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Social Media and Web

Marketing in China
October2013

In the following report, Hanover Research explores best practices in social media and
digitalmarketinginChina.

Hanover Research | October 2013

TABLE OF CONTENTS
ExecutiveSummaryandKeyFindings................................................................................3
KEYFINDINGS.............................................................................................................................3
Tailoringmarketingmaterialstotheaudience.................................................................3
Popularsocialmediaplatforms.........................................................................................3
Launchinganeffectivedigitalmarketingcampaign..........................................................4
Trendsamonghighereducationleaders...........................................................................4
SectionI:BestPracticesinStudentRecruitmentMarketinginChina..................................5
UNDERSTANDINGTHEAUDIENCE....................................................................................................5
MostInfluentialFactors.....................................................................................................7
FamilyInfluence.................................................................................................................8
OtherConsiderations.........................................................................................................9
TRENDSINSOCIALMEDIAUSEINCHINA........................................................................................10
SOCIALMEDIAPLATFORMS.........................................................................................................12
Baidu................................................................................................................................12
Renren..............................................................................................................................14
Weibo...............................................................................................................................15
Youku...............................................................................................................................17
EFFECTIVEINTEGRATIONOFTHEDIGITALMARKETINGCAMPAIGN.......................................................18
SectionII:ProfilesofMarketLeaders...............................................................................21
UNIVERSITYOFALBERTA,CANADA................................................................................................21
BROCKUNIVERSITY,CANADA.......................................................................................................21
FRESNOPACIFICUNIVERSITY,UNITEDSTATES.................................................................................22
UNIVERSITYOFHUDDERSFIELD,UNITEDKINGDOM..........................................................................22
UNIVERSITYOFKENTUCKY,UNITEDSTATES....................................................................................23
MEMORIALUNIVERSITY,CANADA................................................................................................23

2013 Hanover Research | Academy Administration Practice

Hanover Research | October 2013

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND KEY FINDINGS

As Chinese students increasingly look onlineforinformationto aid the college application


process,itisimperativethatWesternhighereducationinstitutionsprovideinformationthat
ispertinenttoandthatdirectlytargetsChinesestudents.Whilethescopeofdigitalmedia
tools is immense, institutions must use tools carefully. In this report, Hanover Research
discussesbestpracticesinsocialmediaandwebmarketinginChina.InSectionI,wereview
literatureonbestpracticesinstudentrecruitmentmarketing,beginningwithanoverviewof
thetargetaudienceinChinaandanintroductiontothetopsocialmediaplatformsusedby
high school and college students. In Section II, we provide short case studies of six
institutions that have embraced social media as a method of recruiting international
studentsfromChina.First,wesummarizetheoverallkeyfindings.

KEYFINDINGS

TAILORINGMARKETINGMATERIALSTOTHEAUDIENCE

Institutions should amplify their reputation as being highquality, and should also
take care to thoroughly explain application processes to less prepared applicants
whomaynotunderstandthebasicsofadmissionsprotocolsinothercountries.

Particular aspects that should be emphasized in marketing materials and social


mediapostsincluderankingandreputation(particularlyforwellregardedacademic
programs), overall quality, safety, and the opportunity for an international
experience.

While social media marketing is intended to reach applicants themselves,


institutions must understand that their parents are likely to have a critical role in
decisionmaking. Parents are more interested in qualities such as employment
prospects upon graduation, social and emotional support services, the range of
programsoffered,andpossibilitiesformigration.

POPULARSOCIALMEDIAPLATFORMS

The social media platforms that appear to be most promising for reaching out to
Chinese applicants include Sina Weibo (similar to Twitter), Renren (similar to
Facebook),andYouku(similartoYouTube).

InstitutionsthattakecaretounderstandtheuniquepropertiesofBaidu(similarto
Google) can ensure that their pages receive traffic from interested students.
Strategies for harnessing Baidus capabilities include using common search terms
(forexample,topUKuniversity),usingalocalizedmicrosite,hostingthewebsite
withinthefirewall,andkeepingimportantinformationatthetopofthewebsite.

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Hanover Research | October 2013

LAUNCHINGANEFFECTIVEDIGITALMARKETINGCAMPAIGN

Social media sites should be updated regularly and posts should link back to the
institutions website. Content must include key information on admissions criteria
(including upcoming deadlines), program options, and other guidelines and
requirements.Storiesaboutrecenteventsoncampusandtestimonialsfromcurrent
and former students complement the logistical information and provide a more
personalsidetoaninstitutionswebpresence.

Direct communication is one of the most critical elements of an effective digital


marketing campaign. Social media platforms should not be onesided, but instead
shouldinspiredialogtokeepfollowersinterested.

Prospective students should be presented with accessible options for asking


questionsofadmissionsstaffandstudentrepresentatives,andresponsesshouldbe
bothpromptandpersonal.

TRENDSAMONGHIGHEREDUCATIONLEADERS

Mostinstitutionsusemorethanonesocialmediasite,andSinaWeibo,Renren,and
Youku appear to be the most common. It is also common for institutions to use a
messagingortelephoneprogramsuchasQQorSkype.

Mostoftheinstitutionsinthisanalysishiredacurrentorformerstudenttomanage
their social media sites. English content is typically selected by the marketing or
admissions office at the university and then translated by the social media
coordinator. Institutions often employ Mandarin speakers to create a meaningful
presence on Chinas social media platforms as well as to field any questions from
potentialapplicants.

Though most institutions did not explicitly describe data collection procedures, it
appearsthatinstitutions gaugethesuccessoftheirsocialmarketingcampaignsby
the number of applicants from China as well as the number of followers on their
socialmediaplatform.

