China is the largest origin country for International students, with over 1 million Chinese students studying abroad in 2023. But all the regular channels for reaching students online don’t work in China. Facebook, Google, YouTube and all major Western digital networks are blocked. In their place is an Internet ecosystem unique to China.
As a company that has helped Western businesses and schools with their marketing in China since 2008, we have tried many different marketing tactics to help schools recruit students. We’ve been learning and refining our methods for years. Of all platforms we use, WeChat is the one we use most. This post will share our top ways to use WeChat for recruiting Chinese International students.

Here’s your shortcut to the contents of this post:

  1. Publish High Quality WeChat Articles Each Month

  2. Piggyback on the Reputation of Others

  3. Use Your Official Account as a Mini-Site

  4. Create Landing Pages Within WeChat

  5. Get Students to Engage with Your Content

  6. Provide a Better Experience with Automated Messages

  7. Build and Nurture an Online Community

  8. Optimize Your Content for WeChat Search

  9. Keep in Touch With Students

  10. Repost Your Videos to WeChat Channels

One important note before we dig in: There’s more than one types of WeChat Official Account. Most schools will want a Service account. It allows four updates per month and will give you access to more features.

Publish High Quality WeChat Articles Every Month

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 in your follower’s chat section. 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 programs and career opportunities, share what students love about your school, create how-to country/city guides, introduce the facilities, give a tour of dormitories, 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.

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.

Footer of university's WeChat article

Remember: you are not only creating content for students. Their parents and even grandparents can be key decision makers in choosing schools as well.

Piggyback on the Reputation of Others

A great way of building reputation and increasing the school’s visibility is through articles published by other WeChat accounts. These could be students, agents or influencers, 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.

Agents are another source of publicity that doesn’t cost anything up-front. 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 use parts of your articles in theirs.

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!)’.

Influencers are the greatest source of traffic. Often called key opinion leaders (KOLs) as well, influencers already have many followers in their niche. They often have niches specific to certain countries, field of study or school type (ex: boarding schools, technical schools, etc).

Although this blog post is mostly about WeChat. We’ve often found better brand building opportunities on other social platforms. Here is an example which we had did for Saint Mary’s School, You can check it here (名校学渣小茉莉) and here (炸鸡卡姐姐) . Through this influencer, we achieved 70,000 impressions, 32,000 views, 470 engagements, 313 likes. It’s part of a broader campaign involving WeChat, the website and social platforms, and has generated many applications and followers.

Use Your Official Account as a Mini-Site

Example of WeChat menu

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 categorize 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.

Automated message within WeChat's menu

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.

Learn more:

Create Landing Pages Within WeChat

Anyone doing marketing in China should be familiar with HTML5 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 HTML5 pages to improve their campaigns and drive users towards taking an action.

WeChat H5-based landing page example

You can build a single HTML5 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 HTML5 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.

Get Students to Engage with Your Content

One of the ways to increase engagement, and the size of your WeChat follower base, is to organize 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 organizing 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.

Provide a Better Experience with Automated Messages

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’.

Automated messages within WeChat official accounts

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).

Automated messages on WeChat

Build and Nurture an Online Community

Creating groups on WeChat serves multiple purposes:

  1. 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.

  2. Connect your potential and existing students, allowing them to exchange information.

  3. Take some burden off your admissions team as they can talk to multiple students simultaneously.

  4. Organize live-streaming for small groups to show them around the campus and conduct a Q&A session.

  5. 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.

University WeChat groups

Optimize Your Content for WeChat Search

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.

WeChat search results

Keep in Touch with Students

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.

Here’s a short tutorial on how to use WeChat’s chat tool back-end.

Repost Your Videos to WeChat Channels

Channels is WeChat’s answer to Douyin (TikTok). It’s almost like a standalone short video app, but it’s embedded within WeChat. Content there performs very different than Official Account posts do.

Official Account content will have a high open rate amongst followers, but it does not spread very virally from one friend to another. Channels content can spread virally to new users so long as it is interesting to them.

What’s more, while the style of Official Account articles is more unique to WeChat, Channels is different again. The content format of channels is simply short vertical video. These types of videos can easily be cross posted to Douyin, Bilibili, Xiaohongshu. The more platforms you use, the better.

Channels content can be crafted from English source videos, or it can be created anew. There isn’t much limit to the creativity that can be applied.

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!

Start With a Free Consultation

Contact us for a free initial consultation. Whether it’s through email, chat, or a scheduled video meeting, we’re here to help.

We’ll identify the potential obstacles hindering your expansion in China, and we’ll recommend the best course of action based on your individual needs.

If you think we’re a good fit, you’ll receive a proposal within a week.

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