Good day Cheryl,
As with our activities in the real world the best strategy is to use a blend of tactics, you would never say for example that we just do fundraising flyers and that is all we need to do for New Student Acquisition, we have all heard the saying "I do not know of 1 method to get 100 new students, but I do know a 100 ways to get 1" the digital space is very much the same way.
I prioritize the tactics on line in much the same way as I do off line, I know that if I can generate word of mouth leads and referrals the likely hood that I will sign those people up is high because their intention to join when I meet them is very high already.
You will hear me speaking on this subject a great deal this year, everything you do in the real world has an online equivalent and if we apply the same amount of energy, invest similar amounts of time and money, they will give us similar results, after all we are the same business, and the people we are talking to on line are the same one we talk to in the real world, only there are more of them.
So how do we replicate the word of mouth / referral experience on line? To really tackle this we have to look at what we actually do in the real world to generate Word of Mouth and Referral leads.
Referrals depend on us providing a high quality experience for our existing members, Cleanest place in town, friendly personalized services that truly improve the lives of our members, continual messaging about the life skills and values, dynamic instruction and we need ensure that members know that we want the referrals and that they believe we will do good work for who ever they bring. I want everyone who reads this to just think for a moment about what all goes in to being able to get word of mouth leads, I will suggest that referrals and word of mouth leads are the best lead in part because they are the most expensive leads we can possibly generate and that the quality of them are due to how long they actually take to generate. We must perform well over time you see.
I will suggest that it is absolutely possible to replicate this online but it involves a 4 strategy system that includes PPC, Display, Retargeting, and to your Question Social Media/Facebook.
On Facebook we have a real opportunity to give people a taste of what its like to be a student (Tell the cultural story), to demonstrate the value of the program. I believe we should work to use the social media pages to replace the humans who would, with enthusiasm, share their experience with a friend or peer. Your Facebook page should be a reflection of the in school experience, it should showcase the physical location, the people who work there, the quality of curriculum, the impact of the life skills taught, demonstration of the results you can achieve there, a parent of student who reviews your feed should feel good and excited by it. (all of this applies to your website as well by the way)..
Pro Tip: avoid posts that pitch the services in your feed, you do not want to create negative experiences here, imagine walking into a retail store to be met with an offer before you even explore what they have to offer by a pushy sales person. – we will be using other ways on other tactics to serve this purpose including Facebook ads.
That sets the stage, we now have a destination that does the job of an existing member sharing their experience.
Now we have a place to send people who would either search for our services, or happen upon it by coincidence or by design.
People who Search for what we do have the highest intention, something has happened and now they are searching for a solution (this will be the equivalent to a parent calling their friends and asking how they handled a problem) these are the folks that we need to provide answers to on the platforms they search for answers on, these primarily happen on Search Engines, 98% of all internet activities start at a search engine page, and 74% of all of those start at Google.
When someone searches on a search engine, what you get is a Search Engine Results Page, and on that page there are 4 different places we can work to appear.
At the top of the page you will find Ad’s for competitive services like Karate Classes, plumbers, moving companies etc. Google puts the ads in that position for a couple of reasons, its where 7 out of 10 people who search for services online click regardless of what is there, and this is the primary source of revenue for google. It is also true that people who are running ads tend to be more engaged business people and they tend to take good care of their customers so google knows there are providing quality results for their searchers.
The second Section you see is the Map Pack – this is the result of a second tactic and can also include a PPC result, so people who are placing ads have a way to push their result into that section even if they are not the closest school. Getting top placement here is generally a result of managing your “Local Citations” (claiming your top 10 or so listing) and this is also called Local SEO.
The next section you can affect is the Organic section, this used to be called the place where you get free clicks, that however is a false assertion as you will see by searching most of the results you see in this section are often not businesses at all, Google a few years ago concluded that the best results to show people are 3rd party review sites like Yelp, Angies list, Facebook and BBB reviews, then they prioritized “Best Of Lists” so those contest that are a nuisance to participate in all of a sudden have a greater meaning. But it is possible depending on your environment to actually get your site to show on page one and on some occasions in the higher position, but make no mistake there is no sure fire way to be the first listing, and it is just as expensive as PPC and as we already learned only 3 out of 10 searchers will ever get to this listing. The very best way to take advantage of this section is to Brand your company in such a way that people search for you by name, and that will Skew the organic results dramatically in your favor.
If you are doing a good job of following along you will recognize that its possible for you to consume multiple places in the organic section, if you have your yelp page working for you, if you have lots of google reviews, and Facebook reviews, have been voted best of in your city you can get 3 or 4 of the 10 available spots.
And at the bottom of the SERP you will find more PPC ads.
Now we need to influence people to be more likely to choose us when they search, and we need to interrupt the lives of likely customers to introduce our services and make an positive impression on future searchers.
How many times have you struck up a conversation in the line at a grocery store because you are wearing you school t-shit or even your Gi bottoms and that lead to giving out a VIP Card and gaining a new student? How often have you heard “I have seen your sign for years and finally stopped in”, or “we enjoy the assemblies and school talks you have given”, or “we saw you at the spring fling last year”. These are all branding opportunities, yes some will yield an immediate lead, but 1000s of people saw you there and over time that repetition puts your name at the Top of Mind. These actions are what will provide by name searches, and influence people who did not recall it but see the name in the results to choose you at that time.
The online equivalents to these things include:
Targeted Display ads that push your message in front of your target audience (this is why we do fairs, festivals, parades and assemblies). There are some really high quality versions of this now so much greater accuracy than ever before.
Facebook Ads and boosted posts do this as well – we push an offer in front of a potential customer in the hopes that it will by chance be a good time for them and to add to the top of mind branding.
Content marketing – Blogs, email list blasts, articles in the newspaper, appearances on tv or radio interviews.
RE-TARGETING: everyone who is driving traffic to their Website should be doing this. 95% of people who visit your site will do nothing. That is just the reality of it. however if someone who was re targeted comes back they are 70X more likely to convert , this can be done on Facebook.
So to answer your question, What about Facebook? Yes for sure it plays a number of roles in a marketing strategy, but as a stand alone way to get leads I think its more of a "I hope people who are looking for martial arts happen to see it" kind of move you can only target it so much, but used in the way i have described it can play an invaluable role in generating high quality leads.