Mall of America’s Journey to Boost Engagement Using TikTok Spark Ads


The Mall of America campaign leveraged TikTok’s Spark Ads, an advertising tactic that allows businesses to amplify their organic content or collaborate with influencers to boost posts. Spark ads were incorporated into the marketing strategy to boost engagement and enhance the Mall of America’s online presence by engaging a vast audience through authentic and compelling content.


increase in click-through rates

reduction in cost per click (CPC)

of the campaign’s total conversions


The primary challenge was to increase engagement and conversions through TikTok without using to traditional advertising methods. The goal was to use an approach that felt authentic to TikTok’s user base while also efficiently using the budget to maximize return on investment.


To address this challenge, the Mall of America campaign utilized TikTok Spark Ads to boost organic content and influencer collaborations. This strategy was chosen for its ability to repurpose existing engaging content and leverage the authentic voice of influencers, thus aligning with the platform’s culture and increasing the likelihood of audience engagement.


The Mall of America’s experiment with TikTok Spark Ads brought fantastic results, showing a big increase in people clicking on their content while spending less money on each click. These ads didn’t just achieve more views; they were effective in getting people to take action, accounting for 40% of the campaign’s conversions. The ads also helped the Mall of America gain 119 new followers on TikTok in just one day, proving that smart advertising can also grow your online community.

Key Takeaways

TikTok Spark Ads offer a powerful tool for businesses looking to leverage their organic content and influencer partnerships effectively, leading to more action at lower costs. For brands considering Spark Ads, it’s essential to evaluate the potential of existing organic content, decide between traditional versus influencer-based ads, and determine success metrics that reflect the unique advantages offered by TikTok’s advertising solutions.

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. 

3 Higher Education Marketing Strategies to Boost Enrollment

Choosing which college or university to attend is often one of the biggest decisions a young adult makes. Higher education institutions need to be in tune with what the potential new student and others in their support system value in order to be that school of choice. Creating higher education marketing strategies that support college enrollment presents several challenges:

  1. A complex targeting strategy: How do you reach rising juniors and seniors, parents and guardians, and adults seeking advanced degrees or just starting their education?
  2. The popularization of alternate schooling routes (e.g. trade schools or certifications)
  3. A long sales cycle: Influences on college decision making begin at a young age. When do you start marketing and how do you keep individuals engaged over the multi-year journey? 

Fortunately, having a strong digital marketing strategy can drive enrollments with agility and efficiency. 

Here are my top three higher education marketing strategies to help you get started:

1) Mix Targeting and Messaging to Reach Both Student and Guardian Audiences

Persuading parents

Start by reaching parents and guardians first, providing long-term education to these key decision makers. Parents are the longer term play and require a unique messaging and channel strategy.  Promote the value of a degree from your university or program five years after graduation. That’s what parents are typically thinking about and value most – how will your school set their child up for success? 

Persuading students

With young students, you want to persuade them with their hearts. Communicate the experiential benefits of your school and how they will become part of the community. Capture the campus life vibrantly to show what makes your college or university special. Lastly, help them see how your school will prepare them for the future, while offering a safety net to learn and grow.

Persuading non-traditional students

Don’t forget your non-traditional students. Showcase benefits like flexibility to forge their own education path. Highlight programs with online options, night classes, or part-time schedules, allowing students to create custom experiences for their individual needs. Additionally, create personalized marketing campaigns to promote the value of advanced degrees. 

2) Select Channels that Resonate with Your Key Demographics


Video offers a solid foundation for higher education marketing strategies. The medium naturally lends itself to strong engagement, and offers a more personal view into day-to-day life on campus. Videoed student testimonials are a great way to build relatable content for students. Similarly, videos of professors can instill confidence that students will thrive in the school’s learning environment. Complement the video with a QR code or landing page to a PDF or brochure that reinforces the video content.  

Placing these videos on more premium channels such as Connected TV (CTV) and YouTube is a great place to start. YouTube is a channel people go to for advice, perhaps looking for content such as “top 10 universities for engineering.” CTV offers the non-skippable, large-screen format to establish brand trust and recognition across the household (with greater flexibility than traditional cable TV). 

Social Media

Social media is a huge part of decision making for students thinking about next steps in their lives. Content on social is a major source of influence and inspiration. Video marketing ties in very well with a paid social media strategy, especially on TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. 

