Facebook Chatbots: The Social Media Game Changer

As with any marketing strategy, keeping communication lines open between a company and its customers is crucial to a successful relationship and high conversion rate. The same principle applies to social media. This is where chatbots have come in to save the day.

Thanks to some rather fancy artificial intelligence technology, chatbots operate by means of a certain set of rules dictated by the Facebook page’s administrator which allows the chatbot to be the first line of communication with a user. While it may sound as if chatbots are the opposite of open, transparent business-to-consumer communication, studies show that chatbot experiences with more engaged audiences are seeing an 80 to 90 percent response rate. Because chatbots are also still in its early phases of integration for most, early adopters have an incredible opportunity to take advantage of the low competition, free tool in a way that works best for their program. Here are a few ways higher education marketers can take advantage of this new, cutting-edge technology.

Why Higher Ed Marketers Should Care

Updated Content Strategy

With most higher education marketing plans, there is a content marketing strategy in place that often includes some kind of social media integration. That integration, however, tends to be passive and the social media user engagement tends to be rather low. Chatbots, on the other hand, give marketing managers the opportunity to personalize content, nurture relationships, and provide immediate value to any given user while driving website traffic without actually lifting a finger – no, really.

Frequently Asked Questions – Answered

Chatbots are also a great way to answer common questions prospective and/or active students tend to ask. As a social media/marketing specialist, you may not know specific university details well enough to adequately address questions without resorting to contacting student services. Rather than harassing student services yourself or complicating the user experience by merely sending the student a different email or phone number, chatbots can help to answer these questions on their own and provide further contact info should the student request it.   

Leadforms Revolutionized

Another exciting benefit to chatbots is the potential end of lead forms and expensive landing pages. While the latter might be a bit of a stretch, chatbots can do away with overly invasive lead forms that make a user feel as if they’re lighting a neon “Please All Spammers Contact Me” sign. Instead, all the information you need for the first point of contact is already there and free to use thanks to basic Facebook profiles. Should the bot need further information (i.e. email, location, phone number, etc.), the user can then provide it as needed rather than blindly subjecting their information to the whims of the internet.

Real ROI

Most importantly, you as a higher ed marketer should care about this tool because, as of right now, click-through-rates and engagement are especially high since competition is low and communication is one-on-one and not lost in a sea of news feed content. Who doesn’t want that?

Creating A Chatbot

This is a lot easier than it sounds. Yes, as I mentioned earlier, it is artificial intelligence technology, but the the process is extremely user friendly. The best part? It’s free.

Before you begin, the most important thing to remember is why your students should care about the chatbot’s information and how they can continue to gain value from it. As with any new marketing strategy, this is far and away the most difficult aspect to keep in mind, but also the most rewarding. One place to start is to find trends in your current Facebook inbox. What questions are most frequently asked? What information is most frequently requested? From there, you can then continue to expand your chatbot’s capabilities.

Here are a couple of tools to get your chatbot up and running:

Chatfuel

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.41.39 PM

This particular tool is not only free, but the interface requires absolutely zero coding knowledge. By simply dragging and dropping different “blocks” or rules for your chatbot to follow, this program promises to have your chatbot up and running in under 10 minutes (after a 10 minute tutorial, if you need it).

Botsify

Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 1.45.58 PM

Just like ChatFuel, this service also starts for free, includes an entire slew of free integrations, offers unlimited messages, analytics, and paid plans for even more intricate options.

Using either of these sites, you can create:

  • A welcome bot for those who have just “liked” your page and an onboarding message to show the user how to interact with your chatbot.
  • A content distributing tool that sends the user exactly what they’re looking for. If they need a program brochure, contact information for student services, admissions information, links to your university’s blog or articles, or even if they wish to opt-in to a newsletter or content subscription, they can by answering a few simple commands.
  • An appointment generator. Especially if you can coordinate with your admissions team and have them create an open-source appointment page (using google calendar appointments, Doodle.com, youcanbook.me, etc.) you can set your chatbot to ask the user if they would like to schedule a call with an actual admissions counselor!

Chatbot Best Practices

Don’t forget to give people a clear and precise expectation of what you will be sending, how often, and the opportunity for them to also change those options and frequency. The user should be in as much control as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of becoming yet another spammy nuisance that no one will want to be friends with – well, Facebook friends anyway.

Don’t forget to have some fun with it! By giving your chatbot an actual name or perhaps a bit of personality, your students are far more likely to engage and keep engaging.

If the chatbot fails to provide the information the user is looking for, make sure there are fail-safes in place to guide users to the right contact information or web page. Both ChatFuel and Botsify offers ways to do this.

And last but not least: test, test, testing 1, 2, 3. Before you make your chatbot live, make sure you and your team have tested it plenty of times on different devices. Does it work seamlessly with Mac’s? PC’s? iPhones? Androids? Different browsers like Google Chrome, Safari, or Mozilla’s Firefox? If yes, then let the chatbot roam free!

Thanks to the beauties of the internet and artificial intelligence, your university’s Facebook page can come back to life with the least amount of effort on your part – who doesn’t want that?

 

Tami Cruz of Circa InteractiveTami is one of our in-house social media gurus with a passion for content marketing and public relations. After earning her degree in communication and marketing from the University of California, San Diego, her dedication and multi-faceted skillset for creative marketing strategies has led her to become a crucial team member driven to expanding Circa Interactive’s digital marketing value.

