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Social media: Going beyond English

University Business, December 2017

Reaching students and families with social media posts in their native language is one way higher ed institutions can build engagement and drive traffic to the website.

Here’s how two universities are getting social using WeChat. 

WeChat captures the biggest share of mobile apps usage in China, according to the 2017 Internet Trends report from Mary Meeker, a venture capitalist and former technology sector securities analyst.


Link to main story: Found in translation: Higher ed reaches out to international students


International Programs office at The University of Iowa

  • Challenge: UI began recruiting students from China 10 years ago. “We needed to find an efficient way to initiate contact and maintain contact,” says Downing A. Thomas, associate provost and dean of international programs. “We have a partnership with admissions on the front end and the alumnae foundation on the other end.”
  • Solution: The UI’s International Programs office hired an alumna who is a native Mandarin speaker as a full-time communications staff member and assigned her to managing UI’s official WeChat account. She posts daily in Mandarin and scours departmental websites for important news about the university and for stories highlighting international student and graduates’ success. This year, on the university’s WeChat account, alumnae were asked to send photos and status updates so they can create a virtual homecoming. 

International Admissions office at Quinnipiac University

  • Challenge: Admissions staff at this private Connecticut institution sought a way to highlight Chinese student experiences on campus with prospective students in China. They knew this generation of high school students prefers to get its information through social media rather than from visiting websites.
  • Solution: For about a year the office has worked with The Asia Institute, a consulting firm, to post on WeChat on the university’s behalf. Personal interest stories from Chinese students’ experiences at Quinnipiac have garnered the most interest, says Andrew Antone, director of international admissions. Gathering content for this initiative also provides staff with another avenue to stay in touch with current international students, helping them feel integrated into the campus culture. “I try to make the international experience as consumer-driven as possible,” Anton says. “Word of mouth is even stronger with social media.”

Theresa Sullivan Barger is a Connecticut-based writer.