Why Facebook Ads Work for Higher Education
Posted on January 4, 2012
I received a sale pitch from a member of the Facebook Marketing Solutions team that included a link to Facebook Marketing Success Stories. I was curious to see what others have deemed a “success” in terms of their Facebook advertising. If you visit this page and scroll way down to the bottom, you’ll see small section for “Services & Education.” None of these success stories come from a college or university. Are higher ed marketers not successful on Facebook, or are they not using it? I checked in with Seth Odell, who’s covered this topic before on HigherEd Live, and here’s what he had to say:
@lizgross144 given that 1/3 of the ads viewed on the Internet are FB ads tho, it’s a huge missed opportunity.
— Seth Odell (@sethodell) January 3, 2012
Deborah Maue also made an interesting observation about the non-highered success stories:
@lizgross144 Interesting that most of thesuccess is definedaround “engagement”. But how much more soda did they sell?
— Deborah Maue (@debmaue) January 3, 2012
As with all measures of success, before you try something you need to know what your goal is. I work on a small campus with a meager marketing budget, and all marketing I do shares one goal: exposure within my target demographic at a very low price. Of course, I have other goals as well, but this one is ubiquitous. And, I think Facebook helps me meet this goal.
My Facebook Ad Campaign
Recently I was asked to help promote our 3-week winter course session. Money was tight, and my target audience was students from other campuses home for winter break. It was suggested I place a newspaper ad. I balked for two reasons:
- College students don’t read newspapers
- To place one half-page ad in my target area would cost $1,500. There was no way I could even attempt to saturate the market with multiple ad buys.
So, I went to Facebook. I created a campaign to reach traditional-age college students within 50 miles of my campus. Turns out, over 41,000 Facebook users meet that criteria. I then created 42 ads. Yes — 42. I tweaked the wording, changed out images, and created targeted messages for some of the classes. For instance, I advertised a Cinema Techniques course to users in my demographic that listed “film” or “movies” as an interest. I was also able to target ads for developmental math to students who were in their first year of college.
The results? My ad campaign cost less than $500, reached over 36,000 people who saw the ad an average of 105 times, resulted in 267 clicks and netted us 14 new Facebook fans. My average cost per click was $1.75. I think that meets my goal of high exposure for a low price.
As far as my other goal – driving enrollment in these courses – it’s hard to track that, since our students don’t tell us why they enrolled. Our enrollment is higher than last year, but I can’t prove any correlation. I’m working on a way to track this information for future campaigns.
Why Facebook Gives an Edge to the Savvy Marketer
I’ve run ads almost exactly like this for our summer session that were not nearly as successful, and I’m certain I know why. The summer ads linked to content on our webpage. The winter ads linked to a custom tab on our Facebook page. This allowed us to tap into the social nature of Facebook – 11,607 people saw our ad with one of their Facebook friends associated with it. This gives the target of our ad a real human to whom he/she can ask “What’s it like to take courses on your campus? Should I give it a shot?” We also got new fans who might check us out for winter term next year.
When you take a look at our web analytics, our number two referrer (right behind our parent institution’s website) is Facebook. Visitors coming from Facebook spend almost a full minute more on our site than the average visitor. Our students are finding our site through Facebook, so I’ll continue to try to find more students through Facebook.
Other Avenues to Success
In my next post, I’ll talk about another way to advertise on Facebook that I’ve found successful: sponsored stories.
Are you using paid advertising on Facebook to promote your campus? Do you have success stories to share? Add them to the comments.