5 Tips for Writing Ad Copy in Facebook for Higher Education

I remember the days when you needed a “.edu” email address in order to set up a Facebook profile – heck, looking back on it, I remember the act of doing so almost as an indoctrination of myself into the university experience. Over the years, Facebook has evolved into so much more than a place for blossoming academics — it’s become a Social Media behemoth, a staple of our daily lives and a marketing utopia where, according to the New York Times in 2016, would-be students and non-students alike spend on average 50 minutes per day. The increasingly ubiquitous nature of Facebook is in part where the channel becomes so valuable to Higher Education marketers like myself.

The vision and specter of your ads across newsfeeds can be a make-or-break moment in the target user’s experience – it can facilitate a potable, attractive touchpoint for prospective students to consider and/or engage with your brand or degree program. Being a numbers kind of guy, ad copy creative tends to fall low on my totem pole of priorities – that’s why I keep this short list of imperatives taped to my desk.

  1. Know your target audience
  2. Use a strong call to action
  3. Use high-quality images, with as little/much text as required
  4. Use verbiage that transitions effectively between all placements
  5. Introduce Ad Variations, and prioritize relevancy score

 

1. Know your Target Audience

According to an article published by the Pew Research Center in 2016, “On a total population basis (accounting for Americans who do not use the internet at all)… 68% of all U.S. adults are Facebook users” – so it can be said that the chances are high, if you’re seeking prospective students, they are more likely than not to be found somewhere at some time on Facebook. After sculpting this user base into highly-targeted (and segmented) ad sets, always keep at the forefront of your mind who you are speaking to, and be sure to tailor your ads’ verbiage to your audience segments. Creating ads which resonate with specifically targeted individuals will foster a more genuine, personable user experience. It may even bolster your conversion rate and ultimately lead to a lower Cost per Lead metric, enabling greater lead volume within a static budget. High quality, personally relevant content (whether sponsored or organic) lays the foundation for the ultimate goal of student acquisition.

2. Use a Strong Call to Action

A strong call to action is so much more than merely a button you append to the bottom-right corner of your newsfeed ads. One could say that the entirety of the ad you’re creating is itself a “call to action”. After all, your objective is to inspire users to act toward your goal. In addition to tailoring your ads to your target users’ characteristics, this could also mean including a timeframe in order to instill a sense of urgency — such as adding enrollment/application deadlines to your ad copy. Do you have a lead form incentive on your ads’ landing page, such as a program brochure? If so, consider include verbiage that creates a thirst in the user to view that content — for example, “download a FREE brochure to learn more about this award-winning program”.

3. Use high-quality images, with as little/much text as required

Selecting the right image to serve up with your ads can have an enormous impact on click through rates on your ads. While it’s not essential to choose an image that’s visually representative of your product or service, in Higher Ed marketing I’ve noticed that images which feature a campus logo tend to produce more academically-geared results.

Text can also be a great eye-catcher, however you must be careful not to exceed Facebook’s text-to-image restrictions, or your ad may suffer the penalty of throttled impressions — or otherwise might be rejected by the Ads’ interface entirely. Facebook’s Text Overlay Tool is always a great last-stop for your ads’ images before they make their way onto the ads themselves.

Lastly, Facebook recommends an image size of 1,200 x 628 pixels as a best practice for most of its campaign goals – you can approximate this, but beware that your image will need to be cropped in order to fit the display of your ads. It’s also recommended to stay away from images that feature the particular shades of blue and white that comprise Facebook’s color scheme, as these ads can often be overlooked by users fatigued with scrolling through their newsfeed.

4. Use verbiage that transitions effectively between all placements

We live in a multi-device world, so fluency between devices is a must if you’re going to capitalize on user experience.”Keep it short and sweet” is the motto to keep in mind when creating ad copy that will transition seamlessly between placements. This maxim applies equally so within Facebook ads due to the inherent nature of “oCPM” bidding — an automatic ad placement feature where the Facebook API optimizes ad impressions across all of its placements to the maximum benefit of your Cost per Result. This feature relies on the Facebook pixel as well as a standard event (e.g. ‘Lead’) implementation, so you should make sure the pixel is firing correctly before you try it out.

I strongly recommend adhering to character limitations in order to create ads that will look good; no matter where they appear in the gamut of Facebook’s network. If you exceed these limitations you risk truncation, or worse, ads which appear incomplete or misleading. Keep it within these limits if you can:

  • Keep your ad’s headline (the bold title, just below your ad’s image) at 25 characters or less.
  • Your text (the introductory snippet above the ad image) should be limited to 90 characters wherever possible — anything more will be truncated, however the user may opt to “see more” if they so chose.
  • Use a link description that speaks to the landing page — but do not feature critical information in this portion of the ad, as it is strictly truncated on mobile (where the majority of your impression are likely to occur). Instead, opt to have this critical information in your text or headline.

5. Introduce Ad Variations, and prioritize relevancy score

A/B testing is a hallmark of high quality, results-driven marketers, and it should be an integral part of your PPC marketing strategy in Facebook as much as it is in any PPC channel. This means introducing new ad variations on a regular basis for each of your ongoing campaigns and respective ad sets.

Similar to Google’s “Quality Score” metric, which the AdWords system uses to factor ad rank in PPC search results, Facebook holds a similar metric of its own: Relevancy Score. According to Facebook’s documentation, “The more relevant an ad is to its audience, the better it’s likely to perform. Ad relevance score makes it easier for you to understand how your ad resonates with your audience.” Do not be deterred if your ads start out with a low relevancy score — it is not unusual for ads that begin with a 1 or 2 relevancy score to blossom over time into higher relevancy scores are user engagement becomes stronger. Nonetheless, over time, unless performance metrics indicate otherwise (e.g. high lead volume, at a favorable cost per lead), you should consider eliminating ads within any ad set that lag significantly behind their peers.

