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social media advertising for schools

What do you want your social media ad campaigns to accomplish? Are you looking to increase your presence on Facebook, Instagram, or another social network? Are you trying to drive more traffic to your website? Is your ultimate goal to convert more students?

Setting the right campaign objective for your ads is a crucial step to ensure they are properly targeted, placed, and optimized for success. However, this process isn’t always as straightforward as you might assume, and there are a few factors that you need to consider before settling on the right option for your school.

Curious to learn more? Here’s everything you need to know about setting objectives for your school’s campaigns.

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The Purpose of Campaign Objectives in Social Media Advertising for Education

As a general rule, all digital marketing endeavours should be attached to specific objectives. Having a clear goal in mind makes it easier for your school to create your campaigns, target them properly, and measure your results.

When it comes to social media advertising, though, objectives serve a more practical purpose. Most social media ad platforms will give you a list of objectives to choose from when you first create a new campaign.

Example: The objective selection screen in Facebook Ads manager.

Facebook ads for schools

This isn’t just a mere planning tool or superficial add-on. The objective you select for your campaign will actually dictate who your ads are shown to, what placement and creative options are available, how your results are measured, and even how you are charged.

In simple terms, the system will deliver your ad to those it believes are most likely to fulfil your objective. For instance, if your objective is engagement, it will show your ad to users within your target audience who may have a history of engaging with posts on a frequent basis. As a result, ensuring that you select the correct one for your goals is paramount to success.

Although different social networks offer different options when it comes to ad objectives, one thing most of the major platforms have in common is that they present them in terms of stages in the buyer’s journey – or for schools, the enrollment journey. This is useful as it allows you to narrow down your objectives in terms of what audience you are targeting and how far along in their decision-making process they are likely to be.

For instance, if you looking to make a final push to drive enrollments ahead of an application deadline, you are unlikely to be aiming to generate followers or social engagement. While these actions indicate interest, they are not going to get the results you desire within your timeframe. An objective in the Conversion stage of the journey will serve your needs far better.

Ad Objectives in the Awareness Stage Explained for Schools

First, lets look at the very top of the funnel, and objectives that you can use in the Awareness stage. At this point, you are merely looking to build recognition of your school and its courses among your target audience, and not necessarily expecting your ad campaigns to result in concrete interest from leads.

For the purpose of this blog, we will be exploring ad objectives on Facebook Ads and LinkedIn Campaign Manager, but platforms like Twitter, TikTok, and others have similar objective options with some minor variations.

Awareness Objectives on Facebook and LinkedIn

Facebook offers two distinct Awareness objectives:

– Reach: This is reasonably straightforward, and involves showing your ads to as many people as possible. It is a useful objective to choose if you are looking to raise awareness of your school to a wider audience.

Brand Awareness: In Facebook’s words, this objective ‘shows your ads to people who are most likely to remember them’. Results from these campaigns are calculated using a metric known as ‘estimated ad recall lift’, which measures how likely ads are to stick in the mind of those who see them. This is determined by intermittent sample surveys shown to Facebook users.

LinkedIn, by contrast, offers just one overarching Brand Awareness objective, which shows ads to people most likely to view them. These campaigns are measured by impressions.

When to Use Brand Awareness Objectives in Your School’s Social Media Ads

Experts often don’t recommend brand awareness campaigns to smaller advertisers due to the relatively low return on investment they offer, and this would be something that many schools should consider before running this kind of campaign. If you have limited resources, you might be better off investing in ad campaigns that produce more tangible gains for your school.

Having said that, if you have the budget and a specific need to raise your school’s profile, then a brand awareness campaign could be worthwhile. Some examples of this might be if you are a new school, are opening a campus in a new location, or are promoting a new program in a field where you don’t have an established reputation. In these cases, raising your brand awareness on social media could be a valuable first step towards your larger goals.

Brand awareness can also be a good option to promote your existing social media posts if your organic reach on a specific social network is weak, though you may want to choose a more results-driven objective if you are aiming to generate more traffic or engagement rather than simply get your posts seen by more people.

Consideration Objectives in Social Media Advertising for Education

At the consideration stage, prospects will be firming up their interest in your school and programs and looking to learn more about them. This can take many different forms, and the diverse range of objective options social media ad platforms offer at this point reflects that.

Consideration Objectives on Facebook and LinkedIn

Facebook offers six different objective options under the consideration stage, most of which are fairly self-explanatory:

  • Traffic
  • Engagement
  • App installs
  • Video Views
  • Lead Generation
  • Messages

LinkedIn offers a more limited list of similar options:

  • Website Visits
  • Engagement
  • Video Views

The right one for your school will largely depend on how you wish to nurture prospects through your funnel. If you have a strong, active, and responsive social media presence, the Engagement or Messages objectives could work well for you, allowing you to connect with and nurture prospects within Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. The ads you create for this purpose should encourage conversation and provoke reaction.

It should be noted that Facebook allows you to choose from three types of engagement in its Engagement objective – post engagement, page likes, and event responses. This means you can better optimize your ads for the specific type of engagement you want. LinkedIn, by contrast, treats all engagement – including reactions, comments, shares, views, clicks, and follows – equally, which can make it more challenging if you have a specific engagement goal in mind.

If you feel you would be better served by prospects learning about your school through your website, the Traffic objective on Facebook or Website Visits objective on LinkedIn would be a better option. You can create ads that share links to engaging content on your site that you feel will entice users to click through.

Example: This Facebook ad from London Business School highlighting a graduate testimonial would be ideal for the Traffic objective, as users clicking through to the website is likely the most desirable outcome here.

social media advertising objective

Video Views is a more specific objective and will only be relevant where you want to draw attention to a particular piece of video content, such as a video campus tour or Q&A. App installs is unlikely to be the right objective for your ads unless your school has developed a native app.

