June 26, 2020

The 4 Best Digital Marketing Platforms for Engaging Prospective Students

Schools and universities are constantly evolving their marketing and communication strategies to reach potential students. Advertising on various digital mediums and social media platforms is an integral part of those higher education marketing strategies. Each digital marketing tool and social media platform can play a different role in how a prospective student learns about a college or university. However, with digital marketing, it’s important to be aware of your target audience, what they are searching for, and where they spend their time online so you know how to reach them. 

As a digital marketing agency with a focus on higher education, we understand different digital advertising platforms can play an integral role in the way a prospect moves through the student acquisition funnel. Here are the top digital marking platforms and social media apps that are been the most successful when reaching out to prospective students and how they can be useful in your student acquisition funnel.


Facebook offers some of the most comprehensive targeting options for digital marketers and features a wide variety of advertising formats. This makes the platform useful for creating different types of student outreach campaigns. Facebook can help with higher education brand awareness campaigns, generating RSVPs for upcoming events, and gathering potential student information through lead generation ads. While Gen-Z shifts their attention to other social platforms, that doesn’t mean you should take Facebook out of your digital marketing strategy. When it comes to non-traditional learners, adults looking to go back to school, or parents of a potential college student, this platform is a great place to reach these audiences. 


72% of teens use Instagram and 73% claim Instagram is the best way for brands to reach them. Adding this platform into your marketing mix is easier then you think.  Instagram ads are run through Facebook’s platform. That means the same targeting options, a variety of ad formats, and an additional advertising platform can be added to your digital strategy with little hassle. Schools can use Instagram to start engaging with prospective students while in high school and through their college-decision making process. 

It’s important to separate Instagram campaigns from Facebook, even though Facebook allows you to target both platforms in one campaign. Segmenting these two is critical to measuring how well each performs against each other.  

Second, make sure your Instagram ads aren’t too sales-focused. The initial goal of your higher ed marketing campaign might be for a prospective student to fill an application. However, prospective students may also use your ads to get to know your school before taking a step towards enrollment. Use Instagram stories to share student testimonials or show a day-in-the-life at your college. Most students aren’t going to apply to a school directly from an Instagram ad. However, they are going to be influenced by what benefits your school showcases.


It was reported in 2019, that 89% of Generation Z uses YouTube on a weekly basis. YouTube is also listed as the second largest search engine, second to Google. Now more than ever, prospective students aren’t looking to read about what you offer. These potential students want to watch, listen, and have an experience with your school. While you can create video advertisements on Facebook and Instagram, YouTube has an added benefit for your marketing plan. 

This video platform allows you to drive prospective students to full-length videos. This is especially helpful because you’re more limited on the length of videos on other social platforms. Different content that can be good to leverage on YouTube includes anything that can make a prospective student feel immersed in the life and culture of your school. 

Paid Search

Many of the other digital platforms we mentioned are great for generating awareness for your school. But Google ads show us when a prospective student is really starting to take interest and do their own research. Paid search isn’t limited to one specific audience, but you do have to be aware of how your audiences could be searching

We believe paid search is an important part of any higher education digital marketing strategy. It can be used to help prospective students take the final step to enrollment. An application is generally the first goal when someone clicks an ad for a school. But a lot of people that click an ad might just be starting their own college research. Our team likes to make sure we have secondary key performance indicators (KPIs) identified for all of our higher ed paid search campaigns. For example, if someone started a live chat or filled out a request for information form, those are great metrics to measure. This type of engagement shows a potential student may not be ready to apply. However, they have shown serious interest and we can then nurture them with other digital marketing campaigns and tactics. 

It’s important to meet your target audiences where they spend the majority of their time. We live in a world where most people are using one or more of these digital platforms on a daily basis. Making sure to craft specific messaging to each platform and research which fits your audience segments are keys to success. 

Want some help finding out how to best reach your prospective student base? Connect with the higher education specialists at our digital marketing agency.

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