The student recruitment process is essentially an ongoing conversation with your prospects. As you attempt to nurture them towards enrollment, they will seek answers to their questions, absorb information about what you offer, and make decisions based on what they find out.
Now, there is an ad format that reflects this journey. Launched in early 2020, LinkedIn Conversation Ads build chatflows which interact with end users based on their answers to drive them to various conversion events.
How does this format work, and could it be useful for your school? Read on to find out.
How LinkedIn Conversation Ads Work
Essentially, a LinkedIn Conversation Ad functions the same way as a chatbot. But instead of living on your website or a landing page, it can be targeted at the platform’s users in the same way as other ad formats.
A user will see the ad in their Linked Messaging inbox, where they will be presented with an initial message and a number of possible answers:
Each possible answer takes users to a new branch of the chatflow, presenting them with another unique message and new options:
Where needed, the answers can also link to Lead Gen forms or web pages. The chatflows can be as simple or as complex as you like, and you can view them in a flowchart as they are created in order to ensure each branch is following the right path:
The format is available for all of LinkedIn’s ad objectives apart from Video Views and Job applicants, meaning it can be used for:
- Brand awareness
- Website visits
- Lead generation
- Website conversions
The social network has also created a number of different basic templates of chatflows that users can use to drive specific outcomes. The current options are:
- Drive event or webinar registrations
- Drive trials and demos
- Drive enrollment for programs
- Drive website visits
- Drive asset downloads
- Offer professional services
- Survey or poll your audience
- Promote your podcast
- Recruit new hires
- Get donations and volunteers
If none of these templates are a good fit for your objective or you need your chatflow to be radically different from what LinkedIn has suggested, it’s also possible to build one from scratch.
The targeting, budgeting, and conversion tracking capabilities are largely the same as LinkedIn’s other ad formats, meaning you can reach the same audience with an exciting, interactive new format.
A Closer Look at LinkedIn Conversation Ads for Driving Enrollments
Obviously, the option that will probably immediately catch the eye of anyone considering LinkedIn Ads for schools is Drive enrollment for programs, so let’s take a closer look at the template.
Here, the user is presented with a greeting that prompts them to look at programs which might be suited to them based on their LinkedIn profile. Two programs are foregrounded as options, with an additional prompt to explore others if the prospect isn’t interested in either of them.
If the user selects one of the programs, they are given a short message offering more information about it, followed by a prompt to enroll which takes them to a link.
If they choose the other option, the template suggests taking them to a message where you offer information about other programs, your contact details, or something else to pique their interest.
If they choose the enroll option at any point in the flow, they are taken to a link (to an online application or web page) and also sent a final thank you message in the chat.
The chatflow for the second program option is similar with some minor variations, while the ‘Explore other programs’ branch tries to seek more information about their interests and offer some additional resources.
While this chatflow may be a bit too general or not quite fit your school’s enrollment tactics, it provides a great basis to build upon. Each message and chatflow can be completely customized and adapted as you see fit, meaning there are endless ways to turn it into what your school needs.
Other Uses of LinkedIn Conversation Ads for Schools
While driving enrollments is the most obvious use of LinkedIn Conversation Ads for schools, it’s not the only one. A cursory look at the other templates available raises a number of possibilities for those looking at other objectives, such as:
– The Drive Event and Webinar Registrations template could be used by schools to promote open houses, information sessions, and other recruitment events.
– The Drive Website Visits template could help schools increase traffic, share valuable content, and raise awareness of their brand.
– Drive asset downloads could be useful if schools offer brochures, prospectuses, and other documents on their websites.
– Schools looking to get into the podcast game could use the Promote your podcast template.
– Those pivoting more towards online learning might be able to adjust the Drive trials and demos template if they are offering free trial or sample classes to try and attract students.
– Universities and other institutions which rely on alumni donations, fundraising, or volunteer support from their wider school community could make use of the Get donations and volunteers template.
– Schools could use the Survey or poll your audience to seek feedback that could enable them to better define their personas.
Those are just the possibilities offered in the preset templates. Your school could either heavily customize a template or build a chatflow from scratch to fit almost any goal. For instance, this format could potentially be an ideal way to reengage and remarket to existing leads and push them towards taking the next step coming up to enrollment deadlines. You could create a simple message that reminds prospects deadlines are approaching, like the one below:
From there, you could direct them to your application forms, offer further information and resources, encourage them to get in contact with one of your representatives, or whatever else you think might help sway their decision and encourage them to take the final step in the enrollment journey.
