Marketing Higher Educational Institutions on Social Network Sites

Marketing Higher Educational Institutions on Social Network Sites

Ho Keat Leng (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore) and Dahlia Leng (Aston Group, Hong Kong)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7357-1.ch107
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With social network sites growing in popularity, many organisations, including educational institutions, are starting to use this new platform to market themselves. However, marketing on social network sites is different from traditional marketing. Its value lies in engaging members of the social network and generating shared cultural meaning of the advertised brand rather than promoting awareness of the brand to a large number of people. As marketing on social network sites remains in its infancy and educational institutions are only beginning to understand that it is different from traditional marketing, it is not clear as to how educational institutions can leverage social network sites for their marketing effort. Using a case study on the use of Facebook as a marketing tool by a private educational institution offering degree programmes in Hong Kong, this chapter proposes a framework for marketing higher educational institutions on social network sites. The model suggests that educational institutions should encourage the participation of students on social network sites and engage the students through activities. The activities and participation of students on social network sites not only provide positive reinforcement of the decision to enroll in the education institution but also provide information to prospective students when they are evaluating the alternatives in the choice of an educational institution. In addition, the model also proposes that social network sites should facilitate the decision to enroll in the education institution by providing support in the application process.
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Consumer Behaviour Of Students In Selecting Educational Institutions

Marketers need to understand how consumers make decisions so that appropriate marketing strategies can be put in place. The literature on the consumer decision making process generally agrees that there are five stages in the consumer decision model. This model theorises that a consumer is first made aware of his or her needs in the problem recognition stage. The second stage involves searching for information to satisfy the needs. In the third stage, the consumer evaluates the information obtained and subsequently, in the fourth stage makes a decision to purchase to satisfy the need. In the last stage, the consumer evaluates the purchase and determines if the purchase has achieved its objective in satisfying the need.

As this model was conceptualised before the Internet age, it was suggested that refinements to the model was necessary. Besides the traditional flow of information from the advertiser to the consumer, the Internet allowed for information to flow from the consumer to the advertiser and also from consumer to consumer. This multi-directional flow of information allowed consumers to tap into additional sources of information in the decision making process. The additional sources of information can sometimes overwhelm the consumer and hence, organisations in providing information on the Internet should also consider how the information remains functional and timely (Butler & Peppard, 1998).

The refinements suggested include the development of communication technologies in anticipating consumers’ needs in the problem recognition stage; the provision of information in a timely manner to consumers in the information search stage; understanding the criteria employed by the consumer and how virtual communities affect the evaluation on these criteria in the evaluation of alternatives stage; the facilitation of the purchase using technology in the purchase stage; and maintaining a relationship through communications with the consumer in the post-purchase stage (Butler & Peppard, 1998).

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