target high school students

How to Target High School Students on Instagram

Advertising on Instagram has all the benefits of detailed audience targeting and optimization that Facebook has and when you’re targeting a young, high school aged audience, you’ll be able to get most success on Instagram. We’re finding more success targeting high school students on Instagram than on Facebook.

One of the benefits of using ads over organic posts on Instagram is that you can include a link to a specific landing page where you can get them to perform a desired action, like fill out a lead form to get more information. And of course, you can reach more people than just those who are following your organization.

Tips for targeting high school students with Instagram ads:


  • Target by age (e.g. 16-19 years old)
  • Specify that someone has to be “in high school” if you want to exclude students that have already graduated from high school
  • Narrow by certain interests or behaviors: if you have created different personas, and have a messaging framework for each, you can use audience interests or behaviors to target these personas with specific ads that will be more likely to convert. For example, students with interests in:
    • certain universities and colleges
    • travel or students who are frequent travelers
    • charities & volunteering
  • Target by school: you can target certain schools that people attend or have liked (interests) or locate school’s zipcodes; e.g. if you have a list of existing or past leads from certain schools or if you’re doing on campus promotion and want to reach the same students. The list of schools needs to be fairly large though in order to get a large enough audience
  • Target their parents: if you’d like to influence high school kids parents as well, there is a setting under demographics that allows you to target:
    • parents of teenagers aged 13 – 18 years old, and
    • moms of high school kids
  • Create a lookalike audience based on existing leads, people who have engaged with your Instagram account in the last # of days, and/or people who have visited your website
  • Retarget students who have engaged with your Instagram account in the last 60 days (or longer), and/or people who have visited your website but have not submitted their information in a lead form
  • Retarget students who are on your leads list but haven’t yet performed a certain action (e.g. fill out an application)

Campaign types

Depending on your organizational and campaign goals, different campaign types could be more effective than others. We usually recommend to focus on conversions — to get leads that you can later convert using retargeting and email nurturing strategies.

  • Website traffic: if you are not tracking any conversions, you can focus on website traffic and optimize for website clicks or landing page views. We’ve noticed a reduced cost per click when optimizing for landing page views as opposed to website clicks.
  • Conversions: Ideally, however, you’d have a landing page with a clear conversion action you can track against. Each campaign should have 1 goal, so if you have multiple goals set up different campaigns for each goal. If you have leads and applications, you could send new traffic to your lead form, and retarget your leads, existing website visitors and Facebook & Instagram followers to convince them to submit their application.
  • Lead Generation: if you have a short lead form, another way to capture these could be using lead generation. That way students’ information like name and email will be automatically filled out. Lead generation campaigns can be a good way to get a lower cost per lead. Make sure to follow up with a good email welcome series and assess the quality of the leads periodically to make sure it’s worth it.


wildlife conservatoin

Test which ad formats work best for your brand and your audience. For high school students on Instagram, I’ve seen most success with carousel ads, but this can be different for your brand. Definitely test single images, slideshows, and short 30-60 second videos as well.

Adapt your messaging an ad creative to the personas you’ve identified. For example, are they into animal conservation? Explain how your audience can make a difference in animal conservation through your organization.

Make sure to refresh your ad creative regularly to avoid ad fatigue. Test variety of concepts and styles to figure out what works for your audience. Test using emojis in your text. A/B test different landing pages (check out this case study for tips on how to improve your landing page experience to drive more student applications). And finally, save your best performing ads to reuse them again later or on different platforms.

Here are some more tips from my colleagues on how to set up your Facebook ads for success and how to analyze your Facebook ads performance. The same applies to Instagram ads as they are managed on the same platform. You could use the same ads on Facebook and Instagram and have Facebook optimize on where your ads should show. This is a good strategy if you’re not sure yet which platform works for you.

Good luck and definitely get in touch with us if you’re looking for some help to reach more high school students.


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