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.

PR Pitch Strategy: 4 Must-Do’s When Pitching Your Professor

Crafting a pitch that reinforces a professor’s value to a spectrum of audiences is no simple task, but in order to do so PR professionals must first put forward the effort to develop a strong client relationship. Whether they are new or an existing professor, understanding their background and industry is paramount for any PR pitch strategy to work. Gaining new opportunities for a professor is a culmination of tactful communication, organic chemistry, and an understanding of a desired outcome on both ends. The art of a pitch can only begin by first refining a PR professional’s interpersonal skill set.

Here are some important tips that need to be taken into account before pitching your client:

Establish Trust: Why Should Professors Believe in Digital PR?

It’s no secret that the foundation to any relationship is trust, so how can trust be secured? Assuring a client that they can expect increased visibility and an increased level of brand awareness for their program is step one. By providing case studies of past successes, a client can better gauge what to expect as they place their public image into the hands of those in PR. For example, a PR professional should promote their accomplishments and mention what notable publications they have succeeded in getting other clients published in. We have the responsibility of knowing what it is we are able to accomplish and should communicate those abilities to our clients. Alternatively, we must be as transparent as possible when it comes to how our team operates when guaranteeing a PR pitching strategy that a professor can believe in. Once a professor is on board with the pitching strategy, PR professionals must strive to demonstrate a consistent work ethic in order to prove that they are reliable.

Be Informed: Know Your Professor and Their Field of Expertise

Before writing a pitch, a PR professional must do their research. Engage in a discussion about what the Professor’s strengths are, making it clear that the end-goal is to showcase them in the best light possible. A vital part of our higher education digital PR pitching strategy is to leverage the expertise of professors and create quality backlinks to boost program organic rankings. But before learning how to write the perfect media pitch, you must familiarize yourself with your client’s persona, their work, and how they want to be represented as experts in the public sphere. Start with an initial interview that delves into the client’s background and ask them to open up a discussion on what they are passionate about. What research are they currently conducting? What do they feel is their biggest accomplishment to date? These types of questions are crucial to ask before moving forward with your pitch.

Targeting Publications: Know Your Professors Audience and Goals

After discussing a Professor’s needs and assessing what topics they can speak on most confidently, it then becomes the PR professional’s responsibility to pitch them to a publication. Depending on a key element of the pitch, specifically the news peg or time peg, certain outlets may find more value in a professor’s commentary than others. Can the professor provide insight on a subject that is more specific to an industry-related audience, or will their knowledge be more appealing to a broader audience? In the SEO sphere, utilizing a browser analytics extension tool such as the MOZ bar can help those in PR determine a publication’s website metrics and traffic. This would allow for the targeting of publications we know would bring more visibility to our client. We want nothing more but to make a professor as relevant as possible to those willing to listen. Being able to match these to the desires of the professor can also add to the successes and opportunities gained.

Rule of Thumb: Show Appreciation

A professor’s time is incredibly valuable and they will have spent countless hours conducting research within their respective fields. They are trusting agencies to execute good PR on their behalf and undoubtedly deserve gratitude for giving those in PR the opportunity to do their job. And let’s not forget the journalists and editors. They too are constantly juggling a multitude of projects and we must be sensitive to how we approach pitching them our professors. A simple “thank you” after scoring an opportunity can facilitate the growth of a relationship which in turn can present more opportunities for clients down the road. As PR professionals, we celebrate the success of our professor’s being published. Successful PR is not automatic, and it is important to take pride in any goal that has been achieved.

Aren Fikes is a recent graduate of Humboldt State University and budding multimedia journalist. During his time at Circa Interactive, he has grown exponentially while taking his first steps into the Digital PR and Marketing Realm. He hopes forge a career path that enhances his passions for storytelling, digital content creation and marketing in the near future.



Facebook Ads Tips and Tricks for Boosted Posts


Getting started with advertising on Facebook can be intimidating–especially for those with lackluster experience or an otherwise narrow purview of Facebook Ads. However, Boosted Posts are a great avenue for such individuals to get started, enabling them to utilize many of the channel’s advanced targeting capabilities–such as Interests, Fields of Study, Income Level and Job Titles– without the necessity of knowing all the ins and outs of Facebook Ads’ user interface. Ready to boost your first post? Follow these Facebook ads tips and tricks for boosted posts:screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-4-05-34-pm

Select the post you wish to promote and click “Boost Post” in the bottom-right corner to get started

This will open a lightbox window, wherein you can adjust the settings (e.g. the target audience, budget, and duration) of your boosted post.

screen-shot-2016-10-19-at-4-25-34-pmFirst, select the target audience you wish to reach. This can range from people who like your page (in addition to their friends, if you so choose) to custom audiences you have saved in Facebook (for useful tips on creating custom audiences, check out part one of my Custom Audience series “Improving Your Facebook PPC Results with Remarketing”) to people you can choose through targeting (e.g. interests, age, location and gender). Unless you have a saved audience in mind, or otherwise wish to only reach users who have liked your page (as well as their acquaintances), go ahead and select “People you choose through targeting” and hit the blue “edit” button to the right of this option.