Leveraging these 5 tips is a surefire way to boost performance in your Facebook Ads. Don’t see one of your go-to tricks listed above? Feel free to list it in the comments below!

 

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

7 Tactics for Repurposing Content on Social Media

If digital content marketing is in your tactical arsenal, you know that developing fresh subject matter can be challenging. Thankfully, by repurposing content that is proven to be successful, we can cut down time while maintaining or even increasing engagement. The following are 7 unique ways to repurpose successful social media posts for your school or brand.

 

1. Find and Create Evergreen content

Evergreen content is essentially content that doesn’t lose its value over time. It stays fresh for consumers, and when an individual encounters the content in their feed, it won’t feel stale or dated. The first step in successful content repurposing is finding and creating evergreen content.  A few examples are:

  • Lists
  • Top tips
  • Instructional “how -to” tutorials
  • Encyclopedia-esque entries
  • Product reviews
  • Videos

In academia, it’s easy to pinpoint information that will have a long lifespan. Educational topics rarely lose their value and can be repurposed many times over. Scan through the backend of Facebook and check to see which posts you’ve published that could have a maximum potential repurposing value. Shy away from anything related to news pegs, outdated statistics, or trends. When building out content for future use, it’s important to keep the evergreen mentality in mind and think ahead of the recyclability of posts that you create.

 

2. News Pegs

Consolidating stories on social media is a fairly straightforward task when dealing with a university and/or academic program. Course curriculum and program themes construct a natural skeleton to build content around. Take, for example, a master’s in criminal justice degree. Reoccurring topics may include policing, crime scene identification, and the US correctional industry. I run into reoccurring themes like these many times when promoting an academic social media account. These themes aren’t only applicable to the internal narrative of a university but also to stories outside of the school’s domain. Connecting relevant topics to trending news stories can be a great way to latch onto existing exposure. When you find a story that could apply to your brand, it’s critical to think of a unique angle to stand out from the masses.

 

3. Visualizations

Whether it’s a simple student quote or a research-based infographic, most academic literature can easily be converted into visually appealing media. Using sites like canva and unstock editor, you can create simple social graphics without the need of an extensive design background. Keep it minimal and clean and consider using campus images or other branded media you may have in a portfolio. It’s proven that Facebook posts generate 84% more click-throughs when they have an image. By converting simple text into a visual format, you can also capitalize on posting through instagram.

14257661_10153908399579607_2261860791139873093_o

Another way to take advantage of already-existing social media posts is by converting content into an infographic. If you’ve listed any tips or relevant industry information you can use canva’s infographic maker to easily organize them into a sharable infographic.

“Infographics make complex information eye catching, shareable and easily digestible. They can help boost engagement on your social media profiles, make your presentations more interesting and transform your marketing materials to have greater impact.” –Canva

4. Facebook Live

Live video streaming on mobile devices is expected to grow by 39 times in the next five years. Facebook Live is at the forefront of this burgeoning market. Thinking of ways to incorporate live video is going to be a tremendously popular marketing trend moving into 2017, and brands need to start capitalizing. For universities and their programs, think campus tours, live lectures, or even athletic events. When it comes to repurposing existing content, twitter AMA’s featuring professors could be easily repeated or tweaked for Facebook live. Including an admissions AMA where prospective students can find out more about a school they are interested in is another valuable strategy. The key here is personalization. Being able to see a face, rather than text coming from a brand and a logo, makes a big difference. Students and fans alike can make a better connection this way. Additionally, Facebook live videos seem to break through the organic barrier much better than other posts. Facebook is pushing people to really use the platform, so this is a major benefit at the moment.

 

5. LinkedIn Pulse Publisher

Launched in 2015, LinkedIn Pulse is a publishing platform that showcases roughly 130,000 unique articles every week. It’s one of Linkedin’s fastest growing products. Publishing to pulse is easy. Simply find a successful post you’ve already published on a social channel, preferably some sort of long-form content like an article or academic research, and then upload it to the Linkedin publisher. It’s important to note that you must have an external blog connected to your school/program in order to be considered a publisher on Linkedin. For a full list of requirements needed to publish on Linkedin Pulse, see a step-bystep guide here. Don’t forget to use canva for a catchy cover image.

pulse_stats

6. Upload YouTube videos to Facebook

Many marketers think of YouTube as the primary frontier for video marketing. However, Facebook video has considerably grown over the past three years. Zuckerberg is challenging the video throne. Facebook now serves over 8 billion unique video views per day. These videos generate 135% greater organic traffic than photo posts. If you already have video multimedia at your disposal, uploading it to multiple channels like Facebook is an easy decision to make. Video examples for universities might include alumni interviews, professor highlights, course descriptions, or campus tours. When I mention uploading YouTube videos to Facebook, it’s important to note that I’m not talking about posting the YouTube link. Video that is uploaded to Facebook directly plays natively and reaches 2X more people, resulting in 2X more likes, 3X more shares, and 7X more comments than a posted link.

 

7. Compile Tweets into Twitter Moments

Twitter moments were released to the public in November of 2016. They represent “the very best of what’s happening on Twitter” (their words) by compiling collections of tweets about a specific topic in one place. Creating a moment is simple and the link to do so can be found on your Twitter profile dashboard.

ag-create-new-twitter-moment

After you click the “Create new Moment” button, you’ll be prompted to enter an eye-catching title and description, along with a cover photo. After you’ve decided on a cohesive theme to guide your moment, you can scroll down and select historically posted tweets to add that fall in line with the story you’re trying to create. If you want to further customize your moment, click the “…More” button in the top left corner.

