International student recruitment is important for universities and it’s importance is growing. Universities market to and recruit international students using a variety of methods: marketing material, agents and digital tools. A part of these methods is social media, which is becoming even more important. According to Social Admission Report, 76% of the class of 2017 used social media when deciding where to enroll.
Instagram, which many universities are now incorporating into their social media efforts, has shown to have a correlation between the number of followers and international student recruitment. While this is not a direct connection to international recruitment, it does provide some data which could push universities to use it more for international student recruitment. Instagram allows universities to showcase their campus, students, events and even local hotspots for international students to see. This can help student visualize how life would be if they attended that university and may help persuade them into attending.
Other social media platforms that are popular with international recruitment efforts is Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. They all are the more well-known social platforms. Facebook is the largest social media platform in the world and YouTube arguably being the second biggest search engine on the web.
Facebook pretty much dominates globally in popularity. However, there are some countries, particularly Russia and China, that have their own social platform that surpasses Facebook in popularity. So let’s look at the top social media platforms for the top origin countries for international students.
The most popular social media platform for China was QZone. However, WeChat may have more active users: 846+ million vs 632+ million. Another popular platform that many companies, universities and agencies are using is Weibo, which has 297 million active users.
Like most of the world, the most popular social platform in India is Facebook. Other popular platforms are WhatsApp, LinkedIn and Twitter. Instagram is gaining popularity in India doubling its monthly active users between September 2014-2015.
YouTube is the biggest social media platform in South Korea followed by Facebook. Twitter is ranked at number three, tied with Instagram. However, Facebook appears to be losing popularity while Twitter appears to be gaining it. It is also important to note that South Koreans are known to be heavy smartphone users. Facebook and Instagram do not have apps for the country’s android users, which is why many of them are turning to local social media platforms such as Band and KakaoStory.
Saudi Arabia is much like India in terms of social media platform popularity. YouTube is the most popular social network for Saudi Arabia followed by Facebook. Instagram and Twitter are close in popularity, with Instagram just coming in above Twitter at the end of 2016. Some statistics indicate that Twitter has more active users at 6.37 million compared to 5.41 million.
YouTube and Facebook are equally popular in Canada with Twitter coming in next. Interestingly though, is that Instagram is just marginally ahead of Pinterest as the 3rd/4th most popular social media platform.
With international recruitment becoming such an important effort for universities, it is important to know how to connect with potential students. Each country has their own digital and social media trends. Proper usage of social media platforms, along with traditional recruitment tools, can help boost efforts and attract more international students. It is more efficient to know where potential students are and connect with them there, rather than tossing out content with the hopes that they may find it.
By Ashleigh Cue