Select your target age and gender (not shown) and proceed to selecting geographic locations. Note how on the city level of geo-targeting, you can adjust the radius of targeting by up to 50 miles.

Search for interests which you would like to target–I’ve selected “facebook advertising” as an example–and click “Save” to set your audience.


Next, enter your total budget and select a post duration of one, seven, or 14 days. If you have the Facebook Pixel implemented on your site and it’s configured appropriately (for more info, see “7 Tips for Maximizing Facebook Ad Performance“), then it will be a good idea to select your pixel here before boosting your post. Lastly, confirm the payment method you wish to use for this post, and you are finally ready to hit “Boost” in the lower right corner. That’s it!




Once boosted, you can view how many people your post has reached by finding the post in your newsfeed.


Once the boosted post has run its course, you can elect to boost it again if results are favorable. You can also drill down into the results, which can help you optimize your target audience for future boosted posts.

Knowing the approximate age and gender of the user base that is engaging the most with your post can help inform audience optimization for future use.

Knowing the approximate age and gender of the user base that is engaging the most with your post can help inform audience optimization for future use.

Next time on Facebook Ads Tips & Tricks: Best Practices for (traditional) Newsfeed Ads

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.

21 Tips for Improved Facebook Page Engagement

You’ve already established an attractive Facebook following. Now you just have to funnel them to your website and landing page. But before you start begging your followers to click through, it’s important to create a well-rounded approach and connect with your audience so you can really make the most of your Facebook page. For the sake of degree programs, especially those online, maintaining a strong social media presence can be vital for success. A large majority of this youthful audience will likely be using Facebook multiple times per day. The following are a few of my favorite tips for improved Facebook page engagement:


1. Never publish a post without images

Include images in every Facebook post. Text doesn’t grab someone’s attention nearly as well as an image does. Facebook posts that contain images generate 104% more comments, 54% more likes, and 84% more click-throughs on average. Make sure your images are extremely relevant to your brand and consider including custom text or other elements using free online apps like canva.


2. Include a creative CTA

Guiding readers to make a decision through calls to action is a tried and true method of marketing success.  However, words like “check out,” “see,” “read,” “like,” and “follow” are often overused on Facebook. When you’re promoting your school/brand, get creative and write something unique. For example, if you’re linking to a university curriculum page, consider using something like “Take a peek at our diverse curriculum.” It never hurts to dust off a thesaurus for help here.


3. Post around your followers’ schedule

There’s a running myth within social media marketing about the best time of day to post. The truth is, the only perfect time is the one that works for your specific page. Use Facebook’s page analytics to determine when your followers are online and strategize the best time of day to post. After checking the insights tab, click on “posts” to find a graph that will look like this:



4. Use events and holidays to your advantage

Whether it’s an academic conference or national cat day, you need to use events and holidays to your social advantage. Create a calendar of events and help your social team stay on target. Create posts leading up to big events as well as content on the day of.

5. Shorten text

The click-through rate on Facebook text that is roughly a paragraph in length is two to six times lower than posts that are close to 40 characters long. Keep posts short not only to maximize engagement but also to easily transfer the content over to your twitter feed.


6. Use a ratio for external vs internal content

I’ve found that an effective way to maintain a healthy content balance of sharable material vs. promotional pieces is dependent on the ratio between the two. You can come up with your own ideal ratio, but I’ve found that sharing content from your own site 30% of the time is ideal, while you should focus on sharable, entertaining content 70% of the time. Keep in mind, content that isn’t about you must be high in quality as to give your followers entertainment, information, and value. This really comes down to the fact that if you promote and advertise too much, people will lose a sense of value and find you to be too self-promotional.


7. Experiment with hashtags

A recent finding by Buzzsumo claims that engagement with Facebook posts decreased due to hashtag use. However, there are also several case studies supporting the benefits of hashtag use. Create your own or tap into trending topics, but most importantly, experiment with hashtags until you’ve learned more about how they impact your specific content.


