At the risk of sounding cliché, we are arguably in a ‘golden age’ for Chinese international study abroad. China, with a staggering 350 million middle class consumers is undergoing a seismic shift in terms of it’s values, tastes and expectations, especially when it comes to standards of education.
As levels of wealth grow so does the prioritization of a high-quality education.
In evolving societies, this is always a key indicator of progress. The Chinese, particularly as a result of the one child policy, invest heavily into their Children’s future with an ‘international education’ highly prized.
The question is how do you grow the visibility and reputation of your institution in China to attract students in the most cost effective way?
Chinese students recruitment online
With over 900 million Chinese now online this is the largest and most active internet sphere in the world. The average online user spends 1.5 hours per day browsing online, it cannot be stressed enough that in China the solution is digital.
Understanding where and how students & parents are searching online for information is the key to targeted marketing of your schools & courses to the most qualified and relevant prospective students.
Universities and colleges are looking to drive leads directly to their admissions team and build the brand of the school in the minds of students & their parents.
Recruiting Chinese Students
The equation is a simple one.
Visibility + Reputation = Student Leads
‘Hopping over the Chinese Great Wall’
If you are new to doing business in China you will find a host of cultural, language and administrative barriers in your way. You need a local partner to guide you, develop your communications and tailor your strategy to this unique student market.
Here is a run-down of the methods for attracting prospective students:
Website Content (in Mandarin)
A quality Chinese landing page and version of site is a necessity. This should be optimized for search engines and hosted on a local server in China for faster loading. All sites in China need to be optimized for mobile as the vast majority of online users browse on their smartphones, there are now 550 million smartphones. Mobile content can also be optimized for ‘WeChat’ China’s largest social network (more on this later..)
Content on the site needs to be created in Mandarin with the Chinese reader in mind.
Ask some key questions;
- How do you cater for the Chinese student?
- What sets you apart as an institution that involves and integrates international students?
- How will the Chinese boost their opportunities by studying with you internationally and also back in China? ..
Search Engine Visibility (Baidu, So and Sogou)
Search engine visibility is the bedrock of any comprehensive student drive in China. 70% of all online research is conducted via Baidu, China’s largest engine. The other 30% is mainly through Sogou & so.com) .
Baidu can be seen as ‘China’s Google’ and over time you need to rank highly in the natural search results, this is where the most qualified students & parents are searching for information.
Your site and content needs to be:
- Optimized to drive leads.
- Keywords & search terms closely monitored.
- Precise and in-line with an intelligent search advertising campaign.
Your institution appearing on the first page of the Baidu search results is key.
Using Social Media as a Launchpad
Coverage on China’s top social media platforms is vital for attracting students. There are over 850 million users on WeChat (the Facebook of China) and over 300 million on Weibo (akin to Twitter).
Social Media in China is arguably the most active in the world with an average user spending 50 minutes per day browsing.
Your institution needs to be present on social media with an ‘official account’ set up that can be linked to a ‘micro site’. A lot of traffic can be driven to a WeChat page, particularly when you embed QR links in Weibo posts.
WeChat fondly called the ‘WeChat Times’ because so much information is sourced via this app whilst Weibo is the most ‘open network’ in China and great for high visibility posts, users can see content posted from anyone, they do not have to be connected first.
The key with social networks is to have daily interaction with prospective students and parents, share content and grow your following. Ad campaigns drive growth and quality content results in prospective students contacting you. The demographic of WeChat is generally older so more of the parents (i.e the Decision Makers) are active here.
- Create quality, informative content for WeChat & Weibo posts.
- Open an official account to act as a ‘micro site’ for your services.
- Engage with prospective parents & students through the messenger & WeChat groups.
‘Branding your School – Reputation is Everything’
‘Branding’ is not a word typically associated with education but in China branding is everything, the Chinese need to buy into your courses and education offering, in short.. they are looking for a prestigious reputation.
Placing a school on wikis and other such trustworthy platforms is a good way to build your status. Also ensure you feature positive, accurate and ample information that is highly visible for Mandarin keyword searches.
There are also many education forums to consider with specific threads dedicated to discussing different schools and courses abroad. It is important to create positive conversations from Chinese users as this is 5 times more effective for student lead generation.
- Build your reputation on Forums and Wiki’s by creating positive conversations.
- Ensure your content is optimized to be highly visible on Mandarin keyword searches.
- Chinese user testimonials are a powerful way to generate interest.
Accademia Del Lusso: A huge success in China
Accademia Del Lusso were largely invisible in China before launching an intelligent campaign to grow their reputation and visibility on Baidu.
The reputable school of fashion and design in Milan wanted to attract students to their Italian location and increase awareness of a new branch launch in Mainland China.
Their reputation globally is very strong after winning both the ‘Lifetime Achievement’ and ‘Leading Fashion School’ awards in 2007. Having said this, because of China’s distinct online environment, they had little presence in the Chinese market.
The institutions goal was to increase their e-reputation through Baidu search engine promotion to rank highly in the natural search results whilst running PPC banner ads and links.
Accademia Del Lusso drove 50 student ‘leads’ per month to their administration team on-top of 10 000 visitors per month to their Chinese site. This is indicative of the potential growth in China with even a niche academic offering generating so much interest.
Who we are & How can we help?
We are a specialist student lead generation & marketing company based in Shanghai. Our international team of 25 make us ideally suited to developing your interests in China. We specialize in:
- Website Creation, Development & Auditing
- Baidu Search Engine Optimization
- WeChat & Weibo Content Marketing
- Reputation Management & Community Development.
- Analytics, monthly reports & analysis from our team of experts.
We look to form long term partnerships with serious education businesses looking to develop their reach in the lucrative Chinese market.
For more information please contact our expert team for an in-depth discussion.