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Any school wishing to run an effective social media marketing campaign simply cannot ignore Facebook ads for higher education. Facebook is both the world’s largest social network, with over 2 billion users, and the second-largest online advertising platform in the world, meaning it’s often one of the best ways to reach prospective students.

But to do Facebook advertising properly, in a manner that achieves maximum return on investment, requires more than just making an ad and paying for it to go up online. Sound strategy and regular reviews of campaign performance are essential to keeping advertising campaigns healthy and productive over the long term.

Curious about what ought to be included in your weekly optimization routine for your Facebook ad campaigns? Here’s a look at the important steps you should be completing.

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Compare Your School’s Previous Week’s Results to Lifetime Performance

One of the perks of advertising on Facebook is that the platform offers a wealth of performance data for advertisers to refer to when evaluating their work. Checking this information on a weekly basis can help you track the health of your ongoing campaigns, and determine whether particular ads are likely to perform well, and should therefore be activated, or are underperforming and need to be deactivated. To ensure you gain useful context, it’s recommended to compare your current results to lifetime performance, which gives you a nice baseline average to weigh your ad performance against.

Here is an abbreviated list of some of the most important performance indicators that you will want to look at when conducting your reviews:

  • Impressions: The number of times an ad was viewed
  • Link Clicks: The number of times the URL in an ad was clicked
  • Cost per click: How much it costs you each time an individual clicks on an ad URL
  • Link Click-Through Rate: The ratio of users who click an ad to the total number of impressions
  • Leads: How many leads were generated by users clicking ads

With the exception of cost-per-click, which you want to be relatively low, the higher the numbers for these indicators, the better your ads are performing.

Example: This comparison of two Facebook ads for higher education takes a number of these key metrics into account. Which do you think is performing better?

Facebook ads for student recruitment key metrics

In addition to this data, there are also a couple of indicators that offer qualitative information that can be helpful when you are evaluating the performance of your ads. First, there is the “Relevance Score,” which offers you a 1-10 rating estimating how well your target audience is responding to your ad. This is calculated based on the feedback that Facebook estimates an ad will get from its target audience, with expectations of positive interactions (“Likes,” “Loves,” etc.), conversions, and other indicators of interest netting a higher score. Expectations of negative interactions, like users hiding or reporting an ad, will result in a lower score.

According to Facebook, “Taking relevance into account helps ensure that people see ads that matter to them, leading to a better experience for people and businesses alike.” For advertisers, the better the relevance score, the less an ad will likely cost to be delivered.

The other important qualitative measure is called “Positive Feedback,” and is another estimated score, this time based on the number of times users are expected to interact with your ads by reacting to a post, clicking on links, etc. Levels of activity correspond to ratings of “Low,” “Medium,” and “High.” Referring to this rating can help you get a better idea of what kind of reaction you can expect ads to have, and can help you in tweaking their presentation or content for a better result.

Example: Here is a mockup offered by Facebook that outlines how the relevance score and positive feedback measures are reported.

facebook advertising for schools mockup by Facebook

Source: Facebook

Ultimately, though, one of the most important numbers to consider is the “Cost per lead” (CPL) rating, which details how much it costs you for every lead generated by your Facebook advertising. What constitutes a good result for this score will be different for every school and program, but the principle of evaluating the CPL is universal. If you notice a particular ad is achieving a low cost per lead and a good conversion rate, you can usually keep it running with confidence. Ads that achieve higher costs per lead, on the other hand, may require optimization. Shifting focus to less expensive keywords and reviewing ad text and presentation may be good starting points for better ad effectiveness, lower CPL, and better results for your college Facebook ads.

Compare the CTR and CPC to Decide Which Ads to Keep Active

When measuring the performance of Facebook ads for higher education, there are two measurements to which close attention must be paid. These are the click-through-rate, or the ratio of users who click on an ad to the total number of users served the ad, and the cost-per-click, which is simply the amount of money it costs you each time a user clicks the ad.

Within the education industry, research by WordStream has found that the average CTR for paid online advertising is 0.73 percent, and the average cost per click is $1.06, so numbers in this range are often viable, healthy, and normal.

university facebook ads infographic

Source: Wordstream

It is worth noting, however, that both CTR and CPC are heavily dependent on your target audience and the specific courses you are offering, and so deviations from the industry average are to be expected for many schools. Keywords relating to MBAs, for instance, could have a cost per click well above USD$60, which means Facebook ad budgets for these programs and the schools that offer them must be significant to have much of an impact.

