Category Archives: institution marketing

Are Podcasts An Effective International Student Recruiting Tool

There was a question recently posted to an international student recruiting list serve about the use of podcasting with international alumni as an effective tool for prospective international students and educational advisers.  It made me think a little bit about how schools can use podcasts effectively to recruit international students.

Here are the two questions posed with my thoughts underneath:

1.  Do you think this is a good idea?

I think that creating social media (video, blog, podcast, twitter, etc.) is a great idea but only if done with respect to one’s overall social media marketing strategy.  For example, creating a podcast is great but a few things should be considered:

First, what is your intention of creating these podcasts?  Is it to entice prospective students to become interested in your school?  Is it for students who already know about your school and are merely looking for additional information?  Is your intention to create some sort of buzz around your school so students who haven’t heard of you are now learning about your school?  A clear understanding of the intended use of social media development is very important.

Second, to go along with why you are creating this content, clearly define who is your intended target market to hear these podcasts?  If your intended market is prospective students, have you considered if your podcasts are compelling enough to create a word of mouth buzz?  I have found through my experience that creating any type of social media merely to create it is no longer compelling enough for students to help spread content virally.  I have gone into more detail on the idea of creating compelling/wow type content in this blog post…

Third, consider how you’re distributing this content through the Internet.  The beauty of social media is that it can be easily ‘shared’ through various platforms.  For example, the podcasts that we have created are distributed through a newsletter, integrated across our other outreach on Twitter, Facebook, Orkut, Blog, Website, etc. where we not only allow prospective students to listen to it but to also easily ‘share’ the content through their favorite mediums.

2.  Is your institution doing this already?  If so, do you have any feedback to share?

We have found that the most successful podcasts are on the hottest topics like getting a visa, jobs after school, finding scholarships, tips for the SAT, etc.  While students are interested in learning what it is like to live on a school’s campus, the issues that are the hardest to overcome for a student are the ones that students tend listen to in droves.  Plus it is this ‘controversial’ content that tends to be shared the most virally, so definitely keep that in mind if your intention is to create viral buzz with your podcasts.

Photo by Juan Pablo Olmo


Create Effective Recruiting Media On The Fringes

In my conversation with Paula David of Clark University, she talked about hiring a ‘Director of Wow’. Her idea is to create content that will draw some sense of shock or emotion from her target audience.

Seth Godin, marketing guru, constantly preaches the idea of creating at the fringes.  Being safe is boring, those who push the envelope are the ones who draw attention and create remarkable content.

While visiting several admissions and marketing personnel this past week there seemed to be a common theme when talking about creating rich media… If we create rich media our target audience will undoubtedly want to watch it and will be enamored with it.

While this train of thought may have worked a few years ago I am of the mind that our target audience is no longer ooh’ed and ahh’ed simply by seeing a school’s rich media content.  The fact of the matter is that we not only need to ooh and ahh our target audience, we now need them to talk about it with their friends.

So what does it take to create on the fringes?  Here is a flow chart from Wired Magazine on our typical thought process when deciding whether or not to forward an e-mail.  If you look at what it takes, just to get someone to forward an e-mail you will realize why creating rich media for the sake of having it on your school’s admissions website is a waste of your time.

Click to see full size

To find inspiration on what works, look at some of the most talked about shows on television, Family Guy, Colbert Report, Saturday Night Live.  These shows might not be the most popular but they are definitely some of the most talked about.  The material that these shows use is controversial, it isn’t safe and therefore we are more likely to remark about it.

Here are a few examples of what I mean:

Saturday Night’s Wii Guys

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Hulu – Saturday Night Live: Wii Guys“, posted with vodpod

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Now you might disagree with some of the content but this is what it takes to get generation y to share with their friends.  So be creative and find shocking ways to stimulate your target audience.

Photo by Hizonic

Is your International Student Marketing Remarkable?

I have been on a bit of a TED talk kick lately and came across one presentation with the marketing guru Seth Godin that I thought could be applied to the international student recruiting community.  Seth brings up a couple points that might spawn innovating thinking within your international student admissions office.

