Anyone involved in marketing online higher education programs knows how competitive the space is. How is a new school with no name recognition supposed to compete with the plethora of institutions vying for attention at a reasonable cost-per-lead?
This was the challenge Adobe faced in marketing their client Mount Washington College. Though it’s owned by online education behemoth Kaplan, Inc., Mount Washington College (MWC) had changed its name and begun offering online degree programs in mid-2013. Adobe was tasked with increasing brand awareness and online engagement for the school while driving enrollment leads. Part of their advertising mix included Twitter.
I caught up with Paul Langtry, Account Director at Adobe to discuss the Twitter campaign he spearheaded for MWC (recently featured in a Twitter case study), how paid social compares to paid search and what it takes to run a successful Twitter campaign.
Langtry says the brand awareness challenge was a key reason they opted for a media plan that allocated half of the budget to social advertising. “In the case of Mount Washington College, non-brand paid search was going to be very competitive and expensive. Without that brand equity on non-brand keywords, we wanted to look at social. Social allows for great visuals and better brand positioning than a non-brand search campaign.”
The team started the Twitter campaign with standard promoted tweets and then added lead generation cards, which allow users to provide basic lead capture information — twitter handle, email and name — directly in the tweet without having to leave the platform.
When it came to audience targeting the key was to consistently drive scale. The team tested keyword, interest and username targeting. Langtry says they typically see the best performance come from username targeting then interest targeting. Keyword targeting often can be inconsistent depending on what users are tweeting about. The team began by combining interest (business, careers, job search, adult education) and username (to reach people similar to followers of accounts like @educationweek, @edutopia, @careerbuilder) targeting and then split them out to manage what was working best independently as they continued to tweak the targeting based on performance data.
In each case, ad copy was tailored to speak the particular audience targets and adjusted based on copy testing. They knew pricing information and affordability resonated with users and had success testing copy with the exact price of a specific course.
Langrtry said that when they added lead generation cards to the campaign, they considered the entire visual and made ad copy adjustments. The tweet becomes the setup, and the card has its own call-to-action with the graphic. “You don’t want to just take existing ad copy and pop in a card. You need to consider the entire ad experience.”
“With Twitter lead gen cards we could do branding plus lead generation. The performance can be very much in line with what you’d see on non-brand search,” said Langtry.
After adding the lead generation cards, Mount Washington College’s (MWC) conversion rate increased 101 percent at a 55 percent lower cost per lead. The brand’s follower rate also tripled.
Once a user submits their information, the lead data is transmitted to the client’s CRM system. There is a different follow up process for these leads than the traditional online form submissions, which typically include much more lead detail. Langtry says the email follow up is more informative for the Twitter leads because they tend to be much higher in the funnel — likely having not even been to the school’s website yet.
Which raises the question, do these leads actually convert into enrollments? Langtry assured me MWC has been happy with the enrollment rates from Twitter leads. The campaign has been running for about seven months now and continues to scale with steady lead volume.
When asked about the differences he’s seen in managing paid search and paid social campaigns, Langtry says the major difference is that social campaigns often take more planning and experimentation to find what types of audiences and messages are going to work. Social usually doesn’t compete with the scale of paid search, but Langtry says they see success with social campaigns in most cases and recommend social to the majority of clients.
I asked Langtry what advice he would give to other Twitter advertisers. Here are his suggestions:
- Always separate mobile and desktop. Engagement rates and conversion rates will be different between the two and need to be managed accordingly.
- Use engagement rates as an early proxy, but they aren’t always a predictor for conversion rates. Wait until you get enough conversion data before making big decisions on segments, copy, etc.
- From a bidding perspective, be very hands on, particularly at launch. “If you wait too long to act, the tweet might already be decaying.” Twitter requires very active campaign management.
- Constantly test. Langrtry says they are always trying new creative and evolving targeting. They exclude poor performing targets, test new audiences and pull out top performing interest and usernames and give them their own budgets.