8. Use video

While it’s time-consuming to film and edit video to post on your social channels, video has really proven itself to be the guiding force behind the future of social media engagement. Videos that are directly embedded on Facebook generally receive over six times the engagement of those directing followers to YouTube, so make sure you upload your videos natively to Facebook instead of hosting them on third party applications. The advent of live video has a lot of people talking as well. One way to take advantage of this would be a live Q&A, where prospective students can ask questions directly to a live administrator.


9. Ask questions

Asking questions is a simple and straightforward way to spark dialogue on your Facebook page. Questions can be added onto most posts if you think of a creative way to include them. Research provided by Buzzsumo has shown the effectiveness of question posts on facebook in the below bar graph.


In addition to this visualization, they noted that posts with questions AND images resulted in an average of 616.7 interactions, while posts with questions and without any images only received 144.45.

Here are some example questions to get you thinking:

  • Get specific: What’s your favorite ___?
  • Ask something controversial: Do you think/what is your opinion on ___?
  • Highlight an upcoming event: Are you attending ___?
  • Take advantage of time-sensitivity: Today is ___, how are you celebrating/recognizing it?


10. Know when to use organic audience targeting

While targeting a specific audience can potentially limit your overall reach, it is a great way to target specific follower segments when you have the right content. Not to mention, unlike Facebook Advertising, it’s completely free. Knowing when and how to enable organic, custom audience targeting can help you dial in on certain demographics, but don’t use it for just any post.


11. Recycle good content

Scroll through your post analytics in the Facebook pages backend and look for posts that received high engagement rates. Consider reposting or boosting them to recapitalize on their success. Make a note of the types of content that received high engagement. Did the posts have high visual appeal? Were they covering a specific topic? Use this information when building out future content.


12. Respond to comments and messages

You’ve probably heard this countless times, but you should ALWAYS respond to comments on your media or messages in your page’s inbox. Even if it’s a simple “nice” on one of your posts, thank them for it. Engaging with your audience is a great way to show that you are a real person behind the Facebook Page, which is vital to engagement success.


13. Post every other day

Kissmetrics recently analyzed the science of social timing and found that 1 post every 2 days will achieve the most likes on Facebook. Additionally, they found that the most sharing done on Facebook happens on Saturday.


14. Boost already successful posts

It’s surprising to see what $5.00 can do. Don’t dig too far back into your posting history. (I’d recommend nothing past the last two weeks.) If you see a recent notable post stand out, however, consider spreading it out to more people by adding on a couple bucks.


15. Schedule content

Even if your audience is on Facebook at 6:00 a.m., that doesn’t mean you have to be online, early in the morning, writing posts. Simply schedule posts ahead of time, on your own agenda, so you can stay in front of your audience when they’re online. Scheduling can help organize your strategy, and it’s native within Facebook and simply requires you to click on the dropdown icon next to “Post.”


16. Show them your humorous side

Lightening the mood can provide a great break from all the academic, industry content you would normally push through a scholarly Facebook news feed. Show your audience your funny side and they will be more enticed to come back to your page.


17. Link to good articles

It’s perfectly acceptable, and even expected, to link to content you didn’t publish. Facebook users enjoy consuming content on other websites. However, don’t just link to the first article you find. Make sure the article’s publisher is a reputable, established brand. I don’t recommend linking to any untrustworthy mom and pop blogs, which aren’t as credible as industry verticals, academic journals, or major media outlets. Additionally, there is a resounding preference for the length of external content. As you can see in the graph below, provided by Buzzsumo, Facebook users mostly like to get involved in articles anywhere from 1,000-3,000 words in length. (This article is 1,676, right in the sweet spot.)


18. Choose sharable words

As noted in tip 3, selecting the right linguistics can have critical consequences on engagement. Below you can find informative charts on the most and least sharable words on facebook. Graphs are provided by Dan Zarrella of Hubspot who analyzed 12,000 articles shared to Facebook.


19. Engage with other pages

Consider getting involved in the community via social media. By giving a shout out to a local cafe or store as a great study area, you can potentially tap into a new audience segment. Mention specific pages in your post headline by using the “@” symbol.


20. Integrate with instagram

The same Buzzsumo study (previously mentioned) also points out that images uploaded to Facebook from instagram received a 23 percent increase in engagement.


21. Help people, don’t sell to them

Instead of bluntly explaining the benefits of your degree program, address a problem and offer a solution. This can be applied to any business online. For example, a working mother may not think twice about getting her masters due to time restrictions. Luckily there are flexible, online options. Genuinely helping your audience can provide an increased reason for them to click through to your site or landing page.

