. Even though you are smudging their face so it is unrecognizable does not hide the outfit they wore, which could give way to who that child is.
How To Use a Preschool Facebook Page Without Using Children's Images.
You may decide you simply do not want children's faces on your Facebook business page regardless of parental permission.
This is your decision! However, you STILL have a great opportunity to meet the top 3 benefits of a Facebook page:
1. Communicating with parents:
Provide photos that show the children engaged in an activity that shows only their hands...like this:
2. Educating families: Provide photos of different areas of the classroom and how the children use it.
Post a photo of a very cool bug the children found outside and tell parents what the children said about it (without using names).
3. Marketing: Posting flyers of an upcoming Open House or Art Show you are hosting.
Let's talk more about this and address the #3 response I hear from administrators about Facebook pages.
Well, we just went over several ideas of what to post! In addition, you can post links to a blog post from your website.
All your posts will meet those "Big 3" benefits of having a Facebook page:
1. Communicating with families:
Posting photos of activities in the classroom help communicate to parents what their children are doing each day.
In addition, post a link to a blog post from your website about an upcoming deadline you want them to know about!
2. Educating families:
Posting links to those types of posts help educate families about your program philosophy as well as early childhood education.
Posting links to those posts also drive traffic to your program's website which will prompt people to request the free information you have available or call you (both of which give you contact information to follow up on in the way of an email address or name and telephone number).
You might post about a local event coming up such as the annual town parade or Craft Show or Family friendly event.
Contact local businesses who have family programs and ask them to list your program on their Facebook page (or share a blog post of yours on their Facebook page) and offer to do the same.
And this brings us to the last concern of many administrators when it comes to having a preschool Facebook Page:
Yes! Yes, you do! Dare I say, though, without enrollment, you will have NO program to run!
Facebook, as we discussed earlier, is the primary social media platform choice for over 75% of your families and, therefore, their friends who have young children.
This is a form of marketing and marketing is part of running your program.
A few time saving Facebook tips:
1. You can schedule your Facebook posts in advance!!!
It's true! Let's say you want a reminder to go out that children should bring in their beach towels and sunscreen for a pool party on Monday-- You can type that up with a cute beach towel picture on your page and then schedule it to go out on Sunday night at 6 pm.!
Let's say you see an awesome poster or article on Facebook that you want to share with families but right now is not a time that many families are on Facebook or you want them to have time to read it and not miss it. Rather than hitting the "share" button, you can schedule it to post on your page on a set day and time.
Example: On Preschool Plan It's Facebook page, (come on over and like that page by the way!), I post links to my suggested themes throughout the month.
I typically know in advance the themes I want to suggest based on the themes most teachers are looking for.
I spend about 1/2 hour on the 1st of each month scheduling the links to those theme pages in advance. I call it "Theme Thursday" and typically schedule 1-2 themes to appear on my page every Thursday.
I don't schedule ALL my posts in advance, just the ones I know will be timely.
In addition, I schedule posts the same way for my Preschool Director's Facebook page here!
B. Don't do it alone!
If you aren't Facebook savvy and don't want to be, enlist the help of a staff member who is.
Sit with that person, go over the expectations (i.e. sharing your philosophy of no photos of children or sharing the list of children who should not appear on the page) and your goal for your FB page and work on a plan of how often the page will have posts, what to post, etc.
Facebook is an awesome opportunity to do all three!
Posts of children playing help communicate to parents and show them what their children are doing.
Additionally, create a caption or add comments to your photo dumps that help educate families and prospective families on what children learn in your program.
Instead of no captions or a brief caption, such as "Building with Blocks in the Three's Class Today", try something like:
"Today we built roads that had inclines and declines. We learned how to adjust them to create some serious speed for the cars today!".
Doing those 2 things will organically market your program! They will be educational and sharable!
Of course, be sure to ALSO post about openings you may have as well as invite fans of your Facebook page to a program event such as an Art Show or Open House!
Here is a list of resources I think might help you or the person(s) designated to post on your preschool Facebook page:
How To Set Up a Facebook Business Page Information right from Facebook!
Facebook for Business This is a great article from ThriveHive, a company I'm a great fan of (and a client of!).
Helpful Books about Facebook Here is a pretty extensive list of books from Amazon about Facebook pages