Facebook held its first conference for higher education in November 2016. Collegis Education Digital Strategist Natalie Wendel attended. Below are her takeaway insights for higher ed marketing and admissions professionals as well as an infographic that details highlights from the conference and Facebook’s accompanying report on higher education.

CE: What made you want to attend this conference?

NW: I wanted to attend this conference because it was the first time Facebook was acknowledging that higher education, as an industry, can stand alone against other advertisers on the platform. Since I was able to be a part of the growth we’ve had as an organization with our social advertising from the very beginning stage to current, I wanted to hear what insights Facebook had as an advertising partner for education-specific industries. We’ve never had this level of communication with them in the past. (Continued after the infographic.)

CE: Was there any information reported at the conference that you found surprising?

NW: The second half of the conference was focused on providing actionable takeaways that advertisers could use right away. One of the main takeaways was to use the Facebook Pixel tool — and what I found surprising was how many advertisers in the room were not. Facebook Pixel is key to campaign success, allowing marketers to track conversions, traffic and website activity. Without that element, you would not know how your campaigns are truly performing from a media spend-to-lead perspective—which, in my opinion, is a waste of money.

CE: What top three actions would you suggest colleges and universities do first, in light of this report’s findings?

NW: One, create campaigns with a holistic approach and, two, use ad sequencing. This is why implementing Facebook Pixel is so important. It gives marketers the ability to send prospective students a message based on the pages that they visited on your website and the actions that they’ve taken, and then tailor that message for stronger relevance.

Natalie Wendel, digital strategist with Collegis Education

Third, embrace mobile. Create ads with a mobile-first mindset. Ask yourself: How will this look on mobile? Is my landing page mobile-friendly? If it’s not, that’s ok, use a Facebook canvas ad to expose your brand to users without them leaving the Facebook environment.

Finally, create thoughtful ads that showcase your brand’s identity in a useful way. It’s important for advertisers to remember that they are on a platform designed for users to socially interact with one another. They don’t want to see ads.

CE: What FB data points will you be watching as 2017 unfolds?

NW: I will be looking at cost per click (CPC). Although I do not expect the cost to rise as high as a click might cost in search, we have been seeing a higher CPC from our campaigns as more advertisers have adopted Facebook as a strategy. The competition pool is getting larger and unlike search, higher education is competing with big product brand names and local companies for the same audience.

I will also be looking at how advertisers adapt to Facebook’s new ad formats, such as lead ads and canvas. I don’t currently see many in the market, especially with higher education. I know there are a few additional steps with implementation, but I think the first-time movers on these formats will see good results.

Finally, I’m interested in how targeting options will change in 2017. Facebook just announced that they are adding a new targeting option for dynamic ads that allows advertisers to retarget users who have been searching for specific items across multiple sites, and who like posts and pages related to that item. The ad will then show each item and the store closest to them for purchasing. [See article here.] This would be a big deal if you could target programmatic keywords. [See Facebook’s article on its report here.]


Natalie Wendel holds a degree in business management and Spanish from the University of Wisconsin — LaCrosse.