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. 2015-11-12 13-32-07

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!

6 Ways Social Media Can Improve Your Next Campaign

Trying to increase enrollment? Of course you are!

Social media can help you do just that and it’s a tool that every institution should include in its digital marketing arsenal.

But how are you supposed to get the most out of it?

You want to connect with your audience where they are. Over 84% of your high school prospects are on social, and 71% of them are active on multiple social platforms. Over three-quarters are highly active on their phones, as they send an average of 30 text messages per day. If that’s not enough, Facebook is now the most popular mobile app in America.

Ok so if your students are all online, does this mean print is dead? Well, not quite. While digital is playing an exponentially larger role, it just means the landscape is changing. And as marketers, we need to adapt or get left behind.

On the groundswell of mobile and social media usage, we need to take a 360 degree view of the print and digital experience. Teens switch between both digital and physical worlds easily. Institutions of higher learning, in turn, must think from the social handset up, and provide a stellar real world experience.

Here are some of the benefits of social and how you can integrate it into your next campaign to help supercharge your results.

Response Speed

There are plenty of steps in the recruitment funnel, and throughout the process, students have plenty of questions. The quicker you can respond, the longer you can keep them engaged, and social allows you to do this immediately.

Keeping a sense of humor and honesty about everything helps as well. They might even share your conversation – turning what could have been a negative interaction into a positive that could not have been possible on any other medium.  In the exchange below, the Bradley University social media manager, kept the conversation about Search emails light, human and honest.

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(Reference: Uversity, Chegg, 2014 Social Admissions Report Webinar)

Monitor Perceptions and Activity

The beauty of social is you can see in real-time what students think about your school – from a wave of excitement about the school’s big win in the NCAA tournament, to a single disgruntled student upset about his lunch that day. Knowing what people are saying about you will keep your finger on the pulse of your audience, and can help you adjust your strategy accordingly.

Monitor Your Competition

Similarly, you can monitor what your competition is doing as well. Whether you watch from afar as their latest hashtag sinks, or want to imitate one of their more successful campaigns, it can help you gain an edge in the crowded field.

Personalized Communication

If you want to stand out in the competition to enroll the best students, you have to separate yourself from the pack. Prospective students are overwhelmed with mail pieces and social is the perfect way to rise above the clutter from other schools – pretty literally. Personalizing your approach through social can go a long way in recruiting the best talent.

Support Other Marketing Efforts

With all the preaching I’ve been doing on social media, I still don’t believe it should be the only medium you should use in your strategy. However, it should complement your marketing efforts to create an integrated campaign that can be translated across multiple channels – including mobile, desktop, tablet, and yes, even print. Integrating a social element instantly provides the opportunity to expand the reach of your campaign. Adding a hashtag for users to follow, or encouraging students to create their own content can produce significant results for a relatively low amount of effort.

Drive Traffic to Your Digital Properties

You certainly can’t click on a link to a website on a piece of paper. But with with social, it makes driving traffic to your site seamless – and that’s what your audience is looking for. Want to get prospects to sign up for your next recruiting event? Social can help. Want to drive students to your shiny new landing page? Social. Want to encourage them to deposit and enroll? Social can even help there.


No matter what your digital strategy looks like, social media can and should be an integral part of your campaigns. Use its features wisely, and watch your enrollment numbers rise.

Improve Your Brand’s Performance

From crafting a unique story that uncovers your key messages to creating the buzz that sets you apart, building and maintaining a successful brand is no easy feat for an educational institution. Is your school up to the challenge? Of course it is – so take a deep breath and follow our tips for taking your brand to the next level.

Top 10 Tips Brand Banner

Know your audience.

What matters most to them? Start with a solid foundation of market research to bring clarity and focus to your branding efforts.

Know thyself.

What sets you apart from the rest? Identify your distinctive qualities and develop a message that highlights those strengths.

Make a promise.

Let your brand promise be your guide. Strive to meet and exceed expectations at every level of communication.

Be authentic.

Authenticity speaks volumes. Brands that tell a genuine, honest story will resonate with your students, build trust and make a connection.

Be consistent.

Your brand represents who you are. Regardless of the medium, consistency is key to building recognition, familiarity and trust.

Create brand ambassadors.

An engaged and passionate internal audience is the key to brand awareness. Let your faculty, staff and students be your voice.

Be inspired.

Inspire your students by taking risks. When you explore new and creative ways to connect with your audience, you strengthen your brand.

Be data-driven.

Just remember success takes time. Conduct surveys, focus groups and interviews to gain insights of the effectiveness of your campaigns.

Build community.

Invite your audience to be a part of your story. Every tweet, post, like or share extends your brand’s reach exponentially. Encourage it.


An updated brand deserves some buzz. So celebrate your institution on campus: throw a party, print new t-shirts, make a splash. Incorporate elements of your new brand into every marketing effort.

Download the Top 10 Tips to Improve your Brand’s Performance

If you are in the Atlanta area and would like to learn more about our brand process and what it could do for your institution please join us at Brand Camp August 26th. Sign up today! 

Maintaining Brand Consistency on LinkedIn

Social media can enable you to maintain and build relationships with your prospects and clients.

That said, when you’re in charge of the internal marketing for your company, it can be difficult to make sure your colleagues are doing their part to keep their social profiles up-to-date.

Consistency is important when maintaining a unified brand identity. If you’re promoting different messages, it can be confusing to your audience.

Today, I noticed a nice little feature, which I’d like to attribute to an email I sent to LinkedIn a while back, (before the new company pages were launched).

As an admin user for your company’s page, you have the ability to flag profiles of individuals claiming to work for your company. You also have the ability to “suggest an update” to their profile.


  1. Make sure you’re set as an administrator for your company’s page
  2. Login and navigate to a colleague’s profile, with whom you are already connected
  3. At the top right of the page, there’s a link to “suggest an update”
  4. Click that link, complete the easy, auto-fill form and send

This feature can be extremely helpful if your company promotes someone, makes a new hire, or perhaps changes their name

Happy networking!

Are Your Followers Loyalists?

Poke, post, photo-stalk.

Because so many people use Facebook as their primary social media conduit, businesses are butting-in to grab the attention of the site’s oh-so-addicted consumers. Across the Internet, you’ll see social media sharing buttons begging to be clicked and business owners biting their nails as they “suggest” their page to hopeful prospects. “My Facebook page is likable,” they think, “likable enough to draw followers in.”

This may be the case for some businesses, but the majority haven’t been so lucky. Why are students (and young consumers, in general) so skeptical when it comes to online marketing? A recent article shares three things we should remember when marketing to college-aged Facebook users (Source: Morgan Stewart from MediaPost):

  1. Friends’ feedback is taken seriously: This generation of Facebook users strongly heeds input from friends. “Instead of simply sticking a ‘Share This’ button in their face, try prompting them by asking, ‘Want to get feedback from your friends before you buy? Post this to Facebook and see what they have to say.'”
  2. Short attention spans call for simple sites: If your Facebook page isn’t easily navigable, don’t count on sustained interest. “State problems, present clear solutions, and don’t let unnecessary links get in the way.”
  3. The ‘Honesty Radar’ is on at all times: “If your content is buried between advertisements or littered with social sharing links, then your integrity may be called into question. Keep your content clean.”

Conclusively, social media is a great way to get students involved with your brand. By simplifying your Facebook page to clearly delineate followers’ benefits, you’ll gain loyalists in no time!