Tag Archives: international student recruiting

Technology and International Student Recruiting Meet-Up #3

logo_821Tech & Int’l Student Recruiting Meetup #3 was held this evening at Suffolk University and there was a lot to cover after last month’s cancellation due to heavy snow. However, April showers did not hinder the dedicated from showing up tonight.

It was great to hear from the admissions recruiter and social media specialist from Bentley University on how they are integrating social media in int’l student recruiting. Search Marketing Specialist from iProspect shared valuable insight about establishing a strategy to measure SM initiatives.  And we discussed process mapping to gain a better understanding of where prospective students and their parents are living on the web and how to engage with them more effectively with social media tools.

Thanks to everyone who came despite the rain, hope to see you all next month. Big thanks also to George Comeau and Suffolk University for providing a great location and space for us to meet.

Very much looking forward to seeing you all Monday, May 18th for Tech & Int’l Student Recruiting #4.

Links from April 6th discussion:
BlueFuego – The Web in Higher Education: What’s Different?
Stanford University YouTube Channel
SXSW Education thread on Twitter #SXSWED

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You Don’t Have to Use it Yet; Just Be Open to Social Media

I was at the Social Media Club – Boston event last night where the topic of conversation was “Change dot Gov”.  The panel included Brad Blake, the Director of New Media Strategy for the commonwealth of Massachusetts, Matt Viser, a political reporter for the Globe, Brian Reich, a consultant, author, blogger and State Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan.

While listening to the panel, I was struck by how similar the rhetoric used by State Senator  Jennifer Flanagan was to some of the admissions offices I talk to.  Senator Flanagan, while having a constituency that includes an older demographic argued that she receives enough e-mails, talks to enough people while out and about in her community and through the use of her website and blog views Social Media as yet another tool that requires too much time without providing enough benefit for her constituents.

I think her argument can transition well into the international student recruiting space.  Like Senator Flanagan some of our offices may be concentrating our recruiting efforts in countries where students don’t have the same kind of access to the internet or high bandwidth as the developed nations.  This means we don’t need to start using certain tools of social media  just yet because let’s face it, we will be wasting our time.  However this barrier to using social media by developing nations will soon be knocked down.

So how should this affect the way our offices embrace social media?  We need to stay on top of what’s available and how it works. Our prospective students are only becoming more knowledgeable digital natives meaning they have grown up using all this great Internet technology, especially web 2.0 technology.   While next year and the year after prospective students may not require you to engage them exclusively through social media there will come a time where that will be the only way to effectively recruit.

Twitter for example may in fact be the worst tool to recruit international students right now but as it’s global popularity grows, agents in developing nations will begin to pick it up, potential university partners will pick it up, prospective students and so on.  So jump on Twitter and get used to how it works.  Understand how it can be used as a viral tool.  Understand how you can meet new people and develop relationships using it.

My recommendation to admissions offices is not to worry too much about using all the tools right now but to keep up with what’s out there and more importantly how these tools work!

Photo by David Ohmer

Developing Personal Relationships Results in More Effective Student Recruiting

Life is all about relationships.

I recently had a conversation with an admissions recruiter at a school in Boston and our conversation turned to how she became so effective at recruiting international students.  She told me that her success was a symptom of her ability to connect with prospective students and their families.  To get students to apply and ultimately attend her school she never regurgitated her university’s talking points and facts but rather took time to get to know each prospective student on a personal level.

Her conversations with students were about her family, her life, her experiences of traveling around the world.  She would ask prospective students’ about their lives, dreams, motivations and goals.  After taking the time to have a conversation that was not merely ‘small talk’, the student and their family would start asking questions about the school she represented.  That’s right, by taking the time to create a personal connection, the student would begin to ask unprompted questions about her school leading to a submitted application and many times a deposit!

So if personal relationships help us recruit quality prospective international students, how can we create more personal relationships without having to spend excessive amounts of money to travel around the world?

Embrace the conversations that students are trying to have with you on social networks!  Today’s prospective student, without being conscious of it, loves to develop relationships.  This can be seen with the phenomenal popularity of social networks.  Students live on social networks, spending hours leaving comments on their friends’ profiles, photos, blogs, etc.  They ask and answer questions in forums about how to get a student visa or how to beat the SAT exam.  They update their status on Facebook and Twitter.  The point is that with social networks, today’s prospective students are more personal than ever and we need to embrace this fact.

We as admissions offices need to gain the confidence of today’s prospective international student today more than ever before.  If we want to attract the top talent to our schools we need to respond to their comments and questions we need to comment on their content, we need to get conversations started, we need to share our lives and create personal connections.

To get personal we need to do more than put up a Facebook page, more than direct students to our website, more than write e-mails.  We need to interact, communicate and get personal with our prospective international students!

