By Mandy Cook |
Sept. 8, 2011
RenRen. Mixi. Naver. Sound familiar? If not, don’t worry – they’re all fairly new terms being thrown around the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) lately, too.
With $20,000 in support from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency in 2010, the SGS has begun making forays into the world of social media sites based in South Korea, Japan and China. The countries represent the top three source countries for international students in Canada and are promising student markets for Memorial. The level of Internet penetration in South Korea and Japan, as well as the high number of users in China, makes new media an opportune way of connecting to students there.
Enter Shin Hun Kim, Hakase Hayashida and Ray Zong. The SGS hired the grad students to build a presence on Mixi (a Japanese and more conservative version of Facebook), RenRen (a Chinese version of Facebook) and Naver (a blog based in South Korea) in order to target potential students from around the globe.
Andrew Kim, manager of enrolment and strategic initiatives at the SGS, says branching out to foreign social media sites from the English versions of Facebook and Twitter is beginning to pay off.
“We are now into the second phase of this project and the results are pretty good now,” he says. “We have generated hundreds of new leads, and applications from the three source countries we targeted are up 38 per cent over last year.”
The graduate students all agree their work is necessary if Memorial is to make significant inroads when it comes to attracting the increasingly important international student population.
Ray Zong, a master’s student in ocean and naval architectural engineering who hails from China, says removing some of the time and energy it takes for a potential student to navigate the application process makes Memorial much more attractive.
“It is a direct interaction between future students and the school,” says Mr. Zong. “There are also many agencies in China doing applications for students. Our work can get rid of the middleman, save students money and time and provide them with correct information for free. Also, students have been saying that when we reach out to them it makes them feel Memorial is a very friendly university. It is also a very cost-effective advertisement for Memorial.”
Shin Hun Kim, a PhD student in biology, says Memorial is relatively unknown in his native country of South Korea. However, due to his regular interaction with people online on Naver during the past several months, he’s connected with approximately 30 people per day.
“As far as I know, Memorial is unique to do such a thing in South Korea, and I can see the increasing number of visitors,” he says. “Canada, Newfoundland, St. John’s and Memorial are hardly known in South Korea. So, if Koreans are interested in studying abroad, then Memorial is the only university to find their questions.”
Physical oceanography master’s student Hakase Hayashida says communicating with people in Japanese via Mixi creates a distinct advantage when pitching Memorial.
“Providing information in Japanese by someone who is Japanese makes it easier for people to access and obtain information about Memorial,” he says. “I’ve found many other university pages for fun and for people to find friends from Japan, but I did not find a university page that offers information about the programs or application processes. This is what we are trying to do, so it will be interesting to see how it is going to turn out.”
Mr. Kim says the project is expected to conclude in December, but with the excellent results generated so far, the SGS is hopeful it can extend it into 2012. The SGS also anticipates broadening its reach by introducing other social media platforms, such as Google’s Orkut – one of the most visited websites in India and Brazil.