Making Social Media work for International Student Recruitment

Global Campus just released a whitepaper showing some surprising survey results for international student recruitment, and social media. Although conclusive results are up in the air, it shows more and more administrators are interested in leveraging social media to court and welcome international students.

One of the benefits form the report states that social media can be more cost effective than international travel and print.  The bad news is that there’s quite the man-hour investment in social media activity and though students seem to like it the results are debatable at best.

These inconclusive results surprise us, because we see great conversations in the Schools App from international students, sometimes in ways that seem even more important than resident students. How should you approach Social Media when the intent is to boost International or non-resident recruitment numbers?

Below are our tips, but you can also download our full report on how to engage international students with social media.

1. Focus on the right time and use case.

Social Media works best once the student has narrowed their search and they believe they will get accepted to your school, when they are using it to meet people and have discussions.  The data, more importantly even just hanging with students, shows that students don’t use Social Media in the search process for the program they want.  They still use the generic guidebooks and websites, with some newbies thrown in like Unigo and Zinch, in the search process through to application.

2. Set up communities specifically for International Students.

They often have particular anxieties and needs related to language and cultural barriers, and they like being able to openly discuss them with other International Students, especially with students from their home country. Although you shouldn’t separate these student populations entirely, by providing them an exclusive community they can meet peers they may not otherwise connect with.

3. Encourage introductions

Allow people to identify what country and area of the world they come from, as well as what languages they speak.  Promote the idea that they find each other and strike up conversation.  Ask other incoming, and even current students, who also speak (or are even learning those languages) to welcome them and seed the idea of language study dates and multi-cultural events.

Russian students finding others who speak Russian

Students want to find others like them.

4. Use Current Student Ambassadors

Bring in current students, especially International Students and students involved in multi-cultural activities.  Have these students respond to questions and anxieties, make friends, and share their great experiences at your school.  Think about having virtual and in-person orientations just for International Students.

International students like their own orientation.

International students like their own orientation.

5. Provide “Official” Support

Assure that those administrators involved in International Recruitment and supporting campus diversity have administrative accounts and are responding to true critical needs.  There are complicated issues that International students go through, and they need help.

A Student is having issues processing their student visa.

A Student is having issues processing their student visa.

Of course these past points focus on improving Yield rather than about generating new Inquiries.  If you are trying to use Social Media to generate inquiries, you may want to reconsider your overall strategy.

Current research shows social media isn’t great at generating new inquiries. Remember, your current international students are often the best social proof to show other international students the kinds of experiences a U.S. education can provide.

We’ve seen a few schools using creative strategies to engage students, but have not seen any success numbers besides data from international student yield from our Schools App.

What is your university doing to improve international recruitment with social media? Share your story below.