 

Jordan Opel

Jordan Opel is an accomplished, creative professional. He is responsible for managing and enhancing organic social media activities for our various clients. Additionally, as the leading graphic designer, he contributes to a significant portion of Circa Interactive’s creative endeavors through motion-media design, illustration, and content-creation experience.

 

 

PPC Tips & Tricks: Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences

Facebook is an incredibly powerful platform, where marketers can seek and engage new prospects across a variety of business goals (purchases, lead generation, awareness, etc.). As I’ve said before, the channel is an indispensable asset for generating prospective student leads to the degree programs we market.

Beyond the vanilla demographic targeting options available (Interests, Fields of Study, remarketing, etc.), wrapped within custom audiences, there lies an enormous bastion of advertising potential. This is the second part of my series dedicated to Facebook’s Custom Audiences, and today’s post examines Lookalike Audiences – a feature that is undoubtedly one of the greatest tools the channel holds in its arsenal. Here’s a bit of info:

Custom Audiences Beget Lookalike Audiences

Although powered by data from Facebook’s trusted third-party partners Acxiom, Datalogix, and Epsilon, Lookalike Audiences must have a source to mimic in order to inform the amalgamation of a viable target audience. If third-party data partners are the fuel, then Custom Audiences are the engine of this vehicle. Traditionally, Lookalike Audiences are cloned from one of these 3 sources: Custom Audiences (Customer Lists: email addresses, phone numbers or mobile advertiser IDs, Website Traffic, App Activity, or Engagements), Conversion Tracking Pixels, and Facebook Pages; of these options, I have found Email Lists and Conversion Pixels both to be viable resources for spawning a killer Lookalike Audience.

The more data, the better…to a point

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 2.44.56 PMAccording to Facebook, “The optimal source [for creating a lookalike audience] is 10,000 to 50,000 people”; however, it also notes “Lookalike Audience performance declines when it’s based on a source of over 50,000 people.” If acquiring an email list of this magnitude is not feasible – don’t fret! “The most important aspect of a source is that it is made up of high value customers” – and I’ve seen exceptional results from lists as small as 1,000 high-quality users.

Lookalike Audiences are HUGE

That list size of 1,000 to 5,000 users? It’s about to seem really, really tiny. Get ready to reach a vast amount of users across Facebook’s placement options (Desktop, Mobile, Instagram, etc.) – and that’s still while only leveraging the highest degree of similarity Lookalikes can be set at. If Customer Lists are David, then Lookalikes are at least ten Goliaths.

In the penultimate step of Lookalike creation (which we’ll cover next), remember, “when choosing the size of your audience… smaller audiences more closely match your source audience. A larger audience increases your potential reach, but reduces the level of similarity to your source audience.”

So, let’s walk through creating a Lookalike Audience:

Custom Audiences HEMJ 1

With a Custom Audience (or Conversion pixel) already in mind, navigate to the ‘audience’ section of your business manager and select Create Audience > Lookalike Audience. A light-box will appear, prompting you to ‘create a lookalike audience’:

Custom Audiences HEMJ 2

Click on the Source entry field and you will find a myriad of your saved Audiences available to choose from. Next, select a Country to target.

Custom Audiences HEMJ 3Finally, select an Audience Size; this is where you will decide the degree of similarity between your source audience and the resulting Lookalike. As illustrated in the graphic below, “Audience size ranges from 1% to 10% of the total population in the country you choose, with 1% being those who most closely match your source.”

I prefer to begin with a one percent Lookalike (the highest degree of similarity). When performance of that segment starts to ebb, I then begin to spiral out towards three percent — although I haven’t dared go beyond this degree of dissimilarity, my Paid Search teammates have gauged success in as large as a four percent Lookalike audience.

Quick tip: it’s a good idea in managing concurrent Lookalike segments to sidestep intra-account competition by excluding Lookalikes of the same kind (source) from their peers (e.g. excluding the one percent Pixel Lookalike Audience from your two percent Pixel Lookalike Audience); this can be managed on the ad set level. Furthermore, if you proceed beyond two percent in defining your Lookalike’s size, it may also be a good idea to narrow your audience by implementing cross-targeting (see “How does detailed targeting work” under Facebook’s Targeting Basics); here I like to start with Facebook’s old glory, Interests.

Have you tried Lookalike Audiences? Let us know your thoughts!

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

 

Next time on Facebook Ads Tips & Tricks: Boosted Posts vs. Newsfeed Ads – which is the right fit?

 

 

Improving Your Facebook PPC Results with Remarketing

Facebook Ads have proven to be an indispensable asset for generating prospective student leads to the degree programs we market. I can’t imagine how different my duties would be without it, or how much more difficult it would be to achieve my goals without the relatively miniscule cost-per-click metric this channel affords, and likewise without the correspondingly low cost-per-lead results it produces.

However, it’s always important to figure out ways to provide even more value to your clients while reducing ad spend. So, education marketers, are you trying to bolster your Facebook PPC results? Custom Audiences, a user-based approach to targeting in Facebook, provides a myriad of ways to scale your lead volume while enhancing your presence within this essential marketing channel. This is the first part of my series dedicated to Facebook’s Custom Audiences—today we’re going to tackle remarketing.

Facebook PPC and Remarketing

Remarketing is a PPC marketing method, which helps you reach users who have visited your website in the recent past. Experience has proven it to be a cost-effective way to generate a handful of leads at a favorable CPL.

