Why do Chinese students and their parents opt for foreign education?
According to a survey conducted in 2016, by a Shanghai-based research firm, 83% of China’s millionaires are planning to send their children for foreign education.
During last few years’ Chinese students and their families have put a great emphasis on getting a foreign education. In China opting for foreign education is a mutual decision of Chinese parents and children. One of the factors for Chinese students choosing to study overseas is the ability to get a world class education in subjects that he or she aspires (read the Guardian article). For Chinese parents, sending their child to receive a foreign education is an investment that will benefit the family in the future.
But what happens to students looking for foreign universities?
Nini Suet, founder of Shang Learning, a boutique consultancy with headquarters in Beijing says that “Parents realize that they have to start earlier if they want their children to get into a top U.S. university”. The consultancy charges $25,000 to $40,000 to help Chinese kids prepare for and apply to American boarding schools.
Before heading to universities, Chinese students enroll in American High Schools, for a couple of years. But the reality is more complicated. Much of the money spent by Chinese families desperate for American diplomas ends up with intermediary companies that connect them with cash-hungry schools. These matches have produced medicore results. According to an article in Foreign Policy magazine, nearly 60% of the high-school students end up in religious schools, despite coming from the world’s largest atheist state.
How can foreign universities recruit Chinese students efficiently?
Foreign universities that would like to recruit Chinese students must reach prospective students and their parents directly with the help of strong Chinese social media.
Where can foreign universities reach Chinese students?
Social Media is very popular in China. The average person spends more than 1.5 hours per day browsing online. With 900 million Chinese citizens now online, this counts as the largest and most active internet sphere in the world.
International Universities need to understand how to target Chinese students and their parents searching for info about foreign schools. They need to provide info about the school and the courses they offer. By getting direct access to prospective students the Universities can also evaluate the previous education of students to make sure they meet admission criteria.
China has closed digital ecosystem, how do you overcome the Chinese Great Wall?
For new businesses entering China’s digital ecosphere it can be very challenging due to a minimum knowledge of cultural, language and administrative barriers. To overcome these constraints International Universities, need a local partner for guidance and to develop a marketing and communication plan together with a strategy to win student market of China.
Social media sStrategies for recruiting prospective students
WEBSITE CONTENT (IN MANDARIN)
To gain visibility in China, Universities need a quality Chinese landing page and Chinese version of the site. The website must be optimized for Chinese search engines and hosted on a local server in China for faster loading.
It is better to have a mobile friendly website in China.
As the majority of online users browse on their smartphones, all websites in China need to be optimized for mobile use. Mobile content can also be optimized for ‘WeChat’ (China’s largest social network).
The content on the website and social media must answer the questions in reader’s mind. Content must be provided in Mandarin to cater Chinese reader.
Some questions that can be answered can be:
- How does the University provide for the Chinese student?
- What sets the University apart and how do they involve and integrate the international students?
- How will the Chinese raise their opportunities by studying with the University?
Create visibility on China’s search engines to RECRUIT Chinese students online
(BAIDU, SO AND SOGOU)
Search engine visibility is the foundation for reaching netizens in China. 70% of all online research is conducted via Baidu, China’s largest search engine. The other 30% is mainly through Sogou & so.com).
On search engines, the Universities need to rank high in the natural search results. This is where the most qualified students & parents search for information.
The Website must integrate the following tactics along with visibility:
- Optimized to drive leads.
- Keywords & search terms closely monitored.
- Precise and in-line with an intelligent search advertising campaign.
It is important that the University’s website appears on the first page of the Baidu search results.
Interact with prospective students through social media
An active presence on China’s top social media platforms is integral for attracting students. There are over 850 million users on WeChat (the Facebook of China) and over 300 million on Weibo (like Twitter).
Social Media in China is strongest in the world. WeChat provides all-in-one-app features. On any day, an average user spends more than 50 minutes per day interacting with various features provided by the app.
Your University needs a presence on social media with an ‘official account’ that can be linked to a ‘micro site’. A considerable amount of traffic can be driven to the University’s WeChat page, particularly when you embed QR links in Weibo posts. Information provided on the social media platforms is interlinked, delivering valuable information to the user and an engaging customer experience.
Presence on the social networks enable Universities to interact with prospective students and their parents. This way Universities can share content and grow their following. Ad campaigns are used to drive growth and quality content is used to drive results. WeChat is also popular among the older generation, so more parents (i.e. the decision makers) can be conveniently reached here.
In a nutshell:
- Create quality, informative content for WeChat & Weibo posts.
- Open an official account to host a ‘micro site’ to offer your services.
- Engage with prospective parents & students through the messenger & WeChat groups.
‘BRANDING Your University – REPUTATION is EVERYTHING (in China) ’
For Chinese population ‘Branding’ is not a word typically associated with education but in China branding is everything. Chinese prospective students and their parents must feel that what they are paying for is prestigious and will be valuable. For them, foreign education is an investment for fruitful future. The offerings of the University need to appear prestigious and reputable.
Publish informative content
Chinese citizens love to gather more and more information about the subject they are interested in. Universities can publish useful information on reputable and trustworthy platforms, this way universities can build their reputation and status. Together with delivering fresh content Universities should also ensure that the content is available when searched on Chinese websites and can be recognized by Mandarin keyword searches.
Another effective strategy to attract Chinese students and their parents is to promote discussions on specific threads dedicated to discussing different schools and courses abroad. This approach will encourage positive conversations from Chinese users. This method has been proved to be 5 times more effective to generate leads as compare to other methods.
In a nutshell:
- Build your reputation on publishing informative content on reputable forums and Wiki’s
- Ensure your content is optimized to be highly visible on Mandarin keyword searches.
- Chinese user testimonials are a powerful way to generate interest.
Example of international educational Universities gaining a digital presence on Chinese social media
Neso China is official representative of the Dutch higher education sector in China. It has a strong presence on Chinese social media. Neso China promotes several Dutch Universities in China. During the academic year, 2016-17 over 112,000 international students studied in the Netherlands. Out of 112,000, 4,347 were from China. This was the highest number of out of area students from outside EU/EEA countries.