When universities, along with their multiple schools, want to market themselves to Chinese audiences, who should get the final say in what those followers see? While it can be useful for universities to have central marketing control over all their departments, it can also be beneficial to encourage autonomy of the colleges within the institution. This especially applies but is not limited to, schools that already possess a strong brand identity within their own right – think the Steinhardt School of NYU, Parsons of The New School, or The Wharton School of UPenn. So, if you’re looking into a digital marketing strategy to reach China, should you focus on building your university’s central brand, or is letting schools manage their own campaigns the way to go?
If universities are interested in recruiting international students from China, looking to develop thought leadership or connecting with alumni, having at least one official University account on the country’s main platforms is very important. Social search has become the new standard SEO within China and means Chinese students will often turn to social platforms for research instead of more traditional search engines. In the same way, a School must have its own website in the U.S., it’s also beneficial for it to have its own social media presence in China.
Based on PingPong Digital’s social media reports tracking the performance of a University’s central WeChat account and their separate Business School’s account over the span of one year, we saw the exact same follower growth rate on each account, meaning Chinese students were willing to follow and engage with both social media accounts. In fact, the engagement levels in December for the School's account (that posted School-specific content), achieved twice the exposure and engagement levels of the main University account. This demonstrates how useful and successful School specific accounts and content can be.
both accounts can succeed
While the creation of both a University’s social accounts and School-specific social accounts on Chinese platforms can yield incredible results, it is worth acknowledging that the management of various university accounts at different levels can get complicated. As storytelling needs to be relevant without having too much overlap of content, having a center point for this is the ideal route to take. However, most Universities may not have this, and so an agency can be helpful here in ensuring that the social media content from a University and from a School can remain engaging and relevant to their various target audiences.
If there’s anything to take away, it’s that Universities and Schools don’t need to go head to head when it comes to marketing to China. Both can succeed and thrive without complicating or diluting the messaging, so long as the right team is in place to make this happen. Not only will this greatly enhance your social search presence, but strong, cohesive branding across University and School platforms alike will be something for followers and students to remember.