Should I Promote My School With Facebook Ads?

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I don’t know if I can offer a absolute yes or no answer. It depends on a number of factors. But what I will do is share our experience (even though in its infancy) and some of my thoughts.

Very recently our marketing department took out several ads in Facebook that drove people to various school homepages in our main college website.  Over a period of two weeks we immediately saw an increase of hundreds of visitors a day to our website.  Despite the increase in traffic, we saw no applications or request for information forms submitted.  We also saw over 85% bounce rates from the Facebook traffic.  Keep in mind that this is over a very small window, but there are some observations and questions that should be raised that will help you in your efforts:

  1. Were the ads misleading? Was the messaging in the ads correct for the landing page that they were directed to?
  2. Was there a call to action on the landing page from the Facebook ad?
  3. Was the landing page simple and to the point without confusion?
  4. Is Facebook the right place to advertise our college?

Its very likely that the reason our limited experience with Facebook ads didn’t yield any applications is due to in-part to the first three questions.  But I ask question four after talking with our advising manager today, who by the way is very involved with Facebook and social media.  She had raised the point that maybe advertising in Facebook is not the proper medium.  When people come to Facebook they are there to share and communicate with family and friends, they are not there to buy a product or look for a school to apply to.   This discussion was furthered after talking with one of our web producers later today who made a good observation.  When you go into your Facebook account, you are often there for a purpose – read status updates, play your favorite game, look at photos, etc.  You likely block out the ads and superfluous content on the page – like a horse with blinders.

Your college may have a completely different experience, and I would like to revisit the Facebook ads when we have redesigned our website and have proper landing pages for campaigns to be directed to.

After these discussions, I started thinking about the effectiveness of Google Adwords.  This post really isn’t about Google Adwords (it will come later after I have more experience), but I wonder when people are specifically search for ‘business diploma’ or ‘criminal justice studies’ in Google if purchasing Google Adwords to capitalize on those or other searches would deliver postive outcomes.

A really interesting comparison of Facebook Ads and Google Adwords can be found AU interactive blog.  Check out their findings below (make sure to read the entire article so the findings are put in the right context):

Comparing every single metric, Google Adwords visitors were far more engaged, far more valuable, and far better targeted. The traffic was cheaper and more consistent. The volume was far higher.

It’s not even close. Facebook Ads just don’t work.

And for all the hype that it’s gotten, it’s not even in the same ballpark as Google’s Adwords. Not even the same league. While targeting users by their listed interests may sound promising, it’s just not very effective.

Has your school had success with Facebook ads? Do you use Google Adwords?  Please share your experiences – both bad and good.

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  • http://higheredmarketing.blogspot.com DW

    We do Facebook ads, and while I have noticed some of the things you speak of, I guess my theory is that the ad may not directly cause people to click through and apply. But, it is one more area where our presence is seen. The hope is that the cumulative effects of seeing our name on Facebook, hearing it on the radio, etc., will cause people to stand up and take action.

    And maybe I’m biased because I am in marketing, but I’ve click through some Facebook ads on occasion when they really interested me and the graphics caught my eye.

  • http://highedwebtech.com Mike Richwalsky

    Mike,

    We’ve run a couple of Facebook ads and had good results (ie. visit day registrations) when we age and geo-targeted the ad, which is something that is more difficult to do with Google AdWords.

    For our Facebook ads, we selected high school students in Pittsburgh, PA for example, as well as Cleveland, Oh and wrote the ad copy to specifically target those areas – such as “Just a hour from Pittsburgh up I-79 is our college. Come and visit.” The clicks were better and as I said, we saw an increase in registrations.

  • http://www.mikemccready.ca/blog/ Mike McCready

    Thanks for the comments and sharing your experiences with Facebook Ads. We were getting a lot of traffic from the Facebook Ads but not one conversion and very high bounce rates. I agree that multiple exposures to a product or institution may have positive effects and cause people to take action whether its to apply, donate or buy. But when our traffic from Facebook Ads have a 85% bounce rate, they are not being exposed to our message and brand. We will attempt Facebook Ads again after we redesign our site and change our focus from informational to call-to-action orientated.

  • mrhames

    The fourth answer comes out of left field to me. What are the answers to #1-#3? Because if “the messaging in the ads was correct for the landing page that they were directed to?” and if “There was a call to action on the landing page from the Facebook ad, and is “the landing page was simple and to the point without confusion”, then the answer is #4. But I think more testing on 1-3 is in order before #4 is right.

    I think it's important to tell people what you want them to do in social media. If you want them look at X, then tell them. If you want them to do y, then tell them. So many people put “Fan us on Facebook” on their page without telling people why. It's early times, so people Fan because they can. But there was a day when people went to websites for brands because they could. That day has long ended, and the day of the automatic fan will too.

    Good post though. I love to read about people trying.

  • mrhames

    The fourth answer comes out of left field to me. What are the answers to #1-#3? Because if “the messaging in the ads was correct for the landing page that they were directed to?” and if “There was a call to action on the landing page from the Facebook ad, and is “the landing page was simple and to the point without confusion”, then the answer is #4. But I think more testing on 1-3 is in order before #4 is right.

    I think it's important to tell people what you want them to do in social media. If you want them look at X, then tell them. If you want them to do y, then tell them. So many people put “Fan us on Facebook” on their page without telling people why. It's early times, so people Fan because they can. But there was a day when people went to websites for brands because they could. That day has long ended, and the day of the automatic fan will too.

    Good post though. I love to read about people trying.

  • http://thekeytoawesome.blogspot.com The Key to Awesome

    I would have thought facebook's interest-targetting would be great. Thanks for saving me a potential bundle :)

    I'm blog-publishing a book called “The Key to Awesome” and I'm still new to the blogging side of things, so I really appreciate your advice!

  • Aliciataylor03

    But, it is one more area where our presence is seen. The hope is that the cumulative effects of seeing our name on Facebook, hearing it on the radio, etc., will cause people to stand up and take action.

    And maybe I'm biased because I am in marketing, but I've click through some Facebook ads on occasion when they really interested me and the graphics caught my eye.

    facebook ads guide

  • http://www.mikemccready.ca/blog/ Mike McCready

    Thanks for your comments Alicia. I know my thoughts made me sound anti-Facebook Ads. That isn't true. We've had huge success with Facebook Ads when targeting Alumni or promoting our Facebook page.

    I agree the the repetitive exposure to your brand is necessary and Facebook Ads are a relatively cheap approach to achieving that exposure.

    I guess what I should have said is don't just do Facebook Ads. They typically don't generate very many conversions. Google Ads on the other hand are much more successful at generating conversions.

    Thanks for the comments, it was great to hear your insight.

  • sheryl

    I am not sure but if you are interested in school you should check out Matrix Educational Center. They are located at 2120 West Colonial Drive, Orlando, 32804. (407) 420-2125.