This covers a large majority of the tactics that I personally use to assist university brand’s account engagement. One of the most important things to keep in mind when building out content is that the human connection is invaluable on Facebook. Treat your audience like the guests that they are, don’t ignore them, and give them a valued reason to interact with you. If you have any other tips or tricks that you use to boost page engagement, feel free to share them below.


Jordan OpelJordan 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.



5 Tips for Reaching Prospective Students On Twitter

With over 350,000 tweets sent per minute and 500 million tweets sent per day, Twitter is considered by many to be one of the best social networking platforms for delivering quick, instant content. Yet due to the increasing levels of content creation, many higher education marketers have found it difficult to navigate through the “clutter” of tweets in order to find who or what they are searching for. Below, we will look at five different methods that higher education marketers can use for finding and reaching prospective students on Twitter.

Using Search Queries

Although there are a variety of advanced methods for finding prospective students on Twitter, higher education marketers should always start simple before branching out. Twitter offers a solid built-in search platform that works great, yet most people don’t take the time to figure out how to properly use it.

For example, most twitter users have probably seen the search panel at the top of every twitter feed and know that this is a great search option when looking for popular hashtags, keywords or users. But did you know that you can narrow your search even further in order to find people that are talking about your program, school, or even one of your competitors? To do so, you will want to master these search query shortcuts:

  • Username queries – to: and from:
    • To:@circaedu “higher education”
    • From:@circaedu “higher education marketing journal”
  • Geolocation – searching with the parameters near: & within:
    • “digital marketing” near:San Diego within:5 miles
  • Exclusion Filter – place the minus symbol (-) before the keyword/user you want to excuse
    • “digital marketing” @circaedu

Also, if you are interested in automation, I recommend checking out automated Twitter listening services like Twilert, which you can program to send alerts anytime that specific keywords are mentioned.

Make Sure You Actively Use Your Account

As more millennials continue to shun traditional media formats and turn to social media for news and information, colleges and universities are finding it essential that they regularly check their Twitter accounts to answer questions or respond to comments or feedback. The importance of monitoring your Twitter account may seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people forget to check their Twitter account on a consistent basis, especially if they have an automated or pre-set tweeting schedule in place.

As a general rule of thumb, you will want to check your account a few times per day. Although there are many studies that highlight when Twitter is most active, I wouldn’t get too caught up on always checking your news feed at the same times each day. That said, some people enjoy making a routine out of checking Twitter – ex. Right before leaving for lunch – so feel free to do what works best for you.

Have a Call to Action (CTA) In Your Bio

Placing a call to action in your bio is an easy (and free) way to attract prospective students on Twitter. But in order to do so, you will want to make sure that you follow this guideline of do’s and don’ts so that your CTA is simple and effective.

  • Do make your CTA a clickable link
  • Don’t put the link in the section for your website URL (put it right in your bio)
  • Do make sure that your CTA is easy to understand
  • Don’t forget to be interesting and engaging
    • Make viewers eager to learn more

By implementing these simple adjustments, you can be sure to increase the efficiency of your CTA and Twitter profile. Also, keep in mind that you can use your Twitter account to log in to other social sites, so with a CTA in your bio, you’ll have the added bonus of attracting prospective students as you navigate other sites as well.

Post Engaging, Sharable Content

Nothing attracts attention more than great content. So to really catch the eye of potential students, make sure the content that you’re posting is something that they – your target audience – would find value in. Also, make sure to continuously test a variety of mediums and adjust to what is working and what isn’t. For example, a recent study by Buffer found that tweets that contained images received approximately 150% more retweets than those that had only text.

Another fairly new medium to try is Twitter Polls, which provide Twitter users the opportunity to garner public opinion on whatever they’d like. So whether looking for quick feedback on a new logo or potential program courses, Twitter Polls provide higher education marketing teams with unique opportunities to generate buzz while getting quality feedback as well.

  • Example:
    • Which course would you rather take: “An Introduction to Augmented Reality” or “The Science Behind Virtual Reality”?

Twitter Advertising  

Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 4

A recent Hootsuite study found that advertising on Twitter resulted in leads at one-third the price of other paid channels. Mix that stat with the fact that the social platform has over 320 million monthly active users and it becomes clear to see that Twitter provides higher education marketers with an invaluable opportunity to advertise to prospective students at a relatively cheap price. With Twitter Ads, marketers can boost tweets, promote accounts and even create Twitter Cards that drive traffic directly to your site or landing page.  With a click through rate 8-24 times higher than Facebook ads, advertising on Twitter is something that every higher education marketing expert should take seriously.

As you might have noticed, these tips are not very difficult, but they can produce consistent results. So if you take the time to implement these best-practices and combine your Twitter efforts with tricks for other social media platforms – like Instagram and Facebook – you can be sure to see an increase in your social media presence and performance.

