Using Paid Facebook to Target Potential Students


Since its creation in 2004, Facebook has grown significantly, and each boost in popularity brings with it increased opportunities for user engagement.


According to new research by the Pew Research Center, 79% of internet users now use Facebook, and young adults continue to report using the site at high rates. The study also found that 88% of internet users between the ages of 18 to 29 use Facebook.


This immense popularity creates numerous opportunities to reach out to students, parents, faculty, and alumni through your school’s Facebook page. However, traditional Facebook methods not be the best way to utilize these opportunities to target potential students.


The Challenges of Facebook and Student Recruitment


No one can deny the importance of a social media presence for colleges and universities. It’s a great way to stay in contact with alumni, promote campus events or speakers, highlight the accomplishments of students and faculty, and so much more. Some key aspects to remember:


  • Research from the 2011 Noel-Levitz E-Expectations report found that although 27% of students said they visited a school’s Facebook page, they didn’t follow or like the page for fear that admissions officials might find them on Facebook, impacting their application to the school.
  • Once accepted, however, the student was more likely to follow the college or university’s social media accounts because a bond had been created.
  • Although this information is helpful for student retention and alumni outreach, it doesn’t exactly help with initial student recruitment. When you factor in Facebook’s new algorithm, which makes it even more difficult for people to see your posts, the problem becomes more worrisome.

This is where paid Facebook advertising comes into play.

How to Use Paid Facebook to Your Advantage

Paid Facebook is both cost effective and easy, making it a great addition to your marketing efforts.

  • Unlike traditional Facebook posts, students do not need to be followers or have liked your page to see the ads. This allows you to reach students who otherwise may not have known about your school or program.
  • One of the biggest benefits of paid digital advertising such as paid Facebook, is the ability to target and track the success of your campaign. With traditional advertising, like billboards and direct mailers, it’s difficult to track the methods’ reach or even if they are reaching the right audience.

Thus, paid Facebook allows you to specifically target your ads in several ways that can help you better reach your target audience, no matter what type of program or goal you have.

Targeting Based on Region

This is probably one of the most common ways to target your ads. Similar to Google and Bing Ads, Facebook allows you to limit your ads to a specific geographic region, meaning you can target within a certain radius around your school’s town or city.

This is especially important for community colleges or trade schools where students must commute back and forth to campus.


  • Pro tip: Set your target location based on city name rather than zip code or postal code. Targeting based on zip/postal code can get a little hairy if there are multiple zip codes within an area.


Another way to take advantage of location targeting is making an effort to improve your school’s presence in other regions, states and countries to increase both national and international enrollment.


Facebook also allows you to narrow down your targeting to include only people who live within a radius if you want to get even more specific.


  • Pro tip: Getting that specific with your regional targeting will limit your audience more and may eliminate potential students. When I create Facebook campaigns I typically set it for everyone currently in that location.


Instead of creating a blanket campaign that everyone using Facebook has the potential to see, you can set it so only people within your targeted region will see the ads.


Targeting Based on Age


Age is another major factor in ad targeting. Facebook allows you to target your ad campaign to users as young as 13 and up to age 65+.


Once you have your goals for a campaign outlined, it’s easy to set the age range to reach only those within your target audience.


This can be incredibly helpful if you are trying to increase enrollment for your graduate programs, for example. Rather than targeting a large age range that doesn’t apply to the appropriate audience, you can narrow it down to focus on applicable potential students.


  • Pro tip: When setting the target age range for undergraduate programs, be sure to consider when the typical high school student starts thinking about college.

Targeting Based on Education


With paid Facebook, you can use education and school affiliation to narrow your audience even further.


For example, if you are running a campaign for undergraduate programs, Facebook will actually allow you to type in area high schools and target members of those schools, or those associated with the school in some way.


This means that if a high school student has their school listed on their profile, or even if they just like their school’s Facebook page, you could potentially target them for your campaign.


  • Pro tip: Consider using this tactic as part of your integrated marketing efforts, in conjunction with pamphlets and school college fairs, as another touch point with potential students.


Another way to use education to narrow the target audience for your Facebook campaign is to consider education level. If you are looking to increase enrollment for your MBA program, for example, you wouldn’t want to target those who only have a high school diploma. You would seek out those with at least a bachelor’s degree.


By targeting based on education level, you can make sure you target potential students that would actually qualify for your program.


Targeting Based on Interests


One of the last major ways you can target your Facebook campaign to potential students is by targeting based on interests. These targets can include anything from sports to technology to family to various hobbies. And Facebook gives you numerous categories and options to help you further narrow your target audience.


For example, if you’re a trade school trying to increase enrollment for your motorcycle maintenance program, you may want to target those whose hobbies include motorcycles or cars.


  • Pro tip: While the limits can be endless for this type of targeting, it should be used sparingly to avoid excluding too many potential students.

Get Started Today!


Not all types of targeting are right for every campaign, but targeting does allow you the advantage of expanding your reach when attracting potential students.


Feel free to test out different audiences to find the one that gives you the most qualified leads, but try to be conservative so as not to exclude too many people. It’s all about finding balance.


Have a question? Contact us – we’d be happy to help!