How to Attract International Students Using Social Media


For young people, in particular, social media is not just a new communication instrument but an important channel for seeking information, making informed decisions and experiencing the world. No doubt, it is increasingly becoming a critical touchpoint between a prospective international student and a university.

Globally, students are using social media platforms to connect with universities while deciding where to study. Experiences show how social media campaigns shape students’ perception about a prospective place of study.

Mobilizing international students for admission is often difficult due to factors such as time, location, and cost. But with the emergence of social media, it is now possible to reach out to prospective international students using social media channels sidestepping these constraints.

Without traveling to campuses overseas, international students can gather all sorts of information about any college through social media right from the application process to choosing where to enroll.

However, for successfully recruiting international students, universities must be aware of a few important aspects.

Here are top eight ways universities can use social media channels to attract international applicants.

  1. Know your target audience

To be successful in recruiting international students, universities must first learn to segment their target audience based on the demographic profile. Your engagement tools will work only if they are designed to suit the educational needs of incoming international students.

  1. Know the right social channels for promotion

Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube etc. are one of the favorite marketing channels. However, these platforms will only prove beneficial only when you know which channel is strong where. Although social media channels have a large international student base you cannot connect with everyone without fully knowing which channel is popular where.

For example, the majority of Instagram and Twitter users live outside the United States. So, a strong presence on these channels will increase chances of reaching out to international students living in other parts of the world. Similarly, Facebook and Instagram are preferred social media platforms among high school and college-aged students.

Although Facebook’s presence is ubiquitous, other countries have their own social media channels and search engines for promotion. So, it makes sense to use them too.

  1. Use more of videos than static posts

It is not possible for every international applicant to physically visit the campus. Therefore, lot of them rely on online sources especially college website and social media to get a sense of the college environment and nearby locations.

Here universities can help such students to explore campus life through virtual tours. By viewing 360 degree videos, international students can get a glimpse of college infrastructure.

Existing students can conduct Facebook Live video sessions or YouTube videos to tell compelling stories covering different facets of student’s life in campus. International students already studying in your university can be the most appropriate brand ambassadors for your university. Interview sessions with key officials in Admissions, Student Welfare etc. can guide them on the admissions process and how to adjust to life at your university.

Videos always play an effective role in creating faster connect with your target audience. They enable closer engagement and immediately build an affectionate bond if rightly presented.

  1. Why not build community using a Facebook group

The most common apprehension of international students is their worry about adapting to a new place and environment. It is not easy to concentrate on studies while struggling to adjust with a different culture and overcoming the language barrier. By creating an online community on the Facebook group for international students, universities can develop a virtual support system to smoothen the transition process for them.

Make sure your group messaging conveys a welcoming environment to international students.

Adapting to time zones — from Europe to Asia to Oceania — is essential for reaching the right audience at the right time.

  1. Be aware of your language of communication and different time zones when posting content

Before launching social media campaigns for gauging international students, your social media managers must know which times of the day are most likely to engage your target audience. They should also keep in mind different time zones otherwise posting content based on IST may bury their content deep down the user’s timeline.

Hence, scheduling posts based on the time when prospective international students are most likely to be surfing social media will give maximum marketing mileage. You may take help of analytics feature for aligning postings accordingly.

Be attentive to your language too. Use direct and simple messaging. Avoid being unclear and ambiguous.

  1. Focus on creating need based content

To appeal to an international audience, create customized content to suit their needs. For example, international students will be keener to know about joining, course curriculum, career prospects after course completion, college environment, accommodation etc.

Remember, for an international applicant deciding to study at your university is not an easy decision. They need to know everything to ensure a pleasant stay while studying. Therefore, the more open you are in sharing information, the better it is for them to decide quicker.

  1. Use paid advertising to optimize your campaign

Organic content has its limitation in terms of outreach and targeting. Hence, paid advertising through social platforms including google ads can be a good strategy to increase outreach and run targeted campaigns.  Paid advertising through platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram etc. allow you to select your target audience based on location and demographic filters.

You can further adjust your ad settings to narrow down your reach. By narrowing your parameters, you are more likely to reach the intended audience.

  1. Improve your search rankings using SEO tools

In web space, it is important that the digital assets you create must be discoverable and therefore Search Engine Optimization is becoming important and Google is the most powerful website.

Being at the top of the search results page is the best way of attracting the attention of international applicants. A good SEO can maximize website traffic, enhance engagement, and capture leads.

Which techniques do you use in your college or university to attract international students?