Though not immediately accessible from the traditional suite of demographic targeting that Facebook provides on its ad set level (e.g. Job Titles, Fields of Study, Interests, etc.), remarketing to your website visitors is quite feasible within Facebook Ads. It’s essential to have the Facebook Pixel properly implemented – if you need a quick reminder on how to do this, please reference Tip #1 of my previous article, “7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Ad Performance.”

While viewing the ads manager interface, navigate to “Tools” and select Audiences.

HEMJ 1




HEMJ 8

 

 

 

 

Next, from the “Create Audience” tab, select Custom Audience.

HEMJ 2

 

To create an audience for remarketing, you’ll want to select Website Traffic.

HEMJ 3

Upon selecting Website Traffic, you will specify the requirements for users to be included in the remarketing list. There is a host of options available (pictured in the image below) – I prefer Custom Combination, as it immediately affords the option to exclude users that have previously converted (albeit this only works if you use a dedicated URL to track conversions).

HEMJ 4

HEMJ 5

Once you’re done specifying which URLs to include/exclude, name and save your audience. The list will now be available for targeting under the “Custom Audiences” section of your ad set settings.

If you do not use a dedicated URL (such as a ‘thank you’ page) to track conversions, after naming your first audience you will need to create a separate custom audience of previous “converters”; in order to exclude them from your retargeting initiatives. To create this audience from the Ads Manager interface, navigate back to Tools > Audiences > Create Audience, and select Customer List.

HEMJ 6

 

 

Facebook accepts email addresses, phone numbers or Facebook user IDs in order to populate lists into a custom audience. I prefer to copy and paste email addresses from our CRM, as it leaves little room for hiccups due to formatting differences. Once your list is complete, generate, name and save your audience.

HEMJ 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When specifying your audience within your ad set for remarketing, under “Custom Audiences” select to include your new remarketing list, and to exclude your list of prior converters. The end result should look something like this:

HEMJ 9

 

 

 

That’s it! Ads that are active under this ad set will now reach former website visitors on Facebook whom have not yet converted. You can expect to see a handful of cost-effective leads trickle through under this new strategy.

The value of remarketing is immense. Not only is it a cost-effective strategy for higher education marketers who wish to generate leads below their goal CPL, but the inherently low CPL remarketing produces affords us opportunities to pursue additional, high quality leads in other areas without sacrificing our budget. It should be considered a fundamental asset of your PPC marketing mix.

 

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

 

Next time on Facebook Ads Tips & Tricks: Lookalike Audiences

7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Ad Performance

In the realm of social media marketing, Facebook Ads is a real powerhouse for accelerating towards your PPC goals. Here are seven best practices you can use to maximize the enormous potential this platform holds.

Tip 1: The Importance of the Facebook Pixel

Establishing conversion tracking via the Facebook pixel is not only important for the purpose of measuring your goals, but it also informs one of my favorite resources in Facebook Ads – Custom Audiences (more on that later). The pixel also enhances the insights you gather from the ads manager interface, where you can now compare performance metrics against your objective and leverage this data to inform optimization and maximize results. Facebook has a plethora of comprehensive setup and implementation guides. Here are the basics you should cover:

  1. Create the Facebook Pixel
  2. Install and Verify your Pixel

If you’re comfortable editing and maintaining the code of your website, it’s feasible for you to accomplish these steps without the assistance of a developer. However, if web development is far from your expertise, never hesitate to enlist the help of a qualified developer. Apart from implementing the pixel on your landing page (or website), your developer can help tweak the Facebook pixel to suit your individual tracking needs.

Tip 2: Troubleshooting – Use Facebook’s Pixel Helper

Whether you’re outsourcing pixel implementation or handling it yourself, I highly recommend using Facebook’s Pixel Helper – a chrome browser extension, which can be found here – to help with the troubleshooting process. The tool automatically browses your website for code that looks like the Facebook marketing pixel, and if it doesn’t load correctly, then it will recommend some likely causes and elucidate possible solutions.

Tip 3: Use Power Editor

Just as important as proper conversion tracking is the Facebook Power Editor – an indispensable tool for managing and nourishing an account (or multiple accounts) as it grows in size and complexity. The Power Editor’s utility for timesaving on major tasks becomes clearer the more you use it. Use it to download the entirety of your account and view it from any of its foundational levels. Use it to upload bulk edits and make dozens of modifications to your account in a single click. Use it to enable Instagram Ads and further your initiatives’ reach. Tired of the time-consuming task of creating new campaigns from scratch? Duplicate an existing campaign (or ad set) instead. This will preserve the structure of all components within the duplicated branch. Keep in mind that while this saves time, you still will need to alter the names of its internal components (Campaign, Ad Set, Ads), as well as modify each new ad set’s target audience. If you’re using URL parameters (e.g. utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign), remember that ad URLs are likewise preserved during the duplication process and will also need to be modified.

Tip 4: Different Images + Duplicate Copy = Many Ads

A recent study conducted by Consumer Acquisition confirms: “images are responsible for 75-90% of ad performance.” In other words, when it comes to Facebook, don’t jump to testing various copy syntaxes for improving user engagement – images are where it really counts. Furthermore, testing multiple images against a single audience, with identical verbiage for each ad, is an effective strategy for discovering which ads (and ad images) will deliver the best results for you. It’s a good rule of thumb to run at least 4 ads simultaneously, each with a unique image. The process of creating many multiple ads per audience is also a great opportunity to explore the utility of the Power Editor.

Another note regarding ad images: Facebook requires that all text (including logos) must take up no more than 20% of the total ad real estate. For this, I recommend using Facebook’s Grid Tool to ensure your ads are not rejected in lieu of this peculiar rule.

