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Recruiting Intelligence

Harnessing the Influence of Your Brand Ambassadors

Let’s start with a cool stat: Google searches for “Influencer marketing" grew 1500% in the last three years. In 2019, the term "Marketing influencer" was searched 70,000 times a month! This according to Savica Dimitrieska and Tanja Efremova in their article, “The Effectiveness of the Influencer Marketing” published through Southwest University in Bulgaria.

Think YouTubers and TikTokers – content creators who are generating significant followings and translating that work into cash as they promote various products.

The question is: can this concept work for academia?

Our answer: yes, IF you can achieve true authenticity. If not, no. Full stop.

Academic administrators around the globe may be leaving a gap in their marketing strategy: the power of an influencer, but in the case of education, we are really talking about brand ambassadors who have influence with your target audience. In our view, true influencer marketing, which is growing globally, is a risky bet for the education market. But the concept, if adapted, has merit.

What we are saying is, recognize that you are not marketing alcohol, luxury vacations, apparel, or cosmetics and adjust the concept of “influencer marketing” accordingly. If that is unclear, give us a call.

When it comes to advertising and building trust, gone are the days of faceless testimonials and promotional brochures promising the ultimate educational experience. Generation Z values the opinions of social media influencers and bases their decisions on whether people they can relate to on YouTube give it a thumbs up or down.

A note of caution: marketing today is lightning fast and fickle. Your campus can be in the limelight one second, and culture canceled the next. 

Read on for a few more relevant stats and perspective on how to make brand ambassador marketing part of your approach to student recruitment.

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3 Tactics to Refresh Your Student Marketing Approach, Right Now

You don’t need to be a CMO to know that there’s more to attracting students than coming up with a pithy headline for your Instagram ads and postcard mailers.

And yet, what we often see are institutions full of creative minds doing the same marketing initiatives year after year, not really realizing how they appear to their target audiences.

At the end of the day you want your institution to stand out in a field of sameness, ubiquitous blather, and endless repeats of campus images and smiling students with backpacks and laptops. You want to highlight your institution’s differentiators and deliver the right message to a targeted audience at the right time.

But we get it — whether it’s lack of budget, time, or most likely, both, swapping out last year’s campaign photos, shuffling around your headlines, and hitting a few buttons in Facebook Ads Manager are sometimes the only levers that are in scope. And establishing a feedback loop of performance analysis for continuous campaign iteration and optimization? An even more distant goal state.

So, before you reach for that updated “smiling student with backpack” image to juice your Fall 2021 recruitment campaigns, turn your attention to today’s post: 3 recruitment marketing ideas to help you reach students where they are right now.

We’re talking specifics on topics, audience, tone, and dissemination channels for campaigns that can set your institution apart and attract and nurture those high-quality leads you’re looking for. And what would an Intead blog post be without an insight on  how to use your data better?

Throw these ideas to your creative team and see if something valuable emerges from the brainstorm session. Something that truly fits your institution. 

Read on.

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#NewDigitalTools: Will the TikTok Craze Continue?

Remember Farmville? This one game grew to $200M USD in revenue! Now, not so much.

Remember Google Vine as short-form video? Kinda faded away with the advent of Instagram video.

So now, we consider TikTok and wonder, how long will this one last? This one is sophisticated and is already valued at more than $1B USD. This new marketing channel is powerful as long as you have the creative talent to use it.

The rule is: creative content rules. Period.

And the reason we are talking about it is that your target audience is spending a bunch of time there right now. The image above is captured from my 17-year-old niece's TikTok account. She is a content creator there and she and her friends have a great deal of fun (and spend way too much time) in and on TikTok. 

So, about TikTok...in May, we wrote about the growth of Chinese EdTech and what opportunities that presented. As of last year, Chinese startups received over 50 percent of all global capital invested in EdTech. This year, of the top six EdTech unicorns—private companies worth more than $1 billion—all but one was Chinese.

With the largest population in the world, China is automatically the greatest educational market. With a population of over 1.4 billion, there’s a market of more than 283 million students. With 17 million new babies born a year in China, this pattern isn’t slowing down.

Outside of the educational realm, tech is still booming in China, and one platform from China is now the most valuable startup in the world. What might this have to do with connecting you to those potential students in China—or anywhere for that matter?

Read on…

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Iranian Students Seek Graduate Study Opportunities in U.S.

A lot of big news has come out of Iran this past year. With the finalization of a nuclear weapons agreement, U.S. and European sanctions have been lifted in Iran and political relations are improving, meaning there is more opportunity for recruiting international students from Iran. The numbers are looking promising for U.S. institutions.

Bottom Line: Iran’s number of university students is growing. But the number of slots available in Iranian universities is extremely limited. Resourceful Iranian students are looking beyond their borders in growing numbers. Iranian institutions want to ensure their smartest students devote their talents to Iranian ventures at home rather than abroad. There is a move to foster university partnerships where students receive only part of their education abroad. European institutions have been quick to jump on this trend and you might want to consider doing the same. But, if you are going to break into this market, you’ll want to focus on graduate level STEM programs and you’ll want to get to know the culture before you devote your resources.

