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Four Ways Schools Can Optimize Their Target Audience for LinkedIn Ads

May 29, 2024 6:30:00 AM / by Ryan Devito



As one of the most trusted social media platforms, it’s no surprise schools are leaning into LinkedIn Ads to support enrollment and fundraising efforts. There are several components to a successful LinkedIn Ads campaign, but defining and refining your target audience is the foundation for building a successful strategy to ensure you deliver the right message at the right time to the right person. 


Strategies to build and refine a target audience that aligns with your school’s campaign objectives.

It’s important to know that LinkedIn's robust targeting options allow advertisers to reach specific populations based on a variety of demographic, educational, and professional attributes including location, job title, company, industry, seniority, degrees, skills, and more. This level of precision enables schools to tailor their messaging to resonate with distinct audience segments, whether it's engaging potential prospects, recruiting faculty, or promoting institutional partnerships. 


1. Get specific with location targeting:

  • Location is the only mandatory targeting field for a LinkedIn advertising campaign. Your target locations should be as specific as possible without compromising the quality of your audience. When considering where your ads should be served, it’s important to remember that LinkedIn uses the user's profile location and their IP address to determine their location.
  • In many cases, targeting a city or metropolitan area is the best way for a school to reach a qualified audience of an appropriate size. For a smaller city, targeting the whole metropolitan area often works well. Targeting the “Charleston, South Carolina Metropolitan Area” would give a school a great starting point before adding other audience parameters, such as job seniority or years of experience. Targeting just “Charleston, South Carolina” may be too restrictive and therefore limit the effectiveness of an ad campaign.
  • For a more populous region, more specific location targeting may be more effective. Targeting “Long Beach, California” will usually be more effective than targeting the whole “Greater Los Angeles Area”. Along similar lines, targeting “Rhode Island” may be more appropriate than “Greater Boston Area” for a particular school.
  • Another great way to focus your location targeting is with exclusions. For example, a day school in suburban Chester County, Pennsylvania might choose to broadly target the “Greater Philadelphia Area” for its advertising. That broad target would give the school a very large audience, but the audience would be geographically dispersed across three states. To reach a more qualified audience, the school might do well to exclude New Jersey. The resulting audience would be meaningfully smaller and more appropriately local.


2. Target the whole organization:

If your LinkedIn audience includes targeting large universities, chances are good that you are unknowingly missing a significant slice of the population. Consider a flagship state university as an example. The university itself has a LinkedIn page, and many current students and alumni will list the university in the education section of their LinkedIn profile. 

Here’s the problem: there are also LinkedIn pages for the medical school, the law school, the engineering school, and the business school. The list goes on. LinkedIn is sophisticated, but its algorithm can miss that the business school is part of the university. The result is that your target audience may not capture the alumna who lists the business school, not the larger university, as her alma mater. The solution is to include everyone. You can do this by configuring your campaign to include “any of the following member attributes” and then selecting the university and all of its colleges.

3. Use AND and OR parameters to get your audience just right:

Some ad campaigns are designed with a very particular audience in mind. When configuring your campaign, you can use AND and OR parameters to reach exactly the group of people. Using AND parameters will give you a smaller, more focused audience. Using OR parameters still filter your audience, but using an OR gives LinkedIn more options for serving your ads. Building your target audience with a strategic mix of AND and OR parameters will often give you the best results.

  • Focused audience: People who currently work at MegaCorp AND have at least 3 years of experience
  • Broader audience: People who currently work at MegaCorp OR in the management consulting industry AND have at least 3 years of experience 
  • Even broader audience: People who currently work in the management consulting industry AND have at least 3 years of experience OR have a bachelor’s degree

4. Avoid “hyper-targeting”

There is such a thing as having an audience that is too specific. LinkedIn calls this “hyper-targeting”. Hyper-targeting can significantly limit delivery of your ads, which will affect the overall performance of your campaigns and likely result in poor impression, click, and conversion metrics. 

LinkedIn recommends a target audience of at least 50,000 people when first launching an ad campaign. When building your audience, keep this number in mind and adjust accordingly. Use AND and OR parameters to thoughtfully expand your audience without diminishing its quality. Smaller audiences can work well in some cases, but best practice is to start with a broader audience, collect campaign data, and then refine the audience over time using data-informed insights.


By focusing on the demographics and behaviors most aligned with their objectives, schools can begin to build an optimized audience for their advertising efforts. But it doesn't end there — with any digital advertising campaign, you want to establish clear goals, set up tracking, create compelling creative, and refine as you go based on enrollment results. If you need help optimizing your school’s LinkedIn presence in order to reach your enrollment marketing goals, reach out to Enroll Media Group. 


Topics: independent schools, digital marketing, social media, K-12, google, LinkedIn

Ryan Devito

Written by Ryan Devito

As an account manager, Ryan helps clients optimize their enrollment marketing strategies, providing extraordinary service and support every step of the way. With a background in higher education, Ryan has a decade of enrollment management and digital advertising experience at a variety of institutions.

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