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Hanover Research | October 2013

SECTION I: BEST PRACTICES IN


RECRUITMENT MARKETING IN CHINA

STUDENT

In the following pages, we provide an introduction to student recruitment marketing in


China. We begin by describing research on motivations of Chinese students seeking
internationalprogramsinordertoassistuniversitiesinhighlightinginformationfoundtobe
importanttothetargetaudience.Fromthere,wediscusscurrenttrendsinsocialmediause
in China and provide an overview of the top social medial platforms for recruiting
international students. Finally, we introduce best practices in integrating social media use
into an institutions digital marketing campaign, with a focus on strategies for fostering
communicationanddialoguewithpotentialapplicants.

UNDERSTANDINGTHEAUDIENCE
Aninstitutionshouldconsidertheculturalcontextinwhichitpresentsitsbrandonlineand
mustbeawareofthetypesofinformationinwhichChinesestudentsaremostinterested.In
thefollowingparagraphs,wediscusssomeofthekeycharacteristicsofthetargetaudience.

World Education Services (WES), an international education intelligence firm, 1 divides


international students into four main segments based on their preparedness for higher
educationandtheirfinancialresources.2Thesegmentsaredefinedasfollows:

Highfliers:highacademicpreparedness,highfinancialresources(32%)
Explorers:lowacademicpreparedness,highfinancialresources(28%)
Strugglers:lowacademicpreparedness,lowfinancialresources(21%)
Strivers:highacademicpreparedness,lowfinancialresources(19%)

AsshowninFigure1,themajorityofinternationalstudentsfromChina(60percent)have
high financial resources, while only about half (51 percent) have high academic
preparedness.

1
2

AboutWES.WorldEducationServices.http://www.wes.org/about/
Choudaha,R.,Orosz,K.,andChang,L.2012.NotAllInternationalStudentsaretheSame:UnderstandingSegments,
MappingBehavior.WESResearchandAdvisoryServices.http://www.wes.org/ewenr/12aug/feature.htm

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Figure1:SegmentsofInternationalStudentsfromChina

Strivers
19%

Highfliers
32%

Strugglers
21%
Explorers
28%

Source:WorldEducationServices

Theparticularmotivationsofthetwomoreaffluentgroupsareexplainedina2011article
by Ann White, director of the Hong KongChina division of the Institute of International
Education.WhiteexplainsthatChinesestudentsturntointernationalinstitutionswithtwo
maingoalsinmind,dependingontheircompetitivenessasapplicants.3

Among highflier students, those seeking a toptier education tend to prefer U.S.
undergraduateinstitutionsastheyoffertheoptimalroutetoU.S.graduateschools,viewed
as being of top quality. White notes that British universities are also preferred as they
appeartobeperceivedasaddingsocialpolish. Mosthighfliersknowwhattheywant
and how to get it: these applicants have specific fields and goals in mind, and will
independently research options and probably consider the United States first for
undergraduate study. Typically these highfliers are clear and confident about which field
andmajorstheywant.4

Meanwhile, the affluent yet less academically prepared explorers group conducts its
search for higher education with the goal of seeking an alternative to the competition at
home.Thesestudentsaremoreopentodifferentcountriesaswellasfieldsofstudy,and
may consider a variety of institutions in a number of destinations. White explains that
explorersarelesslikelytounderstandtheapplicationprocessthantheirhighflierpeers
andmayfeelbombardedwithsometimesmisleadinginformationfromlocalagents.These
students are most responsive to institutions that appear helpful and friendly to
internationalstudents,particularlyiftheyofferspecialESLprograms.5

White,A.2011.ChineseStudentsInternationalStudy:FactorsFeedingtheDecisionProcess.WorldEducation
Services:WorldEducationNewsandReviews,24:1.http://www.wes.org/ewenr/11feb/feature.htm
4
Ibid.
5
Ibid.

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Inmostcases,thedecisiontoattendaninternationaluniversityisacalculatedoneforboth
highfliers and explorers: students who believe they are unlikely to be admitted to a top
Chinese institution choose to study abroad because they think the cachet of an
internationaldegreewillhelpthemmorethanadegreefromasecondorthirdtierChinese
university.Thesestudentstendtobeveryawareofdifferentcountriesoptionsandpaths
to poststudy employment opportunities and generally prefer (in descending order) the
UnitedStates,theUnitedKingdom,Australia,andCanada.6Overall,foreigninstitutionscan
cater to both groups by highlighting positive outcomes for students, including
employability, 7 graduate school placement, internships, job prospects, and alumni
networkingopportunities.8

MOSTINFLUENTIALFACTORS
Paul Hoskins writes in the Guardians Higher Education Network blog that an institution
mustbeselectiveinitschoiceoffeaturedpeople,places,products,andperformance.The
rationaleforincludingfactsandaccompanyingmessagesaroundthesecategoriesmustbe
evidence based best, or better, than the rest as well as wrapped and presented in a
culturallynuancedlayerofunderstanding.9Below,wehighlightthetopfactorsfoundtobe
influentialinmakingdecisionsaboutwheretoenrollininternationalprograms:

An institutions ranking and reputation are consistently cited as among the most
motivating factors for Chinese students and families; Chinese families particularly
favorinstitutionsthatothershaveheardof.10Toprankedinstitutions,aswellas
institutions with a history of accepting Chinese students, are most wellknown,
though Tom Melcher, Chairman of Zinch China, argues that an institution can
improve its brand awareness through aggressive marketing in China.11Chinese
families are also highly influenced by university rankings, though they may not
understand the differences between specialty lists (e.g., liberal arts colleges,
regional masters colleges, etc.). 12 As such, Zinch International, the college
admissions portal, emphasized in its 2011 presentation that institutions should
highlightanyrankinglikestatisticsevenifuniquetotheprogram.13