Meet Us In Newport & Miami: Heading to the NAFSA Region XI conference in Newport, RI next week?  We’ll be presenting our latest recruiting insights. We'll also be in Miami this December at the AIRC and ICEF conferences with digital marketing presentations and workshops. We’d love to meet you and discuss the challenges you face in your work. Please be in touch if you'll be at any of these events--we'd love to meet you!

Read on for more perspective and some interesting stats about international student recruiting in Iran…

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Do You Chat with WeChat? International Student Recruiting in China

This year marked the 5th birthday of WeChat. Trust us, they had a lot to celebrate!

In April of 2015, it was reported that WeChat’s monthly users were second only to WhatsApp and far ahead of similar apps like Viber, Line or SnapChat. We should also mention (in case you don’t already know) that WeChat is almost exclusively used in China. Social media marketing staff take note!

If you look only to the usage rates of their Chinese users, WeChat beats other messaging apps by a wide margin. In 2015, WeChat was ahead of competitors by 25%. And most of their users? The young audiences, the prospective students, we are all trying to reach! If you haven’t been on WeChat in the past, it is no longer something you can ignore.

Just in case you haven’t heard of it (because you’ve been living in Antarctica or something), and you’ll want to hear about it if you want to recruit in China, WeChat is a messaging app. Back in 2014, we featured a two-part blog series on WeChat (Part 1 and Part 2). We hope you are using those resources. In June, eMarketer released a report on WeChat’s Chinese user base and how these users engage with the app. So, today we have more. 

Bottom Line: Get on WeChat. Chinese users make up nearly 93% (~700 million) of all WeChat users and its popularity surpasses any other similar Chinese messaging app. The app is becoming more and more integrated into daily life as WeChaters link their bank accounts to use the app for online shopping. Marketing on WeChat only promises to get more effective as time goes on. Pro tip: the stats in this post may help you justify increasing your international student recruiting budget if China is a primary target recruiting source for your institution. 

Meet Us In Newport & Miami: Heading to the NAFSA Region XI conference in Newport, RI (Oct. 18-20)?  We’ll be presenting our latest recruiting insights. And in December we will be in Miami at the AIRC and ICEF conferences with digital marketing presentations and workshops. We’d love to meet you and discuss the challenges you face in your work. Please be in touch if you'll be at any of these events.

Back to WeChat; read on...

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Are Facebook Users Really 3X Smarter Than Instagram Users?

We have another valuable digital marketing tool available to help you with your international student recruitment plans. Some of the statistics might be a little surprising on the surface. And we all know that statistics, on the surface, are not always what they seem.

For instance, did you know that based on Hootsuite user data, 74% of Facebook’s user base has some level of higher education while only 24% of Instagram’s user base claims that? Think about that for a second or two. How could that possibly be the case?

Our conclusion: Instagram users don’t feel the need to report their university level on their profiles. It’s just not that kind of platform. So while the statistic remains accurate, the story the data tells requires a bit more thought. Instagram users are not less intelligent. Seriously, some of our best friends are Instagram users. And we think they are quite smart! (Shhhh, we have to say that. They subscribe to this blog 😉).

With today’s blog, Emily used a Hootsuite report to develop a comparison of some of the global social media platforms by age of users, education level and global location among other key stats. The information is both thought provoking and helpful as you roll out your student recruitment social media/digital marketing strategy in key regions.

Be sure to tune in next week as well. We will share more information on virtual communities focusing on messaging apps like WeChat, WhatsApp, and even SnapChat.

Meet Us in Denver @NAFSA 2016: Learn from our latest research on how current global economic and political events impact students’ plans to study abroad. Schedule a time to chat with us during the conference.

Please read on for the link to our downloadable Virtual Communities Worksheet…

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Advertising to Students with Instagram


Should Instagram be one of your student recruitment tools?

Here's another question more to the point: Are you prepared to ignore the 50% of high school seniors searching for university options via Instagram?

Sure, go ahead and put your marketing budget into those slick mailers that cost $10+ per piece. You do know that they go straight from the mailbox to the recycle bin, right? Trust us, we have 17 year olds at home and watch it happen each week. Sorry, harsh but true.

In last week’s blog post we introduced you to all of the great things Instagram can offer to universities: ease of use, engaging content, targeting younger student groups, providing a glimpse of life on campus. All of these things are great for your digital marketing initiatives. And Instagram is constantly updating and evolving both their phone app and website to make the platform even easier to use.

In addition to those free features Instagram offers its users, the platform recently added advertising options. In this week’s post, Emily will introduce us to the how's and why's of advertising to students on Instagram.

QUICK SIDE NOTE: Can We Meet in Denver? We will be at the NAFSA 2016 Annual Conference in May presenting new data about the impacts of current economic and political events around the world on students’ plans to study abroad. Use this link to schedule a time to meet with us at NAFSA in Denver. We’d love to learn about your recruiting plans and share our latest research with you in person.

Now, on to Emily's take on Instagram...

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