Paid Search Strategy: Fundamentals Before AI

In 2023, paid search strategy conversations are being peppered with never-ending buzz around GPT and advanced automation. With the possibility of Google losing its lion’s share of the search market, along with rapid tech evolution taking center stage and reshaping SERPs, search marketers need to be diving in to understand and apply these trends headfirst. 

Right?

Well…yes and no. Being at the forefront of digital transformation is a must. However, this cannot be at the expense of abandoning tried and true best practices. 

We must embrace AI and emerging technology, while maintaining fundamental marketing tactics, in order to create a sophisticated, yet flexible paid search strategy that supports the business goals.

The Value of Going Back to Basics

Truth: AI algorithms will drive efficiency and conversions for your goals.

False: AI algorithm will drive the RIGHT efficiencies and conversions for your goals. 

If your efficiency is producing lower cost per clicks but lower quality website traffic, it’s no longer efficiency at all. Without proper inputs and guardrails, AI can begin optimizing to a keyword that is not driving results or the wrong conversion metric for your key business objective. This is why I encourage all performance media practitioners to be cautious about over relying on automation in your paid search strategy. 

So before you begin exploring the latest tech advances, make sure you master the three key fundamentals of paid search advertising:

  1. Measurement
  2. Research
  3. Optimization 

Paid Search Advertising Fundamentals

#1 – Measurement: What’s Working and Why?

Testing new paid search strategies and ad formats is all well and good, but those tests need to be strategically set up and measured to ensure they are feeding into your broader marketing strategy and business goals. Identify the leading indicators of success for your search campaign using both front-end and back-end tracking.  

The prevalence of zero-click search makes tracking front-end metrics more complicated, but also more important than ever. Find creative ways to monitor if your content is adding value and optimized to show up in featured snippets or other rich results? Complementing paid search efforts with organic SEO is key to success here. 

On the back-end, look at meaningful signals, such as time on site, path to purchase, and exposure-to-conversion frequency requirements. These insights will help you improve campaign effectiveness and refine the customer journey. 

Lastly, use search volume tools and in-platform forecasting to identify the budget required to reach your share of voice, impression and reach targets. 

Client Application: We consulted a large swimwear brand on their search strategy. With a list of over 46K target keywords, they faced a nearly impossible task to understand share of voice and make smart optimizations. We made these recommendations to streamline their search strategy: 

  • Consolidate spend to hours when people are most likely to be searching for swimwear
  • Group themed keywords together to better understand intentionality and select the best keyword + ad option to serve 
  • Create larger ad groups to allow machine-learning to learn faster and deliver better performance 

#2 – Research: Aligning the brand and the user

Now, with a strong foundation of measurement beneath our feet, we can craft a sound strategy by knowing the business inside and out. 

First, analyze the brand’s position in the marketplace. 

  • How much share of voice do you have for branded vs non-branded terms? 
  • How intensely is the competition spending in your core markets? 
  • What pricing/brand power exists for the category? 

Tip: If you already own the category, don’t waste money by overinvesting in branded search. 

Second, evaluate opportunities and highlight the unique value proposition for the brand’s products or services. Keyword research, competitive analysis and audience understanding should all play a role in the search ad copy and creative content. 

Tip: Incorporate your audience’s language in your search copy – use their lingo, not your own.

Third, support conversion-based ads with more educational content. Highlight thought leadership articles, how-to videos, landing pages and downloadables to prime your audience. Even within the shortened conversion window of performance media, relevant, high-authority content can play a large role in the user decision-making process (and your SERP ranking). 

Tip: Create your organic and paid search strategy in tandem to make this process seamless.

#3 – Optimization: Fueling the improvement loop

Searching for a surefire way to continually improve your paid search strategy? Look no further than an iterative test and lean process. There are numerous things you can test, just be sure to manipulate one variable at a time so you can understand which actions are impacting your outcomes. 

Here are a few common things we regularly test in our paid search strategies: 

  • Broad vs exact vs phrase match keyword targeting (in-market audiences vs new users) 
  • Google vs Bing
  • Various audience groups and layered targeting
  • Ad group and keyword variations 
  • Copy and creative pairings using dynamic ad insertion

Start by testing the most basic elements of your campaign. Make sure you’ve established statistical relevance, then adjust and refine as you go. This will establish a sound SEO taxonomy to expand upon. 