Best Practices for Creating LinkedIn Conversation Ads for Schools
Although Conversation Ads are a new format, some best practices and tactics for ad creation have already emerged. Here are a few tips to maximize the results of your school’s campaigns.
Start As You Mean to Continue
The opening message of the Conversation Ad is crucial. It is your chance to hook the reader and pique their interest in what your school has to offer, meaning you need to take great care to craft a message that will be meaningful and interesting to them.
The format allows for up to 500 characters per message, but your messages should be kept reasonably short. Aiming for about half of the limit (250 characters) is probably a good rule of thumb, and should be enough for most messages. At the same time, your team shouldn’t be afraid to write longer messages if it fits with what you’re trying to achieve.
Personalize Your Messages
LinkedIn allows advertisers to use macros to dynamically insert a user’s first name, last name, company name, job title, or industry in messages to tailor them specifically for their audience, and your school should take full advantage of this wherever possible. LinkedIn also recommends sending the message from an individual user rather than a company. For schools, it’s probably best to use the member of your admissions team who would be most likely to take ownership of the prospect if they were to make an inquiry or application.
Keep Your Conversation Ads Simple
how you structure and organize your chatflows can also have an impact on your results. With so many different possibilities, it can be easy to get carried away when you first start to use the format, constructing different branches and messages to account for every possible answer. However, it’s best not to overcomplicate things, and find a balance between giving your prospects choices and focusing on moving them towards specific outcomes. If in doubt, refer back to the pre-existing templates in the platform as a guide, and try not to make them any more complex than that.
Get Your Calls to Action Right
You should try and make your CTAs as intuitive as possible, and mirror the actual answers users might have to your message if you were having a conversation with them in person. It may be a useful exercise to role play chats with another member of your team.
You should also review your CTAs thoroughly to ensure that they all direct to the correct links, forms, or chatflow branches and take users down a logical path. As your chatflows become more complex, it can be easy to lose the run of them and create branches that don’t make sense.
Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Things Up
Conversation Ads allow you to give users a variety of conversion choices, so use them. If a prospect is not interested in going straight to an inquiry form, application, or event registration page, direct them to a program page or blog on your website to find out more. If that doesn’t appeal to them, you could try offering them a downloadable asset like a brochure, or encourage them to contact one of your reps directly. By covering every angle, you increase your chances of finding something that works.
Are Conversation Ads Right for Your School?
The main factor that will determine whether LinkedIn Conversation Ads are a good option for your school will most likely be whether or not advertising on LinkedIn in and of itself is right for you.
The platform’s professional focus makes it a tremendously effective channel for those that have a readymade audience there, such as business schools and professional development program providers. However, it is a less viable path for those targeting younger or less professionally inclined prospects, such as language schools, k-12s, or universities promoting programs at undergraduate level.
For those that would not usually find much joy from LinkedIn advertising for schools, Conversation Ads are unlikely to change that. With that being said, social media ad platforms do have a habit of replicating each other’s successful formats, so the likes of Facebook may well end up coming out with ads that offer similar functionality in the future.
If your school does have a potential audience on LinkedIn, devoting at least some resources to Conversation Ads seems like a no-brainer. The biggest advantage that sets it apart from other ad formats is the sheer variety of choices it offers, giving you the chance to use numerous paths to reach your goals.
What’s more, Conversation Ads are only sent to LinkedIn users when they are active on the social network, ensuring that you catch them at moments when they have higher user intent and are more likely to engage.
The interactivity of ads also adds an extra layer of fun and engagement to the ad process for your prospects, which can only be a positive thing.
Not only that, but LinkedIn offers detailed click reporting and conversion tracking for the format, meaning you can carefully examine the success of different branches of chatflows and identify points which can be improved.
In addition, if your school uses chatbots on its website or is considering adding them, you could theoretically use Conversation Ads to test the effectiveness of different chatflows on your audience, and adapt your high-performing chatflows to live on your site long-term.
It’s still early days for Conversation Ads, and time will tell whether their results live up to their promise in the long-term. But at a time when schools need new, more engaging ways to connect with potential leads in the virtual realm, it could be a welcome addition to your arsenal.