3 Tips for Taking Your Higher Education Social Media Campaigns from 101 to 201

Carnegie Higher Ed Apr 25, 2019 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

Carnegie Dartlet strives to bring the latest digital marketing strategies to all our clients’ campaigns. While implementing strategic, advanced paid social media strategies can differ slightly from one social network to another, there are three best practice tips that we use to take campaigns to the next level.

1. Embrace the power of detailed targeting

Sometimes you just want to get your campaigns up and running so you can begin to serve your advertising to your target audience, and you may feel like you can work on adjusting the ad targeting later. However, we would caution against taking that approach. You’re likely to see poor delivery, lack of engagement, and overall wasted budget if you simply rely on age, location, gender, or language as your targeting strategy.

While each platform has its own nuances in how you’re able to hone in on the exact users you’re looking to reach, here are some of the questions you should ask yourself to dig one step further into crafting your unique target audience:

  • What is your audience doing right now? Are they current high school students, in college, or part of the workforce?
  • What has your audience done in the past? Do they have specific skills or an educational background that you want to include as part of your targeting?
  • What information is your audience sharing on social media? What type of content may they be sharing with their own network that indicates that they’re open to certain higher education opportunities?
  • What apps are your audience using?
  • What ads have your audience clicked on before? Can you re-engage this audience with customized messaging?
  • What pages are your audience engaging with?
  • What activities do your audience engage in related to things like their device usage, purchase behaviors or intents, and travel preferences?

2. Make data-driven decisions when optimizing your campaigns

It’s easy to make assumptions about what type of ad content is going to resonate with our audience, but nine out of 10 times we aren’t our target audience, so we have to let go of these assumptions. Instead, you need to let your ads tell you what is and isn’t working before you start to make any changes or optimizations to your live campaigns.

Metrics to pay attention to include:

  • Total number of people reached
  • Number of clicks to your website
  • Number of RFI submissions on your website or leads generated in-platform
  • The click-through rate of your ads
  • Overall “engagement”: likes, comments, shares, saves, etc.

Once you’ve been able to identify which ad, targeting, or tactic needs adjustment, you can begin to implement your changes. Remember: don’t make too many changes at once or you won’t know which elements are making the greatest impact on your campaigns. You should plan on changing only one thing at a time, whether that’s adding new images, tweaking the ad copy, or changing the call to action.

You also want to make sure you give your campaigns time to ramp up before making any adjustments, as all the social platforms need time to learn about your audience, your goals, and your ads. At a minimum, you want to give the platforms at least a month to go through this process before you begin making changes—otherwise, you risk making changes that may not be the right ones to make, since the social networks didn’t have enough time to optimize your campaigns compared to other advertisers that are also trying to reach your target audience.

3. Don’t ignore your owned data

While platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer advanced detailed targeting parameters, you don’t want to ignore the other targeting options you have readily available right on your own college or university campus: lists of emails and website visitors.

List-based campaigns can be used on all the major social networks.This tactic allows you to upload a list of emails into the platform to send further-down-the-funnel messaging on that user’s favorite social app.

Examples of lists you may want to use include:

  • Your current inquiries in your CRM
  • Your current accepted students
  • Parents of inquiries or accepted students
  • Alumni who already have an affinity for your institution
  • Purchased lists of test takers

You want to make sure the lists you’re uploading are large enough to have a match rate that allows you to successfully launch ads. Most platforms will struggle to deliver your ads if the audience size is fewer than 1,000 emails, so we recommend uploading a list of at least 1,500 emails, with 3,000+ emails being the ideal size.

Another tactic you don’t want to ignore is running Retargeting campaigns. By capturing your website visitors through social media pixel tracking, you can build a Retargeting audience based on users who are visiting specific web pages and provide these users with a specific call to action based on their website activity.

You may want to implement this tracking for:

  • Users who’ve been to your admission events web page but haven’t RSVP’d yet
  • Users who’ve begun their applications but haven’t finished yet
  • Users who’ve been visiting your financial aid and scholarship web pages

Once you have this tracking in place, you can apply these custom audiences to your campaigns and send them customized messaging that aligns with not only their web activity but the final action you want them to take: sign up for an event, submit their application, etc. 

These are just three ways you can take your social media advertising from beginner to advanced. If you want to learn more about how to use social media to reach your target audiences, we’re here to help.


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