11 Ways to Use WeChat for Student Recruitment in China
It's university application season again, which means that students are busy preparing and the universities are busy recruiting. It's a hectic time of year for our education-based clients, and we are working with them around-the-clock to create strategies to maximise their digital scope.
Our initial conversations with marketing and admissions teams often begin the same: ‘We’d like to talk to you about setting up a WeChat account for our university.’
We’ve decided to tackle this question head-on and create a detailed post discussing the features that will help your admission team achieve their recruitment goals. Hopefully, it will help you rethink your marketing strategy and possibly even move some weight off your email campaigns and websites in China.
I will also share some resources for those of you who want to examine the platform in-depth. We’ve covered WeChat fundamentals in the past, so feel free to jump to our China Marketing 101 page to learn more about the basics.
And here’s your shortcut to the contents of this post:
Before we dig in: As a rule of thumb, for education projects, I recommend setting up a service account. It allows four updates per month and will give you access to more features.
Additionally, remember that schools without a business licence (certificate of incorporation) will need assistance to verify the account. You can contact us in this case.
High-quality content published in your Official Account (OA) is your top priority when it comes to WeChat marketing. If your articles suck, nothing else you do will matter. Remember, your service account notifications will show up in-between messages from the user's connections. You do not want to miss this opportunity to catch your audience’s attention on the grounds of your content being weak.
Look at your WeChat articles as another way of sending your weekly (or biweekly) newsletter. It’s your chance to give your potential students a chance to learn more about your school in an approachable manner. Keep it professional, but make your articles easy and fun to read. Introduce programmes and career opportunities, share what students love about your school, create how-to country/city guides, and explain country policies, etc.
It’s also essential to share the voices of your students—young people tend to trust the opinions, and experiences of their peers. Don’t forget to use videos to break down chunks of text and explain concepts that can be difficult to understand when described textually.
Our recommendation is posting four articles per month—one per update. You can post more than one article with each update; however, the following articles get much fewer views. The absolute minimum is two updates per month.
Don’t forget about an attractive title to get the users’ attention, and include a QR code in the footer so newcomers can follow your account. Learn more about writing great WeChat articles here.
Remember: you have at least three main audiences. These are students, parents, and agents. Prepare a solid content plan ahead of time to cater to all three groups’ needs.
A great way of building reputation and increasing the school's visibility is through articles published by other WeChat accounts. These could be recruitment agencies, influencers, or students who vlog about your city or country, for example. Their followers are your target audience, and above all, there’s a certain amount of trust between the account and the follower base.
Existing students of your university may naturally become your ‘brand ambassadors’ by posting daily vlogs on social platforms. However, not many of them will be posting WeChat articles.
Instead, you may choose to pay key opinion leaders (KOLs) to promote and post WeChat articles on your behalf. For example, one popular account among students in the UK is 英国酱说 (Britons Say), but you can find accounts posting about non-English speaking countries and regions as well.
Agents, on the other hand, will not charge you for posting information about your university. If they’re your partners, or they are interested in promoting universities in your country or area, then they’re likely to repost your articles (or at least a part of them). That’s why you need to consider the agents as part of your audience and prepare content that is useful for them.
Some agents will introduce various universities one-by-one. For instance, this article introduces Budapest Metropolitan University in a series of articles on Hungarian higher education institutions. However, in other cases, one article can summarise all the universities by type (e.g. MBA programmes in Europe): ‘10 Best Universities in the UK (Apart from Oxford and Cambridge!)’ or ‘Does Australia Only Know ‘The Group of Eight’? These Alliances Are Strong Too’.
WeChat’s menus and templates are the best way of expanding the capabilities of your Official Account. Not using them is wasting the potential of your articles and the possibility of keeping the readers’ attention a bit longer.
One function of the menus and templates is to help categorise your articles and videos. As shown in the picture above, they may act as pages of your website and guide users towards the information they are looking for.
You can also point users towards particular pages on your actual website—as long as it loads in the interface within five seconds.
Another option is to set up an automated message once they take a specific action within the menu. This could be ‘Contact us’, or you can also direct them towards your mini-program or H5 page.
Anyone doing marketing in China should be familiar with HTML5 (H5) pages. This is because they allow you to build landing pages within all the major Chinese apps, not just WeChat.
They’re especially useful for those whose websites do not load fast enough in China. Nevertheless, everyone can use H5 pages to improve their campaigns and drive users towards taking an action.
You can build a single H5 page similar to your landing pages or a simple mini-site within WeChat with up to five pages (our recommendation). It could also be a page specific for a campaign: a Christmas card or a mini-game to increase follower engagement, to name just a few examples.
The H5 pages are a great tool that will help you:
- display the most essential information about your school,
- drive users to take an action such as contact form submission, and
- collect data.
