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Jan Bierman reviews the recent Going Social in Brazil exercise – a clever social media marketing exercise for the benefit of New Zealand’s international education sector.

Growing the value of international education is one of the New Zealand government’s key target areas. The requisite is to improve the economic value of the export education industry, byincreasing awareness of New Zealand as a high quality, high value education destination.

In a competitive international export education market this is no easy task. Other nations are better known, have more eminent education brands and whopping marketing budgets. 

Creating preference is one of the biggest challenges in marketing the international education sector, but in the social media space it is an even playing field where smart tactics are the name of the game.

Social media agency Conversa recently took up the challenge by identifying an opportunity in developing economies to leverage off popular social media icons to build preference for New Zealand. Building preference is about educating the market. The Going Social in Brazil example below demonstrates the power of social media to educate, engage and influence target populations in a positive way.

Statistics on the mind-blowing reach of social media are being presented on a daily basis. Globally nations and the commercial sector are embracing the prospects of social networking with its potential for connection, engagement, influence,and storytelling. Demographic analysis of social networking channels will tell you that this is where a significant percentage of younger people are hanging out, all over the world. Yet, uptake of social media’s marketing potential has been slow as businesses come to grips with leveraging channels where you can talk and listen at the same time. Understanding social media in the Web 2.0 environmenthas become extremely important for anyone trying to engage with customers, and get exposure for products and services in a global market.

In rapidly developing economies the uptake of the Internet has been momentous and social media is trending as the most effective channel to reach, engage and convert consumers. In China alone there are over 500 million active Internet users, and in Brazil there are over 90 million. In both countries social networking is increasingly swaying decision-making. Word of mouth is the oldest way to get your message out, and in the social media age, it is also the newest. 

Going social in Brazil

The Going Social in Brazilaction stemmed from recognising the potential of the Brazilian export education market. Brazil is sending approximately 200,000 students abroad each year, and the expectation is that this will continue to rise for the forseeable future. Brazilian government education policies, an exponential growth in the economy, strengthening of the Real, and an increasingly affluent middle class are contributing factors. Brazilian students are opting to study abroad to better educate themselves and to improve their worth in an increasingly demanding job market. And with the two largest sporting events on the planet on Brazil’s calendar the ability to speak another language, and an international qualification are considered to be major advantages.  Unfortunately for New Zealand fewer than two percent of Brazilian students seeking a global education are opting for New Zealand.

Most higher education export markets in English-speaking countries have noted increased enrolments from Brazilian students. Whilst the US, Canada, France and the UK, have been the main study abroad destinations of choice for Brazilians, New Zealand is an appealing destination for Brazilian students who want to balance study with adventure. The Going Social in Brazil action set out to capture this balance.

The popularity of social media personalities in Brazil means that they are opinion leaders. They have followings in the millions, with web content targeted to largely engage with the youth demographic. Going Social in Brazilinvolved award-winning blogger Cid Não Salvo, recently named in the top 100 persons of influence in Brazil. Cid with his following of over five million (predominantly in the 18-25 age group), 20 million page views a month, and celebrity status proved to be an excellent advocate for New Zealand.

Cid visited New Zealand in November 2012 and his observations of study options, student life-style, and outdoor adventures were promoted via his multiple channels on nãosalvo.com, minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day.

“New Zealand was easily one of the best experiences of my life,” he says.

Engaging with the Brazilian student demographic, starting a dialogue, informing and enlightening, building awareness and dispelling myths was the brief. Cid’s followers experienced New Zealand through his eyes – sharing, and at times, participating in activities. He visited leading providers from a secondary school, a language school, media design and aviation schools; went to a university, met students, took part in school activities, and viewed state-of-the-art facilities. But it wasn’t all work; he also had a New Zealand adventure. Where else in the world could you experience a lunar eclipse, bungy jump, learn to fly a plane, have a Maori cultural experience, enjoy an island, and visit a popular movie-set – all in the space of a week?

(Less than 20 minutes after Cid’s tweet, #hobbiton was in the Brazil Trending Topics on Twitter.)

On his return to Brazil, Cid posted his adventure to his naosalvo.com.br blog. He shared every detail of his experience in New Zealand, citing each school, and sharing information on New Zealand’s culture, outdoor activities, landscape and environment, and referencing newzealandeducated.com for follow-up advice. Cid’s post on naosalvo.com.br was one of the biggest advertorials ever published on the site. During the eight days the post was on the homepage, the site received over 1.8 million views, and there was outstanding growth in sharing the message on Twitter and Facebook, as well as many comments to @naosalvo complimenting the post, and indicating an interest in studying in New Zealand in the near future. Growth in the views on YouTube was also notable: in less than two weeks the Yeah Nova Zelandiavideo reached over 17,000 views, and traffic to newzealandeducated.com from Brazil was up over 60 percent.

Myth-buster

Common myths about New Zealand in Brazil include: New Zealand is part of Australia, it snows all year round (all those images of mountains), is non-English-speaking, very small (possible to walk around), and the populace may or may not be hobbits! 

However, the buzz of Cid’s trip to New Zealand continues. The visit has encouraged a large number of Cid’s followers to begin to talk about New Zealand and aspire to study in, and travel to, New Zealand. And there have been a significant number of postings by other bloggers about New Zealand. This is a continuing story … you can be sure the next instalment is coming.

Jan Bierman ([email protected]) is MD of Conversa.co.nz – a division of Rare HQ Ltd.  Conversa works with educational providers to facilitate student preference in target international markets, through active utilization of social networking channels. Social media strategist Erica France ([email protected]), based in São Paulo,is leading the engagement with the Brazilian market.

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