Performance Social Media – A High-Performance, Transparent Alternative to Affiliate Marketing

Lead Generation For Online Universities
Institution Snapshot: Regionally Accredited Online Christian University
Institution Size:
Over 70,000 Online Students
Services Utilized: Performance Social Media

Background & Opportunity

The online higher education vertical is a highly crowded, competitive landscape. Institutions aggressively compete for share-of-voice and prospective student leads by leveraging various digital channels, primarily placing emphasis on organic rankings and paid search initiatives. To augment these efforts, institutions often engage affiliate marketing agencies.

A highly reputable, regionally accredited Christian University, with a robust online student population, was interested in expanding organic demand generation initiatives for its online program offerings. Cygnus proposed a different approach: Performance Social Media.

The Challenge

Most institutions recognize the importance of social media and the need to include social demand generation tactics in their digital marketing mix. For the most part however, institutions have fallen short of achieving performance metrics that are comparable to those realized through organic and paid search efforts. This fact, paired with the high-cost of social media leads, makes the scaling of social media campaigns difficult, if not impractical.

The Solution

Through a proprietary social media consumer behavior study, as well as ongoing data analysis, Cygnus was able to identify and hyper-target audiences that were highly likely to engage with the University’s online higher education offerings. Cygnus deployed people-based marketing that targeted, retargeted, engaged, and warmed leads through social media channels. The highly targeted, multi-faceted approach delivered highly qualified, high-intent prospective student leads that were:

  • Highly contactable
  • Engaged with the University’s brand
  • Actively considering education options
  • NOT co-registered job or scholarship leads
  • 100% exclusive


Within 6 months of deploying an initial test campaign, Cygnus delivered some of the most competitive conversion and cost metrics currently being realized by the partner institution. As a result, Cygnus was named a Tier 1 vendor, a designation that came with a growing commitment from the institution to scale Performance Social Media efforts managed by Cygnus. To-date, Cygnus has successfully scaled this campaign by over 2,500%.


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