Social networking is increasingly prevalent in both established and emerging countries around the world. A recent survey by the Pew Research Center found that a global majority of adult Internet users around the world use social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. On average, out of 30 countries listed in the survey, 86% of adults age 18-34 engage in social media… which means a likely 86% of your prospective international students are online, looking at your university’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Are you there to talk to them? What are you saying? Here’s our guide to using social media for international student recruitment.
Benefits of Social Media for International Student Recruitment
The biggest reason to connect with prospective students on social media is simple: that’s where they are. For your message to be heard, you must have an audience –and today, your prospective students are on social media. This is especially important for international students, since they are much less likely to visit your campus; they physically can’t come to you, so you’ve got to go to them.
Social media is also immediate: you can talk to someone halfway around the world in a matter of minutes. But more than speed, it’s also very personal. Despite being behind a desk on campus, you can easily tailor your messages and responses to each individual student thousands of miles away.
Content on Social Media for International Student Recruitment
The most powerful aspect of social media is creating a conversation – these platforms are designed to be less formal, and you should strive to get your followers actively engaged. Leverage student ambassadors, get international alumni involved and don’t be afraid to ask your best faculty to chime in too. Here’s why:
According to a survey of international students by i-Graduate, the most influential factor in choosing a university is recommendations by friends. This means testimonials and direct contact with current and past international students should be a high priority. The survey also found that 32% of respondents said parents were an important factor – so don’t be afraid to create content that prospective students can share with their parents.
Part of having a meaningful conversation is talking about what matters most to your prospective students, and that isn’t the same for all international students. Students from different regions and different socio-economic backgrounds care about different things. So do your research to understand the psyche of the student you’re trying to reach, and tailor your message to them.
Most Popular Platforms for Social Media for International Student Recruitment
Beyond embracing social media in general, universities should embrace a variety of platforms that suit their needs. If you’re trying to recruit from a specific region or country, the most efficient social media strategy will be one that prioritizes the most popular social media platform there. To help you out, here are the most popular social networking sites, by region:
|Latin America||Southeast Asia||Central Asia||Europe||Middle East|
|Blogs (Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr)||#2|
Brazil has 103 million social media users. The most active social media platform in the country is Facebook, followed closely by WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
In China, 47% of the total population actively uses social media. The top three social platforms are WeChat, QZone and Sina Weibo.
The growth of India’s social media users is up 15% since January 2015, with the most popular platforms being Facebook, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
New Trends in Social Media for International Student Recruitment
Though blogs, webinars and video chats aren’t “big players” on the social media scene, they are becoming increasingly popular. One excellent way for universities to take advantage of these platforms, especially in terms of connecting with prospective international students, is through online yield events.
A recent survey by Ruffalo Noel Levitz found that 46% of international students planned to apply to 3-5 universities. Chances are, they’ll get admitted to more than one, which makes that yield meeting crucial. But not every university has the budget to send admissions representatives around the world two or three times a year to conduct in-person meetings. Holding virtual yield events are a great cost-effective alternative through Q-and-A blog posts, Skype calls, Facebook discussions and more.
For example, the University of California, Santa Cruz hosts several different types of online events and virtual initiatives for yield. They use tools including:
- PrepTalk: 1-hour targeted events for international freshmen
- YouVisit: Create a virtual campus tour
- Facebook: Create a private, branded community for admitted students, allowing them to meet their future classmates, ask questions, share interests, and get excited about their college experience
- Student Portal
- Admissions Website
As another example, the University of San Diego does virtual open houses, webinars, as well as themed chats with staff and students.
Considering the current political situation, and all the surrounding conversations that are happening with students and parents, we feel that yield is going to be much more important this year. As you look toward this coming spring, please make sure you take social media strategies into account to boost your yield. Consider adding posting, tweeting and chatting to your outreach – and if you’re already doing that, hopefully you may have found some new ideas to boost engagement on your channels. And of course, don’t forget to follow UnivAssist on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
As Communications Coordinator, Tracy Beavers works in marketing, communications, graphic design and social media for UnivAssist. She brings more than five years of experience from a variety of fields including equine and medical non-profit.