How to reach Chinese students with WeChat
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How to Reach Chinese Students With WeChat

Reach Chinese students with WeChat! Do you represent an international university that would like to gain more Chinese students? Then this article by the experts of WeChat Advertising is for you! 

And good news: If you are a higher education institution in the “Middle Kingdom” you can also benefit from our insights (even if you already know WeChat very well)!

In this article, we’ll reveal the potential of the global higher education market, the education system in China, and how to enroll more Chinese students for your Bachelor’s, Master’s, and PhD programs by using WeChat efficiently and effectively.

Global Higher Education Sector

Did you know that the global higher education market is projected to exceed 476 billion USD in 2024? Besides, over 639 million students are enrolled in higher education around the world.

High-quality education normally equals socio-economic benefits: well-paid and reputable jobs as well as social prestige. Both aspects are typically aspired around the world, and maybe even more so in China’s culture, where the “Chinese dream” and “common prosperity” are deeply rooted.

China’s Higher Education Market

In 2024, a record high of almost 12 million college graduates are anticipated in China, who will attend higher education programs and/or join the workforce. 

Currently, there are more than 47 million pupils enrolled in China’s more than 3,000 colleges and universities in China. Besides, a record high of more than 1 million Chinese choose to go abroad for their higher education. This makes the Chinese the largest international student community. 

Keep in mind that these students often come from well-situated families who can afford to send their children abroad.

Chinese Education System

Basically, there are two options for higher education in China, both of which are also open to foreigners.

  • academic higher education (6 years): Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree, PhD
  • specialized higher education (2-4 years)

Overall, public higher education is more popular and widespread in China than private education. Likewise, public higher education is perceived with high academic standards and strong government support. Internationally, these institutions are recognized for their academic excellence and research contributions.

In China, admission to higher education requires a successful National Higher Education Entrance Exam (Gaokao). The most popular universities in China are Tsinghua University, Peking University, and Fudan University

Now, how would you like to reach Chinese students for your university programs?

Understanding Chinese Students

In order to meet the needs of your target audience, it is important to understand their culture, aspirations, and pain points. Based on our own Chinese heritage and marketing experience in various niches, here are the most important aspects:

Attitude of Chinese Students

The Chinese, including students, are often seen as hard-working, aspirational, and status-conscious. Therefore, wealthy families, in particular, send their children to study abroad for a variety of reasons.

Chinese with the highest interest in studying overseas typically come from larger and wealthier “Tier 1” cities like Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou.

Reasons for Chinese to Study Abroad

The main reasons for Chinese pupils to study overseas include:

  • Not enough spots at Chinese higher education institutions
  • Reputable degree from overseas universities (status symbol, especially for parents)
  • Network with other ambitious students
  • Gain life experience outside of China (by themselves)
  • Learning English (often limited in mainland China)
  • Fostering critical thinking (repetition and memorization focus in China)
  • Better employment opportunities in China after graduation (and higher salary)

By highlighting these advantages on your social media and in your communication, you will win the hearts of Chinese students and their families in no time. Upon graduation from overseas, most Chinese typically return to their home country, in order to be closer to family.

Favored Subjects

The areas of engineering, management, literature, art, medicine, science, and economics are among the latest favorites of Chinese students. Engineering, technology, IT, and science hold very good employment opportunities and high salaries, just like in the rest of the world.

Popular Destinations

The most popular destinations for Chinese students to study abroad are as follows, with the estimated number of pupils from China:

  • USA: 350,000 – 400,000
  • Australia: 150,000 – 200,000
  • UK: 120,000 – 150,000
  • Canada: 120,000 – 150,000
  • Japan: 100,000 – 120,000

Relevant aspects for Chinese students

Make sure to address these topics when targeting Chinese students: 

  • information on curriculum and subjects they can study
  • employment opportunities upon graduation
  • tuition fees
  • scholarship opportunities
  • visa requirements for country/area
  • housing/dorm tour
  • health insurance and medical care
  • cost of living
  • campus life
  • city/country guide: culture, food, drinks, hobbies, leisure, travel, etc.
  • testimonials from current students (young people trust their peers!), successful alumni, and professors

To stand out from the crowd, consider offering services to help with student visas, scholarship applications, housing, and so on.

But… How does all of this information translate to an effective marketing strategy to attract Chinese students?

Marketing Strategies to Reach Chinese Students (And Parents!)

It is important to note that in Chinese culture, parents and families often make decisions, nowadays including the younger generation more and more. This is important to understand when creating a marketing strategy.

As an international higher education institution (public or private), consider the following strategies to enroll more Chinese students in your programs:

  1. WeChat presence and marketing
  2. Partner with Chinese universities or agents
  3. Chinese website
  4. Baidu SEO & PPC ads
  5. Xiaohongshu social marketing

In this article, we will focus on the core social platform for reaching Chinese students: WeChat.

