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Web Marketing Not A Replacement For Personal Touch In Education Marketing

A recent survey assessing online marketing approaches to students has suggested that a web presence should be complimentary to and not a substitute for a personal and face to face approach.

The findings are detailed in a report by the British Council, Student Insight: Online Marketing to a Global Student Audience, and are based on the largest survey of its kind, involving 127,000 prospective students in 13 countries.

The survey revealed that online media, Google, web properties and social sites like facebook have replaced more traditional prospectuses.

In order to reach a steadily increasing global market of international students, universities are investing in growing their online presence and establishing social media channels.

Lead researcher Shepherd warns that "universities need to develop an in-depth knowledge of internet and social media usage in each of the countries they are targeting and tailor their digital marketing accordingly."

She points out that while facebook has the largest user base with over 750 million people, the largest social platform in China is Tencent's QQ portal.

As another example prospective students are more likely to search for information in their native language rather than English.

While online research is increasing, many students do not feel ready to make a final decision based purely on information found online. Pat Killingsley of the British Council for Higher Education emphasises that good online marketing is critical but should not be a replacement for face to face time where questions can be answered and personalised information provided.

Despite the trends many higher education organisations are still behind the curve when it comes to online and social media. Following on from her paper Ms Shepherd reported that many may people had contacted her and voice their concerns over a lack of awareness of how to approach social media. Many didn't even know where to start.

Shepherd went on to warn that "Having a not very well-kept or a not very interactive social media presence can be more of a negative than a positive."