The Chinese overseas education market and how to market your courses online to attract Chinese students.
There are more Chinese students studying abroad than that of any other country, making the Chinese education market overseas the largest and most lucrative. Data from China’s Ministry of Education suggests that in 2015, 459,800 Chinese students travelled overseas, totalling to a staggering 11.1% increase from the previous year. 423,000 (92%) of those were self-funded. The Unesco Institute for Statistics states that there are currently 712,157 students from China studying abroad. The majority of these students study in sixth form colleges – and predominantly – universities.
OVERSEAS EDUCATION BUSINESS IN CHINA
Self-funded education and the sheer expense of studying overseas gives evidence toward the desire of emerging Chinese middle/upper class family’s to encourage their children to study abroad, providing excellent education, despite the high cost. In addition, it reflects the increasing demand and interest for the Chinese youth to indulge international experience, ideas, and culture. Dissimilar to previous generations, these days China is more receptive toward foreign (particularly western) influence and the overseas education market has seen its profits bolstered from this tremendously.
The US, UK and Australia are the most popular destinations for Chinese students. In particular the UK has seen a huge growth in Chinese students opting to study there, primarily due to its respected and internationally recognised university sector. In 2015, there were more Chinese students enrolling at UK universities than that of the entirety of universities belonging to the EU. 58,810 Chinese undergraduates began their quest for a revered UK education, compared to 57,190 from the 28 countries belonging to the EU.
China is a digitally dominated environment. Communicating online in the most effective way via the right channels to potential students and families is key for colleges and universities. University marketing needs to be tailored and adapted for the Chinese market.
Chinese Searching Habits
The Chinese are unlikely to be searching for any particular establishment and are likely to make decisions based on the information they find online. First of all, you must appreciate that the Chinese internet is unique and far different from that of anything you are used to abroad, the way content is restricted and controlled it begins to function more like an ‘Intranet’ than the open source of discussion, information and wonderment as you may know it. It is an individual entity and developing a strong presence here will pay dividends, the working class are becoming wealthy, the wealthy are becoming wealthier, and the wealthiest are becoming filthy rich, and they’re all becoming increasingly interested in providing their children with an international education.
The reputation you have domestically does not necessarily dictate how your establishment is perceived overseas, especially as the Chinese student will have a unique set of expectations, priorities and needs that need to be adapted to and catered for.
Here are 4 important ways to build your presence, reputation and generate leads for college and university courses in China.
1) Invest in Search Engines Marketing (SEO/SEA)
The first port of call for Chinese netizens is to search for information on Baidu, the google of China and by far the largest search engine. If your education scheme cannot be discovered here you are invisible in China, even if your international reputation is renowned.
There are two ways to develop your marketing on Baidu: SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEA (Search Engine Advertising).
Both of these can help prospective students and parents find your website when searching for particular keywords and phrases.
SEA is a solution allowing your website to appear on the first page in the search results by paying for Baidu advertising. Though costly, it serves as an excellent tool for generating immediate traffic with less effort. However, as a long term solution is proves unviable, it comes at an expense and typically generates poor quality traffic and leads. Place yourself in the shoes of a potential client, willing to invest serious money into their children’s education and ask whether they will make an impulse decisions based on the first paid link they come across.
Therefore, SEO (search engine optimization) is a more effective solution whereby overtime the ranking of your webpage on Baidu is increased so that it appears on the first pages of the organic search results. Key SEO strategies include keyword optimization, backlinks, and content sharing, this is the way to generate quality traffic. Compared with SEA, SEO takes more time but it is long term solution in terms of developing a better e-reputation and is ultimately more stable. The quality search result won’t disappear after you stop the campaign, on the contrary, you will remain higher in the rankings and continue to drive traffic.
The most important of your campaign it to study the keyword, no matter which solution you opt for. Improving the quality of pages that appear will be imperative toward your e-success, ensure that the information is keyword optimised and coherent for the Chinese reader.
2) Adapt and tailor content/courses for the Chinese market
Ensuring you have a Chinese version of your site optimised for Chinese search engines is important. The content must be translated into simplified Mandarin Chinese.
The most widely searched branches of education on Baidu are English, Business, Management, International Relations and Mathematics, focus on these and traffic generated toward your site will be higher.
Due to the restricted internet access, the Chinese are mostly unware of an establishments reputations outside of China, meaning you need to start from scratch and build the reputation in which you feel you deserve. Students will not necessarily opt for the best academic school but rather the course and environment that is most conducive to their needs. Key points of appeal are an existing Chinese community, exchange programmes, cultural activities and services for students including Chinese food options and multi-language facilities.
You can also emphasise the inclusivity of the course by including images of other Chinese students in your promotions.
3) Social Media in China : just powerful
Just like anywhere else in a developed society, social media in China is integral to the individual’s life, especially for the younger generation, and in regards to education it is especially important.
Utilizing social networking platforms such as ‘WeChat’ or ‘Weibo’ in order to sell products and services is a key part of any digital marketing strategy in China. The education sector must also take advantage of these communication channels
Create an official subscription account on ‘WeChat’ and use your page to present information on key courses suitable for the Chinese market. It is the perfect forum to disseminate content, start conversations and answer questions for potential students.
Start and facilitate groups chats that concern any aspect of your college, university and courses will be effective, keeping students in-the-know will be comforting for them and effective for building positive feedback. It is a great opportunity for you to present enticing Chinese content and articles that can be shared amongst their peers and fellow WeChat users in order to generate more interest in your institution.
Make certain that you understand how these networks actually work, they exist in a vastly different digital vista and are not simply duplicates of western platforms. WeChat has developed into one of the most integrated, effective social platforms in the world boasting a variety of functions few can claim to match (e-wallet, gaming, messenger, social network, micro stores, taxi app).
The same social media strategies you would employ in the west cannot simply be transferred. Different social networks means adopting different, more localised and specialised marketing strategies.
For more information on how to market on social media see our previous article.
4) Manage your online reputation
Managing and maintaining the reputation of your educational institution within forums and social media is imperative. Forums are a dying breed in the west, yet in China they are thriving and the feedback of others is in high regard, particularly the feedback of their immediate friends and peers. Promote positive comments and threads on social platforms and forums in order to manage the reputation of your business.
The institutions regarded as the best amongst Chinese students are the ones in which their friends, family and fellow netizens have experienced first-hand. As stated before, your reputation elsewhere is redundant and ensuring the delivery of a good quality education will result in positive feedback amongst social circles thus bolstering and strengthening the reputation of your institution.
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