We’re currently seeing high engagement on TikTok ads with our higher education clients. When done well, higher education institutions are able to reach stakeholders in a way that feels more organic. People inherently use the platform to search for valuable information, not just to seek entertainment. So it’s great for building intent, beyond awareness

With paid social creative strategy, the key is communicating your value authentically. Don’t try to be deceptive and act as if your ad isn’t an ad. But do be natural and avoid over-curation which sticks out and can cause more harm than good. Think of social media as a way to initiate a conversation, not just create demand.  

Paid Search

These individuals have lives outside of social media. Sure, they’re likely spending several hours a day on social media. But, you need to reach them across various touchpoints. Video advertising across programmatic and social channels starts to drive education and consideration of various programs you offer. Then, look into mid-bottom funnel tactics to start supporting conversions.

This is a great time to introduce paid search – a very reliable conversion driver for higher education brands. Use insights from your awareness campaigns to inform the keyword and audience targeting strategy on this channel. Paid search can be a vehicle to promote downloadable educational materials or even applications now that your audience is at a higher intent phase. 

3) Use Lifecycle Messaging to Keep Decision Makers Engaged

Understand the multiyear cycle of a collegiate decision making process. Lifecycle messaging engages students and influential decision makers from initial awareness to application. 


Start the cycle by investing in broad awareness early on. Focus on reaching parents first, then students, placing your school on the map as an option for their future. Use compelling video and other visual content to create a memorable impact. In this stage, use messaging to evoke positive emotions while making audiences aware of the higher education options you provide. 


Work to establish yourself in the consideration set – those top 5 -10 higher education institutions. Shift to more conversion-based tactics, such as lead generation display ads or swipe-up campaigns on social media to gather prospective student information. In this phase, offer more details about the value of your programs, the campus experience, and the differentiators making your school special. 

Application & Enrollment

Once a new semester is approaching, how do you get interested students to take the leap and apply? Use data and insights to find audiences who are ready to take action. Then, drive conversions using tactics like paid search, email marketing, social, and SMS ads with the call-to-action of “Apply Now.” 

If you need a marketing partner to create your custom higher education marketing strategies, contact Coegi today to learn more. 

We’ll guide you through the process of in-depth research to identify your ideal target audience and how you can reach them. Then, we’ll partner with your team to activate a strategic, omnichannel media plan based on your core business goals. 

Using TikTok Ads to Reach Potential College Students

The Brief

Coegi used TikTok ads to help a higher education client drive better results in their marketing campaigns. Our client is a private college located in Kansas City, Missouri which recently lowered their tuition costs. They were looking to boost brand awareness among potential students and encourage them to research more about their institution.


Higher CTR than Snapchat

Cost Per Page View Conversion


A younger audience can be hard to reach effectively in the right place, especially on social media platforms. Reaching a potential college student was top of mind for the team. In the summer 2020 planning stages, it became clear TikTok was the right platform. The app was rapidly becoming one of the most popular apps among high school students. However, the platform was unproven in terms of in feed advertising, as it was a fairly new capability from TikTok.


The team took a risk and proposed TikTok ads in tandem with Snapchat and Instagram to reach their target audience of high school students.

Snapchat and Instagram were set up as conversion campaigns driving users to complete a form fill or research the brand as a whole by visiting pages with information on campus visits or majors.

The TikTok campaign began as an awareness campaign. It was optimizing towards video views as this aligned with the organic user behavior on the platform. Ads were shown in-feed on TikTok, where users spend the majority of their time on the app. 

Targeting started off relatively broad, reaching potential students interested in education across Missouri and Kansas. The platform only narrows to state level geographic targeting.

The ads focused on key competitive advantages of the college such as optional standardized testing and lower tuition. These were both major decision factors for potential students in light of the pandemic.

The TikTok awareness campaign was so efficient in terms of CPM and results after just one month that the objective was adjusted from video views to driving site visits and actions. 

The TikTok platform saw extremely strong results, driving a 82% higher CTR than Snapchat and 688% higher than Instagram. Users on TikTok were also more efficient to convert at a cost of $3.53 per page view conversion tracked. 

Coegi Partners

/ Contact

Tell us about your project

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Coegi Partners
Skip to content