Aug 29, 2018

6 Digital Strategies to Attract International Students

by Digital Marketing Institute

When it comes to making a choice on where to go for higher education, many students opt to study abroad. For colleges and universities across the U.S. and U.K., international students are not only a great source of income but also a valuable part of their student body.

Recruitment of international students is becoming more competitive, and in the age of the internet, prospective students have a range of possible options to choose from. Many colleges and universities are struggling to compete as they once did, largely because they aren’t making the right moves with their digital marketing strategy.

Studies by Campus Technology suggest that it only takes a college a 5% decline in enrollment numbers to lose out on $250M worth of student fees and tuition costs in one year. But this is about more than money, especially in the U.S. and Canada where diversity and global ties are so valued.

Education providers need to review their recruitment strategy and consider if they are doing enough to attract and engage international students.

Why Focus on International Students?

Having global ambassadors for your school is a key driver of future enrollments and helps education providers spread their reach across the world, encouraging more students to come and study at your institution.

However, the rapidly evolving digital landscape is changing the game for education providers. Educators can no longer rest on their laurels if they want to attract international students. They need to be different in order to more effectively attract global student audiences through a keen focus on value-added recruitment and orientation solutions.

Here are some key digital strategies you can use to boost enrollment numbers from international students in the near future.

1. Provide Easily Accessible Information

Provide Easily Accessible Information

While it may be safe to assume that millennials and Gen Z revert to social media for all their college research, the official websites of educational institutions are actually the driving force, beaten only by direct emails.

Therefore, institutions should ensure they have an updated, optimized website that makes it easy and enjoyable for site visitors to browse, find informative materials, and read relevant content. This includes:

  • Information that is particularly pertinent to international students should be clearly visible and easy to access by creating a dedicated webpage for international admissions.
  • Mobile-friendly is key in order to make prospective students stick around your site long enough to gain an interest in your institution and is key in ranking on search engines.
  • Links to key pages of interest, such as scholarships, financial aid, and visa application information.
  • Key contact details so students from abroad can get in touch with an international admission counselor.

2. Offer Virtual Tours

While many new applicants may fall into the 18-24 age bracket, significant numbers of adult learners from older demographics should also be expected. Many of these prospects may already have a full-time job, a family, and various other commitments, which makes their needs somewhat different from younger students.

Choosing the right college or university is truly a massive decision for these people, and so it’s important to weigh everything.

By providing virtual tours of your school, the facilities, campus, and much more, your institution can reach out to international students from afar and show them exactly what is on offer.

Texas A&M offers virtual tours on their mobile app, enabling students an inside peek at what life is like in their campus. Being able to do this without a physical visit is a great way for students to figure out if a college is right for them and is also a great opportunity to increase brand awareness and demonstrate innovation.

The virtual tours are merely the beginning. Your institution can also integrate lots of dynamic content such as blogs, short video stories, and webinars into a mobile campus app.

This enables your university, college or training provider to engage prospects from the earliest stages of their research, which can help influence their decision.

3. Boost Engagement with Infographics

Research by Google Trends shows a massive growth in popularity for infographics in recent years.

Ironically enough, Forbes recently used an infographic to illustrate the falling numbers of international students at U.S. universities over the past couple of years. The decline was most dramatic among Indian students in computer and engineering fields.

 Falling numbers of international students at U.S. universities infographic

While that stat is alarming enough on its own, readers are much more likely to comprehend the gravity of the situation when data is presented in an infographic. HubSpot research indicates infographics not only boost engagement but also web traffic.

Not only are professionally designed visuals more eye-catching but they also get shared more. Instead of trying to stand out from the pack with nothing but text-based articles, you can use infographics to support your content. It takes a little longer, but the marketing ROI on good visuals is well worth it.

4. Use Testimonials from Your Current and Past Students

Solid social proof is powerful nowadays. From product reviews on Amazon to feedback from guests on Airbnb, it is a key consideration in the buying process for many people.

This reality extends to student recruitment, too. Nobody is going to make a rash decision on their future college without doing some digging around to see what other people are saying about your college or university.

Having current students or alumni come forward to act as advocates for your brand is excellent. With the technology and popular mediums of today, you can leverage that for maximum effect.

This is especially true when you can enlist the help of current international students. Being able to create a focus group of foreign students to boost your brand online is gold when the time comes to push for new enrollments from abroad.

You can employ this clever marketing strategy in multiple avenues:

  • Website - Share success stories from current students and alumni on their experience for prospects to read and learn from
  • Social media channels - As you can reach a massive audience, especially with targeted advertising on Facebook or Twitter
  • Blog content - A specific blog post will boost organic search results and develop a recognized brand voice that resonates with potential students.

Good content marketing can forge a relationship with your students, past, present or future.

5. Look to External Factors

 Look to External Factors

There is still a widespread belief across many countries that studying in the U.S. is the road to a prosperous future, and for many international students, a scholarship or study program in the U.S. is a goal worth aiming for.

Although declining enrollment numbers are cause for alarm, the impact of anti-immigrant undertones that have been simmering in the U.K. and U.S. for the past couple of years are certainly not something education providers should underestimate.

Ireland has sought to capitalize on this by offering extended visas for postgraduates, so they can gain valuable work experience after their degree.

It’s clear that the tides are changing in student recruitment. Not only is it becoming more competitive, but new prospects are using more mediums to research potential colleges.

6. Be Innovative with Social Marketing

In countries as large as the U.S. and Canada, it makes sense to focus recruitment efforts on a limited geographical area. Brand marketing for the entire country is difficult. However, social media and widespread internet use certainly make it more feasible to reach wider, more global audiences.

Higher education providers must adapt to remain competitive. By embracing new technologies and strategies geared towards a predominantly young, digital-savvy audience, colleges can look to stand out from the pack with innovative social marketing. The key is to concentrate on the platforms that are most effective for connecting with your target audience and creating content - in many formats - that resonates.

Educators can differentiate among international student audiences by focusing on recruitment solutions that provide real value for prospective new students and going beyond the degree to offer more assistance in gaining work after graduation.

Ultimately, educators must show international students that life within their campus, city, and country is a great fit for them. It must be more than a brand name or course on offer and look at attracting international students by sharing ethos, values and showcasing career prospects.

With strategic digital marketing, your institution can connect with prospective students and influence their decisions, improving enrollment numbers as a result.

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