If you are actively recruiting in China and/or have many Chinese international students on your campus, it might be time for your institution to get on the WeChat bandwagon. This is Part II of a two part series about using WeChat for international student recruitment and marketing. Click here to review Part I, WeChat 101: Maximize Your SNS in China and Beyond.
In our previous post on the subject of WeChat we explained what WeChat is and how it can be used. Now we'd like to offer some examples of American universities using WeChat to engage with prospective and current interntional students.
University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee (UWM) uses WeChat to attract prospective Chinese students. UWM started to build its presence on WeChat earlier in 2014. The university publicized their presence by offering an informative guide that helps Chinese students and their parents to learn about American academic life. Instead of leading students to their official website for academic information, UWM posted an introduction of schools, programs and professors on WeChat. Before orientation in August, UWM also posted content about Milwaukee local life, housing information and dining recommendations for the incoming Chinese students, which gives enrolled students a feeling of special care from the school.
Michigan State University used WeChat to send urgent notification during a tornado. A WeChat official account not only helps when universities recruit students, it also helps build a closer relationship between the institution and current students. Michigan State University is one of the pioneer American universities in using WeChat to engage with its current Chinese students (http://www.techinasia.com/wechat-accounts-being-used-by-american-colleges-to-engage-chinese-students/). On November 17, 2013, MSU’s WeChat account MSU Companion warned all Chinese subscribers about the possibility of tornadoes and severe winds in East Lansing. Earlier in 2013, MSU also used WeChat’s official account to calm students’ nerves about a reported shooter on university grounds. Besides these urgent notifications, MSU Companion regularly posts content about upcoming events around the area, tips for living in the US, and dining recommendation for students.
Duke University uses WeChat to engage alumni. Duke University’s WeChat official account Duke Blue Devil is managed by an alumnus of Duke’s Fuqua Business School. Rather than posting content about campus life or application information, this account focuses more on alumni events in China. It also regularly introduces famous Chinese Duke alumni to its subscribers.
Incorporating WeChat into Your Recruitment Plan
1. Define the goal of WeChat in your overall marketing strategy
The way WeChat communicates is different from other major SNS in China, like Sina Weibo and Renren. Compared with Sina Weibo, WeChat generates more intimate circles of interaction and more frequent dissemination of information. Based on this quality, you need to define your WeChat content strategy and target audience. Be clear about whether you would like to focus more on prospective students or current students, whether you would like to use this account to increase publicity or serve students’ needs before starting your campaign.
2. Attract subscribers
Unlike Sina Weibo, most WeChat users won’t find your account or your post automatically through searches. Most of them will start to follow your account through your QR code or by a post shared by current subscribers in their Moments. From this perspective, promoting your QR code and making your content interesting so that people are willing to share it are the two essentials to grow your subscriber base.
3. Update your content often and use humor
Don’t regard your WeChat account as another official platform to disseminate official news. Use WeChat to create an intimate relationship between your school and your students. Make them feel that they are talking with a peer. Update interesting content on a regular basis so that your student subscribers can always feel that they are receiving your special attention.
Is your institution using WeChat? We're eager to learn about your WeChat successes and challenges. Please share your ideas in the comments section of this blog.