Social Media Advertising for Schools: Insights from a Top-Performing Sales Funnel Strategist

One of the most amazing things about social media advertising is that it makes creating online ads for your school easier and more accessible than ever … which is also one of its major challenges. 

Why? Because it’s easier than ever to waste your advertising budget on campaigns that don’t actually work. 

Too often when we try to DIY school marketing, we learn just enough to make our efforts a little dangerous. (Trust me, I know this firsthand — my designer friends have talked me off the Canva ledge one too many times.) 

While there are certainly things that can be learned and managed in-house, it always helps to start from a foundation of expertise. This is true for creating your school story, and it’s true for your social advertising campaigns. Because even though it’s technically “simple” to create a Facebook ad for your school, there are so many factors that impact that ad’s success. 

From the specific audiences you’re targeting, to the exact language you’re using, to the creative assets you’re presenting, to the funnel you’re creating, to the behind-the-scenes technical aspects you’re setting up, every single aspect of your school’s social media advertising campaign determines whether or not it will connect with your dream families and inspire them to take action. 

That’s why, when it comes to my clients’ social media advertising, I rely on an expert. 

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I first saw the need for a more strategic approach to school social media advertising with my own clients.

Once we partnered to create their school stories, they wanted to share those stories with the world. However, they didn’t have the time to become experts in Facebook advertising — or if they outsourced, the digital marketing agencies they selected weren’t attracting dream families with their strategy or creative approach.

How could they better translate their school stories into effective social ads?

That’s when I began partnering with Janet Hoang, a sales funnel strategist with an emphasis on paid digital marketing.

 

The owner of retailer Janet Gwen and creative agency JGStudio, Janet is what I call a “social advertising unicorn” — not only does she create amazing ad creatives, but she also gets CRAZY results. Her marketing expertise has grown her product-based business to seven figures in yearly sales, has helped other clients achieve multi-million-dollar years, and has kept my independent school clients extremely busy with new family inquiries, tours, and applications.

Now that Janet and I have been working together on school social media advertising for a few years, I asked her to share some of her insights: what works, what doesn’t, what common mistakes she sees. Here’s a look inside her unicorn brain…

OK Janet, let’s jump right in. Why can it be so challenging to run an effective social media ad campaign?

The easiest answer is that best practices are constantly changing. It’s incredibly important to follow consumer trends and stay up-to-date on how people are consuming content.

That’s why learning social advertising strategy is tricky: you can’t just read a few articles and understand how to run a Facebook campaign. You can’t use the same strategy today as you used a few months ago. You have to continuously update your knowledge and your approach. You have to monitor results closely and be willing to deep-dive into why one thing is converting and another isn’t. My team monitors campaigns every day, and we optimize ads based on what we’re seeing by testing audiences, placement, and creatives. It really is a science, which makes it worthwhile when you get meaningful results.

Right now, what makes school social ads work well?

Today, video is king. If you can create a compelling video that is shorter than one minute long but tells your school story and demonstrates WHY your dream families should care, the ad will be effective. Even better: do that in seven seconds! (And you can thank the rise of TikTok for that shortened attention span.) You have to be able to capture the attention of your dream families in the very first second the video plays.

Once you grab that attention, you need to hold onto it with copy that supports the story the video is telling. You need to connect with the viewer and what they really care about: as you (Emily) always say, you need to put the audience first. Tap into their cares, concerns, wants, and needs. Demonstrate that you understand them and that your school is the place they’ve been seeking. The goal is to get them so connected so quickly that they want more.

That leads us to an ad’s call-to-action — and the entire sales funnel. How can schools get more dream families to take the next step?

Start by asking yourself, “What is the one desired action we want someone to take?” and work backward from there. You need to know exactly what you want your dream families to do. Is that, scheduling a call? Attending an open house? Filling out a form? Pick ONE action, and then design your funnel to lead up to that action.

One mistake I see is that schools fall short with their prospecting, or targeting. If an ad campaign is not targeting the right audiences, people will never make it to the second step and the results won’t be there. Being really strategic with targeting is key.

Another missed opportunity is retargeting. Once someone has completed the desired first step (for example, clicking through on the ad to a landing page) but hasn’t taken the desired action (such as, filling out a form or scheduling a tour), there’s an opportunity to retarget them using a supporting message or creative visual. For this to work, however, you have to really understand the driving forces behind their decision-making process. (Again, audience-first storytelling!)

I know you said video is king. But what if schools are on a budget with their creative development, or they don’t have a lot of video assets?

We can do some amazing things with creative repurposing. If you have a strong school story and ad copy, we can use existing b-roll and imagery to create eye-catching ads that still connect with the wants and needs of your dream families. But again, it has to come from a place of strategy.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see schools making with their social ads?

The first is usually the sizing of creative assets. For example, horizontal videos and imagery have been “out” for a few years, so when I see horizontal creatives I can tell that the strategy behind the campaign is dated. Right now, you want your ads to be square, or 1080 x 1920. They’ll stand out more and take up more space on the social feed.

Another is that, while user-generated content is great for some marketing efforts, more polished imagery and video b-roll will definitely help a school craft a more compelling visual story.

Right now, what are considered “good” results from a social ad campaign?

Again, industry averages and best practices are always changing, but right now, the industry average for ad click-through-rate is 1%, and the average cost-per-click is more than $1.00. However, our school campaigns are averaging a cost-per-click of less than $0.75, and our click-throughs are 2%-4%.

But beyond that, our clients are getting ACTUAL dream families to take ACTUAL action. They’re scheduling virtual tours, calling the admissions offices, and filling out inquiry forms. And that’s because the story you (Emily) craft first for our clients inspires us to create videos and creatives that are so unique to each school. It’s both the story and strategy that make the school sales funnel really work.

I’m repeating that in bold: it’s both story and strategy that make school sales funnels work. Thanks for the insights, Janet!

If you’d like to learn more about using social advertising to connect with your dream families, check out our FREE on-demand workshop, Dream Family Magnet. Or, book your Discovery Call to discuss your school’s digital marketing needs.

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