The Free Market Research Tool for Higher Ed

Facebook Audience Insights: The Free Market Research Tool for Higher Education

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Facebook is where big data meets social networking. You have likely heard the jaw-dropping statistic:

“If Facebook were a country, it would be the third largest—only behind China and India.”

Over 1.2 billion people log into Facebook on a daily basis, which is an incredible 18 percent year-over-year growth (from 2015-2016). Think about it. Facebook is in its 13th year. That kind of sustained growth in daily usage after 13 years is truly unbelievable, and with it comes an immense amount of data about people from every corner of the globe.

So how can we, as higher education marketers, use this to improve our methods?

Facebook is one of the most valuable market research tools available to the higher education marketer today—specifically, the Audience Insights tool (find this under the ‘Plan’ section of your Asset Library in Business Manager).

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With Audience Insights, Facebook is the only social media platform that provides advertisers with information on how their specific target audience stacks up against the ‘average’ Facebook user in terms of demographics, engagement and a host of other factors.

You can use Audience Insights to better understand how your target audience compares to the typical Facebook user.

There are three ‘sources’ you can use to measure your audience against the ‘average user’:

  1. Everyone on Facebook: Compare users who match your demographics (age, industry, location, etc.) to the average user.
  2. People Connected to Your Page: Compare your Facebook followers (likely students, alumni and faculty) to the average Facebook user.
  3. Custom Audience: Compare remarketing or email lists (assuming large enough scale) to the average user.

All three options are extremely valuable in their own way. Here is a look at how you might use each option:

Everyone on Facebook

You are thinking about advertising a Masters in Teaching program located in San Francisco on Facebook, but are not sure if it’s the right way to reach your audience. Your primary target is prospects with 5-10 years of teaching or education experience.

After selecting Job Title: Education and Library and Location: San Francisco within Audience Insights, it becomes clear that Facebook would be a great choice to reach your audience. About 50 percent of users with ‘Education’ job titles fall into your target age range of 25-34 in San Francisco, whereas only 24 percent of all Facebook users in the area fall in that age range.

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People Connected to Your Page

Most college/university Facebook pages are a mix of students, alumni and faculty, but let’s say you want to know how many prospective students are following you on social media. For a traditional undergrad program, look at your followers by education level to get a sense of this metric. Below is the breakdown of a small liberal arts college in the Southwest U.S. by education level.

As you would assume, the clear majority of followers are in college or college graduates—both falling into the ‘College’ bucket. About 13 percent of this page’s following, however, does consist of students with ‘high school’ as their highest level of education indicating a healthy following among what are likely high school students interested in the college. This reinforces the importance of creating content for both current and prospective students.

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Custom Audience

Here is a look at how the CRM list of prospects for an Executive MBA program in the Midwest compares to all Facebook users in the metro where the program is located. Using Audience Insights, we know it is 80 percent more common for an EMBA prospect to fall in the $150-250k bucket than the typical Facebook user in the same metro area, and 16 percent less common that they fall into the $50-75k bucket.

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Now, go leverage the power of Facebook Audience Insights.

These are just three examples among countless experiments you can run with Audience Insights. The power of this tool cannot be understated. Next time you conduct market research for your program or institution, do not make the mistake of overlooking the world’s largest social network.

Have questions? Shout them out in the comments below or reach out to me directly to talk more about digital advertising.

John Staak
John Staak
February 10, 2017