Looking for a way to stand out among the sea of colleges and universities competing for the attention of potential students?
Paid social media marketing is one of the most effective tactics you can use for your higher education institute.
Most higher education marketing plans under-utilize paid social media in favor of more traditional advertising tactics. While these channels can be effective, there is a major opportunity cost in omitting social media channels where potential students are most engaged.
Social media is a must-have tactic to reach student audiences and revitalize education brands’ market positioning. In this article, you’ll learn Coegi’s key best practices to optimize social media marketing for higher education so you can drive results – from awareness to enrollment.
Using Social Media to Compliantly Reach Potential Students
Higher education audience targeting strategies can feel fairly prescriptive. Colleges and universities want to reach and engage with prospective students, whether undergraduates, masters, or professional students. This might seem pretty straightforward; however, reaching undergraduate students in a data-driven way is becoming increasingly challenging due privacy laws restricting advertising to minors.
But, not all hope is lost. The data clearly shows that young adults are highly active on social media. So, while perhaps less frequently targetable by demographics, higher education brands can and should use social platforms to reach these individuals from a contextual standpoint in a compliant and authentic way.
Tips for Targeting and Resonating with Student Audiences on Social Media
- Avoid over-segmenting your audience to prevent overlap. For example, an audience of “all prospective students” and an audience of “prospective journalism students” will overlap and compete which will limit performance.
- Tailor creative to specific audiences and social media platforms. What performs best on Facebook will be different from what resonates with users on TikTok.
- Contextually target student audiences on social media using specific hashtags, TV shows watched, or other relevant interest factors based on research and trends.
Parents are Students Too When It Comes to Vetting Schools (And They’re Also On Social Media)
While paid social media is an excellent tool for reaching young students, focusing solely on students can limit your education campaign’s full potential. Nearly everyone is on social media – not just teens and young adults. Incorporating parents into your audience mix can vastly increase higher education campaign reach and efficacy, whether they are looking into colleges and universities for themselves or on behalf of their children.
Social media encapsulates a wide demographic range, though the preferred social channel may vary. For example, Facebook and Instagram remain very popular with older generations. Consider leaning into these channels to capture more of your parent and professional student audience.
On the other hand, Snapchat and TikTok have higher usage among younger audiences. By creating a cohesive strategy across multiple social media platforms, you can ensure you’re reaching every potential decision-maker in the school selection process.
Tips for Advertising to Parents on Social Media
- Sprout Social indicates that parents love hearing from other parents. Lean into messaging that focuses on building a community of support and educational resources across social media.
- Incorporate parent testimonials or useful statements from school administrators through short-form social media video formats.
- Use swipe-thru or animated graphics to highlight job placements, internship rates, and other ways your school can help facilitate their child’s success.
Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment
Leaning into social media opens the door for innovation within higher education marketing. Young audiences are on the forefront of changes to the social media landscape. This gives higher education advertisers the unique opportunity to test out new tactics and be early movers in the space. Your brand can increase credibility and favorability amongst your key audiences by creating social moments that surprise and engage these individuals.
This also applies to the types of creative you use. Students want to see something engaging and on-trend. TikTok, in particular, is a space to experiment with creative short-form video formats and explore innovative ways to drive leads. Check out these universities who are using TikTok to engage with students: 5 Universities and Colleges Winning on TikTok
Tips for Innovative Higher Education Social Media Campaigns
- Research current social media trends among your target audience groups and regularly swap creatives to stay fresh and relevant.
- Try using less formal creative messaging such as meme Reels on Instagram or trending TikTok challenges and hashtags.
- Ensure your social media ads have a clear call-to-action to lead users towards application.
Measure the Right Actions
Education brands face a unique challenge with social media marketing because their most critical action, submitted applications, is often not directly measurable. Obstacles, including third-party website domains and pixel data limitations, can complicate attribution. However, there are a number of high-intent actions users can take on your website that are worth measuring in paid social media campaigns.
First, determine which lower-funnel actions are most important and measurable. Two such examples are clicks to start the application process or clicks to sign up for a campus tour. After determining these KPIs, optimize your social media campaigns for them.
From there, establish a conversion rate between “clicks to apply” and completed applications, for instance. By taking this analysis a step further, education brands can work to create a more complete picture of social media campaign attribution.
Tips for Measuring Social Media Marketing Success
- Identify existing data that can inform your measurement baseline. If you can cross reference campus visit button clicks against real campus visit data, you can identify incremental lift attributable to social media ads.
- Develop data tracking strategies before media launches so you have an accurate picture of performance across the entire social campaign.
- Ensure all aspects of your strategy align with key KPIs so your campaigns garner meaningful results.
Social media marketing for higher education brands offers fresh and engaging opportunities to reach the full spectrum of your target audiences. Think outside the box and explore how your institution can creatively show up on social platforms to drive high-intent actions, while also building greater brand awareness.
To see some of these strategies in action, view our case study on Using TikTok to Reach College Students.
If you’re looking for a higher education marketing agency partner, contact Coegi today to learn more.