With Facebook advertising, it is important to keep CPC in mind when setting your budget (and the budget in mind when evaluating ads based on CPC). The higher the cost per click, the fewer total impressions you can expect an ad to achieve. Your budget acts as a limit to potential activity, meaning once it has been spent, no more ads will be delivered during the defined time period.

Keeping both CTR and CPC in mind, the ideal ad would be one with a low cost per click, but that achieves a high click-through rate. When performing your weekly review, this is the standard to which you want to hold your Facebook ads for higher education. Though it’s likely that no ad will perform perfectly, choosing to keep active ads that fit those two criteria best can help you ensure your advertising is as efficient as possible in generating leads.

Example: Here is a look at the CTR and CPC numbers for a group of ads. These figures can help your school figure out which ads to keep active.

facebook for student recruitment CTR and CPC numbers in a table

Remarketing & Lookalike Campaigns Can Boost the Reach of Facebook Ads for Schools

Remarketing and lookalike campaigns are two valuable options Facebook offers that can allow you to boost the reach of your more successful advertising initiatives. Remarketing campaigns deliver Facebook ads for higher education to individuals who have already visited your website, or browsed your mobile app, but who did not convert. Lookalike campaigns deliver advertising to individuals who share interests, demographic qualities, or other attributes with the individuals being targeted by your regular campaign.

Example: This school has opted to set up a Lookalike campaign in South Korea for its ads. Lookalike campaigns can be particularly useful for schools trying to break into new markets.

Creating a lookalike audience using school facebook ads

These kinds of campaigns provide a convenient way to offer gentle reminders to students to consider your institution, and to widen the pool of potential enrollees to others who might be a good fit. As such, they can often have a profound impact on your school’s ability to reach greater numbers of prospects and achieve a higher rate of conversion. For this reason, it is a good practice to make use of both of these kinds of campaigns at some point during your regular Facebook advertising initiatives. However, it generally is not necessary to operate them at all times.

Taking the time to do a weekly review of your Facebook campaign performance will give you the perfect opportunity to gauge whether the time is right for a remarketing or lookalike campaign. If you notice your Facebook ads for higher education are underperforming relative to your targets, it’s a good idea to engage the assistance of these additional campaigns a little earlier, and to run them for a little longer, in order to boost your conversion numbers. If you’re on target, though, there won’t be a need to rush into it. Make use of remarketing and lookalike campaigns at some point, but do so for a shorter amount of time, and after the ads have been running a while.

Review Audience Parameters and Make Modifications When Necessary

One of Facebook advertising’s greatest strengths is that it offers incredible targeting capability. Elements like post viewing and interaction history, personal interests, demographic information, and many other important qualities are all included in the typical Facebook user’s data, and can help Facebook determine precisely who to deliver ads to. This means that, when setting the audience parameters for Facebook ads for schools, specific programs, or special events, you can have a fair amount of confidence that the ads will be accurately delivered to prospective students who are likely to be interested in your offerings.

This means schools can be very particular when outlining who their ads should be delivered to, with many different options to choose from to ensure precise demographic targeting that matches your ideal enrollees. Here is a general list of categories of types of individuals to whom ads can be targeted on Facebook:

  • People in particular locations (cities, communities, countries, etc.)
  • People of particular demographics (age, gender, education level, job title, etc.)
  • Interests: People with particular passions or hobbies
  • Behaviour: People with particular purchasing histories, device usage, etc.
  • Connections: People connected to OR not connected to your Facebook page, apps, or events

Example: Here is an example of established targets for a Facebook ad targeted towards prospective students for an esthetics program.

audience targeting details for facebook marketing for schools

Even with this type of precision built into Facebook’s advertising platform, it is important to make reevaluation of your audience parameters a part of your review. This can help you ensure that you are both generating a great enough quantity of leads through your ads, and reaching high-quality prospects.

