Targeting Enrollment Leads on LinkedIn

targeting enrollment leads on linkedin

With Facebook and TikTok always on the news, we hope you haven’t forgotten about LinkedIn. As higher education marketers, we love the employment-oriented online platform. That’s because we’ve seen tremendous success in generating student leads via LinkedIn for most of our higher-ed clients. Check out our recipe for success when targeting enrollment leads on LinkedIn.

Let us start with the facts. According to LinkedIn:

  • You can reach more than 675 million members on LinkedIn – in 200 countries and regions worldwide.
  • LinkedIn members are 2x more intent-driven and 7x more receptive to ads.
  • (Saving the best for last here!) In 2019, LinkedIn drove 8M+ leads and 120k undergraduate and graduate enrollments for US schools.

So how can you use LinkedIn to target your student enrollment leads? What forms of LinkedIn advertising should you use to target potential students and/or parents?

Let’s discuss the two most popular forms of LinkedIn advertising and how you can use them to your school’s advantage.

1.     Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content are native ads you can run in the LinkedIn feed and reach a targeted audience beyond your LinkedIn page followers. It comes in different formats such as a single image ad, video ads, and carousel ads. Make sure you follow some of the best practices to run Sponsored Content to create effective ads that your potential students can engage with. Here are a few tips to get you started:

    • Use a compelling visual (1200X627 pixel)
    • Have 3-5 active sponsored content ads within one campaign to increase impressions and lower CPL
    • Shift budget to the audience with the highest engagement rate
    • For optimal engagement, keep the text accompanying your Sponsored Content under 150 characters.


2.     Sponsored Messaging

Previously known as “Sponsored InMails”, Sponsored Messaging is a type of LinkedIn advertising format that allows you to deliver targeted messages with a CTA that reaches your student’s LinkedIn inbox. Sponsored Messaging is offered in two formats – Message Ads and Conversation Ads. Both formats can be used as an opportunity to share and promote events and webinars. They can fulfill your objective of brand awareness, event/webinar registrations, lead generation, and program enrollments. Some key tips to get started with Sponsored Messaging on LinkedIn:

    • Keep copy less than 1000 characters
    • Use a clear call-to-action with a 300X250 pixel banner
    • Use first name personalization
    • Bid competitively, especially if your audience is narrow

Which advertising format should you choose?

According to LinkedIn, customers who use multiple LinkedIn ad formats see improved performance. Warming your audience with Sponsored Content before sending InMails results in higher engagement. When Sponsored Content and Sponsored Messaging are launched together for the same marketing campaign, advertisers have seen a 43% lift in CTR and a 40% increase in engagement. Hence, we recommend utilizing a multi-product strategy and using both formats to target the same audience.

How do LinkedIn Ads generate leads for higher education?

You might be wondering how these two LinkedIn advertising formats (and/or other advertising formats) that LinkedIn offers will help drive student leads for your university. We’ll let you in on the secret of lead generation inside LinkedIn – Lead Generation Forms. Yes, a form within LinkedIn! Think of this as the RFI form for your website. You can replicate your website’s RFI form, build it inside LinkedIn, and make it easy-peasy for prospective students to leave their details.

LinkedIn Lead Gen Forms are pre-filled with accurate LinkedIn profile data, letting students send you their info in just a couple of clicks. This helps increase your lead conversion rates and improve your overall ROI. Your leads can be easily accessed within the LinkedIn Ads Manager platform and can also be integrated with your marketing automation platform or CRM tool.

Bonus tip – Retargeting!

As with most media platforms, LinkedIn offers retargeting as well. With the help of LinkedIn Insight Tag, you can create retargeting campaigns and get in front of students who’ve already visited your website. Recently, LinkedIn launched a feature that lets you retarget people who’ve engaged with your lead forms. That means you can get in front of people who have opened your lead form but did not submit.

Analyze Your LinkedIn Campaign Performance.

We are against the “launch it and leave it” attitude when it comes to any form of media. With a wide variety of options for ad formats and campaign objectives, we recommend testing, testing, and testing! And, of course, learning from your tests.

You can create an effective A/B testing strategy for your LinkedIn Ads by changing one variable at a time to see if it increases your KPIs. Running A/B tests will help you understand what your audiences best respond to. Always carve time out to analyze your campaign performance and optimize accordingly to reach prospective students at the right time.

LinkedIn Ads vs Facebook Ads

According to Statista, Facebook has over 2.7 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2020. This makes Facebook the biggest social network worldwide, leaving higher education digital marketers wondering if Facebook is better suited for their business compared to LinkedIn.

While there is no straightforward answer to which platform is better than the other, LinkedIn has certain advantages when it comes to higher education. LinkedIn allows you to target your audience based on exactly who they are professionally: job titles, job function, industry, company name, education level, and even past schools they have attended. This makes LinkedIn better suited for professional working adults, degree completers, and graduate degree and certificate seekers.

With detailed targeting and higher quality leads, LinkedIn ads do generally cost more than Facebook ads. Hence, you will see higher CPC and CPL on LinkedIn because your leads could potentially be worth more.

Below is lead-to-enrollment data for one of our clients who has invested in both social platforms. We see a 34% contract rate, a 5.1% lead-to-application (LTA) rate, and a 0.7% lead-to-enrollment (LTE) rate on LinkedIn. Facebook has a 25.65% contact rate, a 2.17% LTA rate, and 0.32% LTE rate.


Organic 64.96% 46.67% 15.39%
Google Ads 33.94% 9.33% 3.13%
Microsoft Bing 30.77% 15.38% 3.85%
LinkedIn 33.81% 5.09% 0.67%
Facebook 25.65% 2.17% 0.32%


Naturally, we see higher conversion metrics from organic and PPC sources compared to social channels. However, it is important to remember that each phase of marketing funnel and each platform plays a distinct role in delivering results.

Measure Your Results

Measuring the success from upper-funnel advertising is a well-known challenge for all marketers. We recommend utilizing Google Analytics Attribution reports to better understand how different advertising efforts work together to create conversions. By looking at the conversion paths for this client, we have noticed social, particularly LinkedIn, is an effective channel for assisting conversions. This is why it is crucial to implement a full-funnel digital marketing strategy that will help your institution achieve the strongest results.

Regardless of which channels your leads come from, it is important for your marketing team to work closely with your admissions office to pave a path for lead-nurturing. Let your admissions team know that leads from social channels might not convert as quickly as leads from PPC or organic sources. It helps to create a nurturing environment that is personalized to each student to nudge them from prospective to enrolled student.

As a Sharpspring Silver Certified Partner, Sextant gives colleges and universities the benefits of an automated platform that not only improves lead generation but also helps nurture leads to push them down the funnel of enrollment. Remember that your admissions team is a major player in your overall marketing strategy for your institution. Help them create a personalized communications plan to connect with potential students.

We think it’s safe to assume that this article got you thinking about advertising on LinkedIn. At Sextant Marketing, we’re here to help with that. Contact us to learn how you can utilize LinkedIn to target your enrollment leads and more. And while you’re at it, follow us on LinkedIn!