Customer Acquisition News


Leveraging Unbranded Social Advertising To Engage Prospective Higher Education Students

March 23, 2021 Sarah Cavill

In 2020, prospective student inquiries from social media increased 30% compared to the prior year, according to data derived from and stored within Sparkroom® performance marketing technology. As social channels become more essential for higher education student recruitment, enrollment marketers are seeking innovative ways to scale inquiries and enrollments.

Unbranded social advertising supplements branded campaigns, empowering education enrollment marketers to reach high-intent prospective students at scale. “Unbranded campaigns allow colleges and universities to target prospective students without competing with their branded marketing efforts. These unbranded social campaigns can also be more cost effective than branded campaigns, allowing schools to offset media spend and gain access to audiences that would otherwise be cost prohibitive for more niche offerings,” said Carrie Burton, vice president of media and education at Digital Media Solutions®

Social Media Continues To Grow As A Recruitment Channel For Higher Education

“Unbranded higher education advertising allows schools to leverage new and growing media channels to engage with high-intent prospective students,” said Burton. And, social media is one of those growing channels for higher education enrollment marketing. In fact, the share of prospective student inquiries coming from social media increased 34% for campus-based programs and 29% for online programs in 2020 compared to 2019, according to Sparkroom data. Social media and media use skyrocketed during the pandemic, with 1.3 million new users around the world joining social media every day in 2020 and time spent on smartphones increasing more than 16% in 2020 compared to 2019. This additional time spent on social media and mobile offers opportunities for higher education enrollment marketers to reach prospective students with an array of campaign strategies, including unbranded social advertising.


What Is Unbranded Advertising?

Unbranded advertising promotes specific products, services or offers without featuring a specific brand. Unbranded advertising often answers questions or offers information that drives inquiries. 

With regard to higher education enrollment marketing, unbranded advertising is often used to attract prospective students interested in specific fields of study or programs. Unbranded campaigns allow higher education institutions to engage these prospective students by answering high-level questions and driving students to landing pages that offer forms to request information, register for open houses or chat with admissions advisors. By not including school-specific branding, colleges and universities are able to broaden their reach and engagement with students that may not be familiar with their school brands. 

Unbranded advertising functions effectively on social media, where prospective students are likely to browse and engage with advertising that sparks their interest. For example, unbranded social ads targeting prospective nursing students could include quizzes, driving prospects with demonstrated intent to the advertiser’s landing page where the prospective students can learn about nursing programs that match their interests and request more information. 

Unbranded Social Advertising Complements Branded Campaigns

Unbranded social advertising is designed to support, not compete with, branded campaigns. Unbranded social campaigns supplement the branded advertising and marketing efforts of higher education institutions, exposing new and niche audiences who may be earlier in their searches for colleges or universities or who may be searching by career or program designation.

Unbranded social advertising campaigns allow for tight targeting on a variety of criteria, including geography and interests, capturing high-intent prospects. By leveraging a broad variety of social media platforms and other digital channels, unbranded advertising allows higher education institutions to scale their reach and engagement, creating opportunities for increased application and enrollment volume without disrupting branded campaigns.

Are You Looking To Connect With Prospective High-Intent College Students At Scale?

Unbranded social advertising campaigns run by DMS EducationTM leverage nearly 20 years of higher education advertising experience, millions of dollars in ad spend, billions of impressions and dispositional detail and deep audience data targeting to meet and exceed cost per enrollment goals for higher education institutions.

DMS EducationTM is a thought leader in education and adtech-enable digital media distribution. Through our support of traditional and for-profit colleges, trade schools, community colleges, boot camps, continuing education providers, OPMs and agencies, we have seen it all. Led by industry veterans and dating back to our founding in 2002, DMS Education provides predictable, scalable and reliable education marketing.

About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Associate Content Manager, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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