Many student marketers fall into the same trap.

They fall over themselves looking for new ways to connect with students across different platforms, with different approaches, and trying out different strategies.

But a crucial audience segment that often gets overlooked? 

The parents. 

More often than not, they’re in a unique position to influence a prospect’s decision – especially when it comes to the big choices like choosing a college or university.

And year after year, the parent audience is changing. Increasingly Gen X and older millennials, we’re not talking to technophobes anymore. Well, maybe sometimes. But on the whole, our parents segment will have had internet access for the majority of their lives, and know more about what their teenagers are up to than most might think…

So how are we going to successfully target parents? We’re looking at those who frequent Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube the most. 

Now we know that, let’s get to work.

1. Know who you’re talking to

Millennials are parents to 50% of the world’s children. *Gasp*. I know. Just let that sink in for a minute. 

As the generation that plugged in as they hit puberty, they know all the tricks when it comes to digital marketing. So it makes sense that you’re going to have to work a little harder to connect with these parents than the boomers of years past.

The thing about millennials is they expect quality. And if they don’t get it, they’re not afraid to look elsewhere. They expect a brand to live and breathe social values.

So with all that in mind, bespoke copywriting that really speaks to its audience is the only way to go. More on that in a sec.

2. Know how they use social media

These days, serving ads on your audience’s fave platforms isn’t enough. Ask yourself, what are they doing on social media? 

A percentage of your segment will be passive users, scrolling mindlessly like we all do. But do consider, many parents will be looking for connection with other parents, expert advice, tutorials, life hacks – anything and everything that’ll make life that bit easier.

So, with this in mind, think about how useful your brand could become for parents. Think about the kind of content they’d be interested in as their kids approach their junior or senior year…

5 Things You Need to Know About SAT Scores. 
How to Apply for School Funding. 
Which is the Best University for Campus Safety?

Share useful infographics on Pinterest, give applying to college 101 tutorials on TikTok, join groups on Facebook. Think outside the box. 

3. Use bespoke creative

Obviously, remember to fit your creative to the platform. The #ParentTok crowd aren’t going to be impressed with a WordArt-inspired copy on an irrelevant background, and nobody in a Facebook parent audience is going to be overly impressed with a random TikTok dance to big up your institution. Common sense, people.

Make ads that speak directly to these parents. Reevaluate your USPs and put the things they’ll care about in the forefront. Think campus safety, finance, quality of teaching, fantastic facilities. Not so much with the welcome week parties.

Say goodbye to the binary. Neutral language is an absolute must when discussing the next generation of students. Increasingly, the concept of a gender binary – and, of course, gendered language – is being rejected and filed under the label ‘outdated’. So forget about addressing ‘your son or daughter’, go straight for ‘they/them’ kinda vocab, as it’s the most appropriate way to talk about their kids.

4. Get your segmentation down

Now time to get your audience laser-focused. Most platforms provide the option of age targeting, so a quick win would be to focus on ages consistent with parents of prospective students, eg 40 and above.

“Facebook also has the option of targeting people who have ‘parent’ listed in their profile, and children of a certain age. We also combine the two aspects sometimes, targeting a specific older age range and then layering on interests or lookalikes we'd normally use for student targeting.” – Nathaniel Njie, Senior Paid Media Analyst

Google isn’t quite as flexible with its segmentation, but generally speaking you can simply exclude younger age demographics, so that ads just wouldn't show up for them.

5. Map it out

Got targets and KPIs you need to hit? Before you start your advertising efforts, sit down and plan, plan, plan. 

Think about your parent-focused marketing as its own campaign, ensuring you have ads that will:

  • Hook attention. Getting awareness of your institution is key, so start shouting about why their kid would thrive there
  • Create connection. This is where you bring out the undeniable USPs and make them so tantalizingly awesome, nobody can resist
  • Drive action. Your offering is too good for their kiddos to miss. Tell ‘em loud and tell ‘em proud.

As a final point, before you run away and start doing your best-ever parent-focused advertising (or ask our friendly team of creatives to do it for you), remember that your audience is looking for the best possible future for the person they hold dearest. Think about that and try to put yourself in their shoes.

Need help getting started? Get in touch today.