Before we talk about targeting the right parents, it is important to talk briefly about how Facebook, Instagram, and other social platforms know what we like and are interested in.
The reason social media is free is that we, the consumers, are the product. The advertisers are the customers and pay to access our attention.
If a Facebook user clicks on a post, they will be categorized as interested in Parenting.
As you scroll down, liking, sharing, viewing videos, reading posts, etc. a detailed mosaic of your interests and habits is created.
Each of us has access and control over this information, but few social media users exercise any control. You can see your own Facebook interests here.
We and other advertisers use the information provided by Facebook and other social platforms to get your ads in front of the right people. It is important to note where these ads appear; this is covered in a separate article.
Our targeting starts when we are researching your marketing game plan.
During that phase, we create your Ideal Parent Persona.
Behind the Ideal Parent Persona is a trove of data. The Persona is just a starting point for us, from which we will use our split testing capabilities to gradually explore various combinations of targeting options.
The most basic targeting is linked to demographics. We mostly target females, just because, over thousands of ads, we have seen that mothers are the ones who inquire. We conserve our budget by not targeting fathers so much. When we are working on college prep or post-secondary campaigns, this is different, and we target both males and females.
Then there is age. We modify our age targeting depending on the type of school we are after. Our research is usually clear here, but it is common sense that you would target younger parents for a preschool or elementary school and older parents for a high school or college.
Zip codes and even advanced geotargeting is possible in the demographic section. Is there a highway that people never cross? Is there a neighborhood 50 miles away that has excellent public transport? We can consider people who were recently in this location, people traveling to this location and so on, and use it in our targeting.
The second level of targeting is concerned with Facebook users’ interests.
We then test combinations of different targeting options (this is “AND/OR” targeting).
Here are some other targeting options that we often use:
Ages of Children :)
Other Fun Parenting Categories
There are so many categories that you can easily get lost.
What complicates matters more, is that if you simply create an ad, even a well-written ad with great copywriting , and show it to one of these categories, it will not work. If only this were that easy.
First, these categories are accurate, but not 100% accurate. We often target specific zip codes and get 10% or more of the leads from outside the zip code. It might be that someone shared the post, changed locations recently, or a number of other reasons.
Second, for each school we work with, it is usually a particular combination of the above that brings results. Alas, it is not always the same combination.
Third, parents get so many messages, that you need to go through the stages of awareness to ensure you catch their attention and create an emotional connection with them.
Therefore, we execute three important additional workflow procedures when we target.
1. We do a lot of split-testing on different targeting combinations. We’ll create different buckets with different types of audiences, like this:
2. We use the stages of awareness to improve our targeting. For example, for your second campaign, we target parents who engaged with your first campaign or watched your video.
3. We use the most powerful targeting option of all, which is lookalike audiences.
Lookalikes are audiences that Facebook and other platforms create from our current parents, previous parents, or parents with similar characteristics. You can select email lists, phone lists or other Facebook campaigns and tell Facebook, “Show my ads to more parents like this”.
Since we work with so many schools, we have compiled huge lookalike audiences for every type of school, including faith-based, charter, and independent coed schools, You name it, we have an audience for it.
The last point to make on targeting is that Facebook and other social platforms can optimize the next campaigns based on the results of a previous campaign. When, for example, certain inquiries come in, we can ask Facebook, “ Please find more people with interests and profiles similar to the ones that just inquired”.
That’s why campaigns get better over time, and we get better and more inquiries as we go along.
We take this a step further. When we are reaching out to the parents who inquire through our follow-up service, we can send Facebook an “offline conversion event” when we talk to a parent who is interested to learn more and visit your school. That way, instead of optimizing for someone who simply left their email address or phone number, we can optimize for truly right-fit parents as judged through a phone call or text message exchange with a human.
The complexity you see here should help you realize why it sometimes takes time to optimize our campaigns. We are grappling with all these different variables and aligning them in a way that brings right-fit parents to your doorstep. The great news is that when we finally find the best combination of targeting that works for your school (and we always do!), then the inquiries, calls, visits, and enrollments come in like clockwork!