Ibid.
Spinks,J.andWong,I.2010.UnderstandingStudentRecruitmentinMainlandChina:ACaseStudy.Observatoryon
BorderlessHigherEducation.
http://www.ed.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.38061!/fileManager/Understanding%20Student%20Recruitment%20in%20M
ainland%20China_A%20Case%20Study%20_January%202010_.pdf
8
ZinchChina.JumpstartingYourRecruitmentinChina:ABeginnersGuide.PresentedattheNAFSA2011Annual
Conference,June2,2011.http://www.slideshare.net/Zipcast11/jumpstartingyourrecruitmentinchinaa
beginnersguide
9
Hoskins,P.HowtorecruitinternationalstudentsinChina.TheGuardianHigherEducationNetworkblog,March
27,2012.http://www.guardian.co.uk/highereducationnetwork/blog/2012/mar/27/recruitingstudentsfrom
china
10
Melcher,T.2010.HowChineseFamiliesSelectOverseasUniversities.WorldEducationServices:WorldEducation
NewsandReviews,23:7.http://www.wes.org/ewenr/10sept/feature.htm
11
Ibid.
12
Ibid.
13
ZinchChina,Op.cit.
7

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Along the same lines, the perceived quality of an institution in terms of the
educationandalsothequalificationisahighlyinfluentialfactor.14A2009surveyof
ChinesestudentsfromINTOKnowledgefoundthatthequalityofteachingwasthe
second highestrated factor that influencing mainland students choice of
institution.15

An institutions safety is another quality that should be highlighted in marketing


materials, particularly in more urban environments with more frequent incidences
ofviolentcrime.16Chungetal.reportedina2009studythattheperceptionofNew
ZealandasasafeandharmonioussocietywascriticalforChinesestudentschoosing
New Zealand as an educational destination.17In INTO Knowledges 2009 survey
personalsafetyandsecuritywasthetopratedinfluencingfactor.18

Althoughthequalityoftheinstitutionisimportant,severalsourceshaveindicated
thatChinesestudentshighlyvaluetheopportunityforaninternationalexperience,
and this is most available at an institution where Chinese students are in the
minority. 19 In that regard, Zinch International argues that institutions should
highlight low international student enrollments as providing a real overseas
experience.20

FAMILYINFLUENCE
Itisinthebestinterestsofinstitutionstoexpandthereachoftheirmarketingeffortstoa
wider array of decisionmakers, according to several sources. White writes that in many
cases,itistheparentswhohavethefinalsayastowhichcountryandwhichinstitutionthe
studentshouldapply.21ZinchChinafurthersupportsthisfinding,assertingthatinstitutions
need to focus marketing on parents and use the child as a marketing channel.22The
figure below was included in Zinch Chinas presentation at the National Association of
International Educators (NAFSA) 2011 Annual Conference Different decision makers, and
compareshighereducationdecisionmakingprocessesofAmericanandChinesefamilies.

14

Yang,M.2007.WhatattractsmainlandChinesestudentstoAustralianhighereducation.StudiesinLearning
Evaluation,Innovation,andDevelopment,4:2.AscitedbySpinksandWong.
15
China:StudentExpectations.2009.INTO.http://www.intocorporate.com/media/37812/china
%20students'%20expectations.pdf
16
Melcher,Op.cit.
17
Chung,K.,Holdsworth,D.,Li,Y.,andFam,K.2009.ChineseLittleEmperor,CulturalValuesandPreferred
CommunicationSourcesforUniversityChoice.YoungConsumers,10:2.AscitedbySpinksandWong.
18
China:StudentExpectations.2009.INTO.Op.cit.
19
China:StudentExpectations,Op.cit.;Melcher,Op.cit.
20
ZinchChina,Op.cit.
21
White,Op.cit.
22
ZinchChina,Op.cit.

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Figure2:DecisionMakingProcesses

Wholeadstheprocess?
Whosupportstheprocess?
Whofollowstheprocess?

UNITEDSTATES
Student
Parent

CHINA
Parent
Grandparents
Student

Source:ZinchChina

Becauseparentsaresoinfluentialinchoosinganinstitution,itisimportanttounderstand
thatparentsvaluedifferentcriteriaformakingdecisions.Bodycotts2009studyshedslight
on the differences in what is important to parents and students in deciding where to
study.23 Bodycott interviewed 251 parents and 100 students from mainland China who
wereevaluatingstudyabroadoptions.Figure3showsthemaindifferencesbetweenparent
andstudentratingsofimportance,asidentifiedinthisstudy. Theonlyfactorfoundtobe
importanttobothgroupswastherangeofprogramsavailable.24

Figure3:MostImportantFactorsforStudyAbroadOptions
FACTOR
Push

Pull

PARENTS
Inadequatesupplyofuniversitiesin
China
Employmentprospectsongraduation
Socialandemotionalsupportservices
Rangeofprogramsavailable
Migrationpossibilities

STUDENTS
Qualityofeducation
Onsiteaccommodation
Rangeofprogramsavailable
Englishspeakingenvironment
Languageandacademicsupport
services
Facilities,buildingsandgrounds

Source:Bodycott,2009,viaSpinksandWong,2010.