One major theme of his talk is to ask yourself, is your marketing remarkable?  Remarkable doesn’t mean what you are saying or doing is ‘cool’, remarkable means your audience is inspired to ‘remark’ about your marketing efforts to others.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Seth Godin on sliced bread | Video on…“, posted with vodpod


This is the essence of social media.  We have many tools where for free we can distribute material to our audience and where our audience can easily share or remark about it to others.  But the material must be remarkable!

Take the example highlighted in the Old College Try: Marketing Higher Ed blog by D.W. sharing a concept made very popular by the Obama Campaign and now being employed by Gonzaga.  In her blog D.W. shares how Gonzaga has created their own version of the Obama campaign’s ‘Obama would have won only if “insert person’s name here” had voted‘ video.

Now I have no interest necessarily in Gonzaga but they have done enough to compel me to share their video with others.  For me it was remarkable.  And now that you are checking it out, you too might feel compelled to share it with someone.  Gonzaga has developed an initiative that may start a large conversation being heard by an audience that is interested in what they are saying.  You can’t buy that kind of undivided attention with mass media!

The other theme that I really liked in the presentation was the explanation of the term Otaku.  Otaku describes the obsession one has with a particular product or service and their uncanny desire to do something as the result of that product or service.  The example Seth uses is how people in Japan who are obsessed with Ramen Noodles.  These people will drive half way across Tokyo just to try a new restaurant serving Ramen Noodle and because of thier obession with Ramen Noodles will remark about their experience to others.

This whole idea of Otaku made me think, who is the market truly obsessed with having an international education?

Is it the student who is obsessed and will talk about a great university that offers a lot of merit aid for foreign students to his friends?  Is it the mother and father who will talk to other parents about the amount of money they can save by having their child go to a particular college in the US?  Is it the alumnus who is really proud of something going on at their school that will tell others to check out a video, podcast or blog on their alma mader’s website?

I would love to hear how other school’s are engaging the different international education community members to attract international students.

Do you have campaigns geared specifically toward prospective international students’ parents as well as the prospective international students?

Who are the gatekeepers that you try to influence, the one’s who have the ability to open the floodgates for your school to get prospective international student inquiries? Agents? Web Services? Tour Companies? EducationUSA offices? Someone that I am failing to mention here?

But ultimately we must ask ourselves…

Do I believe that my school is effectively marketing to the prospective international student market’s Otaku?

Photo by takomabilbelot

Participation Is the Best Publicity for you College or University

Many schools possess the idea that if they have a mere presence on a social network like Facebook or an account on Twitter it means that they are truly employing the power of social media to help them recruit students.  Unfortunately it isn’t that easy.

I always talk about this idea of the internet being a giant conversation.  People are adding to the conversation in many ways whether it’s updating a Facebook status, commenting on a photo or blog, uploading a video to YouTube and so on.  The trick to being successful in this medium is to listen to those whom you find informative and interesting while attracting your target audience to want to listen to you!

Let me provide an example of how participating in the conversation on the web can help you be heard by your target audience!

On goSwoop we provide colleges and universities as well as students profiles.  These profiles however act very similarly to the typical College Board profile for schools or the common college application for students.  So having a dynamic profile isn’t enough to reap the rewards from goSwoop.  The answer is all of the other tools for conversation that colleges and universities can utilize to be heard by prospective international students.

Let’s look at this from the college and university standpoint.  A school can update their profile on goSwoop to present all the information prospective international students need to know in order to get into their college, but how effective is that?  A student has to sift through all the noise on goSwoop to find that information on the school’s profile and then take the time to read and review all the information provided by the school.

So the question is… What should schools be doing to break through the noise and be heard by all these prospective students starving for information on studying in the US?  Voice your opinion in the conversation!

We have a section on goSwoop called the Q&A.  Students can pose questions that anyone in the goSwoop community can answer.  Schools have told me why would they bother answering questions on goSwoop’s Q&A when we are already answering students’ questions via e-mail?

The simple answer to this question is that the traditional ways in which schools are answering questions is in a one on one conversation and not in the more effective one to many conversation they could be having.  By answering students in an environment such as goSwoop’s Q&A, it allows more students to listen to what the school is saying.  Think of it this way…

When you are presenting a seminar to a group of 100 students and one student stands up to ask a question, yes, you are specifically answering that student’s question but everyone else in the room is also listening and learning the information you are providing.  Now imagine you were one on one with that same student in your office and the student asks you the same question.  By not being in that seminar answering the students question you miss out on having the other 99 students hearing the information you are providing.

