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.

3 Things Higher Education Marketers Should Consider in 2017

Whether it’s the increasing use of mobile devices or Facebook’s unveiling of lead ads, there have been a number of changes to the digital marketing landscape over the past few years. Some of these changes have had substantial impact, and many digital marketers have been scrambling to adjust and align their initiatives in order to remain competitive within the industry. While quick adjustments are often essential, it’s also important for higher education digital marketers to take a step back and conduct a full assessment of the current marketing strategy. With the new year soon approaching, now is a great time for digital marketers to reassess their current initiatives and test out new strategies for 2017. Below, I’ll offer some questions to consider during the review process and highlight a few new strategies to consider for 2017.

Review & Fine Tune

When reassessing your current higher education marketing strategy, you’ll want to consider two key elements: goals and data. If you’re a larger university with a number of initiatives, be sure to keep it simple at first. Perhaps start with the question: Did we reach all of our lead goals that we set for 2016? If no, this is where you’ll want to examine data to uncover where lead goals were missed and why. Outside of lead goals, you’ll also want to consider goals relating to your online presence, such as site visits, followers on social platforms and user engagement. When considering these metrics, examine the data to see if you can identify any trends or patterns to give you an idea where your audience may heading in 2017. For example, a major Q4 increase in traffic to social platforms along with a decrease in site visits could signal that potential students are more interested in reviewing a school’s social identity than they are the traditional web page.

After the review process, be sure to prioritize your goals for 2017 (example: “We’re more concerned with user engagement on social platforms than we are on site visits”), then fine tune your strategy to fit. Questions to consider while fine tuning include:

  • Do we want to reallocate our budget in any areas?
  • Should we remove any marketing initiatives?
  • What social and blog posts were most successful this past year?
  • What sources are most of our leads coming from?
  • Are there new social platforms that we should test?
  • What initiatives are we going to implement to get X number of followers?

When in the assessment and fine-tuning process, you’ll also want to consider recent changes within the industry. Below, I’ll highlight a few of the major changes over the past few years that you’ll want to consider.

Increase in Mobile

Since the introduction of the iPhone in 2007, the use of mobile has steadily increased, largely due to the ease of apps and mobile platforms. Yet up till this past year, desktop was always considered the primary source for reaching potential students. According to a comScore report, that now has changed as users are trading desktop for the convenience of mobile. This change has occurred for a number of reasons, but one of the main driving factors is the refinement of apps. For example, when Facebook Mobile was first released, the platform was congested and difficult to use compared to the desktop website. Yet over the past few years, Facebook and other leading tech companies have placed a major emphasis on attracting the millennial audience who tend to rely heavily on mobile. With this switch in focus, companies upgraded their mobile apps and platforms to enhance the mobile experience with improved configuration and additional perks, such as being able to order a pizza without having to leave the Facebook platform. These improvements have resulted in a 394 percent increase in mobile usage, a number that is only projected to increase in the coming years.  

As a higher education marketer, it’s important to know how the aggregate are leaning in their use of digital media, but it’s equally essential not to confuse the aggregate for your own audience. Be sure to dig through your data to see if you can identify a similar shift to mobile amongst your audience. If so, be sure to evaluate paid search strategies, as well as the content on your blog and social platforms to see if there are any adjustments that can be made so content is more mobile friendly.

Facebook Lead Ads

Mark Zuckerberg has turned Facebook into one of the premier advertising platforms, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the transition to mobile advertising with their introduction of leads ads. Within Facebook’s older advertising platform, clicking on an ad would send users outside of Facebook, which proved to be inconvenient for Facebook and its users. Lead ads changed all of this, making it so users can express interest in a school without ever leaving the Facebook platform.

Here’s how lead ads work: when users click on an ad, a lead form opens up within the Facebook platform that’s already automatically filled out based on what kind of information they share with their Facebook audience. So, for most, clicking on a lead ad would open a lead form with their name, phone number and email, and all the user would have to do is click submit to complete the lead form process. So far, the convenience of lead ad forms have proven to be very successful, dropping the aggregate CPL of one of our programs by about $15, all the while boosting lead volume in the process.