11 Strategies: WeChat Marketing to Enroll Chinese Students

Skip the trial and error phase, and hear it from our experts with more than 10 years of real-life experience in marketing on WeChat. Connect with Chinese students, their parents and family on WeChat to increase your foreign student body and take your overseas university to the next level.

Let’s take a closer look at these marketing strategies for overseas universities to recruit Chinese international students.

1. Create a WeChat Official Account

Since Facebook, Google, and the likes are blocked in China, WeChat is your app of choice to reach Chinese students and their parents.

The first step, as an international university (and business), is to open an official WeChat account. We recommend a Service Account (not Subscription account), in order to:

  • present your school and raise brand awareness
  • generate organic traffic and leads
  • run ads (paid traffic) and leads
  • communicate with potential students (consider using a CRM tool)
  • collaborate with influencers
  • link your WeChat account to your Chinese website (if you have one)

Example: Peking University

How to Reach Chinese Students With WeChat - WeChat Advertising

Compared to Douyin (TikTok) and Xiaohongshu (“China’s Instagram”), WeChat simply has the largest reach with 1.3 billion monthly active users and its role as China’s super-app.

Our top tips for setting up your university’s official account on WeChat:

  • have an appealing profile picture: your school logo or photo of the campus
  • localize your content to resonate with a Chinese audience (beyond translations to Mandarin Chinese)
  • high reputation matters: don’t shy away from mentioning successes, awards, success stories of graduates who got excellent jobs or started businesses, and so on

Next, let’s take a look at content creation.

2. Publish WeChat Articles Regularly

Parents (and grandparents), in particular, prefer to read longer in-depth articles and posts on WeChat. Remember: they are often the ones who pay for further education and are an integral part of the decision-making process.

Engage parents and students with high-quality information on studying abroad, keeping in mind the relevant topics we mentioned above. Focus on light, fun, but also professional content that creates an inviting atmosphere and shows how easy it is to start studying at your university. 

Users receive notifications about new WeChat articles from the accounts they follow. You can look at WeChat articles as “newsletters”. Regular posts are important; we recommend at least 2-4 times per month.

Example: Peking University

An English article by Peking University. Reminder: To reach Chinese students, use Chinese.

How to Reach Chinese Students With WeChat - Publish WeChat Articles

Large photos with little text and short videos are generally most appealing to catch the attention of people who scroll social media and are often overwhelmed with information and input. Add your WeChat QR code at the bottom, so it’s easy to follow your account and grow followers.

3. Share Content to Moments (Newsfeed)

Since WeChat Articles do not appear in the newsfeed (Moments), we recommend sharing photos, status updates, and links in the newsfeed, which is one of the most popular features within WeChat.

Examples: Saint Mary (left) and Collège du Léman (right)

Share content to WeChat Moments - WeChat Advertising

4. Use Your Official Account as Mini-Site

Especially if you don’t have a Chinese website (yet), your WeChat Official Account (OA) can serve as a one-stop-point for all information about your school, its offers, and advantages.

Your followers and prospects won’t even have to leave their beloved WeChat. 

  • Customize your menu, which appears at the bottom of your followers’ messaging area. This menu may contain up to 3 first-level links and 15 second-level links to your website or automated messages.
  • Add downloads (curriculum, city/country guides, etc.) to keep your audience engaged.
  • Use templates to organize your content.

Example: Peking University

In this services section (custom menu), users can browse news, campus, and programs.

WeChat Official Account as Mini-Site - WeChat Advertising

If you already have a Chinese website, you can 

  • Add your WeChat QR code to your website
  • add the website URL to your WeChat profile

Just keep in mind that your Chinese website must load fast (maximum 5 seconds), otherwise you will lose your audience!

5. Build an HTML5 Page for WeChat

Speaking of website loading speed…An HTML5 page can be used as 

  • a custom landing page (to convert visitors to leads and customers) for WeChat and other Chinese social media
  • a full website
  • a web application
  • an interactive form
  • and much more

And it has one very important advantage: it loads super fast and is ideal for incentivizing followers to take action. Overall, HTML5 pages allow you to:

  • showcase the essential information about your university
  • guide visitors to take action, e.g. fill out application form, email list
  • gather information about them for future marketing actions

Example: Grier school

Build an HTML5 Page for WeChat - WeChat Advertising

There are HTML5 templates, you can build your own, or ask a marketing agency for help.

6. Collaborate with Influencers & Opinion Leaders

First of all, WeChat users usually discover new content through the WeChat newsfeed (“Moments”) and messaging. Therefore, gaining new followers is important to spread your brand. 

The most powerful way to do so is by encouraging current followers, students, alumni, and professors to follow your account and share content. This helps to build your brand visibility among their peers (which is your target audience)

Secondly, work with influencers, current or former students (brand ambassadors), agents, and other industry giants and opinion leaders to mention your school, in order to increase your visibility and reach and boost your reputation.

