Greetings from Cathryn (left), Ben and Elaine. This week we are writing to you from sunny Los Angeles where we are proud to be meeting with key leaders in the field of international student recruitment at the annual NAFSA conference! This gathering of thought leaders has put forth research and publications that will propel our industry--working to counteract the impact made by our evolving political environment. Or, so we hope!
We find ourselves surrounded by an outpouring of compassion, genuine concern and energy for the future of our industry. There are many focused on the safety and wellbeing of our international students, and their ease of travel into and out of our country. The right questions are being asked--how do we create and sustain an attractive, welcoming and safe environment? How do we effectively support groups facing discrimination? How do we counter negative perceptions on all sides?
As we face such big, challenging questions, we felt the need to quote Jessica Sandburg of Temple University in her introduction to NAFSA's Guide to International Student Recruitment:
"We are those who help to open minds, bridge cultural divides, forge understanding and make meaningful connections ... At a time when the talk is of building walls, we are, and we will continue to be, those who open doors."
This bond is shared by all of us in international recruitment for higher education--a passion for breaking down barriers and creating a diverse, inclusive educational environment.
Of course, we all know that passion is not always enough. This work is hard--really hard. And it is often not well-understood. This week, we have pulled once more from NAFSA's Guide to International Student Recruitment (see link below) to help you take an objective look at your existing marketing strategies and assess where you can make simple, efficient improvements.
Read on for this week's helpful international student recruiting tips about conducting a digital audit of your global marketing: website, email marketing, social media...
These days we find ourselves asking more and more frequently--how do we handle the impact of global political issues facing international students considering coming to the U.S.? How do we combat the perceptions that the U.S. is less welcoming, and how those perceptions can become reality for many?
One specific example we are hearing concern about: the influence of recent events and the local media in India appear to be supressing the flow of students from that country to the U.S. Based on all we see right now, there will be a decline in the number of students from India in the next cycle of IIE Open Doors data. That's significant.
So what do we do now?
We keep coming back to one answer--take it back to the basics. Build from there. Like many of you, we know that it is all too easy to get wrapped up in developing complex strategies and new, creative techniques that may or may not be speaking directly to the needs of your prospective students. By taking a good, hard look at your existing recruitment strategies in the light of current events, you can assess where you've been, where you are, and where you need to go next.
Now, how do you do this quickly? Efficiently? What do you do with the information you gather? That's where we come in.
Performing a Digital Audit
Here at Intead, we offer a comprehensive digital audit to our clients, but we also like to teach you how to do it yourself! That's why we detail the technique in NAFSA's guide, but here we will provide a few quotes from the book and our overall approach to help you get started!
An effective digital audit is composed of four key areas. This is where you will need to focus your efforts as you assess your performance. Consider these questions and remember, analytics are key!
1. Website Audit
Your website is the online personification of your school and your brand. For most international applicants, your website is the closest they will get to visiting campus before choosing whether to apply or attend. As you think about your customer personas, you can now review your website from your audience’s perspective.
- Does your website appear on international search engines?
- Is your site accessible on mobile devices?
- What does your website look like when viewed through other countries’ Internet Service Providers (ISPs)?
- How many clicks does it take to get to international student–specific information?
2. E-mail Audit
An e-mail is likely the first direct contact that potential students receive from your institution. A good e-mail catches their attention in the subject line, headline, and first few lines of text (but mostly the subject line). You must engage their interest in your offering. How is your current e-mail strategy performing? To increase open and click-through rates, here are some things to consider:
- Is all of your e-mail content relevant and engaging to your target markets? A Korean student is not going to respond the same way a Colombian student will. Tailor your content -- consider your student personas.
- Do all links lead to platforms that are accessible to the audience? All social media does not work in every country.
- Does your e-mail provide helpful information that is specific to your audience and the academic programs of interest to that audience?
3. Social Media Audit
Approaching international social media platforms can be a daunting challenge for even the most well-equipped institution. Here are some questions that can help you determine whether you are ready to launch or improve upon an international social media campaign:
- Do you understand the use and tone of social media platforms in your target markets (how, when, where, and most importantly why those particular channels are used)?
- Is your content relevant and engaging? Are you capturing attention?
- How often do you receive engagement with your accounts? Daily? Weekly? Monthly? What is the nature of the communication? Are you tracking this?
4. Google Analytics
Most institutions have Google Analytics installed. You can use Google Analytics to track your website traffic from any country in the world. You can actually track it by city. So for instance, if you travel to Beijing for a student fair, you can check your website traffic on specific international student pages from Beijing in the week before the fair, during and after. That data is key to assessing the effectiveness of your travel expense.
Based on surveys we have done, most institutions' international recruitment leaders/staff do not actually check their Google Analytics stats at all, much less at regular intervals to compare performance. To which, Intead's response is: Seriously?