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Don't be boringDon't be boring

Given the way interpersonal communication has changed over the past decade, it behooves any flight school to also change its marketing tactics. Most notable among these changes is the proliferation of social media, namely Facebook. What’s in order here is a solid Facebook strategy that helps to build both your market and your school’s community.

Building a strategy begins with setting out some goals and laying a foundation of how the school will present itself on the site. Specific goals could include number of “likes,” eventual reach, cultivating a community, leads, or any combination of these factors. Once you know what you want to achieve, figure out how you’re going to get there, which starts not with the process, but with the message.

Like other marketing channels, Facebook is a place to display your school’s brand, its character. But that doesn’t mean that if your school is professional and career-oriented that it has to be flat and serious. It’s called social media because it’s meant to be a social experience. So whatever your school’s culture, rule No. 1 is to keep your Facebook presence interesting and engaging.

There are a number of ways you could take the messaging. A career school may include photos of students in the simulator, or graduates in their airline cockpits. A school that trains pilots for recreational purposes in Florida may have photos of the school barbeque at the beach, or of instructors being silly wearing their Hawaiian shirts. Whatever the message, the object is to keep it lively with photos, polls, questions, celebrations of achievements, and so on.

Once you know what you want to say, you have to work out how to say it. Nothing is worse than a flight school with a Facebook page that is only updated once every three months. People who stumble on it will wonder if you’re still open. Social media offers a lot of new and interesting ways to interact with your students, but it’s also a beast that needs to be fed regularly. And usually that calls for a schedule and a dedicated asset. Whether it’s you as the owner, a tech-savvy CFI, or a customer service representative, task one person with keeping the page interesting, responding to comments, and making sure the strategy is being carried out appropriately.

Of course, this means that although it may be free to sign up for Facebook, Facebook isn’t free. Staff time is one expense. If your goal is leads, Facebook advertising could be another. The secret to Facebook’s success is that it is now a massive pool of potential students, all sortable by location, sex, age, interests, and often, profession. The ads works much like any digital advertising, in that you are paying for impressions. Many companies have found great success in the super-targeted advertising, and since the price of entry is so low, your school may find success as well. If you want to try it, there are numerous resources on the web that provide specific strategies.

Once you have the strategy, message, and tools in place, it’s time to have fun. Experiment with different types of engagement, and be creative. Look to successful companies on Facebook, such as Oreo and Coke, to see what you can learn from their strategies. Most of all, remember that Facebook is a great way to build community within your school, so show off your students, your airplanes, and the fun and success everyone has by associating themselves with your operation.

Ian J. Twombly

Ian J. Twombly

"Flight Training" Editor
AOPA Pilot and Flight Training Editor Ian J. Twombly joined AOPA in 2003 and is an instrument flight instructor.

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