As higher education marketing professionals, we help real people make life-changing decisions. Yet in digital marketing, it can be easy to lose sight of these three words – especially when it comes to LinkedIn ad campaigns and lead nurture.
Should I Generate Leads from LinkedIn?
Everyone in higher education marketing sees the potential of professional targeting to generate leads from LinkedIn and dreams of the “perfect” ad set. But as LinkedIn has become more popular, the number of ads, Inmails, and connection requests (with the sole intent of selling something) continues to increase. A clever ad alone is not enough, so using LinkedIn for lead-generation may use more resources than it builds – especially if you’re thinking in terms of using Google Vs. LinkedIn, or Meta Vs. LinkedIn, for example.
Google vs. LinkedIn
Here’s some anonymized data from an institutional case study.
Google Ads Outperformed LinkedIn Ads:
- By 93% in 2020 – 2021
- By 89% in 2021 – 2022
When you take a Google vs. LinkedIn view, the answer seems obvious. Ditch LinkedIn. But it’s a bit more complex than this initial data reveals.
Consider the Differences Between Meta and LinkedIn for Context
Context is key. Let’s take a look at how LinkedIn is a little bit different from other platforms. This will help us better understand how to use it.
Why People Use Meta (a.k.a. Facebook)
- Connect with friends and family
- Access to feeds from other platforms like TikTok and Instagram
- Reinforce their image (being cool, silly, popular, etc.)
- Sell something
Why People Use LinkedIn
- Find a job
- Grow their professional network
- Improve their professional brand by collecting and sharing new insights
- Grow their business
- Sell something
Notice a difference? Every motive for LinkedIn is based on promotion. You can see this pattern across other platforms as well, if you are looking to weigh LinkedIn against your other options.
Promoting in an Oversaturated Environment
The promotion-focused nature of LinkedIn content means that your prospect is not just being bombarded with ads and Inmails from companies. They are also being bombarded with soft and hard promotions from their connections and “friends” within their feed. Many people on LinkedIn are pushing something, even if it is just to increase their reputation and public profile.
Test Your Own LinkedIn and Meta Accounts
How big of an issue is this anyway?
- Compare your Meta and LinkedIn feeds.
- How many people in your Meta feed are posting tips, suggestions, or sharing information that implies they are an expert compared to your LinkedIn feed?
- Compare your Meta and LinkedIn inboxes.
- How many people on Meta sent you a friend request and then once you accepted it immediately sent another message trying to sell you their services? This happens in my LinkedIn inbox constantly!
Different Social Media Ecosystems Require Different Marketing Approaches
When you compared your LinkedIn and Meta accounts, you probably noticed they provide two entirely different experiences, right? Many marketers say the difference between Meta and LinkedIn are the audiences – the LinkedIn Audience is more professional. This is partly true, but fails to take the ecosystem of promotion into account for LinkedIn. How do you convince someone that your life-changing opportunity is right for them when everyone in their feed is trying to sell or persuade them of something as well?
This is why that “perfect ad” may not always work as well on LinkedIn as it does on Meta, Google, or another platform. You’re competing with more than just the paid ads on LinkedIn – you also have to compete with your prospect’s connections, whose posts are often an attempt at their own personal perfect ad.
How to Use LinkedIn for Higher Education Marketing
To be clear, I love using LinkedIn to reach prospects. But placing the “perfect” ad in prospects’ LinkedIn feed is not going to be enough to help them make a life-changing decision.
Switch Your Thinking from Google vs. LinkedIn to Google Towards LinkedIn
Other platforms aren’t inherently better; they serve different purposes. Stop using LinkedIn to hard-sell prospects in hopes of generating leads. Instead, use it to nurture leads you’ve already gathered from other platforms.
The Do’s and Don’ts of LinkedIn for Lead Nurture
- Don’t focus on lead generation.
- Do upload all the leads you’ve collected from other platforms like Google and Meta into your institutional or program LinkedIn account as contacts.
- Don’t run an ad that brags about the incredible events on campus.
- Do boost a post of a current student’s review of such an event.
- Don’t brag about how your degree program can boost a prospect’s career.
- Do boost recent alumni profile articles or news celebrating a recent graduate’s promotion.
- Don’t rely on a “perfect ad” to cut through the noise.
- Do use LinkedIn’s ad platform to push content that helps answer questions or speaks to prospect desires.
Case in Point: Institutional Results of LinkedIn Lead Nurture Initiative
- The first year I led the LinkedIn lead generation initiative for a prestigious higher ed institution, this institution’s completed applications increased by 10% from the previous cycle.
- The institution also welcomed the largest and most diverse class in school history.
- The institution had 45% more applications year to year (over 20% more than competitors).
- In the second year, the institution had the second largest pool of applications and enrolled students and continued to grow while competitors returned to pre-pandemic numbers.
Ultimately, you’ll need to reconsider your LinkedIn strategy in light of those three powerful words: life-changing decision. LinkedIn is your opportunity to show (not tell) what a life-changing decision at your institution looks like through the content you boost and sponsor.
Taking a Page from the Apple Playbook
Apple has mastered this technique of sharing the experience rather than promoting the product. Just visit an Apple store. This is where Apple gathers their leads and allows them to experience what it is like to be in the Apple community with very little hard sell. You can try any product or look over someone else’s shoulder while they try it out. You can stay for hours and never have to deal with a salesperson. You can walk in, brush up against the Apple lifestyle, pay on the app and never be sold anything by anyone!
Summing It Up
As you make this change of mindset, here are a few key points to keep in mind.
Use LinkedIn to:
- Focus on lead nurturing: less than 10% of your promoted content should have a call to action of “learn more about our program” or similar.
- Increase touches beyond email drip, newsletters, etc: in our case study, we regularly reached over 54% of LinkedIn leads with video, with over 40% of those watching 50% or more; retargeted LinkedIn videos received 3-5 times more views when compared to newsletter views.
- Gather data and insights on the lead pool: get hard data on interests, seniority, job function, and more.
- Show prospects what they’re missing without a hard sell: focus on topics like upcoming events and student event reviews, alumni stories and videos, podcasts, student videos, city highlights, and insights into areas of interest.
Help Your Prospects Make Life-Changing Decisions with Meaningful Content on LinkedIn
Every student who ends up at your institution took some sort of journey to get here. Likely, they weighed a few different options and considered the impact each would have on their life and family. They made what they hope is a quality decision that sets them on a course to a better future.
If you are a higher-ed marketer like myself, I encourage you to take a step back and put a fresh set of eyes on your digital marketing strategy and campaigns. Try using LinkedIn to share the stories, experiences, and knowledge of your institution or program’s community with your existing leads. Nurture them. Help them make that life-changing decision.