By Yoko Kono
American universities and colleges are increasingly recognizing that they may be over-reliant on a select few countries  when it comes to enrolling international students. Most notably, institutions are becoming heavily reliant on students from China, India, and South Korea. In these times of limited resources, how can U.S. institutions diversify their recruitment pool by identifying and cultivating emerging student markets?
According to the latest WES research report , U.S. institutions of higher education should refocus part of their recruitment efforts on the following four emerging markets (listed in order of importance): Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Vietnam, and Turkey. Given budgetary constraints, however, it is not possible to travel to each market and develop a presence there. This is where social media serves as a cost-effective channel to experiment with new and emerging recruiting markets. As institutions gain experience with these markets, they can then more aggressively cultivate those and others.
Social network use is growing more quickly in developing economies  than in developed ones. Moreover, prospective students are increasingly engaging in conversations through social media, which in turn is helping to shape their study-abroad decisions. The world’s most popular social networking site is, of course, Facebook, and it has recently overtaken local social media competitors  in emerging countries, including Mexico, India, Taiwan, and Brazil. Facebook penetration in Brazil has exploded to 79 million users, recently surpassing India’s Facebook population. Similarly, of Turkey’s 35 million internet users, 31 million are on Facebook, and 23 million of them are in the 16-34 age cohort.
While social media presence is the first step, it does not ensure success in recruiting students. Higher education institutions need to also monitor and creatively interact with their relevant target audience by involving current and former international students.
Reaching potential students through social networking can be an effective method to break into new and difficult emerging markets without incurring prohibitively high additional costs. Today’s highly interconnected global youth population and tight budget environment are making social media indispensable as a student engagement and recruitment strategy.
WES Research & Advisory Services  offers research-based consulting solutions on student mobility, international enrollment, and transnational education.
See more at wes.org/RAS 
Read related media coverage of the report:
A Diverse Student Body Means a Stronger University , University World News
For US, Recruiting the Usual Suspects is Not Enough , Times Higher Education
China Continues to Drive Foreign-Student Growth in the United States , The Chronicle of Higher Education
International Recruitment Should Explore Emerging Markets , Diverse: Issues in Higher Education
Emerging Markets for International Student Recruitment , Inside Higher Education
US: HE Should “Refocus” on Emerging Markets , The PIE News
Diversity in Higher Education Not Diverse Enough , The Toonari Post