If you are receiving too few impressions, for instance, this might be an indication that your audience parameters are too restrictive, and not enough individuals are being included in the pool of users to be sent your ads. Widening your audience by including more kinds of people – perhaps individuals in more geographic locations, or with different levels of education – could help you get your ads out there for more people to see. If you are getting a great many impressions, or even leads, but notice the quality of your leads is lacking, it might be an indication that your parameters are either too wide, or just in need of optimization. Taking the time to review your audience parameters in relation to your ads’ performance (see the beginning of this blog) is therefore an important way to ensure your Facebook advertising dollars are well spent.

If Your College Facebook Ads Underperform, Rotate Them to Keep Them Fresh

Even when a Facebook advertising campaign is going well, and leading to a good level of social engagement and conversions, it is important to keep in mind that there is potential for the campaign’s fortunes to change over time. In particular, it is worth planning ahead with the concept of “ad fatigue” in mind. This idea holds that if the same people keep getting the same ads, they will become bored, and the ads will no longer have much drawing power with them.

As a result, when establishing a campaign, it’s considered good practice to make several ads, but then only activate a couple of them at a time. Monitoring their performance on a regular basis can allow you to see whether they are performing as desired in driving engagement, website traffic, and conversions. If you notice a slowdown, taking the time to switch which Facebook ads for higher education are active can be a good way to refresh your campaigns and get audiences to take notice once more.

Example: Here is a side-by-side comparison of two different ads for a campaign for Rhodes Wellness College, who offer counselling programs in Vancouver. Rotating ads like this is a good way to avoid ad fatigue in your audience.

comparison of two different college facebook ads

It’s worth noting that these variant ads need not be completely different from the ads you already have – even relatively small changes can have an impact on the way your ads are perceived. Consider creating variant ads with only one or two things changed – perhaps the colour, the phrasing of the call-to-action, or the photo being used – to set them apart from the others in your campaign. It doesn’t need to take monumental effort to create ads that feel fresh. Just be sure that you check in your performance data regularly to ensure the rotating ads employed in your Facebook marketing for schools and programs are maintaining good results.

Create New Ads if Your Facebook Marketing Campaigns Stall

Sometimes, rotating existing Facebook ads for higher education may not be enough to keep a campaign from losing steam. This may be a result of fatigue setting in across all the ads you have already created, or potentially because of an issue of optimization. Perhaps the ads are not graphically interesting to your audience, or the text needs to be rethought in order to better communicate your school’s value.

Whatever the underlying reason, it is not unusual for an ad campaign to underachieve relative to what is expected or ideal. In cases like these, when the other steps outlined above have proven insufficient to turn things around, the best choice for your ROI may be to create new advertising content.

For optimal results, make this a complete refresh. Changing both the ad text and the images will do a lot to make ads stand out to users once more, and help draw in renewed engagement. In instances such as these, it can also be useful to look at your ads with a creative eye, and not just considering them with data in mind. A little subjective exploration of what it is that your users might like to see could help you come up with great new approaches to advertising, and allow you to produce material that will inject new life into your campaigns.

Review and Reallocate Your School’s Ad Budgets According to Results

Finally, any review of your ongoing Facebook advertising campaigns should include a look at the ad budgets for each campaign. The goal for this step of the review should be to look critically at the performance of your various campaigns – largely through the steps outlined in the points above – and to readjust the distribution of funds relative to each campaign’s performance.

This is where taking stock of ROI is of particular importance. For campaigns that appear to be well-optimized, have good momentum, and are netting a good return, making a bit of an increase to their budget could well be a sound investment. Doing so may offer you a chance to net more leads and bolster enrollment at a good price. For campaigns that are not achieving results in line with expectations, consider reducing investment somewhat, pending deeper analysis to discover what it is exactly that is causing the campaign to underperform. This can allow you to concentrate your resources into those avenues that are producing, with the option always there to go back to investing in a revitalized version of the low performers later on.

Example: Reviewing the budget of your ads can help you get a good idea of the ROI of your Facebook ads for education.

reviewing budgets for Facebook ads for colleges

Performing a weekly review of your Facebook ads for higher education does take some time, but it is an absolutely essential component of running your social advertising efforts effectively. By ensuring that you perform the seven-step checkup outlined above, you can make certain that the advertising dollars your institution earmarks for Facebook are able to achieve the strong results you are after.

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