Timing also comes into play with paid search optimization. Consider the following tactics to stretch your search budget: 

  • Dayparting: Create a time window to run paid search campaigns based on when users are most likely to be searching. For example, your local Starbucks may only run search ads in the morning. Google Ad Scheduling offers insights into peak search hours. 
  • Day of Week: Select particular days to serve search ads based on audience behavior.  For instance, B2B brands commonly only run search on weekdays. 
  • Seasonality: If your business is impacted by seasons, holidays or major events, ebb and flow your budget accordingly to maximize efficiency. Read how Coegi leveraged seasonal search to drive year-end giving for a cryptocurrency brand

Next Steps: Amplify Your Performance With Technology

Technological advances will only continue to enhance the discovery experience. Creating a fundamentally sound search strategy with flexible options will allow for opportunities to scale and take advantage of these newer search trends and capabilities

Remember: AI won’t work for you unless you set it up for success with the right fundamentals of measurement (to the conversions that matter), research, and data-driven optimizations. 

For more best practices view our Paid Search 101 article.

Breaking Down The Barriers Between B2B and B2C Marketing

Bringing Humanity to the Core of Your Marketing Strategy

Digital transformation has definitively blurred the lines differentiating the traditionally siloed B2B and B2C marketing practices. It doesn’t matter if you’re purchasing products or services, for a business or as consumers — we’re all human.  By focusing our attention on what matters most, the people, it becomes clear that the concerns we have aren’t unique to B2B or B2C marketing; they’re mutually shared. 

Understanding that these two worlds converge allows marketers to identify and evaluate emerging technologies and trends from a lens of humanity, creating space to innovate and avoid false limitations of what qualifies as a B2B marketing strategy and what is more “appropriate” for B2C. 

Deloitte’s 2023 Global Marketing Trends Report offers a perfect roadmap to reframe our mindset and humanize B2B marketing.

  1. Answering economic instability with marketing investments
  2. Driving growth through internal sustainability efforts
  3. Using creativity as a force for growth
  4. Adopting rising marketing technologies 

Here’s how marketers can apply these four trends to create a human-to-human (H2H) strategy and bridge the gap between B2B and B2C marketing.  

Weathering Economic Uncertainty With H2H Marketing

We’re faced with the challenge of trying to plan without fully knowing what lies ahead amidst uncertain economic times. Value becomes more important than ever when times are tough. We need to find new ways to add or communicate value and meet human needs through personalized experiences. This is where smart use of data becomes your secret weapon, and is actually expected by three-quarters of consumers, according to McKinsey.

Data will lead us to the points of contact with advertising [that] are increasingly personalized and more relevant” In other words, how can we make each touchpoint in an omnichannel marketing ecosystem feel authentic and personal? Once we pinpoint what drives the biggest impact and makes people feel valued, we can tailor solutions based on those preferences. Put this into practice by strategically investing in conversational marketing. While customers appreciate personal, human interaction, they don’t want to give up the convenience of automation. We can offer the best of both worlds by pairing a human-centric strategy with innovative technologies like targeted marketing, live chat and AI.

Trust, Sustainability and a Human-Centric Culture

In the wake of 2020, B2B and B2C marketers alike were faced with some of the most disruptive crises in recent history. Fast forward to 2023, and “trust, values, and integrity are at the forefront of what customers expect from businesses they shop with. Customers expect brands to demonstrate rich and solid values in 2023, prioritizing ethical, social, and environmental responsibilities.” 

Marketing leaders from both disciplines have a lot more riding on their shoulders with 88% of consumers awarding trust as their top value during times of change. And out of that pool, 78% of their purchasing decisions are influenced by businesses’ environmental practices. It’s no longer simply about growing revenue; it’s about growing your business responsibly. Having a true Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) policy in place can not be an afterthought or a nice-to-have. It is pivotal for long-term growth.

Deloitte highlights three core strategies to build intentional ESG marketing practices:  

  • Implementing more sustainable internal marketing practices 
  • Making long-term commitments towards reducing the carbon footprint, and
  • Promoting more sustainable product and service offerings

The best way to take this on is to utilize one of the core tenets of the H2H approach: self-awareness. Taking the time to measure and evaluate your sustainability practices requires effort and forces you to take an honest look at your business practices as it relates to carbon output.   

Here are some great examples of eco-friendly practices that support this human-centric approach:

Driving future growth is dependent on a commitment to  sustainability— or at least, that’s what 55% of marketers are saying. Making a commitment to ESG programs opens the door for brands to mend broken relationships, form new connections, and nurture trust across audiences – both B2B and B2C. 

