Halfway around the world, millions of Chinese students are looking to the future when it comes to education, and occupations, and travel. And when they sign on their favourite social media sites, they get a student representative from Brock’s International Market Development office.
The student representatives, who speak Mandarin and have experienced life as international students at Brock, are part of a new unique effort to use Chinese social media sites to reach out to potential students.
The main sites are Renren and QQ. While the former is essentially a Chinese version of Facebook, QQ is a chat program similar to MSN Messenger. Between the two of them, there are about 640 million active users.
China market assistant Weinjie Deng, 24, spends about two hours a day answering questions from Chinese students.
“They’re all surprised we’re on (the sites),” he said. “This is a good way to connect with students, who are more about informally chatting instead of sending email.”
The Chinese social media presence started last September, said Rachel Crane, international recruitment and social media officer in the Office of International Market Development. Already it has seen results.
This year, 25 students have received letters of acceptance who heard about Brock through QQ. Twelve accepted students heard about Brock through Renren. Four started in January.
Since September, 443 QQ users have been interested in Brock, while 1,149 are interested in Brock on Renren. In March, Brock went from a personal to a public page on Renren, which allows it validation and a broader reach, Crane said.
The majority of questions fielded by Deng have to do with courses, tuition, accommodation, although some ask questions as specific as how they’ll get to Brock from the airport. The students seem to appreciate Brock’s accessibility, and its ability to communicate with them in their own language, Crane said.
“It shows that we care enough about them to make an effort to reach out to them,” Crane said. Brock is also moving forward with a presence on social media sites such as Orkut, which is popular in India and South America.
Glenwood Irons, director of International Market Development, realized the benefit of reaching out directly to students after devoting time to developing Brock’s presence in Asia. Since then, International Recruitment has been looking to expand its worldwide social media presence, said Sandra Gruosso, manager in the Office of International Market Development.
“We can only travel so much to reach out to international students,” she said. “This is a way to continue the conversation with them online.”