Best Practices: Instagram Ads for Higher Education

After a rollout period as slow as Christmas, Instagram finally made its ad platform generally available.

Using the Facebook Power Editor, colleges and universities can use Instagram to promote clicks to your websites or landing pages with images or videos.

In our experiments with Instagram, we’ve taken some of our best practices from our social media and banner advertising campaigns and applied them to this new channel. We’re seeing that Instagram has been performing well in terms of click through rates – 2 -3% on average.

Best Practices for Higher Education Instagram Ads

Campaign Integration

As the name implies, these are ads. As such they should be consistent in tone and design with your other marketing campaigns. Even though Instagram is technically a social media  channel you are still using an ad that needs to conform to your brand and message – and contribute to your goals.

Use Email Lists for Remarketing

Speaking of campaign integration, get more out of your student search lists and your house lists by creating an audience segment with emails. Not all of your emails will find a match in Facebook, but the ones that do will be served ads that will help increase awareness and keep your school top of mind.

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Be Simple With Your Design

Instagram (and Facebook) require that no more than 20% of your image is covered by copy. This prevents you from using infographics or a large typeset design.  If you are going to add text to your image, keep it small and have a clear call to action such as “Apply Now” or “Come See Campus!”  Facebook provides a grid tool to verify that you are within its specs.

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Don’t Forget Your Logo

Even though you need to keep your image clutter-free, don’t forget to put your logo in the shot. Without the logo, it could look like just another image.  Depending on your brand and campaign guidelines, building recognition with a consistent look and feel.  Also, if you are going to show students, try to include them showing off their school colors.

Be Interesting

When our designers are looking for an Instagram image, they want it to be interesting. We like to find pictures that are dynamic, show action or even drama. Athletic shots or excited students in the stands tend to catch the eye more. Remember, you are interrupting someone’s social media experience. Use that opportunity to make an impression.

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Always Be Testing

When advertising in Instagram and Facebook, we create at least two different ads to see how they perform against a particular segment. We’ll create one with just an image, one with a CTA button. This way we can save a results database and make sure that we are always improving.

What have you found that works with your Instagram advertising. Tell us about it in the comments!

Why Admissions Should Care About Giphy’s New GIF Maker

Hear that noise?

That’s the sound of higher ed social media managers rejoicing about Gliphy’s new GIF Maker.

Animated GIFs have long been the darling of the Internet dwellers, turning a series of still frames into emotional and cultural memes. In today’s bite-sized world bursting with content, animated GIFs are the bearers of Internet values and ideology.

The problem is, if you’re over the age of 30, you may not know how to create these snackable signs and symbols.

Enter Giphy’s new GIF Maker.

GIF Maker allows you to easily create animated GIFs from video files and YouTube links.  All you have to do is enter a YouTube link, navigate to the starting point and set a duration.  Wrap up by adding a caption and tags. Finally, share your GIF on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or the digital channel of your choosing.

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Why Should Higher Ed Care?

GIFs Show Personality

In the last few months, we’ve noticed an increase in animated GIFs in admissions Twitter feeds. The Twitter feeds that respond to students’ excited acceptance posts with a fun GIF demonstrate that the person behind the screen is human and gets current communication methods.

 

GIFs Liven Up A Feed

We’ve also observed that lot of schools don’t put the level of professionalism in their social media feeds as they do for, say, a viewbook, email or road piece.  Sure, your feed should be authentic and monitored. It also is a marketing channel that needs to be entertaining and engaging.  Browse through enough Twitter feeds and you’ll soon realize that your eye is drawn to images, especially moving images.

GIFs Are Easy Content

A great part of social media is based on creating ongoing, engaging content. Until recently making a GIF was cumbersome and was a blocker to content managers. Sites like Giphy provide loads of ready made content for any situation.  Content that pulls on the heart strings is tailor-made for audience engagement and GIFs capture a lot of emotion in a small package.

So, next time you’re looking for content or a response to an excited prospect, don’t say it with words. Say it with a GIF.

4 Ways To Use Periscope In Higher Education

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According to its site, over 40 years of video are watched every day. Twitter already acquired it earlier this year. It already has 10 million accounts in just over six months. Ok that may be impressive, but Chandler, another social media platform? Yes, and it’s poised to be the next wave of social. It’s Periscope – live streaming to the world straight from your phone.

Here are a few ways you can make use of Periscope in higher ed.

 

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Live demonstrations

The ease of using Periscope should make the process of creating video content less daunting. No need for expensive production crews or editing software. Just download and go. There are invariably plenty of students who need answers about something relating to your school, why not provide a live demo on how to register for classes, or a campus tour? Save the video afterwards to have it ready to share.

 

Share Breaking Updates

Everyone loves a good breaking story, and Periscope can help you create that experience in real-time. Celebrity sighting on campus? Prominent speaker coming to lecture? Headlining artist just arrive for the show that night? Maybe there’s a demonstration or protest in the quad? There are any number of events that would be great to capture live, but in all reality your students will be just as, if not, more excited to watch a stream telling them classes are cancelled because of the snow storm. Don’t be afraid to keep it simple.

