Social media is increasingly important in creating brand awareness, generating inquiries and at improving yield (the percentage of accepted applicants who choose to signal their intention to enroll by paying a deposit).
Recruiting international students from emerging economies is vastly different from recruiting students from US & Europe in four important ways. First, they are typically making decisions jointly with their parents and even grandparents; second, they are surrounded by recruiting agents eager to advise them; third, they are inundated with study-abroad websites; fourth, they are not seeing many US colleges and universities in their search results because international SEO investments have not been a priority . Consequently, social media has become an important decision making tool for the college decision.
Smart schools are pioneering social media techniques to build trust with prospective international students and their families. They are:
1. Crafting a country-specific strategy. What works in China won’t work in India or Brazil.
2. Creating and managing presence in social media profiles in foreign countries. Building a presence on Mixi (Facebook equivalent in Japan), Renren (Chinese version of Facebook), Naver (a blog based community in South Korea), Orkut (Brazilian equivalent of Facebook), etc.
3. Creating country based Pinterest boards. Consequently, it becomes an important tool to help students/parents decide the right-fit question. Because Pinterest is not blocked in China, (like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube), it is especially important tool for communicating with Chinese students and parents.
4. Asking the current international students to blog about their college experience or create photo galleries of their college experience on Flickr.
5. Creating international student groups or pages on social media websites manged by current international students.
6. Creating international admissions social media profiles to take care of special needs of prospective and current international students.
7. Creating authentic videos in native languages by current international students and alumni.
When creating and managing these touch points, remember that international students and their families are more sensitive to brands, reputation, rankings, safety, mentoring and outcomes. Also, implementing these tactics can be done by hiring locals, enrolled international students or digital agencies like Elliance. Finally, measure the impact of social media activities on the admissions funnel.