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International Education Marketing Social Media

From Language Travel Magazine ‘Social media: a marketing tool.  International educators have a client base spread across the entire globe – a globe getting smaller thanks to social media: a marketing tool that is largely free to use.

Potential students – especially within the key 18-to-25-year-old demographic – use this medium not only to research institutions, but to interact with them in an instant and honest way that traditional marketing methods do not offer.

The extent to which educators and agents are utilising this platform to its full potential, however, varies.  Claire Twyman of Study Travel Magazine reports on the ways in which an effective social media marketing strategy can be achieved…

 ….while the industry understands the importance of social media, “not many schools show any tactics or strategy”, he says. This is a shame, as the prime demographic of 18-to-25-year-olds tend to use this platform religiously…

 ……The fact that social media can provide an open forum for negative feedback can be disconcerting for some, but as Ian Pratt of Lexis English Australia highlights, “The reality is that the conversation will be taking place online whether you are part of it or not. What you can do is contribute to the conversation, and from a marketing point of view at least, move the discussion in directions that highlight your strengths.”….

 ……It is also important to cater for varying markets when using social media – to serve students from countries that supply a large number of students and/or to attract students from new markets. “One of the challenges of using social media with an international audience is that it is not enough to speak only English,”..

 .. Agent-educator relationships can also be strengthened using this medium, with many educators explaining that the information they provide, regarding new courses for example, is posted to inform potential students and agents alike. “Schools and agents can interact together as a team on social media: we try to follow all our partner agents on Twitter and like their pages on Facebook,” adds Virginie Courau from Accent Français in France. “As reciprocity, many of our partner agents are re-tweeting our tweets and sharing our posts on their own pages.”..

…The vast majority of international educators, too, are of the opinion that social media usage does not damage agent relations.“Instead of viewing it as an overstepping of boundaries, social media usage by institutions should really be appreciated for what it is: a powerful tool that assists agencies in student recruitment,” comments Lucas Bertoli from ILSC Education Group. “Most recruitment agencies would agree that it’s easier to promote institutions when they have strong marketing materials. An institution’s strong social media presence helps agents promote them more easily. Being on social media helps legitimise an institution in the eyes of potential students, and that makes the jobs of our international recruitment partners that much easier.” …’

Further:

1. Social media like all marketing and communications must be included in any over arching digital and SEO marketing strategy developed by senior management with required skill set (technical hands on skills are not necessary, provided the concepts of digital marketing are understood and actively managed), with an open, collaborative and non hierarchical organisational culture.

2. Effective social media, digital marketing and SEO for market development and recruitment is impossible if an institution’s international marketing is seen as high status, administrative management, hierarchical, silo and ‘gatekeeper’ approach viewing agents as competitors not partners.

3. Social media, like on campus feedback, can inform quality management and marketing too e.g. which digital channels did/do candidates use in their place of residence and which language (argot) to find information? (students are the best marketing resource and on campus).

4. Facebook is also effective and economic for branding and/or market development with a significant targeted reach and penetration via language, age, education level, country etc.. (some target audiences are not resident in their home country but are a diaspora studying and/or working elsewhere e.g. EU members).

5. Social media, within a digital/SEO marketing strategy in cooperation with agents and related, should also be leveraged to provide back links or reciprocal web links increasing visibility online. This could include SEO assessment of agent and institution websites for particular markets and cooperate on ways to jointly improve their web presence for marketing.

In short, institutions’ and agents’ websites are under utilised ‘shop fronts’, if not cooperating on strategy to increase online visibility, traffic feedback and systems for joint enquiry/application management, there is something fundamentally wrong.  If agents, admissions and marketing personnel are at cross purposes (due to less than optimal communication), difficult to achieve… easier if the dots are joined up…  International education marketing or recruitment management who continue with conventional outbound marketing, while ignoring or obstructing digital, will become, if not already, unemployable through lack of required skill sets.

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