If you’re looking to have a strong start to 2017, now is the time to begin auditing your current strategy and implementing new initiatives where they seem fit. Remember to ensure that your current plan aligns with your overall goals, and don’t forget to examine analytics data to get a better understanding of where your audience may be heading in the new year.

If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comment box below!

 

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.

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?

 

 

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”

5 Must-Follow Higher Education Social Media Accounts

As our team at Circa Interactive create social media calendars and content ideas for our higher education clients, we’ve come across countless other universities who are exceeding the mark with their campaigns. Over the course of the next few months, I will highlight some of the best examples of content created by higher education marketers. Below I’ve chosen a few exceptional posts (in no particular order) that exemplify what higher education marketers should strive to achieve. It’s essential for universities to remain creative and timely in order to remain visible and engage with current and prospective students, creating a virtual and interactive university experience.

1. Syracuse–Twitter

Syracuse does an excellent job of putting a personalized touch on their Twitter account in a creative and playful way, as you can see below with their image of the campus designed to resemble a puzzle piece. What their posts prove is that a simple message can be transformed and brought to life through customization and ingenuity. They also often use the hashtag #OrangeNation to foster a sense of community and school pride.

 
One of my favorite parts of Syracuse’s Twitter is their @WorkingOrange account, which regularly features alumni who live tweet their workday and answer questions at the same time. This is a clever way to celebrate the successes of their alumni and a great way to connect them to current students who will soon be in their position.

 

2. Harvard–Facebook

I love the way that Harvard uses time-lapse videos to showcase their campus and student body. This video in particular was a welcome back video that shows the bustling campus life, while hinting at their storied history.  

 
Harvard is constantly using the the power of video to bring the university experience and their brand to life. The clip below shows a day in the life of a first-year student at Harvard. It’s a short and sweet video that humanizes the Harvard Facebook page even more by allowing the viewer a glimpse into the rudimentary parts of a Harvard student life that can appear extraordinary to prospective students.

 

3. MIT–Twitter

It’s no surprise that MIT’s world-renowned research programs play a large role in their social media strategy. By utilizing research from faculty, they’re not only expanding and showcasing their thought leadership, but they’re also helping to promote and push the professors’ valuable research into the community. The key is that they use eye-catching graphics to accompany studies that can appeal to a large audience, as shown below.

 

4. Stanford–Instagram

The Instagram photo below shows the beautiful Stanford campus while encouraging other students to submit photos that they’ve taken themselves. Stanford’s strategy is focusing on something that all higher education marketers should consider while creating content: How can I find a way to engage with my audience? By incorporating photos taking by students, their Instagram feed becomes a community-generated database of striking imagery that keeps their audience involved.

 
I gravitate toward the photo below because it’s not only visually appealing and attention grabbing, but it tells a story and promotes the fascinating research of a Stanford faculty member at the same time. This highlights that when it comes to higher education marketing content, it’s important to focus on storytelling. 


 

5. University of Wisconsin–Facebook

This video by University of Wisconsin-Madison is a unique and light-hearted way to promote alumni donations through their “fill-the-hill” campaign, where a pink flamingo lawn ornament represents each alumni gift that was made. While schools often run the risk of coming off as irritating when trying to repeatedly collect donations, UW-Madison figured out a way to accomplish their goals in a non-intrusive manner through the power of video, while incorporating a long standing school tradition. 

 
And finally the video below shows people how students at UW-Madison are involved in the community, rather than just telling them. This creates a much more sharable story than plain text would.

 
Caroline Khalili is a PR and marketing specialist at Circa Interactive, and she is an expert in developing content for higher education marketing campaigns. A 2011 graduate of the University of Oregon, Caroline now calls San Diego home.