How to Use Social Media For International Relations: A Case Study of Synergy Management School
Social Media is not only a tool just to communicate but also to gather global information. International Students actively engage themselves on social media to know about institution or university for further studies. According to the International Survey Report 2018, 82% of International Students use social media before an inquiry is made, it shows the importance of early engagement with university or institution for the application. According to All India Survey on Higher Education 2018, the total number of foreign students enrolled in higher education is 46,144. The foreign students come from 166 different countries and top 10 countries constitute 63.4% of the total foreign students enrolled in higher education. It gives immense opportunities for the institution to attract these foreign candidates using social media.
It was raining heavily outside the Chennai airport when Andrew Gonsalves’ plane had just landed in India. He had just returned from Australia after visiting South Australia University (SAU), where he witnessed their International Relations Office give a sterling demonstration of their campus and why students should join them.
Andrew knew today’s world was a closely-knit global community. The Academic Institutions had become the melting pots for cross-cultural interactions providing a platform for young minds to interact and share knowledge.
He was the co-founder of Synergy Management Institute (SMI), a Chennai based Management Institute. Andrew knew internationalization was an important strategy for SMI, which is why he had decided to visit his alma mater, SAU to learn some strategies first-hand and grow his international relations office.
Why should have International Relations Office?
Something significant had happened at SMI a few months before visiting SAU, which actually prompted Andrew’s the visit to his alma mater.
Through Facebook, he had received a few inquiries from students who enquired about their management degree course. Due to this positive response, Andrew decided to take a quantum leap in internationalization by keeping social media at the helm.
Realizing that international higher education and research are a major opportunity for growth, SMI was keen to expand the international engagements and had also, therefore, decided to invest in quality teaching, research, and infrastructure.
Challenges in International Relations
He dug deeper into what constituted an office for international relations, which were:
- How to set up formalized relations with foreign schools or universities in order to receive foreign students and reciprocally send Synergy’s students?
- How to share the knowledge and the know-how of the school in terms of educational programs?
- Whom to Collaborate for research and development at the global level?
- How to manage affairs related to the internationalization of the University?
Upon formalizing these roles, Andrew and his team decided to dig deeper into how social media can systematically help them generate those high-quality leads.
Mobilizing international students for admission was often difficult due to factors such as time, location, and cost. But with the handful of tools of social media, Andrew pondered, it was now possible to reach out to prospective international students using social media channels sidestepping these constraints.
- Social Media Presence: Without travelling to campuses overseas, international students were able to gather all sorts of information about any college/ university through social media right from the application process to choosing where to enrol.
- Social Media Tools and Techniques: Although social media channels, in general, had a large international student base, Andrew knew he could not connect with everyone without fully knowing which channel was popular where. For example, the majority of Instagram and Twitter users lived outside the United States. So a strong presence on these channels will increase the chances of reaching out to international students living in other parts of the world.
- Website and Information Portal: Andrew knew that every international applicant would not be able to physically visit the campus. Therefore, it made sense that they relied on online sources especially college website and social media. Keeping this in mind, their website covered details about joining, course curriculum, career prospects after course completion, research capabilities, collaboration opportunities, college environment, accommodation etc.
- Leverage videos
Andrew wanted to leverage videos as they played an effective role in creating faster connect with the target audience. They enabled closer engagement and immediately helped build an affectionate bond if rightly presented. Andrew decided to create campus life videos through live video and vlog. In addition, they showcased their research capability through lab tour videos. By leveraging such content sources, international students and universities could get a glimpse of college infrastructure. He also requested existing students to conduct Facebook Live video sessions or YouTube videos to tell compelling stories covering different facets of student’s life on campus.
- Building a community using a Facebook Group
During his visit to South Australia University, Andrew found out that the most common apprehension of international students was their worry about adapting to a new place and environment. It was not easy to concentrate on studies while struggling to adjust to a different culture and overcoming the language barrier. Following SAU, Andrew too created an online community on the Facebook group for international students; he had set up a task force that smoothened the transition process for them.
- Using paid advertising
Prof Martin from SAU had informed Andrew about the limitation of organic content in terms of outreach and targeting in the short term. Hence, Andrew decided to allocate a test budget for paid advertising including Google Ads/ Retargeting to increase outreach and run targeted campaigns. With an initial budget of Rs 65,000 per month, they kick-started paid advertising campaign using platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram etc. since they allowed him to target the audience based on location and demographic filters.
A year after his visit to South Australian University and his subsequent implementation of stellar online marketing campaigns, the IRO at Andrew and his marketing team had regularly started receiving inquiries from international students and colleges about collaboration. He had also initiated an outreach program to contact foreign universities from Middle and Europe for potential research collaboration.
The above case study shares the social media practices of the featured institute. In addition to this, we’re sharing some best practices of how top institutes around the world are using social media and digital technologies:
- Radio Jingles
Many reputed universities targeting countries like South Africa, LATAM used radio jingles to advertise about their colleges. The main reason being such developing countries had limited access to social media and were avid listeners of radio.
Keio University had created high-quality videos showcasing campus life, which was very popular on YouTube. The National University of Singapore has a very active YouTube page, where existing students have created information on campus tours, making videos more authentic.
- Social Media
IIT Bombay has created a dedicated Facebook page for the International Relations Office, where they post stuff very regularly. University of Prince Edward Island has a whopping 19,000+ Twitter followers and has a very active Twitter presence. The University of Illinois has a dynamic Facebook page that regularly shares all the latest research and collaboration work they’re undertaking.
The University of Bath has a focused blog which specializes in various topics pertinent to the international student community.
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