Friend-of-a-Friend: Diversifying Voices and Channels in Digital Recruitment
It's clearer than ever that a strong digital brand is essential for successful Chinese student recruitment. Many schools already have a presence on Chinese social media, including WeChat and Weibo, but diversifying your digital strategy beyond social media and including student voices on these channels will help you stand out in a crowded market.
It's challenging to think about expanding your digital strategy right now - but here’s why you should.
Friend-of-a-Friend: Why Your Digital Presence is Especially Important in China
China is a notoriously brand-name and word-of-mouth-driven market. It’s not unusual to find Chinese students who made application decisions based on a “friend of a friend’s” experience at the same school.
It's a misconception that only well-known or highly-ranked schools can succeed in the Chinese market. Rankings don’t accurately reflect the type of student that succeeds on your campus, but a current international student can - one survey revealed that 57% of Asian students considered virtual conversations with current students the most important factor in their application decisions, compared to 47% saying their family and friends had the same impact.
Avoid an over reliance on rankings by cultivating a personalized digital presence that builds a sense of community. Making students feel valued and welcomed draws them into the admissions process, a soft-sell approach that centres the student, creating anticipation and reflecting the supports your school is uniquely poised to offer.
Better Information for Better Futures: How To Emphasize Best-Fit
What’s different about a liberal arts college? Is a big campus better than a small one? Where should I live? How’s the food? The weather? Beyond ranking, Chinese students from secondary cities found quality of life, food, and campus accommodation the next most important factors when making application decisions. Most schools attempt to answer these questions, but general messaging can seem insincere and vague.
Chinese student needs are diverse. Ask current Chinese students what information helped them make their decisions and provide platforms for them to share their experiences. Hearing from a relatable source that has, "been there, done that" provides reassurance and guidance for prospective applicants and introduces them to best-fit factors they may not have previously considered.
Be an early adopter - a study showed just 38.8% of private 4-year schools and 24.2% of public 4-year schools in America said they had messaging about student outcomes and the value of earning a degree on their primary webpages. Chinese students aren't just looking for a diploma - from strong post-graduate outcomes to social and extra-curricular opportunities, the value of international education extends far beyond the classroom.
Diversifying Your Digital Presence
Moving beyond social media, we've broken down ways to create and maximize your digital presence in China, and how each one can help shape your recruitment strategy and centre student needs.
From industry-wide to program and degree-specific fairs, we’ve compiled a list of upcoming China-focused recruitment events here.
Pros for You:
Your team can show wide audiences exactly what makes your campus unique.
The costs, both financial and time-wise, are significantly lower than in-person fairs.
Speaking directly to students helps you tailor your messaging to their needs.
Benefits for Students:
Students get a general overview of your school, admission requirements, and a glimpse of life on campus.
These fairs are often low to no-cost for students to attend.
Cons for You:
Navigating time zones and language barriers is tricky, especially for schools with smaller recruitment teams.
Stand-alone events make it harder to create lasting relationships with students or give them a sense of your campus atmosphere and culture.
It can be hard to gauge how well your message is received.
Drawbacks for Students:
With such a huge audience, it can be challenging for students to feel they’re receiving personalized attention or have the opportunity to ask questions.
There is high potential for post-fair communication gaps; the sheer number of schools students engage with at these fairs can affect follow-up.
Peer-to-Peer Recruitment Platforms:
In absence of campus tours, peer-to-peer student recruitment has also gone digital, thanks to platforms like UniBuddy.
Pros for You:
These peer-to-peer resource give applicants honest and authentic insights from their peers. A survey cited that more than 50% of prospective students who spoke to a student ambassador chose to apply to that school.
Identifying with a student ambassador promotes best-fit, allowing prospective students to “see” themselves at your school and instilling confidence in their potential to succeed on campus.
Benefits for Students:
Student ambassadors are viewed as authentic and believable, providing first-hand, unbiased experiences about what it takes to thrive on campus.
Peer-to-peer conversation is candid; students will feel comfortable asking questions they might not otherwise and feel less as though they are being “sold” to or influenced.
Cons for You:
Time zones are again a factor in facilitating direct, real-time conversations for schools and students.
It can be harder to control messaging. and finding the students that best reflect your brand can be time-consuming.
Drawbacks for Students:
While student ambassadors can speak to campus culture and academic environment, they might be less able to speak to specific programs of interest.
Student recruitment platforms like eduFair give schools a consistent digital space for interested students to engage with.
You’re able to connect with students at all stages of their application cycle, including students looking for information pre-application.
Direct connections aren’t limited to the duration of an education fair; students can engage with schools as needed, without having to wait for recruitment events.
Platforms require maintenance: updating dates and programs, ensuring COVID information is current, and communicating with students all require dedicated staff hours.
With students and staff in different time zones, real-time connections can be difficult.
What To Look For
With a wide range of tools to help you develop your digital presence in China, what features should you look for?
Accessibility: 77% of admissions websites have some content blocked in China; ensure Chinese students are able to access the messaging and media you’ve created for them.
Budget: Not all schools have the budget to compete in new markets or expand their strategies; look for inexpensive or free options.
Control and Connection: Prioritize pathways that let your team work directly with students. You know your school best; give prospects the most accurate idea of what their lives could look like on campus by sharing first-hand information and avoiding a reliance on third parties.
Where to Start
Free and fully-accessible via Chinese internet, eduFair's platform gives institutions total control of their brand in China.
Founded on the principle of better information for better futures, eduFair provides a venue for open, transparent information, including opportunities for student ambassadors to share their experiences - a feature proven to help students choose the right school for them.
eduFair promotes best-fit application decisions by ensuring students have all the information they need to make one of the most important decisions of their lives - one student, one school, one search at a time.
Not sure what your next step looks like? Get in touch.
ABOUT EDUFAIR CHINA
eduFair China is a free online platform dedicated to international education and recruitment. Its' platform connects millions of Chinese students with first-hand information while helping institutions recruit qualified students digitally. eduFair aims to give students a more empowered, holistic approach to international education so that they can succeed during their journey abroad.
Learn more about how eduFair can help you reach students across China.