Tip 5: Split-test CPC Bidding vs. Optimizing for your Campaign Objective (aka “oCPM”):

This feature relies on the Facebook pixel – so make sure the pixel is firing correctly before you try it out. Within the Ad Set level, under “Budget & Schedule,” you have the option to optimize ad delivery for your campaign objective. Facebook uses its internal algorithm to determine which users are more likely to complete the specific action outlined by your campaign’s objective (so be sure to set your campaigns’ objective to “website conversions”) and then charges you by every 1k impressions. To test this strategy, simply duplicate the ad set (using Power Editor) and alter this setting within the new ad set’s bidding section.

Tip 6: Organization is Key: Structure Your Account According to Segment Type

Establishing a universal structure, complete with naming conventions for the components of your campaigns, is a good way to streamline processes and tidy up your account. Before embarking on this task, be sure to outline a list of your prospective/current students’ characteristics according to these targeting options (demographics) available in the Facebook Ads interface: Fields of Study (which can be found under “Education”), Job Titles (under “Work”), Interests (listed by default under Ad Set > Targeting), and Groups/Associations (which can be actively searched through the “Interests” demographic).

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 4.56.07 PM

For example, if I’m marketing a master’s of science in health informatics, I’ll have a campaign labeled “MSHI – FOS” (“Fields of Study), with individual ad sets for various graduates whose area of study is a logical precedent to the MSHI degree (e.g. Health Informatics, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, etc.). Keep in mind that each ad set should contain at least four ads with different images.

Tip 7: Segment, Sub-segment; Segment the Sub-segments

Whenever you’re faced with a particularly large audience in any of your ad sets, or just trying to improve the performance of an existing segment, it never hurts to find ways to break an audience down and test its various components against one another. Best practices indicate starting bland before moving on to more advanced segmentation options, such as Facebook’s new AND/OR feature (whereby you can indicate that the target audience must satisfy multiple demographic options, rather than the “any of the above” setting which is default). Here’s a good place to begin your segmentation – by Device/Gender:

  1. Copy any ad set with a large audience in Power Editor, so that there are now 4 duplicates.
  2. Add to the names of each duplicate ad set:
    • Desktop – Male
    • Desktop – Female
    • Mobile – Male
    • Mobile – Female
  3. Change the targeting options in each of the ad sets to apply these targeting parameters to their foundational audience.
  4. Measure results.

Still not satisfied with your results? Segment further! Try segmenting by industry, geography, or any of Facebook’s available demographics. What’s more, with Facebook’s new AND/OR targeting feature, you can segment the audience you’re already targeting without using any additional demographics.

Leveraging these 7 tips and tricks is a surefire way to boost performance in your account. Don’t see one of your go-to tricks listed above? Feel free to list it in the comments below!

Andrew croppedA graduate of the University of California, Andrew is our analytics and paid search team lead. He is both Google Analytics and AdWords certified. With an ROI-focused and problem-solving approach, he researches, plans, and manages our clients’ PPC campaigns.

Next Blog Post: “Facebook Ads: Custom Audiences”

Higher Ed Marketing Journal Year in Review – 2014

2014 is coming to an end and what a year it has been.  Through the many Google algorithm updates and new challenges around every turn in the world of higher education marketing, the Circa Interactive team here at the Higher Ed Marketing Journal has covered many of the issues, tips, and best practices to help guide you through the many twists and turns.  We’ve put together a six of our favorites in case you missed them – please share and enjoy!

 

1) Joseph Lapin discusses how, through structured and faculty-centered storytelling, higher ed marketers can build content that the best publications in the country will want to publish in order to build links and increase program visibility.

 

2) In this three part series, Robert Lee, Circa Interactive’s co-founder and CEO, discusses the use of landing pages and the best practices for conversion optimization in higher education.

 

3) Caroline Khalili, Circa Interactive’s Digital PR and Marketing Specialist, outlines the five essential social media tools your marketing team should be leveraging to take your visual content to the next level.

 

4) Scott Levine, Circa Interactive’s VP of Research digs deep into the importance of instructional design and well-conceived, content-rich courses can pay big dividends in attracting new students, engaging current students, and possibly helping improve retention as well.

 

5) Circa Interactive’s lead designer and social media expert Jordan Opel offers you his five tips for maximizing the effectiveness of your marketing efforts on Twitter.

 

6) Clayton Dean, Circa Interactive’s co-founder and managing director will show you in this post how you to can increase your lead flow to all new levels through the implementation of a well-rounded digital marketing strategy.

 

Happy Holidays and New Year from the team at Circa Interactive.  See you in 2015!

5 Easy Tools to Take Your Higher Ed Visual Content to the Next Level

It’s no secret that the competition among higher education institutions is stiff. Having a meaningful online presence takes continuous work and nurturing on the part of the program or institution. Additionally, with all of the information that is available and pushed onto consumers, it is even more imperative that marketers come up with new, eye-catching ways to draw readers in.

With 98% of 18-24 year olds using social media, it’s an unavoidable and essential outlet for marketing that universities are now taking advantage of. Furthermore, approximately two-thirds of prospective college students use social media as a research tool to help with their decision, according to the 2013 Social Admissions Report. With that being said, it takes more than a simple, lackluster effort to truly engage with this age group. Enticing, attention-grabbing imagery is often the best and most effective way to capture the attention of a younger target demographic to get your message across. Moreover, posts with images get much more engagement, views, and shares than those without. Although this isn’t a novel concept, many people still don’t put in the effort to produce visually enticing imagery because they are discouraged by the perception of time and skill that it will take to create. While we can’t deny the power and effectiveness of having a network of professional designers, researchers, and advanced programs to bring your message to life, we also understand that many marketers simply don’t have the time, budget, or access to these tools. With this in mind, we’ve composed a list of five great, easy-to-use websites and apps that are of little or no charge, to help take your visual content and message to the next level.