Think of forums like goSwoop as seminars.  Not only are many students listening to all of the answers you are providing when you participate in these ‘small’ conversations but you are cutting through all the noise and making it easier for students to find you.  For example, take a look at what it looks like when a school answers a question on goSwoop.

Every time a school answers a question on goSwoop, no matter how long or short the answer, students first see that (in this case) Roger Williams University and Saint Mary’s College of California are potential schools to study at in the US but they can click on the school’s name to be linked back to the school’s profile where they can learn more about the school.

By participating in the conversation, colleges and universities are creating more exposure for themselves and also generating more opportunities to drive student traffic to the pages that can ultimately create the most value for the school (your website).

So ask yourself… How well is my school being heard by prospective international students?  Am I an active voice in the conversations of prospective international students?

If your not, don’t be shy, jump in, we would love to hear from you!

Photo By: Mikael Altemark

Creating Inexpensive Video Content for International Students

One major theme running through most blog posts these days is about how the current economy is affecting our personal and professional jobs.  My last post offered some ideas on bootstrapping your international student marketing.  I want to continue sharing some of my thoughts on inexpensive opportunities that admissions offices can jump on to help with their international recruiting.

Today my mind has been focused on video.  How can we quickly and inexpensively create video content to show prospective international students why they should be studying at your school?

My initial inspiration for exploration into this video realm came from Steve Garfield who is an expert in web media.  Click on his name to check out his website… who knows you might get some ideas of your own!

The easy way in which I started utilizing live video streaming was through a website called Qik.  Qik allows it’s users, for free to live stream video to the web.  You can connect your webcam to your computer to stream or even better, use your phone to stream live video to the web.  That’s right you can now carry your phone around anywhere and if you are connected to the internet can stream, FOR FREE, live video to the web for prospective students to see.

Now a question that you might have at this point is what videos can I create that students would be interested in watching?  Taking some ideas from a previous post on why we should be creating ‘imperfect’ videos, let’s think about what it is that students want to watch.

We all know today’s prospective students have grown up in a digital world.  They are spending more time searching sites like YouTube or Google video aimlessly looking for entertaining content.  We need to be producing content that resembles the vast majority of YouTube videos, the imprefect, impromtu video.

So how can we do this?

Get yourself the hardware that can record this content.  If you are interested in using Qik look at their supported phones and see if yours can utilize their application.  If your phone isn’t supported, buying the phone is your only overhead cost and that cost can be as low as $80.

Once you have your phone, setting up the Qik application is simple.  Go to their website, sign up for an account and follow the directions for your specific phone.  When I signed up I had to send a text message to them and then was sent the link to download the application for my particular phone.  After your profile is created and your phone is properly linked to Qik the next step is shooting video.

Now from my experience of talking to international students, these guys want to SEE what it is like to study in the US.  They want personal accounts of life on campus from students like them, they want to understand what kind of support is available through your international student services office, they want to meet admissions recruiters, professors, watch classes, etc (To get an idea of great video that might already be being created by current students at your school check out Unigo).

Creating these types of videos is easy and doesn’t require any preparation.  Get out there and make impromptu videos with students who come in to your office, your colleagues who deal with international students, maybe give a tour of your school?  The possibilities are endless.

Once those videos have been streamed to Qik there are so many ways you can get students to see them.  Qik allows you to upload the video to YouTube, synchronize your live stream through your Twitter account, embed the video into your blog and so much more.

I know this is a very 30,000 foot view of live streaming video but hopefully it will get some gears working in your head to see if this might be an option for you and your admissions office.

Now get out there and start streaming!

Technology and International Student Recruiting



Last night was the first ‘Technology and International Student Recruiting‘ Meet-up here in Boston and it was a fantastic conversation.  Many thanks to George and the rest of the folks from Suffolk University who hosted the event!

There were people from all different aspects of tech and higher education who added a lot to the overall conversation and dynamic of the group.

