The international student recruitment tool that is overlooked by schools

Sponsored: Emma Fell, director of social media marketing company Attenger Digital, which specialises in the education sector, discusses the often overlooked digital marketing channels crucial to maintaining and growing schools’ overseas and local presence

Over 50% of the world’s entire population uses social media. During peak-pandemic, the daily average time spent on social media soared; almost 33% of global users spent an additional one to two hours each day (that’s one to two hours MORE per day)*.

What relevance does this have for schools and their international student recruitment? The short answer is: everything.

Of the nearly 4.8 billion active social media users globally, around 60% comprises the general core target market for schools – parents aged 25–54. But the way in which they consume social platforms varies greatly within this age bracket.

The younger, millennial parent audience (aged 25–35) favours Instagram as not only a means of connecting with friends, but a way to find out more about brands that interest them, and to research and make purchase decisions for just about everything – including where their child should attend nursery, pre-prep, prep and beyond. The upper portion of this age bracket (aged 35–54), favours Facebook for this.

Reaching prospective parents and students on social media has never been more competitive. And yet it is a student recruitment tool that has never been so accessible to schools.

Until now, schools have tended to treat social media as a light-hearted way of communicating with current parents about students’ daily activities. Social media marketing in its most effective, data-driven format is still emerging within the schools sector, whereas it is an established given in others, such as higher education and ecommerce.

Simply being present on the platforms does not, however, guarantee results. In order for schools to see results from social media – prospectus requests, open-day sign-ups, student registrations – a strategic approach to both organic and paid (advertising) social media is required, especially for those wishing to reach competitive markets such as the UK, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Germany and Nigeria.

Social media marketing in its most effective, data-driven format is still emerging within the schools sector, whereas it is an established given in others, such as higher education and ecommerce

In today’s social media landscape, schools are not just competing with other local, national or even international schools for the attention of their prospective parents. Instead, they are vying for space on their target audience’s feed, against stiff competition from not only their friends and family, but from celebrities and sports franchises.

To make their time on social platforms performative, schools need to take a considered, strategic approach to ensure the social media algorithms show their content over that of others, to their target audience.

The sophistication of these platforms and their algorithms is ever-increasing. Schools can measure every penny spent, see the direct return on that investment, track enquiries and how many students joined as a result.

They can also choose to advertise to prospective parents in specific countries and regions. They can adapt the format of their adverts and organic posts to meet their school’s precise needs.

Pipeline to sixth form is weak? Social media can strengthen it. International boarder numbers are down? Social media can garner interest. Need to get more local students to your open day? Social media can do that too. How many marketing platforms can be as agile, transparent and effective as that?

In the absence, or at least uncertainty, of in-person events, social media marketing can help schools fill the void left in their overseas presence. Better yet, when overseas events resume, it can be used to drive student and parent visits to a school’s stand or event, bringing an increased return on the considerable investment of overseas recruitment activity.

All of this begs the question: if schools’ target audience is searching social media for brands that interest them, following them and using their content to inform their decisions on education, why are so few schools using these platforms to reach them, both for this year’s cohort and for years to come?

To see how your school could leverage social media marketing to reach your international audience, contact Emma directly at, or visit

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