Student-Generated Content for International Recruitment
Relying on content generated by international students on your campus helps you provide appealing content for international prospects -- in their own language.
While it’s well accepted in student recruitment that the images, words, and voices of current students help prospects learn about your institution, this is particularly the case for international prospects.
They will almost certainly not be as familiar with your institution as domestic students – and they are much less likely to be able to get info about you from their peers or trusted advisors. Because they know that they may have challenges fitting in culturally, it’s critical for them to know that people like them actually attend your institution and thrive there.
This is a case where giving current international students and alumni the opportunity to speak on your behalf can make a big difference, enabling prospects to envision themselves on your campus and feel more secure about choosing your institution.
In Their Own Words – and Languages
Allowing international students and alumni to speak for themselves will help you produce user-friendly content in their language. The tone and style will be pitch-perfect and the content will be relevant to prospects.
The Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) in Baltimore has a video for, and from, Chinese students. Lewis University offers brief video testimonials from international students in a number of languages – and because they provide an English translation there is an inclusive and welcoming feeling for all prospects.
In many of the YouVisit online campus tours (which are even more immersive using their virtual reality headset), actual students serve as guides, speaking English and their own languages. The Princeton University tour includes domestic and international, male and female, students as guides speaking English, Spanish, Mandarin, and Korean.
Using students to provide a campus overview in their own language is both exciting and scary. Exciting because these international student voices are an amazing, often-underutilized, resource. Scary because we wonder: what if we can’t control (or even understand!) what they say?
Whether you have a formal international ambassador program or want to run a social media contest, you can create processes to encourage the most enthusiastic (and sensible!) students to generate content – and to approve and edit as much as you need to feel comfortable. There’s always someone on campus who can make sure nothing too crazy is being said!
Non-native English speakers find long testimonials even harder to digest than we do, so images tend to be even more effective in reaching them. And including captions with student images definitely beats a solo picture any time.
For example, when Education New Zealand asked their scholarship holders from the US to report on life as students via Instagram, they quickly gained more than 15,000 followers.
This beautiful feed not only showcases NZ’s landscape and culture from the student perspective, but captions bring it to life. Student ambassadors post to the account and often sign their names, adding messages like: “On beautiful days like this, it's hard to believe that it's almost winter. It's even harder to believe that I only have 1.5 weeks left of classes...” or “Driving out to Mt Cook, turned a corner, bam. Speechless at the beauty of NZ”
These brief messages put the pictures firmly in the context of the student experience and add an entirely different level of authenticity. And, as a bonus, Education New Zealand now has a huge database of images to pull from for all their marketing materials because the students post from the official account and it was made clear to them that this would be the case.
Using authentic student and alumni stories, images, and video in your marketing doesn’t require a ton of money or time. Remember, authenticity is often inversely proportional to how professional something looks. Posting a video shot with a cellphone or finding ways to get your international students to contribute directly to your social media channels (or talk about you in their own) often requires little more from you than outreach and organization. This can be as big or as little as you want it to be, but focusing in on your target recruitment countries will help provide initial focus.
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