We discussed a lot of points that were interesting last night and though I would share and extend the conversation if anyone else is interested in participating…


We hit the topic of next year’s school budgets and how that would affect travel for international student recruiting.  I wondered if schools were going to be shifting more resources away from travel to utilization of new social media initiatives.  From some people it sounds like schools have no intention to give up travel but are still pouring energy and resources into new media as the millennial target market demands it.

One person commented that physical interaction can’t be beat especially when marketing to international students.  Travel will remain a mainstay of recruiting but schools are becoming even more focused on targeted locations around the world.

Is your school becoming more focused on destinations of travel?  Rather than continent, region, or country are you now more focused on cities or even particular feeder schools?

The impression that I understood is that schools are starting to shy away from the more expensive international student recruiting tours.  It sounds like schools are going to be coming up with alternatives to these tours.

What is your school doing next year?  Giving up on the expensive tours?  Shifting more financial and human capital toward social media and the web?

Evolution of Interaction

Many schools are more accpeting of utilizing new social media intiatives.  Where once Facebook looked to be a daunting proposal for an admissions office (not that it still isn’t) schools are understanding that whether they are are taking an initiative on Facebook, people will be creating pages and groups about their school.  It’s all about if the school wants to participate in that conversation or be ignorant about it.

The interesting point that arose was how students will interact with institutions in a grammatical sense.  Some people commented on how students converse with admissions counselors or instituion staff using the ‘LOL’ speak rather than the typical formal language that we automatically believe everyone will use when communicating with someone in a ‘professional atmosphere’.

Has anyone else experienced this or seen this LOL speak as a growing concern?  I know speaking with the EducationUSA office in Lahore, Pakistan last week, the adviser in the office found that many prospective students don’t know how to interact professionally which of course could ultimately hurt the student in the admissions process.

Establishing Commuities for Students

With schools more willing to embrace new social media initiatives, one admisisons counselor commented on how they are looking for quality opportunities to set up communities for prospective students to engage the school in a conversation.  For example why restrict oneself to Facebook when one can set up communities in more popular country specific social networks like in India and Brazil  or in Germany.

One point that turned out to be a pro and con was who was going to manage these communities especially when the people working in the admissions office can’t speak the language in which the conversation was being held.  Many people agreed that if current international students at their school could spearhead such initiatives it would prove to be super beneficial.  For one, prospective students would much prefer to speak with other international students about what they can expect at a school rather than an admissions counselor in which they will more than likely have a harder time relating to.  But of course, finding a student who is excited and motivate enough to stick with such an initiative can sometimes be a difficult task.

Are any schools utilizing current students to spearhead community building on country specific social networks?  Which countries are you focusing on?

Next Meeting

There will be another meeting next month (March) so if anyone is interested in this topic and interested in hearing what others in this community are doing please join us on the Technology and international Student Recruiting meet up group.

New Year, New Goals for Social Media in International Student Recruiting

Well, it’s 2009 and another opportunity to make new goals.  So what’s it going to be?  Here are 3 ideas for you to take advantage of social media in 2009.

Create a strategy for using social media

The reason social media might seem so overwhelming is because there are so many options.  Well make your life simple, create a plan for using social media by realizing your resources (time, finances, manpower) and recruiting objectives.

With your plan created, research which social media options will best help you in recruiting international students.  Choose one or two of those options and begin using them.  Become an avid user, read about how others are successfully using those services and emulate them.

Take more time to learn about social media

The best way to effectively use social media is to invest the time to learn from others.  Yes, the learning curve to utilizing all these different web services can be overwhelming but the longer you resist to learn the more overwhelming it will become.

There are plenty of individuals within the admissions recruiting, international admissions and higher education fields who write blogs, are on twitter, podcast and so much more.  Find the people who are the most helpful to you and keep up with what they say.

A couple of blogs that I find really interesting are:







If you are interested in following these bloggers on twitter you will be able to find their usernames on each of their blogs.

Get social

A majority of your prospective students are digital natives growing up with digital technology.  They are all using some sort of social media whether it is Facebook, Orkut or YouTube.  So it is time to get on these websites and start getting social.

Check out this video from Inigral on how admissions offices can effectively engage prospective students using Facebook…

Facebook for Admissions Marketing from Inigral Inc. on Vimeo.