Your team can build the page on their own, use existing templates and/or can hire a third-party to do that (e.g. NMG).
View another example of an H5 page here.
Mini-programs are basically apps built within WeChat’s ecosystem. They allow many options, including eCommerce (courses and merchandise), live streaming, uploading resources (e.g. pre-recorded classes), etc.
This is a great feature if you have classes available online, and you can deliver them via WeChat. Remember that an integrated WeChat Pay solution is a must here.
Some businesses specialise in building WeChat mini-programs. But you can also develop your own using templates. We suggest checking tools offered by Fanke (凡科) and Youzan (有赞微商城). Or, contact NMG.
One of the ways to increase engagement, and the size of your OA’s follower base, is to organise various types of activities. How you go about it really depends on your resources and creativity, but I will share some examples to give you an idea.
The goal is to encourage users to engage with your article in a certain way (e.g. leave a comment or share it) and follow the account if they aren’t already. We usually recommend organising a giveaway to reward users for taking an action.
For Conestoga College, users had the chance to win a digital Starbucks gift card if they followed the account and shared their most successful April Fool’s Day prank (in a comment). The ten comments with the highest number of likes won the prize. We did not directly ask them to share the article (not allowed by the platform), but they naturally shared it with friends to increase the number of likes on their comment.
For Grier (a boarding school in the US), our goal was to increase the number of followers. Users had the chance to win school gadgets (including the highly popular Foxy) once they achieved a certain score in a mini-game we created and shared. (We used a third-party tool for that called 凡科 Fanke.) They had to follow the account first, though.
Obviously, some users will unfollow your account once the activity is over, but you still get a chance to reach a wider audience in a closed WeChat ecosystem.
WeChat OAs allow you to set up automated messages. This could be as simple as a welcome message when users first start following you. Or, you could direct them towards your university rep’s WeChat account once they click on ‘Contact us’.
But there are also some more advanced features:
Automated responses based on keywords in the user's messages. This way, students do not have to wait for an answer, and your team saves time on not replying to repetitive questions. You can also automatically send users a specific article that answers their queries.
Sending notifications to user segments. This feature is particularly useful as emails are not the main channel of communication in China. You can place the followers of your account in certain user segments. Afterwards, you can send them notifications of upcoming deadlines, or each time your admission team sends an email update.
Some of these features are available by default in WeChat’s CMS. For additional features, a useful third-party tool to consider is Fanke (凡科).
Creating groups on WeChat serves multiple purposes:
Drive leads to the group and nurture them by sharing content at the right time. You can also send notifications and reminders of upcoming events and deadlines. It will make the application process easier.
Connect your potential and existing students, allowing them to exchange information.
Take some burden off your admissions team as they can talk to multiple students simultaneously.
Organise live-streaming for small groups to show them around the campus and conduct a Q&A session.
Create ‘customer segments’. You can create multiple groups and encourage students to join based on their interests or the status of their admission’s application. You can also create separate groups for students and parents as they may have completely different questions.
Remember: set a moderator for each group and keep the conversation going at all times, especially in the groups with potential students. You can always drop-in, say hello, and suggest a topic for discussion.
WeChat offers a powerful built-in search engine (powered by Sogou). It allows users to find content posted on the platform and other pages available on the Internet.
It is a great feature for students researching universities, and for your team if they want to dig deeper into the market. First, it allows you to do basic competitor research: learn what content your competition posts and what users say about them online.
What’s even more important, it gives you a good overview of the results users get for particular searches. Use those insights to improve your content, article titles and keywords.
Students in China are not as likely to open your follow-up emails. WeChat is much more convenient for them in terms of communication. So, especially in the early stage, limit the number of emails and move your team to WeChat.
WeChat allows you to create personal accounts for your admissions team and connect them to your school’s OA. This way, students can contact you directly in the OA, and your team can talk to them using their own desktop devices.
Using WeChat as your customer support tool will also allow you to continue the conversation with students who reached out to you. Instead of them becoming the leads you lose once they close the on-site chat.
Channels is WeChat’s answer to Douyin (TikTok), however, this platform is used more to browse videos posted by the user’s connections rather than to discover new content.
It’s OK to distribute the content that you already post elsewhere (Bilibili, Youku, Douyin, and Weibo) on Channels. The more platforms you have, the better.
Having said that, do not treat it as your main video platform because your content will be mostly shown to your followers and—if they interact with it—some of their friends. Your videos have a better chance to be discovered on platforms such as Douyin, Kuaishou, and Bilibili.
Also, if your account is verified with a non-Chinese business entity, please remember that you’ll need to link a mainland Chinese ID to the account.
Are there any other WeChat features you would like to add to the list? Please leave me a comment! And if you want to have a chat about anything (including WeChat and other Chinese channels) relevant to your recruitment strategy, contact our team to book a call!