OTHERCONSIDERATIONS
Timingisalsoafactorinapplyingtoandselectingauniversity,andChineseinstitutionsuse
anacceleratedprocesscomparedtoU.S.andBritishinstitutions.ZinchChinaexplainsthat
studentstakethenationalcollegeentranceexam,calledthegaokao,inJuneaftertheir
finalyearofhighschool.Asaresult,Chinesestudentswhoarenotawareoftheadmissions
process used in other countries are at a disadvantage when applying to international
institutions.Ontheotherhand,institutionswithrollingdeadlinesorlateradmissionscycles
may be more appealing to Chinese students who are only just starting to consider their
optionsforinternationalstudyneartheendoftheirsenioryearofhighschool.25

Regional differences within China must also be considered. According to Chong and Liu,
youngpeopleinTaiwanandHongKongaremorelikelytobeknowledgeableaboutoptions

23

Bodycott,P.2009.ChoosingaHigherEducationStudyAbroadDestination.JournalofResearchinInternational
Education,8:3.AscitedbySpinksandWong.
24
SpinksandWong,Op.cit.
25
ZinchChina,Op.cit.

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for education in foreign countries, while their peers in mainland China may require more
informationaboutinternationalstudyopportunities.Assuch,itisimportanttothoroughly
explain concepts that may be unknown to mainland applicants (for example, liberal
education).26

TRENDSINSOCIALMEDIAUSEINCHINA
SocialmediauseinChinaisconstantlyrisingatlastcount,therewerenearly600million
activeusers,afigurethatisup60percentjustfrom2012.27A2012surveybyMcKinseyand
Company that investigated various characteristics of social networking behavior revealed
thatanestimated91percentofthetotalpopulationvisitedasocialmediaplatforminthe
previous six months, and 95 percent of internet users in China who live in the nations
largest cities have a social media account.28Most of Chinas internet users access the
internet through a personal computer, though mobile devices are also gaining popularity:
accordingtoMcKinsey,about50percentofmobilephoneusersin[the]surveysaidthey
wereplanningtobuyasmartphoneinthenextsixmonths,35percentsaidtheyhaveuseda
tabletcomputer,andonefourthofconsumerswhodonotownatabletcomputersaidthey
plantobuyoneinthenextyear.29

Chinesesocialmediausersalsotendtobeveryactive:theMcKinseysurveyreportedthat
users in China generally spend approximately 46 minutes per day on social media sites,
compared to 37 minutes in the United States and just seven minutes in Japan.30Actual
usage of these sites, however, can be broken down into six different categories by
motivationandbehavior:31

Social enthusiasts spend a large portion of their time maintaining friendship


networks;theyaccountforabout15percentofsocialmediausers.

Resenders, who account for 15 percent of participants, actively repost messages,


suchasjokes,fromothersources.Althoughtheydonotpostoriginalmaterial,they
oftenhavelargenumbersoffollowers.

Readersgenerallydonotparticipatebutreadwhatothershaveposted.Theymake
upabout14percentofusers.

Opinionated users, comprising about 14 percent of participants on socialmedia


sites,expresstheirown(oftenstrong)opinionsandbuildlargepersonalfollowings.

26

ZinchChina,Op.cit.
SocialMediainChinaStatisticsandTrends[Infographic].GoGlobe.comblog,March12,2013.http://www.go
globe.com/blog/socialmediachina/
28
Chiu,C.,Lin,D.,andSilverman,A.2012.ChinasSocialMediaBoom.McKinsey&Company.
http://www.mckinseychina.com/wpcontent/uploads/2012/04/McKinseyChinasSocialMediaBoom.pdf
29
Ibid.
30
Ibid.
31
Ibid.(Bulletsquotedverbatim)
27

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QQ spillovers gain access to socialmedia sites through their use of Tencents QQ


instantmessagingservice.Whilethisgroupaccountsfor21percentoftheaudience
forsocialmedia,participationfromtheseusersisminimal.

Inactivesbelongtosocialmediasitesbutdonotparticipateinameaningfulway.

Overall, the social media market in China has been described as very fragmented and
local.32AccordingtoaMcKinseyandCompanybrief,eachsocialmediaandecommerce
platformhasatleasttwomajorlocalplayers:inmicroblogging(orweibo),forexample,Sina
WeiboandTencentWeibo;insocialnetworking,anumberofcompanies,includingRenren
andKaixin001.Theseplayershavedifferentstrengths,areasoffocus,and,often,geographic
priorities.33Abriefoverviewofthetopsitesisprovidedinthefigurebelow.34

Figure4:OverviewofTopChineseSocialMediaSites
PLATFORM
Douban
Jiayuan
Kaixin001
Pengyou
Qzone
Renren
SinaWeibo
TencentWeibo
Wechat

DESCRIPTION
Openforumformovie,music,andbookreviews
ThelargestinternetdatingwebsiteofChina
ClonedthemostsuccessfulandwellknownFacebookapplicationsto
theChinesemarket
Arealnamesocialnetwork
Socialnetworkingwebsitewhereuserscanwriteblogsandshare
photos,music,etc.
FacebookofChina
Chinesemicrobloggingwebsite(similartoTwitter),withabilityto
includedimagesandvideo
Chinesemicrobloggingwebsite (similartoTwitter)
Mobilevoiceandtextappwithsocialnetworkingfeatures,including
photosharing

Source:GoGlobe.comandMashable

Over80percentofChinesesocialmediausersareactiveonmorethanonesite,andlocal
platformsdominatethemarket.35Thoughspecificnumbersvary(inpartbecauseofissues
with virtual, or fake, followers), it is clear that Qzone, a social blogging site, and
microblogging platforms Tencent Weibo and Sina Weibo are favorites among users. For
instance,theMcKinseysurveyrevealedthat44percentofrespondentsuseQzonethemost,
followed by Sina Weibo and Renren (19 percent each), Tencent Weibo (8 percent), and

32

Chiu,C.,Ip,C.,andSilverman,A.UnderstandingSocialMediainChina.McKinseyQuarterly,April2012.
http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/understanding_social_media_in_china
33
Chong,E.andLiu,R.HowSocialMediaUsageAmongChinasDigitalNativesisEvolving.AllThingsD,March8,
2013.http://allthingsd.com/20130308/thepowerofconnectednesshowsocialmediausageamongchinas
digitalnativesisevolving/
34
[1]Mei,Y.5ChineseSocialNetworksYouNeedtoWatch.Mashable,July2,2012.
http://mashable.com/2012/07/02/chinasocialnetworks/
[2]SocialMediainChinaStatisticsandTrends[Infographic],Op.cit.
35
Chiu,Ip,andSilverman,Op.cit.