Tyler Putz of Circa Interactive Tyler is a retired division two college basketball player and a recent graduate from the University of Iowa. His creativity, as well as passion for entrepreneurship and the expansion of technology and communication, helps Circa to continue to stay on the cusp of new technologies and trends influencing future generations of students.

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.







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



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


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).



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.




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.










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:





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

6 Tips for Boosting Your University’s Instagram Presence

Over the past four years, Instagram has become one of the most dominating social media platforms in the world. Out of all the brands that are using Instagram to gain more reach, universities have one of the most active audiences. 90% of Instagram users are younger than 35, and 53% of adults ages 18-29 use Instagram every day. This makes it an ideal platform to reach and engage with potential students, especially those who are using social media to research universities. Here are 6 tips to optimize your university’s Instagram account through branding, engagement, integration, and ads.

Set Standards

Before creating or revamping your account, it is imperative that you fully understand your brand. You must first know your university’s point of view. What does your school stand for? What are your key messages? By realizing these pivotal ideas of your university’s brand, you will be able to create consistent content that will ultimately establish and build your brand.

Once your key messages are created, it’s important to maintain an authentic brand. Know your voice. What would or wouldn’t you say? Authenticity is key to keeping your audience engaged and trusting the brand. To keep the voice consistent it helps to set rules on topics that are allowed or off limits.

Build Your Brand

An Instagram account may get some views by simply publishing content, but without implementing the proper hashtags, universities are missing out on the majority of their audience. Hashtags are the powerhouse of Instagram. Hashtags allow people, influencers, thought leaders, and marketers to search through different topics and brands and potentially find your university’s profile. Hashtags are also useful for finding users and influencers within higher education to interact and build relationships with.

I recommend using hashtags to find your audience and see what they are already saying about your institution, then use this information to mold your content. It is advised to use an average of 11 hashtags per post for the best engagement. Be warned, however, that using too many hashtags can make your account look spammy and attract the wrong following. To keep your content consistent, it helps to maintain a list of regularly used hashtags. I advise making three lists:

  • Brand specific: Hashtags you create just for your university. These can be as simple as #YourUniversity or more community focused like #BullsNation or #GoBlue.
  • Industry: Use tools like Buzzsumo or SproutSocial to find the top hashtags within higher education. Hint: #highered and #onlinelearning are big contenders.
  • Trending: This means anything from posting a #tbt to celebrating #NationalCoffeeDay. Using trending hashtags will help extend your reach by putting your content in front of an audience that hasn’t discovered you yet.

Cross-Promote Creative Content

Creating original content on a consistent basis can take a lot of time and effort. Remember that content from your university’s website, blog, or other social media platforms can be curated and used as Instagram content as well. You can also use Instagram to push traffic towards your other websites and vice versa. Add follow buttons or embed the feed on other profiles to bring your audience to your account and build your Instagram following. By creating cohesive content all around, you can keep your presence on social media consistent and active.

The University of Michigan does a great job highlighting current students and alumni’s work and their stories. They are able to uphold the U of M brand by sharing the quality of their student’s work and the good they are doing around the world. In the example below, Michigan uses a quote from the student to make it more personal.

University of Michigan Instagram

When creating content for prospective students, remember that many of them will not be from your state or even country. Use this to your advantage and share pictures of campus life and the surrounding city to fully capture the beauty of your university. To increase engagement, repost a student’s picture of their favorite study spot or campus shot on the way to class. Boston University does a great job at highlighting the beauty of Boston and their campus. The majority of these posts come from current students as well. They also use this type of content to highlight their history and instill the fact that they are a well-established university.
Boston University Instagram

Capitalize on the Power of Video

Video has taken over all social media platforms, and Instagram is no exception. Using apps like Repost, you can even repost videos from students or organizations to highlight the work of your university. Columbia University has done just that with their video content. They have implemented video content to highlight their sports teams, guest lecturers, and even research work done by students. This is an example of a great Instagram post. Columbia reposted the video and tagged the owners, engaging with their audience and extending their reach. They also used brand hashtags like #columbiauniversity to categorize the video as well. This post is very successful in showing off the work Columbia students and organizations are doing and inviting its audience to engage and share the content.

Columbia University Instagram

Engage Everyday

Engaging with your audience is the most important activity you can do on Instagram. By liking, commenting, and even reposting pictures on Instagram, you are bringing more views and potential followers to your profile. Instagram gurus have created the 5/3/1 engagement rule to optimize your conversations. Like 5 pictures, comment on 3 with a @mention of the creator, and, in turn, gain 1 new follower.