Social Media is not a Waste of your Admissions Office’s Time

Not only is our interaction with students via social networks going to grow but the fact of the matter is that it is much more effective to interact with students via social networks and here’s why…

Many admissions recruiters have this idea that social media (web 2.0) is not a productive use of time.  One example of this is the apprehension admissions offices have of setting up a Facebook page.  Some of the offices I have spoken with feel that if they run a Facebook page they will be wasting time having to moderate slanderous comments left by visitors or even have to interact with more prospective students.

Rather than worrying about having to respond to all these comments positive or negative we should realize that these interactions are a great opportunity for us to reach tens, hundreds even thousands of prospective students!

Let’s imagine we are in New Delhi giving a presentation about our school to a group of 100 prospective international students.  100 students are sitting, listening attentively to how our school offers international students a life changing experience.  We talk about how our school is connected to job opportunities in various fields like, the sciences, engineering and finance.  We talk about how easy it is to get involved in the current international student community.  We talk about how many great international student events and student groups there are.

As we wrap up the presentation we ask if anyone has any questions.  One student raises their hand and asks ‘I want to know what I can do to improve my chances of being accepted to your school.  What kind of extracurricular activities do you like to see?  Which test scores do you look at closely?  What range of scores would give me the best chance of being accepted?’

As we prepare to answer this question we think if it would be easier to talk to the student one on one after the presentation or if we should answer the student right there and then?  This decision is a very important one!!!

If we decide to answer this question right there and then, 100 people get to hear our answer.  That is 99 more than if we answer the students question after the presentation!  Remember how our teachers in school would tell us not to be afraid to ask a question because 10 other people in the class probably have the same question? Well the same goes here, there are many other students with similar questions who might be afraid to ask so it is always important to answer as many questions as we can in front of as many people as we can.

So how does this relate to social media (web 2.0)?  Say on our Facebook page someone writes a comment on our wall asking the same question as above.  Or consider someone posts a comment about our school that is false and we now have to take a few minutes to share the truth.  By answering the question or the comment on our wall (not a private message or e-mail) it is as if we are answering that question in front of a large audience like in New Delhi.  Just because we are responding to one student doesn’t mean that tens, hundreds, even thousands of other students aren’t reading our answer!

Think about that for a minute.  Any time we respond to a comment left on one of our photos, videos, wall, etc. there is a possibility that there are tens, hundreds, even thousands of people who are reading what we write!

That is the power of social media (web 2.0).  Even though we aren’t aware of all the people who are reading what we write on Facebook, the effect of our communication via that medium is much more effective than writing e-mails or private messages in response to each individual student’s question or comment.

Consider this thought:

E-mail response = 1 person hearing the answer to a question

Social media response = tens, hundreds, or even thousands of people hearing the answer to a question!

Which do you prefer?

Photo by Hoong Wei Long

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… http://tinyurl.com/bm3w9l

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

College and University Budgets Contracting? Start Thinking Creatively

DSCN1583We all are aware of our current economy’s struggles.  We can see it directly affecting our abilities to maintain certain initiatives at our jobs.  While many think that a decrease in budgets will ultimately hinder our ability to meet recruiting goals we should take a minute and look at the situation from a new angle.

A lack of ‘sufficient’ funds will force us to think creatively about how we can achieve our goals.

I guess I have some experience with this as someone who is bootstrapping the start-up of a company however looking back, it has offered me the opportunity to develop my entrepreneurial creativity.  I have talked to many schools who are throwing money at the creation of videos, development of YouTube channels, interactive campus maps, extravagant recruiting tours and so much more.  While this is great and important there are other avenues of lesser cost which could prove to be sneakily effective.

Want to increase your exposure to students interested in your school?  Want to get your school’s name in front of thousands of students in specific cities, countries?

One idea that will cost you virtually nothing but a little time and social interaction is getting to know the advisers at EducationUSA who are interacting with millions (just listen to Janaka Pushpanathan of the Chennai office talk about the USIEF advising centers) of prospective international students each year.  While visiting the USEFP office in Lahore I had a great conversation talking to the Education adviser and noticed during our conversation what was hanging on the wall behind him.

Roger Williams Univesity had sent their school’s pennant and poster that hung directly behind him in the site line of any student who sits down in front of him asking for advice on which schools might be a good fit for them.

Roger Williams University well represented

Roger Williams University well represented

One thought is to talk to advisers in the locations of interest to you, ask them about the ideas of hanging a poster in their advising center.

If there is an opportunity to do that make sure your poster has a call to action on it.  For example don’t just stick your school’s name on the poster or pennant.  Include a web address specific to the international student with a message telling them something tot he effect of “See what opportunities await international students at School XYZ”.

While in South Asia my conversations with the EducationUSA advisers showed me how eager these advisers are to help students and get them information about schools in the US.  Take advantage of the energy and passion of these EducationUSA advisers and ask them how you can better work with their offices.

Best part, all this work with EducationUSA is free!