Creativity is the Main Character in Brands’ Growth Paths

49% of marketers believe the ability to integrate sophisticated analytical capabilities into marketing strategies is critical for long-term success. However, marketers must act on their analysis in a human way to maximize impact. 

Cristian Cabello, CMO of Derco, illustrated that ideology by saying, “Brands should blend data with human-centered methodologies to create a more complete picture of the customer, prevent mistakes an algorithm can’t always understand, and cultivate connections with the customer.” In other words, data is simply data if you fail to tell an emotionally compelling story with it. 

Research shows that people want to hear stories from brands and over half are more likely to buy products from brands whose stories they love. Messages built around a personal story are:

  • More memorable and easier to process 
  • Break away from corporate language and technical jargon 
  • Enable honesty and transparency with engaging analogies
  • Use authenticity to knock down barriers

As professional storytellers, B2B marketers should make content relatable and personable to build deeper connections with prospects and stakeholders. Consider using channels from the B2C playbook, like influencer marketing. Lean into this era of co-creation and explore new partnerships and platforms that will generate a stronger brand community. 

Adopting Rising Technologies with a Human Touch

We can’t help but pay attention to industry chatter around emerging trends and technologies. But, over-investing in something unproven can be unwise. Finding the balance between the hype and worthwhile investments could mean the difference between creating a competitive advantage or falling behind.

In the coming year, B2B marketers should consider:

  1. Taking advantage of AR/VR for experiential B2B marketing interactions: This strategy allows for data-driven decisioning and delivers on the growing expectations for more personalized and engaging consumer experiences. For example, Nestlé Purina Petcare has implemented 3D VR technology to assist retail partners with better in-store merchandising.
  2. Exploring the metaverse’s role in the customer experience: Data shows that those who fail to create a strategy to join the metaverse may lose the opportunity to become a leader in the space. 17% of US marketers are active participants, whereas 40% are laying the groundwork to expand engagement and experiences in the metaverse.
  3. Using blockchain technology to strengthen data privacy: Blockchain offers new possibilities to bolster privacy and give control back to consumers. For example, in the healthcare sector, blockchain technology can store, share and utilize data to communicate with patients without sharing data with a third party.

Customer expectations are shifting, and with them, the distinction between B2B and B2C marketing is collapsing. Taking this in stride by prioritizing a holistic human-to-human approach is a future-proof way to respond to the perpetual disruptions caused by digital transformation and technology. We can stop over-complicating things and opt to simplify our approach by bringing it back to what matters most: we’re all human. 

4 Steps to Scale Your Multiunit Enterprise Marketing Strategy in 2023

Brand marketing advice is often over-simplified – directed towards growing one brand, one product or one service. Multiunit enterprise marketing requires more complex, yet streamlined, solutions to effectively scale and drive sustainable growth. 

Take a large pharmaceutical company, for example. They typically have multiple business units, each overseeing multiple brands. Not only that, but they often need to reach and persuade multiple audiences – healthcare providers, patients, key opinion leaders, sales reps, procurement managers and caregivers. Essentially, they’re having to consider everything, everywhere, all at once. 

Without an integrated marketing and measurement strategy to tie it all together, chaos may be the only thing to scale. 

The Solution: Plan an overarching brand ecosystem alongside business line campaigns

Building a holistic ecosystem is the foundational structure needed to establish a flexible multiunit marketing strategy. It creates cohesive messaging and creative alignment, appropriate governance for audience targeting, and allows business lines to cross-share learnings that break down silos and level up organizational goals.

How do you accomplish this balancing act? 

  • Set cascading goals for each business unit to establish unified commitment
  • Create sub-ecosystems surrounding each core audience for authentic engagement
  • Optimize the user experience, paying close attention to the B2B2C relationship (if relevant)
  • Build a unified measurement framework to clearly articulate KPIs and desired business outcomes

Let’s break down these four key components for scaling multiunit enterprise marketing in more detail. 

#1 – Plan holistically using cascading goals for each business unit

Each business line has a unique agenda. This is inevitable. But, when you plan overarching and business line campaigns simultaneously, you can feed each agenda into a cohesive brand strategy. This upfront rigor in strategic planning will allow long-term flexibility. 

Start by establishing clear roles and responsibilities to delineate how each business unit contributes to the primary business and marketing objectives. We’ve found the best way to accomplish this is by using the cascading pyramid method of goal setting. 

Cascading goals are “first established at the highest level of the organization. Then, supporting goals are created for every department and team.” Those supporting goals are broken down into KPIs and then specific tasks or initiatives, getting more granular as you move towards the bottom of the pyramid.