To create even more engagement, start a discussion. This can be as simple as asking a question in the picture’s caption or starting a contest that requires other users to comment with a correct answer, tag friends, or post a picture of their own. By inviting students to engage with your content, they are more likely to interact and share it with their followers, ultimately, extending your reach and growing your audience. To learn more about increasing your university’s social media engagement, click the link below.

4 Ways to Boost Your University’s Social Media Engagement



Instagram’s latest feature allows universities to reach even bigger audiences: Instagram ads. Instagram uses information about users’ activities on Instagram and Facebook as well as information from third-party sites and apps to determine which ads appear on their feed. This means if a high school student is following or searching for different colleges using any of these platforms, your ad will appear in their feed.

Thanks to Facebook owning Instagram, ad targeting and analytics are also available. They use the same conversion pixel to allow optimization of ads, track results, and retarget the best potential students. Learn how to maximize the performance of your ads by clicking the link below.

7 Tips for Maximizing Your Facebook Ads Performance (Or Instagram)

Audrey for siteAudrey Willis is a recent graduate of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. With a background in journalism, public relations, and graphic design, Audrey lends both creative and analytic skills to the marketing team. Her passion for innovation and connecting like-minded individuals is driving Circa’s social media strategy into the future.

Creative Ways to Make Higher Education More Affordable [INFOGRAPHIC]

The rising costs of colleges and universities can be one of the largest barriers to entry when applying to schools. For some, higher education isn’t even an option due to insufficient financial opportunities. However, there are several institutions attempting to cut expenses and reduce the costs of tuition through unconventional and creative methods. Promoting a lower tuition sticker price can be even more enticing than providing competitive financial aid. Students don’t usually find out how much they’ll receive in grants or scholarships until late in the game, sometimes weeks before they must decide where to enroll. Providing low costs up-front is becoming increasingly popular amongst the dramatic rise in tuition as of late.

Low-tuition practices aren’t the only way to save money while attending college. Students have a lot of power over their education nowadays thanks to options provided by a competitive education marketplace. Circa Interactive has researched the current state of college costs and the many creative ways in which institutions and students alike can choose to save money while pursuing a degree.


How Colleges can Save You Money


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Fred’s Favorite University Infographics – Health Edition

As a digital marketer working with dozens of universities across the United States, I help design, research, and distribute infographics across numerous industry niches. With goals of branding, increasing traffic, and SEO link building, infographics must be carefully crafted and well polished in order to be successful.

Earlier this year I selected my four favorite business-themed infographics created by U.S. universities. In that post I highlighted graphics from the University of Vermont, Abilene Christian University, University of Scranton, and New Jersey Institute of Technology.

Today I am sharing my favorite university-created infographics with a health focus. With the ever-increasing research and conversation surrounding such areas as electronic health records, bioinformatics, and healthcare reform, the health industry has a wealth of opportunity for successful infographics.

Here are a few qualities I like to find in a well-crafted infographic:
  • Engaging and unique topic
  • Researched and organized data points
  • Storytelling throughout the graphic
  • Clean design and data visualizations

While four infographics made this list, many did not. Two aspects of unsuccessful infographics are poor design elements and hyper promotional content. In the world of university program specific infographics, being overly promotional is a turnoff to many potential publishers and sharers. Nobody likes hearing a person or brand bragging and the same goes with infographics.

Secondly, poor color choices and sloppy design can make even the best of topics hard to chew. Sometimes the data points and content of an infographic can be dry, and it is up to a creative designer to make this information consumable. To help liven up dry content, a designer can use icons, charts and graphs. Strategic use of colors, bolding, and subheadings can also help. It is the designer’s job to guide the reader’s eyes through the flow of the graphic.

Without further ado, here are Fred’s Favorite University Infographics: Health Edition.

Adelphi University Master of Healthcare Informatics Online

Telemedicine and Health Informatics Career Opportunities

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Enter the full infographic here: http://onlinemshidegree.adelphi.edu/resources/infographics/telemedicine-and-health-informatics/

When a university creates content surrounding careers, it is easy to fall in the overly promotional trap. This Adelphi University program does a fine job of objectively listing facts and statistics surrounding these health tech careers. Here are a few of the positives of this graphic:

  • The title image of this graphic is fantastic with a simple, high-tech design. The title image creatively adds to the overall message of the technical career growth in health care.
  • The story of this graphic has a powerful flow. Beginning with technology growth and moving into job opportunities, the graphic finishes up with an interesting segment on health care disparity in U.S. rural areas.
  • Strong data points back up all claims in the graphic and help tell the vital story of career opportunities in this developing industry.