Canva:

A great, easy tool for those who lack design skills but want to create professional-looking, customizable content. You can upload and customize your own photos, or choose from a variety of free or paid options on their site. Whether it’s posing a question to students or showing a comparison between two options (e.g. degrees) you can create original, appealing content through their large library of images, layouts, and backgrounds.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 10.40.22 AM

Piktochart:

Made for creating easy-to-follow infographics, this tool is a must-use for infographic amateurs. As universities often have a lot of research and important academic findings under their belt, this is a great way to deliver that information in an easily digestible manner. In fact, a study conducted by KISSmetrics showed that “high quality infographics are 30 times more likely to be read than text articles,” and “infographics are 40 times more likely to be shared on social networks.” With over 100 themes to choose from, you’re sure to find one that fits the story you’re trying to tell.

unnamed-1

WordSwag:

It’s clear that higher ed institutions love to use quotes as part of their social media strategy. Whether it be from academic inspirations, students, faculty, or profound intellectuals, WordSwag will help deliver those quotes in a visually appealing manner that will encourage more shares and engagement.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 11.49.56 AM

PlaceIt:

Want to showcase a new degree program in a realistic setting like in the hands of a student? PlaceIt allows you to insert your own screenshots and videos into a variety of screen images that they have available. You can do this for free, although there will be a watermark on it so if you prefer to lose that, you can pay $8 and make it your own.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 10.05.45 AM

PowToon:

Creating animated videos has never been easier. This is an excellent tool for creating engaging, animated videos that can be used as a resource for presentations, instructional videos, or tutorials, just to name a few.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 9.34.39 PM

Looking for SEO, content distribution, or lead generation help for your degree program or institution?  Contact us here.

The Challenges & Realities of Higher Education Digital Marketing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital marketing in the world of higher education is as competitive as ever and doesn’t look to be easing up anytime soon.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the small to mid-sized colleges and universities to compete, leaving many responsible for generating website traffic, improving rankings, and generating leads with few options.  It’s no easy task to produce results while keeping costs low, especially when some CPCs are costing higher ed marketers upwards of $50 or more(!)

2014-08-22_09-20-05

To make matters worse, our friends at Google aren’t making things any easier as they continue their quest to favor larger brands, making it even more difficult to leverage organic search for traffic and lead generation.

With often limited budgets and a lack of brand awareness, how can the lesser-known regional colleges and universities compete in the online education space?  Below we’ll take a look at a few tactics and strategies you can take advantage of today to gain a competitive edge and give your degree program a fighting chance in the digital marketing space.

Focus on your faculty

For the smaller colleges and universities who don’t benefit from strong name recognition or national rankings, your biggest asset to distinguish you from your competition may lie in your faculty.  Lets face it, everyone is 100% online, everyone has the latest and greatest online learning platform.  Most value-propositions in the online higher ed space are overused and becoming commonplace across the board.  Even the smallest of schools and programs have faculty doing amazing things in their respective fields.

To capitalize on this, make your faculty part of your marketing strategy and leverage their knowledge and industry influence to increase the visibility of your degree program(s).  Learn what they specialize in, what projects they’re working on, and what’s hot in the industry.  Use their knowledge and influence to produce content (byline articles, infographics, white papers, case studies, for example), generate media placements and links, and keep perspective students engaged on social media.

Leverage Paid Social Media

With near knife-like precision paid social media, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, offers higher ed marketers the ability to carve out highly targeted audiences and deliver content designed to engage and convert.  Paid social media not only allows you to more effectively target audiences, but it’s also significantly cheaper in terms of average cost-per-click and offers advertisers the ability to reach a large number of individuals than keyword-based search.

Adwords CPC vs Facebook CPC (Targeting RN-BSN students)

Targeting RN-BSN Students
Adwords CPC Facebook CPC
$71.37 $0.79

 

While paid social media is a great option for many, there are also a couple things to consider before jumping in head first:

  • Higher Education paid social must be updated regularly – considering the fact that the most effective paid social ads appear in user’s feeds, ads must not only be engaging but also fresh.  We’ve found that ads tire quicker than other traditional PPC channels so be prepared to make regular tweaks to your ad images, ad content, and calls-to-action.
  • You’ll want to utilize segment-specific landing pages for paid social, so be sure you have the resources and budget to produce a few landing page variations.

With less competition, more effective targeting, and cheaper CPCs paid social is definitely an area higher ed marketers should explore.

Become a Thought Leader

Thought leadership is a powerful tool in many facets of digital marketing.  As a Forbes article notes, thought leadership can greatly augment your success in SEO, PR, social media, and content marketing.  As higher ed marketers we are lucky enough work amongst thought leaders on a daily basis and should leverage these individuals to increase the success of our digital marketing efforts.

Blogging is a great platform to leverage thought leadership and can drive immediate results from an SEO perspective.  Most degree programs are overlooking this opportunity, and with the simple addition of an internal blog page to publish posts created by faculty, key staff, and current/former students, you can drive additional web traffic, expand your reach, and establish key individuals in your department as the go-to sources for industry-related content.  To be effective, however, you must first gain the cooperation of your faculty (which can be difficult!) and ensure you can stick to a consistent publishing schedule with posts two or more times per week.

