When attracting Chinese students, George Hernandez of the University of Tasmania (UTAS) advises “web first; everything else second.” He emphasises the importance of having a Chinese website specifically designed for Chinese users and hosted in China for the best user experience, with local hosting ensuring speedy site loading. He said the local UTAS website, developed by Sinorbis, showed a significantly improved bounce rate and average session duration. So then, what are the best tips in recruiting Chinese students?
George Hernandez emphasises the importance of having a website specifically designed for Chinese users and hosted in China for the best user experience.
To be successful, you need a strategy behind the website. UTAS developed a comprehensive social media marketing strategy promoting their brand using Chinese social media platforms, particularly WeChat. Links led students to the new website for more information. At UTS InSearch, the Sinorbis project team found the appropriate channel mix and optimal local channels to ensure maximal relevant exposure for a new recruitment campaign, Hey China. There were also bespoke web page designs created to appeal to Chinese users. Nikki Duffey, Digital Marketing Manager at UTS InSearch, says these are key factors for the success of their digital initiatives.
The Hey China campaign uses brand ambassadors selected from current Chinese students to tell stories of their experiences via Weibo. This strategy uses the platform prospective students are using in China, giving real stories and answers from people like themselves.
Video is key and any campaign must run for over three months to be successful.
Both UTS InSearch and UTAS used Chinese language video in their strategy, with Hernandez saying “Video is king.” UTS InSearch results showed that while using video over a 10-day period, traffic to the website increased by 6 times and the search engine marketing cost per click reduced by 6 times. Video sits well on social media platforms and forms a key part of social media marketing strategy. Once students are engaged on social media, it’s a simple matter for them to click on the links and Hernandez and Duffy emphasise the importance of having representatives in China. This is vital because of the quick change in such things as policies, and features of social media platforms, as well as the popular topics. Duffy says “UTS InSearch relied heavily on local agents and experts to keep us up-to-date with trends and changes.”
Having representatives in China is vital because of the quick change in such things as policies, and features of social media platforms, as well as the popular topics.
Both universities say any campaign for overseas students must run for over three months to be successful. Many Chinese students begin researching overseas education just after Gaokao in June, so the UTS InSearch campaign was designed with 2 stages. From May to September they ran an optimisation campaign, building and consolidating their brand. In July and August they ran an intensive campaign which, according to Sogou analytics, put them in front of searchers at the peak search period across school destination countries.
By incorporating these recommendations when marketing in China, Australian educational institutions give themselves the best chance of success in recruiting Chinese students.