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Social Media Ads: The New Billboards for Education Companies

By June 17, 2020 No Comments

Social Media Ads: The New Billboards for Education Companies

Successful Social Media Ads Break Through the Noise

Identifying the right communication channels to help your brand stand out is a constant challenge. Depending on factors beyond your control, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll need to consider an important question: How do you reach your target audience in a way that’s effective, yet thoughtful?

Social media ads help your company build and retain customer relationships while raising awareness about your company’s offerings. In this article, we’ll focus on how to use paid social media ads to keep your brand top-of-mind and capture the attention of your audience.

Why Social Media Ads?

A paid social campaign supports content, sales and awareness. We asked Chad O’Neal, director of performance marketing at Illuminate Education, why social ads are a valuable marketing tactic for education companies:

“It’s not just about the ads you’re creating, it’s about the conversation,” O’Neal said. “It’s about building the relationship with your customers or your audience in general that really makes a difference.”

Social ads give you the ability to target specific audiences with tailored messaging at a fraction of the cost of more complex marketing tools. And, with built-in optimization capabilities available via Facebook, Twitter and other channels, education marketers can not only deliver their campaigns efficiently but start getting results immediately.

#1 Drive Quick Results 

After pulling together a 120-character branded message and any accompanying creative, social campaigns can be deployed quickly, leading to a faster demonstration of ROI. Since analytics are generated in near real-time, you can monitor the performance of your campaign, optimizing ad copy and creative as needed.

#2 Reduce Audience ‘Fluff’ 

The ability to pinpoint your audience based on demographics means your budget is spent reaching the people that matter. The main social advertising platforms – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter – allow for detailed targeting parameters in each campaign. With A/B testing, marketers can split campaign audiences to figure out which segment of their target audience is most interested in their products and services.

Tip: While teachers don’t typically hold buying authority for their schools, more than 90 percent of districts use committees comprised of teachers and administrators to evaluate products being considered for purchase. Also, the abrupt shift to distance learning caused by COVID-19 translated to greater autonomy for teachers to select products and services that meet their needs.

#3 Get Buy-In 

Breaking through to district leaders is tough. Education Week reported that leaders with true buying authority rarely seek information from vendors they’re not currently working with. According to the report, half of the district leaders examine non-vendors only on a monthly basis. Highly targeted, informative social media ads can get your message in front of difficult-to-reach leaders.

When Should You Use Social Media Ads?

First, do the research to determine your target audience’s top priority. Next, consider what stage of the district buying cycle you’re in. Then, craft your social ad copy to make sure it matches up.

O’Neal shares his take on this strategy:

“There’s a balance of continuing to communicate with your audience, but I’m not about the hard sell. I want to understand our current and prospective customers’ pain points and how our solutions can help alleviate that,” he said. “It is important to make sure that you’re continuing that relationship, you don’t want it to go cold or for there to be long breaks between content. You need to be consistent and be strategic about putting someone in place that knows social media.”

Education companies can leverage social ads for a variety of campaigns, including:

  • Professional and industry events, such as virtual conferences, webinars and workshops.
  • Positive customer reviews and testimonials about your product or service.
  • Unique research findings, such as white papers, survey analyses and case studies.
  • Media coverage that positively portrays your company.
  • Sales outreach, including offers and deals, for a product or service.

Which Platform is Best for Your Next Ad Campaign?

“Understanding your audience within each social channel is important. It is not all equal, and you do not just copy and paste one message and apply it to let’s say Facebook versus LinkedIn,” O’Neal said. “There’s a different expectation with social media around what your audience is looking for — so tailor your message accordingly.”

Here’s a breakdown from Big Commerce covering which channel(s) to leverage to best serve your objective, budget and target audience:

Facebook

Facebook is the world’s most populated social media network, with more than 2.2 billion monthly active users. Paired with the platform’s highly detailed audience targeting abilities, you can not only have an impressive reach, but a specific reach. This means that your campaign can run effectively and spend more efficiently.

Facebook also surpasses other platforms in lead generation. One tried and true way for companies to capture leads is to direct traffic from a Facebook ad to a content-rich landing page, where users can exchange their contact information to gain access to a piece of gated content, or to secure a promotional offer.