New Jersey Institute of Technology Online Master of Computer Science

Bioinformatics: How Computer Science in Changing Biology

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Enter the full infographic here:


It might seem strange seeing a computer science program’s infographic in this list. The convergence of computer science and health makes the content of this graphic powerful and highly relevant in the current health care industry. Here are some favorable aspects to this NJIT infographic:

  • The topic and research behind this graphic is revolutionary and very newsworthy. This aspect is very important in the distribution stage.
  • Imagery usage throughout helps make complex points easier to understand. The images accompanying the genome information help the reader visualize the complex information.

University of Florida Distance Learning Doctor of Pharmacy

Acetaminophen: Still the Safest Way to Alleviate Pain?

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Enter the full infographic here:


The design of this graphic is unique in the sense of the wider dimensions than is generally seen. This dimension alteration allows for different visualization of data, including a short and powerful title. This graphic made the list for a few reasons:

  • The newsworthy and edgy topic of this graphic makes it very shareable. Any piece of content that challenges the pharmaceutical industry with hard data is bound to be of interest to individuals online.
  • This graphic has a clean design that complements the wider dimensions. The content is at times in three columns and design elements help guide the reader’s eyes through data sets and statistics.

Norwich University Master of Science in Nursing Online

Leadership and Hierarchy in Hospitals

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Enter the full infographic here:


Norwich University constructed this thought provoking infographic that challenges the hierarchy of hospitals in a variety of ways. The graphic paints a not so pretty picture of U.S. hospital CEO demographics, which are dominated by males sometimes with little-to-no health care sector experience. This eye opening infographic made the list for the following reasons:

  • The first section of the graphic is beautifully designed. At times, designers are faced with visualizing large blocks of text. The geared approach and icons help make this section consumable to the viewer.
  • As with other great infographics, the content is full of impressive data points. Percentages, charts and graphics are important pieces to infographics, and this clean research sets the designer up for success.

That wraps it up for this edition of Fred’s Favorite University Infographics. Keep an eye out for next time when I dive into the field of criminal justice and locate my favorite four graphics created by universities and their marketing teams. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @FredHigherEd

Online Nursing Degrees: a prescription for online success

In the rush to go online, many universities take a “ready, fire, aim” approach, launching programs that are ultimately unsuccessful due to poor planning, underestimating the amount of work and resources needed, and/or failing to understand market demand.

All three are program killers, but the latter is the most easily addressed, and one that all university leaders should strive to avoid by conducting relevant market research to study—and heed—the immutable law of supply and demand. Determining market demand for any degree should be the very first step in deciding which online degrees to launch.

Many start with an online MBA, but data suggest looking elsewhere. IPEDS shows a five-year growth rate in conferred MBAs of 7%, but this figure for AY 2012-13 was  -3%—negative growth. And with 454 online MBAs, competition is fierce and cost-of-acquisition metrics are extremely high, so unless your institution is extremely prestigious, capturing marketshare looks to be unlikely.

For a more positive story, we explored the online RN-BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) completion degree. IPEDS data show a five-year growth rate in conferred degrees of 50% with a 10% growth rate in AY 2012-13. Even with at least 400 fully or partially online RN-BSN degrees offered, the information provided below shows that demand warrants additional entries into this compelling space.


  1. Labor Market Demand: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the need for registered nurses (RNs) will grow by 19% between 2012 and 2022, nearly twice the 11% growth rate for all professions. As seen in the chart below, the BLS predicts an additional 526,800 new nursing jobs by 2022.



BLS also forecasts 525,000 RN retirements by 2022—a strong wave if not an actual tsunami—leading to 1.05 net new nursing openings by 2022, just seven years from now. [i]


  1. Institute of Medicine’s call for 80% of RNs to have a bachelor’s degree by 2020: The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) 2010 report calls for increasing the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree: “Academic nurse leaders across all schools of nursing should work together to increase the proportion of nurses with a baccalaureate degree to 80 percent by 2020.” [ii] This has sparked massive transformation in the nursing industry and been a key driver of new online RN-BSN programs across the country. Increasingly, hospitals are requiring their RNs to have or earn a bachelor’s degree, and for working RNs, doing so online is often the best option.

Given the sheer number of practicing RNs without a bachelor’s degree (estimated in a 2013 report by the Health Resources and Services Administration to be 45% of the workforce[iii]), there is tremendous pressure on schools and colleges of nursing to graduate more baccalaureate-educated nurses. Thus we see a unique opportunity for universities to confidently enter the online space, a call that dozens of institutions have answered in the affirmative.

