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When it comes to marketing and advertising endeavors on social media, there’s one common goal everyone is trying to achieve: getting the most reach for dollars invested. It only makes sense – if you could pay just $0.20 for a click or lead, why would you settle for a $2.00 charge?

These kinds of comparisons make it easy for companies to strive for advertising greatness. That’s why most companies will look at their ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend) with a frequent obsession. The ROAS is calculated by the number of enrollments or starts a school gets by every dollar spent on an advertising source. Therefore, there is some kind of numerical value that is measuring how much you are spending on each enrollment, which can help you fine-tune an even more effective approach in the future.

But, the ROAS doesn’t tell the whole picture. If it did, companies would be able to make much more targeted decisions with regard to how their dollars are spent. The ROAS doesn’t take into account the true costs of enrollments because it can’t piece apart organic, paid search, and pay-per-lead programs that compete for the same keywords.

When a potential enrollee decides they want to start searching phrases like “how much do carpenters out of school make,” all three organics, paid search, and pay-per-lead channels compete for consideration of individuals that have made their willingness known to marketers. It’s easy for you to know they want to go back to school – these potential candidates are actively looking.

Therefore, your aggregator PPL search dollars and your organic search dollars find themselves in a position of competing for the same candidate, causing you to spend twice as much on their enrollment. This type of redundant spend is, in a sense, a “cannibalization” of your budget for the same keywords.

So how can you avoid this kind of double-up when it comes to your marketing dollars? You can consider something called the top-of-the-funnel.

What is the Top of the Funnel?

Imagine one big marketing funnel that ends with lead conversion, but starts with broad, catch-all content, imagery, videos, etc. At the top of the funnel, leads don’t even know they are going to lead yet. In fact, excellent top-of-the-funnel content will show people who weren’t even thinking about going back to school why a trade school future might be right for them. Top-of-the-funnel content presents a scenario that is alluring and appealing to the right target viewer; in many ways, it inspires and awakens audiences like few other marketing tools.

Thanks to social media, you can actually target a top-of-the-funnel, pre-consideration demographic before any intentional marketing indicates present themselves.


  • Attitudes and Affinities: Social media provides critical insight into a person’s likes and dislikes today. After collecting data from liked posts, comments, and clicks, social media platforms can tell you if someone could possibly be interested in nursing, as well as if someone just isn’t going to have an affinity for that topic.

  • Demographic Information: Social media can effectively segment for gender, age, background, and ethnicity. If you are looking to recruit more women into a tech program, social media makes it easy to ensure your top of the funnel content is reaching out to female candidates.

  • Geographic Markers: Even the most basic and obvious location information can be useful. If you are located in London and want to target everyone in the UK, social media helps you pinpoint geographic locations that will have the highest concentration of your ideal candidate.

If you take time to really segment out these different factors, then social media can become a marketing channel that does NOT cannibalize your other digital channels. What you pay for is what you get, with no overlap or duplicate charging concerns.


Social media falls into the “nuanced category” of marketing. When we say nuance, we mean that it entails a form of inbound marketing, as opposed to outbound marketing. Inbound marketing is a relaxed approach in which content draws in a consumer, as opposed to aggressively reaching out to them first.

Approaches such as content marketing have assumed a requisite role in most marketing programs because they create interest and generate excitement about a brand, company, or cause without shoving sales materials down your throat. In this case, the outboard nature of social media lends itself beautifully to inspiring people to enroll in an educational program for the joy of learning or to pursue a new career path—or both.

At the end of the day, your recruitment content should not only inspire users but also show them how they can act on that inspiration.

4 Ways to utilize the Top of the Funnel

Let’s say you know that social media marketing is valuable, and you’re putting some kind of effort into it. If you’re not targeting each segment in your outreach with laser focus and specific verbiage, photos, and video, then you’re not ascribing to the inbound marketing school of thought. Social media users want to be wowed and impressed with an ad that actually makes them think and reaches into their heart. They will only respond to feature tailored messaging that resonates with them.

Social media users know when they are part of a catch-all scheme. Therefore, social media ads can’t just be about blasting new pictures and quotes; they need to be about meeting these users exactly where they want to be met. They want you to take the time to appeal to their affinities. They want to see that you put in the effort.

So, when you sit down and configure your social media recruiting plan, here’s what should be at the center of your top of the funnel approach:

  • Paint a Better Future: Everyone wants to envision a bigger, brighter future. Create a vision for your ideal recruit that helps them to truly see where they could be 5, 10, or 20-years from now. Paint the picture for them.

  • Play to Affinities: Create content that is related to the most common affinity of your ideal candidate.

  • Start Broad: With the top of the funnel, you don’t want to segment out would-be recruits too early. Stick to more relatable topics, like changing their world forever, making more money, or having more freedom.

  • Introduce New Concepts: Subtly introduce a new idea or concept that your recruit might not have considered… like going back to school.

It’s your job to be the storyteller. Make sure your ideal candidate is the protagonist of the story, with a happy ending that shows them the future they could have. Recruiting candidates for trade and secondary schools doesn’t have to be mundane; the more imaginative, the better!