How to Recruit Students in China: WeChat Basics and Sponsored Content

Carnegie Higher Ed Jan 31, 2017 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

For many colleges and universities, recruitment in China is a self-powered machine with no need for outside strategies. Plenty of schools have told me that the recruitment channels from China have been open for years, and students flow in semester after semester with hardly any effort on their part. However, there are hundreds of other schools that don’t have the notoriety of the Ivy League or a coveted location like NYC. It’s these colleges and universities that need to work a little harder to reach potential students in China.

Carnegie has run many a successful digital international recruitment campaign and has helped schools reach students from all over the globe. (By the way, if you aren’t doing any digital marketing for international, you are missing out on some incredible, easy-to-implement opportunities…but that’s for another blog.) But until recently the Chinese market has been relatively off limits because of strict Internet policies and crazy firewall restrictions. Even if you could penetrate their firewalls, most digital recruitment budgets would be eaten up within hours because of the overwhelming fraudulent impressions and click-throughs caused by bots. So outside of enrollment marketing agencies, how do you recruit those Chinese students, you ask? WeChat.

If you’re not familiar with WeChat, then let me give you the basics (or feel free to check out our December webinar on WeChat). WeChat is China’s largest social network, with over 70% of the adult and youth population using it daily. That’s over 700 million users…daily. They are spending over 70 minutes a day (on average) and range in ages from 15–29. WeChat differs from other social media platforms in that it allows users to access much more than just messaging services, such as resources that help them in their daily lives (i.e., financial info, e-commerce, voice calls, games, etc.).

Some colleges and universities are currently using WeChat in China and might already have a basic WeChat account. However, after speaking to schools, it sounds like common practice to have students running the account and not devote a ton of time or effort to updating content and pushing out messages. Seeing that this is where Chinese students and parents are spending a significant part of their day, schools should be much more proactive in their messaging.

With the help of our partner MP Education in China, Carnegie now offers the ability to effectively create and manage your WeChat account. This includes:

  • Weekly or biweekly content creation
  • The ability to reach segmented groups
    • New vs. returning students
    • Priority or “high-potential” applicants
    • Orientation/pre-departure
    • Targeted by discipline/department
    • Local “alumni” groups
  • Student Ambassador Programs: set up chats or call backs with your current Chinese students to aid in recruitment.

In addition to WeChat, there are numerous opportunities to engage with parents and students through the use of sponsored ads on an education content network. Essentially through the Chinese “intranet” that allows for sponsored advertising, you also have the ability to use additional social media channels and vertical media channels to generate targeted leads. For example, you could publish articles about your institution or specific programs, and your sponsored article is distributed to tens of thousands of prospective students and parents via multiple sites and social media accounts. Because these ads are delivered on a CPC basis, they allow you to reach a huge audience while keeping your budget in check.

So for those of you who don’t have the luxury of a big city location or a household name, we hope to now give you some additional options that can help get your school in front of Chinese students and parents. Contact us if you have any questions on how you can implement these strategies or how you can enhance what you might already be doing.


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