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Kaixin(7percent).36RecentestimatesasofMarch2013ofregisteredusersonsomeof
ChinastopsitesareshowninFigure5,below.37

Figure5:RegisteredUsers,inMillions
Qzone

712

TencentWeibo

507

SinaWeibo

400

Wechat

300

Pengyou

259

Renren

172

Douban

172

Kaixin001
Jiayuan

113
73

Source:AdAgeglobalnewsandGoGlobe.com

SOCIALMEDIAPLATFORMS
In the following paragraphs, we introduce some of the top platforms for reaching out to
Chinesehighschoolstudents.

BAIDU
BaiduisChinasequivalentofGoogle,andalsooffersotherservicesincludingBaiduTieba
(PostBar,adiscussionforum)andBaiduZhidao(BaiduKnows,aquestionandanswer
site).38KeystrategiesforusingBaidueffectivelyinclude:

Present content that aligns with key search terms. Paul Hoskins writes in the
Guardian blog that Chinese students generally look for a top UK university in a
particular subject, not a specific place and not your establishment. The websites
they are most likely referred to are those of agents where there is very little
discriminationbetweentheofferofoneestablishmentandanother.39Assuch,Clay
Hensely,oftheCollegeBoard,arguesthatuniversitiesneedtotakeprogramsand
majors into account when trying to reach students. According to Hensley,

36

Chiu,Lin,andSilverman,Op.cit.
[1]Madden,N.MarketersHeedChinasSocialMediaExplosion.AdAgeglobalnews,March01,2013.
http://adage.com/article/globalnews/marketersheedchinassocialmediaexplosion/240093/
[2]SocialMediainChinaStatisticsandTrends[Infographic],Op.cit.
38
Goldkorn,J.YouTube=Youku?WebsitesandtheirChineseEquivalents.FastCompany,January20,2011.
http://www.fastcompany.com/1715042/youtubeyoukuwebsitesandtheirchineseequivalents
39
Hoskins,Op.cit.
37

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universities should consider searchengine optimization for their strongest


programswithinternationalappeal,sothattheprograms,notjusttheinstitutions,
willpopupinsearchresults.40

Havealocalizedmicrosite.ArnoldMawritesinFourthSourcethatinstitutionsmust
understandthatappendingMandarinpagestoaUKwebsitedoesnotwork.Pages
will not be visible on Chinese search engines. It is therefore necessary to have a
localizedmicrositebuiltfromthegroundupwithChinesebrowserhabits,design/UX
standardsandconsumerpersonainmind.41

IncreaseaccessibilitywithinChina.LocalsitesshouldbehostedwithintheChinese
Governmentfirewall,oroveraContentDeliveryNetwork(CDN),otherwiseloading
times may be slowed to the point at which the site becomes inaccessible. An ICP
licenseisalsorequiredfromtheGovernmentforallbusinesswebsites,butobtaining
oneisamatterofformality.42

Understand differences in search processes. Paid searches on Baidu are different


from those used in the UK or the U.S. due to the Chinese language structure.
According to Ma, this fundamental difference directly affects the bidding of
keywords and optimization/structure of accounts. For example, phrase match on
Baiduactsmorelikemodifiedbroadmatchbroadmatchmodifierdoesnotexist
yet on Baidu PPC. Also, broad match captures far more queries due to the
complexityoftheChineselanguage.43

Simplify text and pages for search engine optimization (SEO). Ma writes that
Baidu spider is still not as powerful as Google bot, and generally does not crawl
deeperthanthreelevelswithinwebsitestructures.44Therefore,institutionsshould
keepthemostimportantinformationatthetopofeachpage,makethesiteeasy
tonavigatewithaclearhierarchy,andkeepkeyworddensitytobetween6and10
percent.45

40

Wheeler,D.NewTwistsinOnlineRecruitingofInternationalStudents.TheChronicleofHigherEducationPlanet
Academeblog,April8,2012.http://chronicle.com/blogs/planet/2012/04/08/newtwistsinonlinerecruitingof
internationalstudents/
41
Ma,A.DigitalmarketingtheUKandChina.FourthSource,April22,2013.
http://www.fourthsource.com/general/digitalmarketingtheukandchina13965
42
Ma,Op.cit.
43
Ibid.
44
Ibid.
45
BaiduSearchEngineOptimisation.CodeThatblog.http://www.codethat.co.uk/blog/search/baiduseoguide

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Figure6:BaiduScreenshot

Source:web2asia46

RENREN
Renren and Qzone are both considered the Chinese versions of Facebook. According to
Chong and Liu, Chinese teenagers typically begin using social media with Qzone and QQ
(Chinas top instant messaging program), two platforms that boast high concentrations of
usersbelowtheageof18.Astheygetolder,collegestudentsoutgrowQzoneandmoveon
toRenren,whichisdominatedbytheyoungadultpopulation.47