While students may need little incentive to share your content or produce their own content about your school, influencers typically get paid and agents receive commission or have other agreements for remuneration.

Example: Saint-Charles International School by Finding School influencer

Collaborate with Influencers & Opinion Leaders - WeChat Advertising

The advantage of working with influencers is that they usually already have a large following in their niche, which is very specific, for example, boarding school life, specific curriculum.

7. Develop an Online Community (WeChat Groups)

Create an active online community, in order to 

  • send notifications and reminders (e.g. application deadline, online events)
  • connect current students, prospects, and alumni to exchange information
  • organize live-streams for virtual tours, Q&A sessions, etc.
  • answer questions on behalf of your school administration
  • ultimately: drive leads and enrollments

Examples: Grier school (left) and Emory Law (right)

Develop an Online Community (WeChat Groups) - WeChat Advertising

You can create multiple groups based on the interests of prospects, their parents (and grandparents), current students, alumni, school staff, and partners. Remember to add a moderator to each group to monitor the content and keep the conversation going.

8. Use Automated WeChat Messages

Set up automated messages on WeChat to engage with your audience; Chinese netizens will expect this from you and are typically not bothered by it (unlike in the Western world). 

You could create:

  • welcome messages for new followers
  • direct users to join groups
  • set up automated responses (e.g. audio, video, images, links to WeChat articles) based on certain keywords in messages you receive (similar to a Chatbot)
  • guide users to take specific action based on menu selections, e.g. contact us, link to mini-program or H5 page
  • group chats for up to 40 members

Example: Collège du Léman

Automated message, saying “Hello, welcome to following our account.”

Use Automated WeChat Messages - WeChat Advertising

If you use a third-party CMS (content management system) like WeChat Work for WeChat, they typically offer a variety of options to organizations to manage content.

Keep in mind that emails are not as widely used in China compared to the Western world. Therefore, sending messages on WeChat is a common practice for “official business” and private individuals alike.

9. Optimize Your Content for WeChat Search 

WeChat’s built-in search engine is powered by Sogou and allows users to find content within the WeChat ecosystem and beyond. 

Make sure that your school ranks high when prospects search for studying abroad. Identify relevant keywords and hashtags (e.g. study abroad, study in USA) and add them to your content. For this, you can use

  • WeChat’s management interface (WeChat Official Account Admin)
  • Baidu Index
  • third-party keyword research tools
  • check WeChat search suggestions (auto complete)
  • analyze competitors – also for content ideas and branding

Example: search for “Saint Mary” and “US high school” in Chinese

Optimize Your Content for WeChat Search - WeChat Advertising

You can use those insights to continuously improve your content.

10. Repost Videos

Channels is basically the short video section of WeChat – similar to Douyin (TikTok). As such, content should be presented very differently from Official Accounts.

WeChatOfficial AccountChannels
ContentText, images, videosShort vertical videos
Cross-postingNot possibleRecommended to Douyin, Bilibili, Xiaohongshu – the more, the better
GoalinformationEntertainment, engagement
Open rate by followershighhigh
Potential for going virallowhigh

Example: Peking University

Repost Videos on WeChat - WeChat Advertising

For WeChat Channels, fun, disruptive, and shareable content that is produced in high quality is a must for success.

11. Consider WeChat Ads

Finally, you can consider running ads on WeChat to increase visibility and generate leads. Ads can be placed alongside Moments (newsfeed), Official Accounts, Channels (short videos), mini-programs and search results.

Ads can be used to drive inquiries from potential applicants. But, each family’s research process is over a year long, and it’s usually a better strategy to build a following. Ads can be used to gain WeChat followers, build groups, or attract attendees to events. A follower now is a potential applicant a year or two later.

Example: Budapest Metropolitan University (METU) in Hungary (Europe)

WeChat Ads - for METU University in Europe - WeChat Advertising

This brings us to the end of this in-depth article on how to reach Chinese students with WeChat.

Reach Chinese Students: The Takeaway

To sum it up, using WeChat as a strategic marketing tool is 

  • cost-effective
  • provides access to a large audience on an app that is used daily by almost every Chinese person

Benefits of a WeChat presence for your international university

  • raise brand awareness
  • present your services and USPs
  • connect prospects, current students, and alumni
  • communicate with B2B partners

Keep in mind to understand the motivation and goals of the students (plus their parents and grandparents) to study abroad, in order to cater to their needs and alleviate their pain points.

Checklist: Your main tasks to get started with promoting your international university on WeChat are:

  1. Open an official WeChat Account
  2. Create appealing content and share it widely within the WeChat ecosystem
  3. Collaborate with influencers
  4. Engage your online community
  5. Consider paid ads on WeChat

Does all of this sound overwhelming and you don’t know how to get started? Don’t worry! The China experts at WeChat Advertising are here to help with reaching out to Chinese students for your international university with Bachelor, Master, and PhD programs.

Message us

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