There are a lot of good reasons why schools should use Pinterest, chief among which are what EdSocialMedia identifies as building engagement and building recognition. In addition to showcasing faculty and student achievements on a visual platform, Pinterest encourages collaborative efforts within the school community. Here are a random selection of different voices and suggestions for why schools, why Pinterest, and why now.  Pinterest is a great tool for teachers to engage with students, for the school to engage with its own community, and for the school community to engage with the world. (Have I mentioned that it’s also extremely fun and addictive, and requires very little effort to update?)

I have one more reason for any school that has a lot of Chinese applicants and/or is looking to develop international recognition: Pinterest is not blocked in China.

With so many Chinese applicants and students placed in schools today, the question of “fit” is more important than ever. Schools want to know its prospective candidates, and applicants want to understand the school.  Applicants and families are encouraged to get to know a school and its community through campus visits and conversations with current students or alums. Short of that, online resources like the school website, Facebook pages, Twitter, and Youtube videos offer a glimpse of the school character, community, and campus through videos of athletic events, breakfast check-ins, and other slice-of-life media. These are all fabulous ways of engaging directly with prospective applicants, current students and family, and alumni, and showing off the character and vitality of a school.

The problem is that the three most popular social media sites, Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube, are blocked in China. While a close and intimate look at your school is available on the Internet, it is not available on the China Net.  Due to censorship of US-based websites like Google and Facebook, Chinese internet users (numbering over 500 million) run into what’s colloquially referred to as the Great Firewall when they try to access blocked sites.

There are ways around the Great Firewall, of course, such as the use of personal proxy services, which would allow Chinese internet users to access a school’s Facebook, Youtube or Twitter.. Many schools prefer that prospective students are proficient enough in English to navigate their school website, a source of official information. There are also the annual admissions trips to China or the personal campus visits and interviews.  In addition, there is a proliferation of study-abroad websites in Chinese that provide information in Chinese on boarding, day schools, and colleges abroad.

However, these current solutions do not resolve two problems.

  1. Information and engagement is not constant, and often not direct. Prospective Chinese students and families cannot connect directly and, most importantly, constantly with schools in a manner that is convenient and satisfying for them
  2. Official school sites are all in English, and many Chinese parents cannot communicate in English.  Chinese parents then rely on consultants or agents, or Chinese-language websites for information about schools.  This removes schools from the engagement process.

Quite simply, getting on Pinterest will remove not only the language barrier, it will also allow schools to restore some control over their own outgoing messages.

Lastly, a picture is worth a thousand words. Cliched, but so very true when you’re a student or parent trying to understand the look and feel of a school halfway around the globe.  Pictures of campus facilities, classrooms and dorms, school events and student projects provide a rich and nuanced understanding of school life without recourse to a single word.  The more pictures there are, the clearer the perspective.  Let’s ‘Flip It’ and think about it the other way around.  If you wanted to get to know China through pictures, and you’re offered 2 snapshots like this…

 

…you would probably demand more pictures.  (In fact, our FotoFriday series, as well as our ‘Contemporary China‘ and ‘Chinese Education’ boards on Vericant’s Pinterest account is meant to help with that.)

For Chinese applicants and parents, being able to explore the school visually is a key part of their research process into overseas study.  As schools become higher in demand in China, building recognition abroad and finding a way to keep prospective students connected will be crucial in the admissions and enrollment process. Simple solutions like Pinterest, which for now remains accessible in China, will help schools reach a large segment of its prospective student population and keep them and their families in the loop.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Terrific advice, Angela.

    I’m curious, any sense of the number of folks using Pinterest (or sites similar to it) in China? Is the idea of visually curating content taking root like it is in the US?

    Keep up the great work. We’re really enjoying your posts,
    Peter

    • Angela Sun says

      Hi Peter, thanks for your comments. I have quite a long-winded response to your questions, so bear with me!

      There’s actually a Pinterest copycat in China called Kaixin Jipin (开心集品), which looks very similar to the Pinterest layout, but with little of the same functionality. Instead of pinning or re-pinning an image, users can ‘share’ each image on a multitude of Chinese social media sites (you’ll see that when you click on an image, it opens in a new page, and there are about 5-6 social media icons at the bottom). Chinese Internet users who are saavy with foreign websites will have a sense of how huge and popular Pinterest is becoming, but Internet users who don’t look to foreign media, social or otherwise, will tend to prefer homegrown websites (no matter what their design is like in terms of functionality), for the most part due to the language barrier. Of course, in the schools’ case, their Chinese applicants will ideally know of the Internet beyond what is accessible within the firewall.

      Thought I don’t have hard figures, I think the visual curating of content must be very popular in China, perhaps gaining more momentum than it is in the US due to sheer number of Internet users. Photography apps are numerous, and many Chinese have smartphones. There are at LEAST 10 copycats of Instagram, at last count (I myself have an account with a copycat app called Tuding (“ding,钉” is the word for ‘pin’), with a completely Chinese user base who comment and follow each other much as you would do on Pinterest). Even simple text-messaging applications come with visual components (such as the messaging app Weixin, or WeChat, which makes text-messaging very visually appealing as you can set background photos to your texts, share social updates in the form of ‘Moments’ – photos captured with your smartphone’s camera). In some ways the visual consumption of data is already much more sophisticated here than in the US – most Chinese internet users would probably find a majority of photo-hosting websites in the US to be quite ugly from a visual aesthetic perspective.

      Whew, I could go on and on about the myriad ways Chinese people are active users of social media, especially when it comes to taking pictures and sharing them, but you get the idea. It’s HUGE here. This is why schools that capitalize on the availability of visual platforms can help build recognition for themselves without the need for Chinese-language messages – nothing draws a young Internet user’s attention quite like pictures, but it’s important to note that how the pictures themselves are curated will leave an impression. To users, Pinterest is much more aesthetically pleasing than many other photo-hosting options currently out there, and that definitely counts for something.

  2. Virginia Dempsey says

    Thanks for the wonderful information.
    I live in Australia and am wondering if a non Chinese resident is able to have a presence on any of these Chinese versions of Pinterest. Do you know?
    Thanks so much.
    Virginia

    • Angela Sun says

      Hi Virginia,

      Yes, non-Chinese residents can definitely register for an account on these websites. You’d need to be able to navigate the sites in Chinese, of course, but registering a username should be a simple and familiar process. Kaixin Jipin, at least, does not require real-name registration (a policy applied to the Chinese version of Twitter whereby accounts must be linked to a person’s state ID number).

  3. says

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    a team of volunteers and starting a new project in
    a community in the same niche. Your blog provided
    us beneficial information to work on. You have done a marvellous job!

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