Colleges Must Adapt to Facebook’s New Teen Ad Targeting Changes or Lose Reach

Last week, Facebook changed its advertising policies for teens, which has significant implications for colleges and universities that use Facebook and Instagram to reach traditional prospective students.

By: Kelly Paul

In this blog post, we’ll explore why higher education institutions must review and update their Facebook and Instagram advertising strategies in response to these ad targeting changes. We also suggest adapting your college student marketing strategies to comply with these new policies.

Facebook Teen Ad Targeting Changes

Starting February 20, Facebook is eliminating some of its targeting options for all ads to teens (those aged 13-17 globally, 13-19 in Thailand, and 13-20 in Indonesia). If you currently have campaigns that use any of these targeting options, Facebook will automatically pause your campaigns on April 7 or adjust them to be served to adults only.

You can no longer:

  • Target by gender
  • Target by zip code
  • Target by locations smaller than cities (ex., custom location radius)

Because zip codes often determine the school or district where a prospective student is enrolled, colleges and universities use zip codes in marketing campaigns to target teens based on institutional enrollment objectives.

Some colleges and universities also have a practice of targeting prospective students based on gender. These are typically for programs where one gender is underrepresented, and the institution seeks to increase underrepresented student enrollments.

Adapt Your Campaign to Reach Teens on Facebook by Gender and Zip Code

While you will need to update your campaigns to target all genders and to reach college students with a city or broader location, you can make the following changes to still reach your intended audience:

  • Messaging
    Update your messaging to appeal to the prospective student you are targeting. If you’re seeking an underrepresented student, your messaging should appeal to them specifically and directly.
  • Creative
    Update your creative to include imagery and other design elements that speak directly to their current high school and desired college experience.
  • A/B Test
    A/B test your messaging and creative to see which best accomplishes reaching your target college students. Then apply those learnings across your campaigns. And don’t stop there; employ a marketing strategy that includes monitoring and optimizing to improve your advertising effectiveness continuously.
  • Target Parents of Teens

    Parents are just as much a part of college and university marketing as prospective students. While Facebook is changing how advertisers can reach teens, you can still use these targeting and optimization options for those 18 and older.

Changes to Other Facebook Campaign Options

The following advertising campaigns targeting teenagers will no longer be available.

  • Advantage+ catalog ads (formerly dynamic ads)
  • Optimization goals for ad delivery including:
    • App installs
    • App events
    • Video views
    • Post engagement
    • Value
    • Ad recall lift
    • Landing page views
    • Leads
    • Conversations
    • Event responses
  • Cost per result goal (ROAS) as a bid strategy
  • Link clicks (CPC), page likes, ThruPlay, or 2-second continuous video views as a selection for when you are charged
  • Ad placements (manual and automatic) including:
    • Facebook Groups Feed
    • Facebook Business Explore
    • Facebook in-stream video (desktop)
    • Facebook Search Results
    • Messenger Sponsored Messages
    • Facebook Instant Articles
    • Audience Network Native, Banner, and Interstitial
    • Audience Network Reward Video
    • Audience Network In-Stream Video
  • Lift tests

Facebook Optimization Goals You Can Use for Targeting Teens

Optimization goals you can use for Facebook campaigns for student recruiting include:

  • Impressions
    This optimization gets as many views of your ads as possible.
  • Reach
    This optimization will put your ads in front of as many prospective students as possible.
  • Daily Unique Reach
    Using this optimization option allows you to limit the number of times you reach your audience.
  • Link Clicks
    Link clicks are a good option when you want to generate traffic to your website.

Facebook Ad Placements You Can Use for Targeting Teens

While several targeting options have been eliminated, you can still use many others to effectively reach young users who may be part of your institution’s target audience. They include:

  • Facebook Marketplace
    Where users can discover, buy, and sell items.
  • Facebook Feed
    Facebook feed constantly updates with stories, including status updates, photos, videos, links, app activity, and likes from people, Pages, and groups one follows on Facebook.
  • Facebook right column
    Ads in a desktop format only commonly appear in the right-hand column of Facebook pages but may appear in other areas.
  • Facebook Stories
    Facebook Stories are short, often user-generated photos or video collections that disappear within 24 hours.
  • Facebook In-Stream Video (mobile)
    You can deliver video ads that appear before, during, or after videos on Facebook.
  • Instagram Feed
    Instagram Feed constantly updates with stories, including status updates, photos, and videos. This is a great place to reach new audiences, raise brand awareness, and attract new followers.
  • Instagram Explore
    Instagram Explorer is a collection of content based on the user’s interests.
  • Instagram Stories
    Instagram Stories are short-lived and disappear after only 24 hours.
  • Facebook Reels
    Facebook Reels are short, entertaining videos complete with music, audio, AR effects, and other options are served. Reels appear in places like Facebook Feed, the Reels section on Facebook, or your Reels profile.
  • Instagram Reels
    Instagram Reels are short, entertaining videos on Instagram that can be up to 90 seconds if recorded in the app and 15 minutes if you upload a pre-shot video.

Facebook is Still a Strong Channel for Colleges and Universities, even with Facebook Teen Advertising Changes

Facebook is an increasingly important channel that allows colleges and universities to connect with prospective students, current students, alumni, parents, and donors. While the use of Facebook among teens may be rapidly declining, with Facebook advertising, you also get Instagram – the social media channel that 62% of teens use.

The benefits of advertising on Facebook are clear, but driving applications and enrollments can be challenging for college and university marketing teams to manage. With experienced digital marketing and Facebook advertisers such as New Path Digital, we can help colleges and universities effectively reach prospective students to grow their enrollments. Schedule a free consultation to learn how.

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