Tencents Qzone may boast a larger count of registered users, but the site has been
criticized as being heavily populated by dormant, skeleton profiles with low value and
retention rates. The site, which is accessed primarily by teenage, rural, and casual users,
allowstheuseofnicknamesandaliasesratherthanrealidentities.48Meanwhile,Renrenis
more popular among college students,49as it serves as an ideal resource for accessing
news about their respective universities, including curriculum updates, supplementary
materials and class discussion boards.50Chong and Liu write that college students often
retaintheirQzoneandQQaccountsusually,theywilllogintoQQtostayintouchwith
their old friends, parents and classmates, but neglect their Qzone pages and use Renren

46

AsianEquivalentsofWesternWebServicesPart03:China.Web2asia,August5,2009.
http://www.web2asia.com/2009/08/05/asianequivalentsofwesternwebservicespart03china/
47
ChongandLiu,Op.cit.
48
Lukoff,K.Chinastopfoursocialnetworks:Renren,Kaixin001,Qzone,and51.com.VentureBeat,April7,2010.
http://venturebeat.com/2010/04/07/china%E2%80%99stop4socialnetworksrenrenkaixin001qzoneand51
com/
49
Ibid.
50
ChongandLiu,Op.cit.

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instead.RenrenuserstendtobemoretransparentandhonestwhenusingRenren,while
theyaremorelikelytofiltertheirmessagesonQzone.51

Figure7:UniversityofKentuckysRenrenPage

WEIBO
Weibo, which means microblog, is the Chinese version of twitter and is offered under
several platforms. The two biggest players are Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo.52Like
Twitter,Weiboallowsuserstopost140charactermicroblogs,pictures,andvideos.53Oneof
thedifferencesinuseractivity,however,isthatwhileTwitterusersoftenpostaboutnews,
SinaWeibouserstendtocommentmoreonentertainmenttopics.54Similarly,someofthe
users with the most followers on Tencent Weibo are celebrities, hosts, famous
companies, and media and entertainment agencies.55Sina Weibo is particularly common

51

Ibid.
Lukoff,Op.cit.
53
Goldkorn,Op.cit.
54
SocialWebMarketinginChina.GreenBook.http://www.greenbook.org/marketingresearch.cfm/socialweb
marketinginchina12053
55
Lie,D.,Zhang,J.,Sun,G.,Tang,J.,Ding,Y.,andLuoZ.2012.WhatistheNatureofTencentWeibo:Detectthe
UniqueFeaturesofTencentUsers.http://arxiv.org/vc/arxiv/papers/1211/1211.2197v1.pdf
52

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among university students, young professionals, and urban dwellers, while Tencent users
tendtobemorerural.56

AccordingtoTinaHu,seniordirectorinChinaforCIC,Weiboisthebestforoutreachfor
institutionsbecauseitallowsuserstoreadinformationthatisnotpublicallyavailable.57Itis
estimatedthat70to80percentofChinasuniversitystudentshaveaWeiboaccount,and
between40and50percentofstudentsuseiteveryday.58

Figure8:UniversityofHuddersfieldsSinaWeiboPage

56

Lukoff,Op.cit.
Sharma,Y.UniversitiesincreasinglyuseWeibosocialmediatoreachChinastudents.UniversityWorldNews,
January13,2013.http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20130111112335850
58
Ibid.;SocialMediainChina:MorethanJustRecruitment.GeniusRecruiterblog,November4,2012.
http://geniusrecruiter.com/2012/11/04/socialmediainchinamorethanjustrecruitment/
57

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YOUKU
Youku is Chinas equivalent of YouTube, though there are some distinct differences. First,
while YouTubes videos are primarily usergenerated, 70 percent of Youkus content is
syndicated(i.e.,professionallyproduced).59AccordingtoVictorKoo,YoukusChiefExecutive
Officer, Youku also primarily features longer videos, rather than short clips or music
videos.60

As a forum for reaching out to prospective students, Youku presents some unique
opportunities. Clay Hensley, director of international strategy and relationships for the
College Board, explains that video is particularly popular among Chinese students
because it is hard to censor. Institutions can enlist current students as brand
ambassadors61totalkabouttheiruniversitylifeandeducationinMandarinorCantonese
and post the video on their own sites or pages. The university should then link to the
studentsvideos.62

Figure9:UniversityofAlbertasYoukupage

59

Bradley,R.WhatYouTubecanlearnfromYouku.CNNMoney,July19,2012.
http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2012/07/19/whatyoutubecanlearnfromyouku/
60
YoukuTranscendsYouTubeasChinaBecomesCenterofInternet.BloombergNews,October17,2010.
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/20101017/youkutranscendsyoutubeasinternetscenterofgravityshifts
tochina.html
61
RecruitingInternationalStudentswithSocialMedia.2012.InigralInsights.Availablefordownloadfrom
http://www.inigral.com/research/socialmediaforinternationalstudents/
62
Wheeler,Op.cit.

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EFFECTIVEINTEGRATIONOFTHEDIGITALMARKETINGCAMPAIGN
Inadditiontoawellmanageddigitalmediacampaign,aninstitutionsinternationalstudent
website must be designed to clearly and efficiently provide visitors with pertinent
information, writes Philippe Taza, founder of Higher Education Marketing, a digital
marketing agency. Taza notes that website content should be limited to essential
information that ensures that future international students can easily find what theyre
lookingforinaquickfivesecondscan.63Theblogspecifiesthatcriticalelementsinclude:

Asearchfeatureforavailableundergraduateandgraduateprograms
Admissionscriteria
Upcominginternationalrecruitmentvisits
Financialandvisarequirements
Clearcallstoactionbuttons

