One of the most important decisions someone will make in their lifetime is where they choose to attend college. When it comes to attracting the right type of prospective college-bound students, higher education institutions need to make sure they are presenting enough opportunities for those prospects to find them. Digital and social channels are the most efficient ways to target potential students. But when it comes to looking at how effective these channels are in recruiting new students, you need to look beyond the traditional click-through data. Because, as we've seen with our clients, the effectiveness of these media is actually better than if you look at just how many clicked your ad to get to your website.
According to MarketingCharts, about 84% of college students in 2013 were aged between 18-24. This age group constitutes as part of the Millennial generation. This generation has grown up with technology and now lives in an ongoing digital world. They consume media differently than their older counterparts and have the highest levels of trust in online and mobile platforms. Mobile devices have made it easy and convenient to have technology constantly at their fingertips and gives them access to social media platforms 24/7. Although utilizing social and digital media channels is the best approach to take to target prospects across all generations, it carries the most importance when reaching Millennials. So, your education marketing needs to utilize these channels to be able to get the right message in front of the right target at the right time.
Another advantage of using social and digital platforms to target prospective students is that colleges are able to track their metrics to make sure that their ads are being viewed by the right prospects. However, traditional metrics like click-through rates, are not always gratifying at first glance. Many of your targeted prospective students won't click on an ad when it is served to them – even if they have some interest in it. They may be busy, in the middle of something important – like the latest cat video. But that doesn't mean you didn't make an impression on them. It's not unusual for them to go back and visit the school’s site at a later time after viewing the ad. But this is measurable too. It's just a matter of putting a pixel on your audience who've seen the ad and tracking them to see if they go to the website within a specified time period after being exposed to the ad. It is with these types of scenarios that it is imperative for educational institutions to look beyond their traditional metrics to measure the true results of their digital and social campaigns.
Along with looking beyond traditional metrics, higher education institutions should not disregard certain platforms of where to place their ads. For instance, Facebook, despite the supposed "decline" in use from younger demographics is still a huge network with a lot of data and great targeting tools. Again, the target audience is more likely to be engaged in the “Facebook” experience and less with the ads that are being served to them. However, you can serve them up to a highly targeted group of perspective students and, as mentioned above, track their web experience to know if they visit your college’s website at a later time.
Looking beyond traditional metrics will show you whether the education marketing impression served to them on the social network helped prompt them to take action. This will be the same scenario for blogs that have small audiences but may have a high concentration of the target prospects. Entertainment and streaming websites (Pandora, Spotify, etc.) are likely to have low click-through rates but still contribute greatly to the overall success of higher education campaigns. Tagging ads on these types of sites will show if users of the site are showing up later as traffic to the school’s website.
These are results that can be measured when looking beyond traditional metrics. And in our experience, you can see a direct correlation from being served up ads and prospective students visiting your website – whether it's to sign up for classes or just do some research to see if this is the school for them. In the end, impressions and click-through rates are important, but they aren't the whole story when measuring your education marketing success. The results are often better than perceived at first glance, when reviewing traditional digital ad data. Getting all the data for a full picture is key to knowing the true results of your campaign.