Cascading Goal Pyramid

From a media planning perspective, you can assign each business unit unique OKRs and KPIs that contribute to topline goals. This is particularly important to account for the element of real-time spend optimization. When you align on KPIs early in planning, you can select channels with both business objectives and AI-driven optimization in mind. 

Client Example: Coegi works with a regional bank client with multiple business units: consumer banking, commercial banking and home equity. We have a unique audience-targeting strategy for each line of business using behavior-based indicators to ensure we’re reaching a qualified audience. However, every unit shares one core goal: growing new customers. As such, all media KPIs ladder up to that goal and drive the business in a cohesive and clear direction. 

#2 – Create ecosystems surrounding each core audience group

Take an audience-centric approach to media planning by using data and research to gain a deep understanding of core audience behaviors and values. This foundation will inform media and messaging decisions that reduce wasted impressions and build more authentic relationships.  

Apply this knowledge to build and nurture a marketing ecosystem surrounding each unit’s unique audience(s). For example, Coegi worked with BODYARMOR to expand and differentiate the brand in the crowded sports drink marketplace. They were looking to identify and reach new audiences for three distinct product lines: BODYARMOR Original, Lyte (sugar-free) and Edge (caffeinated). 

We created microtargeted audiences for each line, including: Blue Collar Workers, Grocery Gatekeepers, Veterans, Teenage Athletes and Health-Focused Adults. For each audience, we built a custom media plan and recommended messaging strategy – creating an ecosystem of organic touchpoints in their day-to-day lives. Read the full BODYARMOR case study here for more details. 

#3 – Optimize the B2B2C experience

Oftentimes, multiunit enterprises need to reach both professional and consumer audiences – requiring marketers to take a B2B2C approach. These brands need a marketing strategy that facilitates a conversation between the business and the end consumer, meeting them where they are in their level of awareness and knowledge. 

The business customer typically requires more brand-building content. Focus on ways to drive brand recall, establish a unique value proposition (UVP), and communicate benefits to their lives. VP of Marketing at Notion, Kate Rojas, quotes, “In a true B2B2C business model, your partners must be viewed as a true business partner and not just a channel to sell more products…” 

In the spirit of partnership, create a mutually beneficial system. For instance, if you are a financial brand communicating with advisors, sell them the offering that provides the quickest conversion or highest value reward. Then, use that inertia to help them cross-sell using your entire portfolio. This will benefit their bottomline while helping you establish loyal consumers who are invested in multiple offerings. 

Consumers, on the other hand, typically require more basic education about the category itself and the value it offers. This is especially true for more complex and regulated industries, such as finance, IT and healthcare. 

Client Example: Coegi uses a B2B2C content marketing strategy focused on driving brand awareness for our client, Athene, a leading retirement services company. Their end customers often need general education on the importance of retirement annuities. Financial advisors need more technical content about the brand’s benefits. Knowing this, we tailor content to their unique needs within one intertwined strategy so that the B2B and B2C units work together in support of the brand’s goal.

#4 – Build a comprehensive, cross-unit measurement framework

Even with unique campaigns by brand, product, or division, it’s critical to share and apply key takeaways. Insight sharing across units helps avoid a siloed view and allows the business as a whole to optimize more efficiently. 

This is also imperative for flexible budget allocation. When all units are part of an integrated strategy, budget can be allocated to the strongest performing lines, as determined by a test-and-learn approach. 

For specifics on how to create a unified measurement framework, view our 5 Step Guide to Measuring Marketing ROI

Read our Measurement Guide here

Create Your Multiunit Enterprise Marketing Strategy

An HBR article states, “multiunit organizations must ensure some degree of customization even as they pursue standardization. They must respond to the distinctive features of local and regional markets to achieve the best results.” 

So, while a nuanced approach for each unit, market, or even location is necessary, brands need to maintain some level of standardization for efficiency and scalability. By planning business line campaigns within this holistic strategic framework, you can ensure appropriate top-line budget allocation for each effort and avoid evaluating any one line in a vacuum.

PM360 – 5 Digital Media Tactics to Amplify Public Health Marketing

Mass media public service announcement (PSA) campaigns on print, billboard, and linear TV have been the status quo for years. But we can do better. Digital media is transforming what’s possible for public health marketing, allowing brands to raise awareness in a much more efficient, measurable way.

Here are five actionable digital tactics you can use to engage audiences and elicit the behavioral changes needed to support important public health initiatives.

