Gateway Technical College

An Education in Social Advertising

gateway social advertising
gateway social media advertising

Gateway Technical College serves more than 25,000 students in Southeastern Wisconsin, with campuses in Kenosha, Racine and Walworth counties. The school attracts a broad demographic of students, from recent high school graduates to parents returning to school later in life to acquire a degree. Gateway wanted to promote a specific set of academic programs and initially sought Ascedia’s assistance with pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. The team quickly identified that new tactics were needed to drive event attendance and enrollment while increasing overall brand awareness in the region.

A Strategic Approach

Ascedia developed a PPC strategy to drive traffic to the business, engineering, IT, manufacturing and service (criminal justice and fire medic) degree programs. Over time, the marketing team identified additional opportunities for digital advertising that would boost Gateway’s results and drive attendance to campus events. Working within their existing budget, Ascedia expanded the strategy to include ads on Google Display Network, which would give Gateway more visibility among its desired audience. Ascedia also provided strategic guidance on digital ad creative and landing page development to help capture information from interested visitors.

The marketing team built in A/B testing and reviewed metrics before implementing the next campaign so they could build on previous successes and incorporate lessons learned. To compare social advertising results with the existing display ad strategy, Ascedia created a test campaign for a summer open house that was used on Facebook and Google Display Network with equal budgets. The Facebook ad had significantly higher engagement, which served to validate Ascedia’s strategy and enabled the team to expand their advertising strategy on the network. Because Gateway’s audience and goals are so varied, Ascedia’s strategy needed to remain flexible. The team used specific age targeting to reach both parents and prospective students and focused their advertising budgets on reaching a localized audience.

Impressive Results

Ascedia kicked off the social advertising program with a test campaign on Facebook for an open house. This test proved that a small investment in social media advertising could lead to big results. While there were more than twice as many sessions from the Google display ad, the Facebook ad had twice as many conversions for the same ad budget.

This successful test led Gateway to expand its efforts with Facebook for a Fall 2015 enrollment campaign, with impressive results.

Tactic/Metric Google Display Network Facebook
Visits 2,400 1,100
Conversions 15 114
Conversion Rate <1% 10%
Time on Site 40 seconds 1 minute

For a Spring 2016 enrollment campaign, Ascedia expanded the social media program to include Instagram with the goal of reaching the 18-24 age group. While Instagram had a low number of sessions, the conversion rate was the highest across all networks at 9%. Furthermore, 95% of Instagram sessions were new, indicating a fresh set of prospects for Gateway. 

Tactic/Metric Google Display Network Facebook Instagram
Visits 2,400 3,100 250
Conversions 11 105 24
Conversion Rate <1% 3.4% 9.4%

This type of performance remained consistent in subsequent campaigns: Google consistently drives the most site traffic, but Facebook has the highest number of conversions and Instagram has the highest conversion rate. Our team has continued to leverage Facebook and Instagram as part of their digital advertising mix, and has seen significant traffic increases from a small budget. Gateway’s Facebook advertising strategy includes carousel ads, which have been particularly effective at highlighting the broad range of educational programs available through Gateway – multiple images allow a single ad to showcase the different programs and inspire viewers to click through and learn more.

Extended Mix

In Fall 2016, we added video to the mix to attract a younger audience to Gateway. The Google campaigns were targeted to users aged 18-24. The social campaigns enabled us to narrow the target to users aged 15-21. Again, Google had higher exposure but the social posts had higher user engagement and conversions.

Tactic/Metric Google Display Network Facebook Instagram
Views to 100% 7,300 2,000 675
Sessions 32 260 232
Conversions 0 6 11
Conversion Rate 0% 2.3% 4.7%

Video has continued to be a part of Gateway Technical College's digital marketing mix as we develop campaigns for the Spring 2017 semester.