Instagram

Instagram drives more engagements than other platforms, boasting an impressive engagement rate (0.84%) compared to Facebook (0.53%) and Twitter (0.04%). The channel reported 800 million monthly active users in December 2019, and like Facebook, its sister network, Instagram offers the opportunity to reach a large, but highly-targeted audience.

Tip: Social ads must fit Instagram’s platform style (square creatives), and meet visually appealing audience expectations to resonate.

Instagram is an ideal channel for influencer marketing. By using hashtags, your company can encourage customers to share how they are using your product or service. Just don’t forget to adhere to FTC guidelines for influencer campaigns.

LinkedIn

The B2B platform is best used for companies marketing to high-level professionals and specifically to job titles in their industry. LinkedIn is popular among school administrators, which means there is a lot of value in targeting district decision-makers on the platform, where your company can reach individuals with the purchasing power.

And, with LinkedIn’s targeting by title abilities, marketers can narrow and segment their professional audience easily. That said, actions and engagements typically cost more on this channel, with clicks costing $5 – $10, depending on the ad campaign and audience.

Twitter

On Twitter, social media ads can create general brand awareness or drive action around a specific product. As an “older” channel, Twitter is great for reaching established communities.

Education Week’s survey found that district leaders and colleagues reported Twitter as the most helpful social media information source to stay informed about strategies and approaches. The same survey found that 49% of district leaders try to keep up with education trends weekly, while 31% try to stay up on products and services weekly.

Tip: Twitter is a great place to combine both paid and organic tactics into the same campaign. Use relevant hashtags to capture the attention of your target audience.

What Should my Social Media Ads Contain?

While it might sound counterintuitive, your social ad shouldn’t sound like a sales pitch. Instead, focus on creating copy and creative that’s compelling. Convince your audience to learn more about your brand by pushing a content asset or promotion.

“It has to be authentic, and that’s something I don’t see a lot of education companies doing today, having that authentic conversation and having it be a two-way conversation,” O’Neal said. “It’s heavy-handed on the ads itself and can be a turnoff. You need to have a good balance of high quality content, too.”

Relevant Solutions

According to 2018 research conducted by EdWeek Market Brief, 46% of K-12 school leaders said that vendors who grasp big-picture district priorities and ambitions make a persuasive case to school officials that they had done their homework. It would make sense then that ad content also captures these relevant district wants and needs.

“[Social advertising] is really about the experience of the customer, of what they’re going to get out of the content,” O’Neal added. “It’s really focusing on their pain points and their ‘why’ and addressing that through either thought leadership or through really engaging content.”

By A/B testing copy and creative, you can fine-tune your social media ads to resonate with your target audience. You can also better position your company as a solution provider instead of a salesperson if you’re upfront about how your product or service can help a district reach its desired outcomes.

Engaging Storytelling

While some companies have reached household name status, such as Crayola, or provide services that don’t need flash to prove their utility, such as Funds For Learning, most education companies have to describe who they are and what they do in their messaging to generate interest. You need to paint a picture of how easy life can be with your company.

Copy that is succinct, sincere, informative and attention-grabbing will give your company an edge. Likewise, graphics that are simple, yet eye-catching, stop a user from scrolling.

Tip: To build your brand’s credibility through social ads, harness customer successes by sharing case studies and video testimonials.

That’s a Wrap

If you’re new to social media ads, believe in them, as O’Neal does: “Be a thought leader in that space and keep pushing it forward that social media is a valuable channel for your company. I encourage marketers to look at social media, the value it can bring, the audience and the way you can communicate and how it’s a different type of medium than your typical marketing channel. You have the chance to build loyalty and an audience that is ultimately going to be responsive, and that’s something that’s pretty amazing to cultivate.”

Remember, it’s not about you but what you can do for learning. That is what teachers and district leaders want to see, and what will eventually convince them to work with you. In education especially, we know it can be tricky not only to breakthrough but to stand out in a lineup of potential solutions. So, we’re here to help.

Drop us a line, or review our long list of social media wins to see if we can lend a hand in your next social campaign.

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