Read more in PM360:

Driving 12K Leads for a Luxury Home Appliance Brand

Brief

A luxury home ice maker brand partnered with Coegi to create a B2B2C strategy that would establish relationships with custom builders, designers, and homeowners, driving in-store visits to authorized brand dealers and growing their sales pipeline.

Highlights

12,000
Leads Generated


68%
Lift in Dealer Visits

 

Challenge

Consumers who were in-market for home appliances were easy to reach and wanted the client’s products. However, they could not buy directly from the brand. We needed to reach kitchen designers and renovators to close the awareness gap between consumers and professionals. 

Our team had three key questions: 

  • How can we reach this niche audience beyond traditional B2B channels?
  • How do we evaluate if we effectively reached this audience?
  • How can Coegi set up the client for long-term success with this audience?

This home designer and builder audience had proven difficult to reach online. So, we needed to expand beyond traditional B2B channels, such as LinkedIn, to drive lead generation and build a long-term CRM growth strategy for the brand. 

Solution

Building Awareness With B2B Audiences

Digital media platforms offered limited reach to build awareness among our very niche group of trade professionals. Instead, we partnered with key trade publications to leverage their email syndication lists. 

Prior to activating any digital media, Coegi worked with three leading industry publications for a three week email-blast campaign prompting website visitation. This allowed us to build a fresh, highly-qualified audience list primed through sequential messaging. 

Driving Action From In-Market B2C Audiences

We took an audience-first approach focusing on consumers already in the consideration stage for relevant products, and drove three core audience segments to find the brand’s B2B dealers: 

  • Influencers: Custom builders and designers seeking a luxury ice maker producer for clients
  • Explorers: In-market consumer audiences already considering the brand 
  • Kitchen Buyers & Remodelers: In-market audiences with a history of purchasing luxury home goods but lacked brand awareness 

Coegi used Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to reach users actively searching for home renovation ideas and products. This was accomplished using a blend of contextual, interest, lookalike and retargeting audiences. We also used display retargeting and a paid search strategy to own branded search terms and secure top-of-page placement at final stages of the consumer journey. 

Implementing a Full-Funnel Measurement Strategy

With email serving as the awareness driver, we were able to focus on measuring core actions, such as “Dealer Locator” button clicks and contact form submissions on their website. These actions helped us evaluate if we had reached the B2B audience and then implement sequential messaging and flighting to drive conversions.

The Results

By combining the audience quality of industry publications with digital reach and measurement, this B2B2C marketing campaign drove outstanding results. It generated 68% growth of in-person dealership visits and 12,000 B2B leads to establish a first-party CRM database. 

Key Learnings

  • Digital technology and tools that may not be top of mind for B2B marketers can be used creatively to solve problems
  • Understanding who your audience trusts up front leads to smart partnerships that take the guesswork out of your strategy

Retail Touchpoints – How to Drive Wine Sales with Digital Marketing

How can your wine brand stand out among thousands of competitors? It’s about more than having the most eye-catching packaging or best shelf spot — although these are important factors. To get people to reach for your product repeatedly, learn how to stand out across the customer journey using a digital-first media strategy.

To accomplish this effectively, wine brands need to:

  1. Establish emotional connection and awareness to drive brand trial
  2. Move into the consideration set for target audiences
  3. Grow in-store and ecommerce wine sales

Read more about how to drive wine sales through digital marketing on Retail Touchpoints:

The Impact of Inflation on Advertising | Whitepaper

Businesses are facing a familiar problem: economic uncertainty. This time, the coalescing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, record-low unemployment rate, and a newsworthy-high inflation rate have created a unique challenge for businesses and their marketing teams. What do we do when the population theoretically has money to spend, but the high cost of basic necessities makes them cautious to buy? 

In this whitepaper, Coegi researchers provide an overview of the recent North American economy as of Q1 2023 and the corresponding consumer behavior changes, acknowledging the current challenges and opportunities for businesses and marketers. 

Importantly, we acknowledge that each business’s target audience is made up of real, living people, and thus there is no one-size fits all approach to marketing during times of economic volatility.

However, using a data-driven approach to understanding outcomes of previous economic strife, we provide evidence-supported recommendations. In short: fully pausing your marketing communications rarely yields future dividends. 