Finally, the lead generation objective is designed for users looking to generate leads. However, it is only to be used if you want conversions directly from the platform using Facebook’s native lead gen forms.

Example: A mock-up of a Facebook Lead Generation form.

education social media advertising

If you are looking to generate leads from a landing page on your website, you will want to choose the Conversion objective. It should also be noted that LinkedIn offers a lead generation objective and forms, too, but classifies it as part of the Conversion stage, which is arguably a better reflection of where users who submit these forms are in their journey.

When to Use Consideration Objectives in Your School’s Social Media Ads

For schools with limited resources, objectives in the Consideration phase of campaigns arguably have the same drawbacks as those in the Awareness stage, in that they don’t offer a lot of tangible return for your budget.

However, they do offer clearer KPIs and signs of progress, and can be extremely valuable if you are looking to build your presence on social networks or drive more traffic to your website. For prospects that are becoming interested in your programs but are not yet ready to progress towards application, they can serve as a valuable tool to keep them engaged and in touch with your school.

What Your School Should Know About Conversion Ad Objectives

Last but certainly not least, objectives in the conversion stage are used for ads which result in more tangible action that contributes towards your ultimate goals.

Conversion Objectives on Facebook and LinkedIn

Facebook offers three different conversion objectives:

  • Conversions
  • Catalog Sales
  • Store Traffic

For most schools, the conversions objective is the option you will be using for these campaigns. Store traffic is unlikely to be relevant to your goals, while Catalog Sales would only be an option if you were selling programs that can be fully registered for and paid for from your website in a single visit, such as short online courses.

LinkedIn also offers three different options at this stage:

  • Lead Generation
  • Website conversions
  • Job Applicants

As mentioned earlier, LinkedIn considers Lead Generation a Conversion objective rather than a Consideration objective like Facebook. This is arguably a more accurate reflection of what schools would use these ads for, since inquiries are likely to be the main goal of many ad campaigns. Whether you choose to use LinkedIn’s lead gen forms to register leads or would prefer to drive them to native landing pages will dictate which option is right for you.

Example: Rotman School of Management uses a mixture of Conversion and Lead Generation ads on LinkedIn. This ad offering a ‘virtual chat’ to prospects uses the lead gen objective:

social media advertising for education

This ad for an upcoming info session, meanwhile, directs to landing page on the school’s website, meaning it likely uses the Conversion objective:

social media ad for education

social ads for education on LinkedIn

The Job Applicants objective would not be relevant to student recruitment, though some schools may choose to use it to hire staff.

When to Use Conversion Objectives in Your School’s Social Media Ads

Conversion objectives are the most valuable to your school and will likely comprise most your education social media advertising budget. This objective can be used to generate leads for your admissions team, increase signups to events, and even drive prospects directly towards applications. It may also be relevant for softer conversions, such as getting a prospect to take a career quiz or download a brochure.

When you select Conversion as an ad objective, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other platforms will optimize your ad delivery to show it to users who are most likely to convert. Conversions are counted using native tracking codes such as the Facebook Pixel or LinkedIn Insights Tag, so it’s important to ensure that these codes are in place on the pages where you want to count conversions (usually a thank you page).

Example: A simple thank you page from Cumberland College. Thank you pages play an important role in helping you accurately track conversions from different digital marketing channels.

social media ad campaigns for schools

It should be noted that it is possible to optimize conversion campaigns for something other than conversions, such as website clicks, page views, or impressions. These options may sometimes be used by ad experts who have evidence that these optimization strategies bring a greater ROI for a particular advertiser. For most campaigns, however, this will not be the case, and your school should stick to optimizing for conversions unless you are given a very good reason to do otherwise.

How  Objectives Affect Placement and Ad Type

In addition to affecting ad optimization and delivery, the selection of your school’s social media advertising objectives will also dictate what placements and ad formats are available to you.

Facebook ad creative tends to be quite flexible regardless of your objective, but certain placements are not available for specific objectives. This handy chart from WebFX breaks down the options:

facebook ads for education

Source: WebFX

As you can see, certain objectives will limit you from reaching users in certain places on the platform. For instance, if you are looking to increase Page Likes, your ad will only be placed within the Facebook Feed. Messenger placements, meanwhile, are unavailable for several valuable objectives for schools, including Event Responses, Page Likes, and Lead Generation.

LinkedIn has similar ad restrictions, though they centre more on ad creative than placement:

LinkedIn ads for schools

Source: LinkedIn

This could have an impact on which objective you decide is right for you. For instance, Spotlight Ads are available for the Conversion objective but not for the Lead Generation objective, so if you are interested in using that format you may need to create native landing pages and forms rather than using the Lead Gen form option on the platform.

When to Follow the Rules Regarding Social Media Ad Objectives (and When to Break Them)

It should be noted that while in most cases the objective you should choose in social media advertising for education is relatively straightforward, there are occasional exceptions to the rule.

For instance, if your goal is to drive more traffic to your website from LinkedIn, you would likely choose the Web Traffic objective. However, you may find that the Engagement objective is just as effective in terms of results, if not better, since landing page views are counted as a form of engagement by the platform.

Example: The results of three small ad campaigns on LinkedIn with similar budgets. The ads optimized for engagement actually attracted more landing page clicks than the one that was optimized for Web Traffic. While not common, situations like this can occur.

LinkedIn ads results for schools

This sort of approach should be applied with caution, though, and would only be recommend for those with experience in ad optimization. For the most part, your objective should be the closest reflection of your ultimate goal. Once you put in place, the system will work to deliver your ads in a way that achieves the desired result.

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