You have your smiling student photos, a brief headline, and a budget — what could possibly go wrong?
Reality: if creating an effective student recruitment ad campaign were as simple as “insert pretty campus photo here,” digital marketing agencies like ours would be out of a job. And we know what happens when that pretty campus/smiling student photo gets in the way of effective advertising…those in control stem the flow of dollars to your digital marketing budget. Will the challenges to your student recruiting ever end?
Why is it so hard?
Content drives interest, from the first point of contact (attraction) to the conversion events that drive student enrollment.
Your prospective students face an onslaught of information. In a recent Facebook survey of its global users, 43% of Gen Zers reported that they find it difficult to choose what to watch, listen to, and read. With brands clamoring for digital attention on all sides, it’s harder for you to stand out and harder for your target audience to make sense of all this noise. Enrollment marketing is a highly competitive sport.
All the more reason that your ads need to add value to your audience. Your ads must capture the attention of the high-quality leads that convert, not those that click and go nowhere.
And in case you've missed our most recent publications (providing more ways to leverage that digital marketing budget effectively), you can download our latest eBook, The New Student Enrollment Playbook: COVID-19 Edition, as well as our recent digital marketing case studies (performance benchmarks for your digital marketing campaigns) for free.
Read on for our 3 top tips for creating ads that resonate. We love talking about this stuff, so if you’re looking for more help on refining those campaigns, you know where to find us.
With TikTok’s fate in the US hanging in the balance as we write this, today’s post is focused on optimizing your ads for a more tried-and-true platform — Facebook, which contrary to popular belief (and all those clickbait headlines) is not dead to Gen Z just yet. The platform’s nearly 2 billion daily active users are nothing to sneeze at, especially since that audience includes a lot of those highly influential decision-making parents, too.
A quick note: Last month, over 98% of active user accounts accessed Facebook via mobile device. Needless to say, if your ads aren’t optimized for mobile, get a move on tightening up that copy and reviewing your ad sizes, stat. Let us know if you need help with this.
Top 3 Tips for Digital Ads:
- A Video is Worth a Thousand Photos
A recent study conducted by Facebook found that people’s eyes fixated longer on video ad assets compared to static assets on their mobile platforms. Back in 2016, Facebook’s vice president of European, Middle Eastern and African operations predicted that in five years, Facebook would “be probably all video.”
While we still have one more year for that prediction to come true, we know that video is a powerful tool to capture attention and engage your audience. Motion graphics of any type are far more effective than static images.
Enrollment marketing points to consider before you start scrambling for a video production budget:
- No production team, no problem! Consider using Facebook’s slideshow feature to create your own video ads from the static images that you already have. This is also Facebook’s recommended option for reaching an audience with slower internet connections — perfect for your emerging market recruitment strategies.
- More than half of all Facebook videos are viewed on mobile. Are you optimizing your assets for 9:16 screens?
- Nix that voiceover: according to data from multiple publishers, 85% of Facebook video is played with the sound off. Ensure your visuals (and text) can stand on their own.
- Keep it short and sweet. Your institution may have enough differentiators to fill a full-length documentary, but modern attention spans, especially on mobile, aren’t designed for anything longer than 60 seconds. We think 10-15 seconds is best. Your goal is to intrigue not explain.
- Keep that "intrigue" goal in mind: your ad cannot and should not attempt to convey multiple messages. Your goal is to help your audience self-select and click. If they are interested in what you have to say, they will want to learn more. Yes, intrigue your audience, but don’t be so vague that you draw unwanted clicks. Let’s dive into this idea a bit more.
- Give a Little, Get a Lot
Most students who click through your ads, especially at the top of the funnel, aren’t ready to make any type of decision just yet.
Consider what you can offer them in your ads to capture their interest (and their contact information), while providing relevant value at each stage of the funnel—think downloadable offers, application guides, career advice, student experience testimonials, faculty stories, and discounts for virtual courses. Get creative. Think micro-conversions (see earlier student journey and micro-conversions post here).
These lead generation campaigns take a lot more time to get up and running than your standard ad: you want to be sure your landing page design, page content, and downloadable offers, all align with your content strategy to drive conversion. Then there are the tracking tags and integrations with your CRM to consider. No use getting high quality leads if you can’t track and nurture them.
Get a head start by reading our quick tips for lead generation campaigns.
- Talk it Out
Today’s students seek immediacy of communication, especially via social platforms. In fact, 70% of students from a study conducted by Facebook and Mason Interactive this year said they would use Facebook Messenger to contact a school with questions about their application, and 60% of Gen Zers wish they could communicate with more brands via Facebook.
To cater to this need, Facebook recently launched Messenger Ads, allowing your institution to make the first move by placing paid ads directly in students’ inboxes to start organic conversations. And since it’s likely not feasible for your staff to monitor Facebook Messenger 24/7, don’t worry, you can customize automated responses through Facebook Messenger chatbots to provide immediate, personalized attention and then follow up when your team is back on the clock.
Facebook’s Messenger Ad poster child, University of the People, successfully increased student enrollments with a Messenger campaign using Facebook video ads that clicked to Messenger: 51% of the people who had a conversation with their Messenger bot started an application, out of which 20% ended up completing an application.
We’ve seen the potential of chatbots in student recruitment for a long time, beyond the Facebook Messenger chat bubble.
The Bottom Line
Your institution is more than just a pretty face—it’s time your ads reflected that. In fact, in today’s competitive market, it’s imperative. A creative advertising strategy that provides tangible value to your prospects, reaches them where they are, and communicates effectively is your way forward.
Great content drives student enrollment.
Be in touch (email us). We can handle all of this stuff (and more) to get you up and running in no time.