Download Coegi’s whitepaper covering:

How brands should react to the inflation in 2023

  • The impact of inflation on consumer behavior
  • Finding the upside of marketing in a down economy
  • Pivoting with resilience: creating a future fueled by marketing efficiency

Key ways to recession-proof your marketing

The impact of inflation on advertising in key industries

  • CPG and retail
  • Financial services
  • Healthcare and pharma
  • Real estate and home buying

Download Coegi’s White Paper

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Building a Brand Performance Strategy for Bread & Butter Wines

Brief

Coegi partnered with a high-growth wine brand to launch a full-funnel digital campaign to quantify the impact on both brand and performance goals using advanced measurement studies.

 

Highlights

10.6%
Ad Recall Lift


9.1%
Purchase Intent Lift


621%
Site Traffic Lift

Challenge

Bread & Butter Wines came to Coegi in 2020 seeking a stronger marketing strategy to stand apart from the crowd of wine brands. Coegi was asked to provide a holistic, integrated marketing strategy that could reach their full-funnel goals:

  • Drive brand awareness in the US and Canada through emotional connection
  • Via increased brand awareness, drive trial and move brand into selection set within target consumers

Solution

Our targeting strategy reached consumers based on multiple data signals such as demographics, interests, and competitor affinity. This data indicated what was going to drive brand trial. Initially, we created six audience personas to focus on niche competitive opportunities and product use cases. Going into 2023, this was narrowed down to two core personas using purchase behavior data. 

We also used advanced research to understand wine buyers aged 25-54 and living in their top 8 sales states. Using an omni-channel digital strategy, our initial goal was to increase reach and frequency against key audiences. We selected channels offering efficiency and effectiveness, while also balancing lower-funnel ROAS goals. 

Key channels we are prioritizing include: 

  • Influencer and content partnerships to build trust and authenticity
  • Connected TV, display, and Facebook/Instagram to drive reach/frequency and website traffic
  • Instacart, Citrus Ads, and paid search to drive ROAS 

Additionally, we used advanced measurement through Upwave, Facebook, and Nielsen Catalina to understand the full-funnel impact on the brand – from ad recall to purchase intent. 

Throughout our multi-year partnership, we have served billions of cross-channel impressions. In the first three months, we saw a 621% increase in website visitors period over period and 27,000 site actions. 

The first Instacart campaign was especially successful in driving trial, with a nearly 3X ROAS, increasing attributable sales across all varietals. Instacart has continued to have a strong impact. The most recent campaign touts a 4X ROAS, 32% increase in YoY Instacart sales, and an average cost of conversion of $3.73. 

Our campaigns run with Nielsen Catalina were successful at driving incremental value for the brand. The display campaigns helped reclaim former customers with especially strong performance from lost/lapsed customers. The CTV campaign boosted exposure among key audiences and generated $230,101 in sales value of products transferred to their e-commerce cart after seeing an ad. 

The Bread & Butter team continues to be pleased with the Coegi partnership, and is currently planning for 2023. 

Social Media Marketing for Higher Education Brands

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. 

Driving 4X ROAS for CPG Wine Client on Instacart

Brief

Bread & Butter Wines uses the online grocery delivery app, Instacart, as a central tactic in their e-commerce strategy. Because of this, our account team was eager to try a new optimized bidding tool offered by the platform. Our goals were threefold: to keep the client’s strategy in stride with a rapidly evolving platform, test AI’s ability to directly impact ROI, and reduce operational lift.

Highlights

4X
ROAS


32%
YoY Sales


$3.73
Cost per Conversion

Challenge

Coegi runs an evergreen campaign on Instacart for Bread & Butter, which has consistently delivered at or above a 2x ROAS benchmark. However, achieving these results required time-consuming manual optimizations based on cost-per-click metrics. While this approach was effective in driving results, we sought a more efficient and profitable bidding process.

Solution

Instacart’s new optimized bidding tool uses AI to automate bidding and maximize ad spend. Staying up-to-date with innovative platform updates is a priority for Coegi, and we knew this tool had the potential to significantly increase campaign performance and efficiency. Within a month of the Instacart release, our team implemented the new capability.

After a brief learning period, the AI algorithm began pushing ROAS into the 3x range. As the campaign progressed, this figure steadily increased to an average of over 4x, with peaks for individual products hitting up to 10x ROAS. As a result, the campaign generated a 32% YoY increase in Instacart revenue and decreased the average cost-per-conversion by 53%. 

In the age of Web3 and AI advances, a seemingly small platform update can have a significant impact on your results. Our team’s enthusiasm for testing and learning allowed this campaign to double its impact on Bread & Butter Wines’ ROI. 

Coegi Partners

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