  1. Affordable Care Act (ACA): Loved, hated, revered, and maligned, the Affordable Care Act (aka, “Obamacare”) is radically altering American health care. As of March 2015, 16.4 million people were covered due to ACA.[iv] As more Americans obtain health insurance, the need for skilled nurses will continue to increase. And as the shortage of primary care physicians escalates, some argue that nurses will take on ever-increasing responsibilities, which, in turn, will drive the demand for better-educated nurses who can deliver these services.
  1. Aging US Population: The aging U.S. population is further driving demand for degreed nurses. U.S. Census Bureau data indicate that by 2030, Americans aged 65 or higher will account for 20% of the population, a historically high percentage. Older citizens consume more health care, which will drive the need for more, better-educated healthcare providers, including nurses. The Census Bureau further notes that Americans over the age of 85—who consume by far the most healthcare—will soar by 377% by 2050.[v]


With these demographic and market forces driving the demand for more well-educated nurses, the need for more online RN-BSN offerings has also grown.


According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), there were 692 RN-BSN programs available in 2014, 400 (or 58%) of which offer at least partially online baccalaureate degrees.[vi] IPEDS shows that 102,025 BSNs were awarded in 2013. If this rose to 110,000 conferred BSNs/year, between now and 2022, that means an additional 770,000 practicing RNs will earn their BSN.

That is, to be sure, a lot of newly degreed nurses. However, it falls far short of the expected 1.05 million vacancies in 2022. There are many variables and contingencies, but this simple mathematical equation suggests that the need for opportunities for RNs to earn their Bachelor’s degree is pronounced.

As these data points illustrate, the demand for more nurses with a bachelor’s degree is significant. And while supply (the number of programs for licensed RNs to earn their bachelor’s degree online) has grown in recent years, the imbalance that remains suggests ample room for more institutions to offer an online RN-BSN to meet the needs of working RNs. (Notably, graduate degrees for nurses are also in demand, both at the Master’s and Doctoral levels.)


Clearly, the data show very strong market demand for the online RN-BSN. We encourage all institutions to consider launching this program—especially if a ground-based RN-BSN already exists.

However, with strong market demand and fierce competition comes a significant challenge: generating leads in a cost-effective manner. Lead gen for the online RN-BSN has become extremely, often prohibitively, expensive. By one account, online RN-BSN leads are nearly as costly as those for online MBAs (the most popular online degree in the US). For mid-tier institutions with solid, but not sterling, brands, professional assistance from a digital marketing firm is money well spent.

Thanks to the regionality of nursing degrees, online RN-BSN students often live within a fairly close proximity of the institution. Augmenting digital marketing with a strong ground-based recruitment effort is highly advisable. For instance, having a staff person dedicated to building relationship with hospitals (and, to a lesser degree, doctors’ offices) can generate leads in a more cost-effective way than paid search or traditional media such as billboards or magazine advertisements. Ultimately, marketers should consider a combination of all three marketing efforts.


Once the decision is made to take the RN-BSN online, there are numerous important steps the institution must take. Chief among them is determining which of the three options make the most sense:

  1. Go it alone, using internal resources for marketing, recruitment, course design, retention, help desk support, etc.
  1. Outsource to point providers as needed (e.g., hiring a digital marketing firm, but managing the admissions effort with current staff)
  1. Partner with an Online Program Management firm to handle these tasks, typically as part of a long-term, revenue-share arrangement

Each option has its merits and drawbacks, which we’ll address in a future post. But in the meantime, there is little doubt regarding the need for more online nursing degrees and little doubt that institutions looking to go online or grow their online footprint should closely consider doing so with the RN-BSN.


Scott LevineScott Levine is the Founder and CEO of Higher Education Research Consultants. His research focuses on enrollment and marketing across academe, with a strong emphasis on online degrees. He has managed online degrees at leading institutions including the Universities of Delaware, Florida, North Carolina, and Tennessee and Boston, Howard, and Pepperdine Universities. He researched and wrote the groundbreaking Eduventures Market Guide to Online Program Management. And he rocks a black turtleneck. For more information, visit the longest URL in the free world at www.higheredresearchconsultants.com.


[i] http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.t08.htm  / [ii] http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2010/The-Future-of-Nursing-Leading-Change-Advancing-Health/Recommendations.aspx?page=3 / [iii] http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/reports/nursingworkforce/nursingworkforcefullreport.pdf / [iv] http://obamacarefacts.com/sign-ups/obamacare-enrollment-numbers / [v] Census.gov / [vi] http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/degree-completion-programs