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Behind the Scenes

Everyone loves to get an insider’s perspective and the app is perfect for just that. Think about streaming the commencement speaker’s pre-speech routine. Preparing the Homecoming festivities, or even a sneak peek of the team’s huddle or coach’s pre-game speech before the big game.

 

Acceptance Letters

The most exciting time for high schoolers. After months and even years of preparing for and applying to schools, the “acceptance letter” is what makes it all worth it. Why not add another dimension and live stream the process of printing and shipping the letters? Following the student handles beforehand and reminding them to tune in at the time of the stream can build more excitement than just receiving the letter in the mail.

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It’s barely over 6 months old, but its growth suggests it will be around for a while. If and when Twitter decides to make Periscope a regular feature of the platform, higher ed will need to be ready. Starting to integrate it into your social mix now can pay dividends in the future, and see your engagement increase in the present.

How To Use Snapchat In Higher Education

 

Check out the previous installments of our series on Snapchat and higher education here. And here.

By now you’ve heard all of the hoopla. 77% of college students use it daily, and 30% of US millennials use it regularly. But why does Snapchat matter for higher education? In short, engagement.

But the messages disappear! It’s a waste of time, right? Not so fast. A recent Facebook study found millennial teens consume information at a rate 2.5 times faster than their older counterparts. Messages seen for even 3 seconds are more likely to be recalled in this demographic – if that message is compelling enough.

By its very nature, Snapchat is a sharing machine. Since the messages disappear, users have an incentive to screenshot the images and share them with their friends and family. If you create interesting enough content, odds are it will be shared organically.

Here are a few ways you can use the app to your advantage.

Showcase Your School

With the Stories feature, you can showcase the most exciting experiences your school has to offer and give prospective students a glimpse of the college lifestyle on your campus. Think big sporting events from tailgate to post game, traditions (homecoming, etc), move-in days, orientation events, and anything else that sets your school apart. You could even consider allowing select students to use the account to take viewers through a day in the life of a student.

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Add A Custom Design

Snapchat allows you to create your own design and submit it for approval as a “geofilter.” These filters can be used by any user on your campus for all their followers to see. You can upload your basic logo, or create a fun design for students to use.

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Get Creative

Tennessee Wesleyan College even hosted a scavenger hunt through the app for prospective students at an orientation day. Each student who followed the TWC account could view the 5 clues the school sent on the whereabouts of the school mascot.

Acceptance Notifications

At the end of the enrollment cycle, you can create more anticipation and excitement for your accepted students by sending them a Snap. If you have their handle, a personalized message could go a long way in increasing your push-to-deposit campaign results. While I’m sure your acceptance letter looks stunning, adding a Snap can make the acceptance process that much better.

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Promote Contests and Events

Snapchat is also an effective promotional tool. Big event on campus? Add a Snap to your story to help promote it to your students. Classes cancelled? Let everyone know through a Snap. Weather warning? Snap it. You can even hold a contest.

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It’s instantaneous, personal, and mobile. It’s exactly where your audience lives. Get creative, send the right messages, and Snapchat can help your engagement numbers soar.

Is This the Death of Enrollment Email? Google’s New Block Sender Feature

Google just announced a Block Sender feature in its Gmail service. This certainly will affect higher education marketing. How much remains a question.

For years now, email providers have been giving users power over their email inboxes. In 2013, Google announced a feature that allowed users to segment certain senders into tabs like “Social” and “Promotions.”

With Google’s new Block Sender function, if a student finds that an email address is being disruptive, she can flag the email so that she never sees email from that sender again.

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This service began yesterday on the web and will roll out on Android over the coming week. Once a sender is blocked, all subsequent emails will go to spam. Additionally, Google is adding an unsubscribe function to Android so that students can unsubscribe from a list directly in the app.

What does this mean for Higher Education Recruitment?

Based on our database, 60% to 75% of Inquiry campaign email addresses are Gmail accounts.  That’s a pretty significant number of potential students that can now specifically request to never receive email from your school.

Every fall, colleges and universities fill up student inboxes with email addresses acquired from ACT, NRCCUA and other providers. To say that it’s overwhelming, is an understatement. This new feature could significantly affect response rates.

What Can You Do To Increase Your Response Rates?

There are a few things that you can do to keep your response rates up as well as increase enrollment.

First, use a multi-channel strategy. Add content marketing, remarketing and PPC to your mix to expand your inquiries at the top of the funnel.  Manage your lead generation sources like a portfolio of stocks. Students who opt in online are more like to respond to visit emails from a school that they have specifically requested information from.

Second, wrap your entire campaign in social media. Throughout the enrollment funnel, it is important to build excitement and a relationship with prospective students. Relationships matter. Use social media to maintain an ongoing conversation throughout the student enrollment cycle.

Google will continue to give inbox power to users so that they can control their content. It’s up to higher education marketers to adapt and give students what they want.