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Social Media and its Role in International Student Engagement

Social media is ubiquitous. It seems that anything you do directly or indirectly ties in with your social networks and online reputation. This is why businesses ensure that they leverage the power of social media in creating awareness and influencing the market.


HEIs may have lofty ideals, but they are essentially a business. For a business to run, they need to attract as many clients as they can handle. Social media can give them the exposure they need on platforms that their clients prefer. The truth is that students are their clients, and students are on social media. All the time. 


Social media is particularly useful if your market spans the whole globe. This is especially true for institutions who want to strengthen their international education initiatives and grow their international student base. An effective social media strategy will not only help spread awareness but will also be instrumental in converting inquirers into applicants. 


The value of social media in attracting students goes beyond conversion, however. The real value of social media is in information. HEIs can use social media to help them improve their image, services, and connections.

Key Takeaways:

  • College-age students prefer social media as their communication platform of choice.
  • HEIs with a strong media presence are most likely to attract and convert international students.
  • Giving timely Information is the primary value of social media for HEIs.


Social networks are highly interactive, providing an excellent opportunity for HEIs to connect with their students and prospects. International students will find this especially attractive because they can see the rapport between HEI and students.  Additionally, social media allows prospects to ask questions that may lead them to register on the HEI’s website or even apply for a program. 


Most importantly, perhaps, is that students can connect on an HEI’s channels. They can exchange ideas and air concerns without fear of judgment or reprisals. If the prospect feels comfortable with the culture and tone the HEI sets on its social networks, it builds rapport.

Target marketing

Most international students use social media to research universities before inquiring. An HEI with a prominent and consistent presence on social media will likely attract the most attention.

student social media researching university chart
Source: HEM, 2018

One of the top benefits of using social media is finding prospective students through their channels. The same monitoring tools HEIs use to control the messaging on their accounts can also detect the online behavior of anyone who visits the page. If you know where they go, you can customize the message in your posts to stay relevant on that platform.


Social networks are rich in feedback data. Every time you publish a post or comment on your various channels, you learn something about your target market. Did anyone like the post? If so, how many? What were the comments? Can you use any of the comments to improve your post? Improve your offerings? 


Even if the post did not receive any reaction from the audience, you could derive value from that. You know to avoid those types of posts in the future, saving you time and energy that you can spend on more engaging topics.


You can also use social media to find out what the other HEIs are posting. Their successes and failures can prove valuable insights, saving you from reinventing the wheel.


The reputation of an HEI is critical to its success, so it is essential to align brand visuals and tone across all platforms, including social media. Social networks can help an HEI build brand recognition, spread the message and values of an HEI using its massive reach and loyal followers.  Of course, social media can also swiftly damage an HEI’s reputation, so careful monitoring is critical for keeping a brand’s image pristine.

Damage control

Remember when there was so much confusion over vaccination protocols and travel bans that many students decided to defer enrollment? HEIs can avoid issues like that from escalating by communicating directly and instantly with international students and applicants through social networks. In that instance, a quick tweet to clarify the quarantine period or to provide a link for the late enrollment process would have gone a long way towards giving students the confidence to continue their studies.

Conclusion: Leveraging the Social Networks

The whole purpose of social networks is to forge connections with people and organizations online. HEIs can use these platforms to connect with students and collect Information that will make them more attractive, especially to international students. 


A marketing strategy that leverages institutions’ social media presence is what’s needed at this time, especially when there are restrictions on mobility and potential recruits who mostly stay home make use of social media to help them make decisions regarding their educational plans. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)


#WeAreMSM #PartnerForLife #GlobalEducationForAll #MSquareMedia #InternationalEducation #InternationalStudents #MSM

MSM VP Global Suneetha Qureshi

MSM President-Global Marketing Office (GMO)

Suneetha has more than 10 years of experience in the international education sector. As president of MSM GMO, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray in edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each GMO partner institution, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application pre-screening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.


She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.

Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.


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