Beyond this streamlined landing page for international applicants, additional pages within
an institutions international student portal should focus on promoting your most highly
rated programs, emphasizing positive world rankings, and adjusting your messages to be
easilyunderstandabletostudentswhohavegrownupwithdifferenteducationsystemsand
are unfamiliar with local geography and culture, according to Taza. Additionally,
testimonialsfromcurrentandpastinternationalstudentsintheformofwrittenblogentries
or video posts provide personal connections to potential applicants. To encourage
communication,institutionscanenlistcurrentstudentstoserveasresourcesinaContact
aCurrentStudentwebsitefeature.64

Overall, institutions must remember that social media is not intended to be onesided:
communication and personal contact are the driving forces behind successful digital
marketing campaigns. Inigral, a U.S. consulting firm that helps universities leverage social
media to connect with students, describes several strategies for using social media to
recruit international students. Among them, Inigral recommends that institutions create a
private (i.e., not open to the public) community where admitted students can meet
faculty, administrators, and other prospective students online. According to Inigral,
internationalstudentsarelikelytouseonlinegroupsforthreemainfunctions:meeting
othersfromtheirhomecountry,connectingwithothersaroundmajorsorinterests,and
gettinganswerstoquestions.Institutionscanalsofosteropenlinesofcommunication
byhostingonlinechats,skypeinterviews,ormeetups.65

63

Taza,P.4StepstoDesigningyourWebsiteforInternationalStudentRecruitment.EDUniverse.
http://eduniverse.org/4stepsdesigningyourwebsiteinternationalstudentrecruitment
64
Ibid.
65
RecruitingInternationalStudentswithSocialMedia,Op.cit.

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Sociology PhD student and blogger Yimei Zhu writes that interaction with prospective
students may be the key factor in obtaining followers for a Universitys Weibo page.66In
examining growth in the number of followers for six UK universities, Zhu found that the
University of Sheffield increased the number of followers by 41 percent between August
2012andFebruary2013throughdeliberate,highqualityinteractionwithotherusers:
AfterexploringthecontentsonSheffieldsWeibopage,itisclearthattheirWeibo
accounthasactivelyinteractedwithstudentsandkeptitdowntoearth.Theyhave
many posts and reposts showing activities in campus and students lives, such as
speeddating event, students eating dinner together and job fair. When students
askedforaquestionregardingtoapost,theofficialaccountrepliedindetail.Itgave
thesensetootherstudentreadersthatUniversityofSheffield(accountowner)care
about them and would communicate with them if they try. Another strategy is to
ask questionto their followers. For example, Sheffield postedapicture andasked
whoknowswherethisis?Manystudentsreplied.Itfosteredinteractionnotonly
Sheffield official account interacted with followers, but followers also interacted
witheachotherastheysawtherewasarelaxingenvironmentwhenpeoplecould
discussthingsfreely.67

Similarly,JulieCahill,AssistantDirectorofInternationalMarketingandRecruitmentatthe
UniversityofMontana,explainsthathyperresponsivenessmakesalastingimpressionon
prospective international students, and her staff make every effort to respond to emails
from students and applicants within 24 to 48 hours. To better serve potential applicants
from China, Montanas admissions office created an International Student Associate
position and hired a Mandarinspeaking student to serve as applicants first point of
contact.68

Finally,a2012studyconductedbyswissnexChinarevealsadditionalpracticesfoundtobe
effective in the use of social media to promote international universities to Chinese
students. The study focused specifically on Sina Weibo as a platform for communicating
with students regarding Swiss universities.69To facilitate the flow of information, each
universitynamedacommunicatorwhoprovidedcontenttobetranslatedanduploaded
to Weibo by a swissnex representative.70Upon evaluating the success of the initiative,
participants indicated that having a dedicated person within the swissnex office in
Shanghaiallowedarapidresponsetothesendingofcontentfromtheuniversities.Thepro
activityandreactivityoftheShanghaiteamalsocontributedtomaintainingthesupplyof
contenteitherbylookingforinformationonthepartneruniversitieswebsitesorbyposting

66

Zhu,Y.AcasestudyofUKuniversitiesuseof#Weiboaccounts.ScholarlyCommunicationandOpenSpace,July3,
2013.http://yimeizhueresearch.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/acasestudyofukuniversitiesuseofweibo
accounts/
67
Ibid.
68
Leung,S.WooingInternationalStudentswithouttheHelpofUSNews.InigralInsightsblog,March25,2013.
http://blog.inigral.com/wooinginternationalstudentswithoutthehelpofusnews/
69
FischerSchrieber,I.andLaperrouza,M.2013.SocialMediaandAcademicCommunication:BridgingSinoSwiss
AcademiathroughSocialMedia.swissnexChina.http://www.swissnexchina.org/foryou/1socialmediaand
academiccommunicationbridgingsinoswissacademiathroughsocialmedia.pdf
70
Ibid.,p.11.

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content from social media pages. 71 Overall, the participants offered the following
recommendations to other institutions seeking to connect with potential applicants using
Chinesesocialmedia:72

Ensurethatapushpullmechanismisinplacewhereasinstitutionspushoutcontent
in regular and structured way while ensuring that timely and appropriate content
feedstheindividualSinaWeiboaccounts.

BuildalibraryofmaterialappealingtothetargetedChineseaudiences(e.g.dream
projects,rankings,lifestyle).

Haveadedicatedperson/teamwithinmaintaintheSinaWeiboaccounts;appointa
substitute to the account manager to ensure continuity of service in case of
absence;buildoncommonprocessestoconveymessagesviadedicatedchannels.

Ensure continuous learning regarding the developments of the social media


landscape,inparticularofthechosensocialmediachannel.

Set up a bimonthly reporting mechanism to inform the institutions on the latest


developments regarding its Sina Weibo account; the report could either be
conveyedinverbal(e.g.viaSkype/phone)orwrittenform.

