As an institution with a strong reputation for embracing diversity, Boston University hosts thousands of foreign students and scholars on our three campuses. Over 45% of our international students come from China, where people have limited access to almost all the main U.S. social networks due to internet censorship. Setting up a subscription account on WeChat allows us to build an information hub and an online community for our Chinese audiences. Targeting prospective and current Chinese students, we aim to help them make a smooth transition to the institution and to Boston, to promote an inclusive campus life and to increase the University’s brand awareness. Serving a niche audience, our WeChat channel has been a critical tool to engage international students and position our institution in China. Our determination to create an effective way to engage the largest group of international students on campus proves that we remain dedicated to our founding principles: that higher education should be accessible to all and that research, scholarship, artistic creation, and professional practice should be conducted in the service of the wider community—local and international.
We chose WeChat’s Subscription Account to set up the University’s official WeChat channel. This type of account is information-oriented, which allows us to broadcast messages including newsletters, texts, voice messages, videos and images to our followers. While our WeChat channel mirrors the voice and tone of our institutional social media channels broadly, it offers tailored content that meets Chinese students’ needs and wants. On average, we send out 4 newsletters per week. Each newsletter features a 600-1500 words article written in Chinese. Our WeChat posts cover a wide variety of topics including institutional news, campus events, student stories, career development tips, application guidelines and research excellence. To make our content more snackable and sharable, we embed visual assets such as infographics, GIFs, images, videos with subtitles and audio clips into our WeChat posts. We also set up keyword-triggered auto-replies and microsites on WeChat to highlight content including academic program overviews, student stories, and pre-arrival readiness content that explores topics from campus safety to educational resources. We understand that language and cultural barriers can make international students feel isolated. To help promote an inclusive student life, we create original WeChat content to help our students navigate cultural differences and share tips on how to adapt and become involved on campus. Our content strategy centers around elevating student voices, which includes student blogs/vlogs, student interviews, polls, contests and videos featuring individual students or student groups, to encourage and foster online conversations. Collaborating with schools and colleges, we identify and interview Chinese students and alums as micro-influencers on WeChat. With an expanding list of student bloggers, we created a WeChat series called Terrier’s Blog for Chinese students to share their journeys and experiences at BU. We also worked with Admissions and student ambassadors to host online Q&A events to help admitted Chinese students better prepare for life at BU. In addition, we translated important institutional news, announcements and research stories to foster open and transparent brand communication.
We use follower growth, total engagements, total shares, open rate,and share rate (the number of people who shared the newsletter/the number of people who viewed the newsletter) as main metrics to evaluate our work on WeChat. In 2019, we saw an impressive 26% increase of followers on WeChat, which brought the number of our total followersto 12,355. According to the WeChat Broadcast Data Report 2018 conducted by Host, the yearly higher education industry average open rate in 2018 was 5.16% and the industry average share rate was 4.15%. Both our average open rate (8%) and average share rate (6%) on WeChat in 2019 went beyond industry benchmarks. We received over 15K engagements on WeChat in 2019. The rising number of parents following us on WeChat reveals that our channel is getting recognized by a broader audience. We have received positive feedback from students and parents, who are happy to see our efforts to accommodate international students. The launch of our WeChat channel brought us valuable insights on how to better communicate with international students, which prompted us to reevaluate and improve our overall communications strategy.
Scan the QR code as attached to view our WeChat channel (Need to install WeChat app first, please set the language preference as “English” if needed).
BU2023 Decision Day Post: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/2DAG2d5hJaFY-9VaT4GbjQ
Terrier Blog: How Did We Choose Our Majors: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/158CQbizeOBgKmb9pv3rdw
Student Interview: “Ask Jackie Chen.”: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/CE9RIfX98DqCR33nokvucg
10 Reasons Why We Love Boston: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/QKkFPCIJm-JTD0zpbvQ9Yg
Student Vlog: Celebrating Halloween in Massachusetts: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/FOUOizcSuW3l7CU2i3uKxw