Guest posting is also a great way to help establish thought leadership and by guest posting I don’t mean the low-quality SEO type guest posts, but rather the high-quality, industry-specific websites and publications that your perspective students may frequent.  Guest posting will not only help further establish your faculty as thought leaders but will also generate a link back to your program’s website driving traffic and benefiting SEO efforts.

The quick version:

Digital marketing in higher education is highly competitive and for some degree programs, quite expensive.  It’s becoming increasingly difficult for the smaller, relatively unknown colleges and universities to compete in the digital space where CPCs can exceed $50 and the bigger brands are favored.  While there are a few different options the smaller institutions can leverage, consider these strategies to give yourself a fighting chance to capture a piece of the pie:

  • Focus on Your Faculty – make your faculty part of your marketing strategy and leverage their knowledge and industry influence to increase the visibility of your degree program(s)
  • Leverage Paid Social Media – less competition, more effective targeting, and cheaper CPCs paid social is definitely an area higher ed marketers should explore
  • Become a Thought Leader- we work with thought leaders on a daily basis, so exploit their knowledge through blogging and guest blogging to benefit SEO, PR, social media, and content efforts.
Are you a small university struggling to compete?  Give us a shout, we’re here to help.

Social Media and Higher Education: Interview with Kevin Grubb

With the continuing growth of higher education in the online environment and the explosion of social media websites with millions of active users comes an unmistakable connection between the two. The power of social media in brand awareness and relationship development has caused institutions of higher education to change and adapt accordingly. Many universities have created Twitter and Facebook accounts in order to connect socially with current and prospective students, faculty, and staff. Utilizing the resources they have at their disposal (faculty, research, alumni, etc.) universities can produce effective social media strategies and reap the benefits of connecting to an immense audience.

Here at the Higher Ed Marketing Journal, we have touched on this subject with the post Social Media and Higher Education – Tips for Success, but this week wish to dive a little deeper with help of a thought leader in the industry. We have attained an interview with social media consultant and expert career coach Kevin Grubb , co-founder and contributor to socialatedu.com, a leading website covering social media in higher education. In the interview, we aimed to have Kevin shed light on the growth and influence of social media in higher education based off of his experiences. Without further ado, here is the Higher Ed Marketing Journal’s interview with Kevin Grubb. 

Do you see social media becoming more important in higher education?  If so, how?

Without a doubt, yes.  It’s affecting so many parts of the academy now.  In the 2012 Social Admissions Report conducted by Zinch and Inigral, 68% of college-bound high school students reported using social media as a method of researching institutions.  A professor at UT Dallas found that Twitter was an effective method for engaging more students in her classroom discussions.  LinkedIn’s Alumni tool is often the best method for getting current data on career outcomes for an institution’s alumni.

We can start looking at how social media is a means to an end now and not the end itself.  Gone are the days when you create an account just because “students are there” and then figure out “how we’ll find time” to do that social media thing.  Social media is a way to do work and an effective one at that.  I think we’ll see social media continue to integrate into all that we do.

You recently published The Career Counselor’s Guide to Social Media.  Why should college career counselors start taking advantage of social media?

I think most career services professionals would agree that one of the best ways to help students in their career development is to be a good model for them.  If we’re suggesting something about interviewing skills, resume writing or networking, it would be good if we did the same.  Social media is no different.

In a recent Society for Human Resource Management survey, 77 percent of respondents (all in recruiting or staffing roles for their organizations) reported using social networking sites to recruit candidates.  I continue to see that trend up in my work in the field.  I’ve also read about and guided students in successful job searches using social media myself.  It’s important for us to know the tools available to help students make meaningful social media presences.

For the complete guide, visit the National Association of Colleges of Employers website where they are published.  Special shout out to Shannon Kelly and Megan Wolleben, my co-authors.

The connectivity and social media usage of our younger generations is higher than it’s ever been.  How can undergraduate admissions and marketing departments effectively prepare for this?

This is going to be an ongoing challenge, especially because new networks and features pop up all the time, and it’s important to be on top of the trends.  I recommend adding a social marketing blog or professional association membership to the regular rotation of reading and interacting.  Some of the best ideas develop when the inspiration comes from outside of your direct field.  I read Mashable regularly – even the headlines can give me a quick snapshot of what’s trending.

I’ve also heard of offices that have been successful when they spread the responsibility for learning.  For instance, an office can list all social media – those they are using and those they are considering using – then allow members to research and become the “expert” on a network of their choosing.  Getting more than one person involved allows for greater brainstorming, creativity and effective social usage down the road.

What is your advice for admissions, career counseling, and/or marketing departments who are looking to more effectively leverage social media in higher education?

I’d first say that it’s important to focus.  One of the most disappointing things to see, as a social media user, is an account on any network that has no updates or outdated messaging.  So, I think it’s important to be willing to try and willing to fail, but there is certainly something to be said for the other old adage: “don’t bite off more than you can chew.”  Get comfortable with a network or two and then move on to another one when you’re ready.

I’m saying this again because I can’t say it enough: social media is a means to an end and not the end itself.  One of the best ways anyone, any department can leverage any social media is by thinking of it as a communication tool, and then deciding how its unique features can best help you communicate what you want to.  Many of the effective ways higher education professionals can leverage social media have yet to be seen.  Look at best practices and talk with colleagues, of course, but if you get out of playing “catch up” with someone else’s good idea, you may just come up with your own.  Then, we’ll all be writing about you.

kevin grubb

Kevin Grubb is a social media and career expert, speaker and writer.  His advice has been featured on Inside Higher Ed, US News & World Report, USA Today and more.  For more on Kevin, visit www.kevincgrubb.com and www.socialatedu.com.