Remainuptodateonthedevelopmentswithinthechosensocialmediaandmore
importantly outside of the chosen media (e.g. understand the implications of
WeChat for the institutions communication strategy). Whereas Twitter, Facebook,
or Google+ is relatively stable social media channels, the situation is very much
different in China. Forecasting the usage levels and popularity of Chinese social
mediainthemediumtermisextremelyhard.

71
72

Ibid.,pp.1718.
Ibid.,pp.1921.(Bulletsquotedverbatimorwithslightvariation)

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SECTION II: PROFILES OF MARKET LEADERS

In this section, we look at higher education institutions that are considered to be key
internationalplayersintheuseofChinesesocialmedia.Weexaminethefollowingtypesof
informationforeachinstitution:

ThespecificChinesesocialmediaplatformsused(withlinkstopagesasavailable)
Howtheplatformsareusedandbywhom
Howsocialmediaisintegratedwithmarketingactivity
Messagingsystemsused
Informationondatacollectionandhowsuccessismeasured

UNIVERSITYOFALBERTA,CANADA

Platform(s):Youku,Renren

Integrationofmarketingactivity:Thesocialmediasiteshelpanswerquestionsand
directtraffictotheUniversityswebsite,whichprovidestranslatedmaterial.

Typeofmessaging:TheYoukusiteoffersvirtualtoursinMandarin,andtranslated
brochuresareavailablefordownloadontheUniversityswebsite.

Data collection: The University identified internationalization as a key priority in


2006 and set a goal of increasing enrollment to 15 percent of the undergraduate
studentbodyby2015.73

Utilization of platform(s): The University created an International Office with a


director, assistant director and six recruiters. The Office used focus groups of
internationalstudentsandalumnitoevaluatethewebsite.

BROCKUNIVERSITY,CANADA

Platform(s):Renren,QQ,andSinaWeibo
Utilization of platform(s): The International Market Development office hired
student representatives who speak Mandarin to reach out to potential applicants.
TheofficeswitchedtheRenrenpagefrompersonaltopublictoallowforvalidation
andabroaderreach.
Integration of marketing activity: The representatives spend approximately two
hours each day informally chatting with prospective students and answering their
questions. Most questions are related to courses, tuition, accommodations, and
otherlogistics(e.g.,transportation).

73

Taza,Op.cit.

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Typeofmessaging:InformalchatinMandarin.
Data collection: Success is measured by the number of QQ and Renren users
interestedintheUniversity.74

FRESNOPACIFICUNIVERSITY,UNITEDSTATES

Platform(s):QQ
Utilizationofplatform(s):TheadmissionsofficehiredaChinesestudentassistantto
field questions from Mandarinspeaking prospective students and admitted
students.

Integrationofmarketingactivity:Connectingoneononewithprospectivestudents.
Admissions staff members include contact information for all three platforms (QQ
plusViberandSkype)intheiremailsignaturesandencourageprospectivestudents
tocontactthem.

Typeofmessaging:VoiceandtextcommunicationwithMandarinspeakingstudents
inMandarin.

Datacollection:SuccessismeasuredbynumberofapplicantsfromChina(1in2011
to10in2012).75

UNIVERSITYOFHUDDERSFIELD,UNITEDKINGDOM

Platform(s):SinaWeibo
Utilization of platform(s): TheWeibosite is operated by an alumnus whoruns the
UniversitysChinaoffice.TheUniversityalsohasaninternationalmarketingteamin
theUK.

Integration of marketing activity: The University provides the China office with
informationandpicturestobeturnedintocontentfortheWeibopage.

Type of messaging: The Weibo page serves as a steady and constant stream of
informationtokeepfollowersinterested.

Datacollection:Withover30,000followers,UniversityofHuddersfieldisregarded
asoneofthemostsuccessfulUKuniversitiesatusingWeibo.76

74

BrockusesChinasvastsocialmediatorecruitstudents.TheBrockNews,May19,2011.
http://www.brocku.ca/brocknews/?p=9864
75
Leung,Op.cit.
76
Sharma,Op.cit.

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UNIVERSITYOFKENTUCKY,UNITEDSTATES

Platform(s):RenrenandSinaWeibo
Utilization of platform(s): The public relations department created a social media
managementpositionandhiredacurrentstudentwhoisfluentinChinese.

Integration of marketing activity: Material from the A&S website that may be
relevantorinterestingtoChinesestudentsispostedonsocialmediapages.

Typeofmessaging:NewsitemsfromtheA&Swebsitearesummarizedandposted
inChinesewithalinktotheEnglishstory.

Data collection: Success is measured by the number of Chinese students (350 in


2000to600in2010)andcommentsonsocialmediaposts.77

MEMORIALUNIVERSITY,CANADA

Platform(s):Renren,Mixi(socialmedianetworkinJapan),andNaver(searchportal
andbloginSouthKorea)

Utilizationofplatform(s):TheSchoolofGraduateStudies(SGS)hiredthreegraduate
students to target potential students using the three social media platforms. The
studentsprovideassistancewithnavigatingtheapplicationprocess.

Integration of marketing activity: The social media sites are used to advertise
Memorial University and provide free and accurate information about the
applicationprocesswithoutusinganagent.

Typeofmessaging:Directinteractioninprospectivestudentsnativelanguages.
Datacollection:Successappearstobemeasuredbythenumberofapplicants.78

77

Lukoff,K.Q&A:UniversityofKentuckyEnrollsinChineseSocialMedia.TechRice,December15,2011.
http://techrice.com/2011/12/15/qauniversityofkentuckyenrollsinchinesesocialmedia/
78
Cook,M.SGSenlistsforeignsocialmediasitestorecruitworldwide.MemorialUniversitynews,September8,
2011.http://today.mun.ca/news.php?news_id=6617

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