SOCIAL MEDIA TO INVOLVE INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS IN THE RECEIVING UNIVERSITY LIFE: A CASE STUDY
Social media has transformed traditional one-way communication into multi-dimensional, two-way, peer-to-peer communication (Berthon et al., 2008). Several studies have examined the impact of socialization agents (such as social media) on domestic university students’ academic performance (Al-Rahmi and Othman, 2013; Chen and Bryer, 2012; Junco et al., 2011; Lau, 2017) and psychological well-being (DeAndrea et al., 2012), while international students have been long neglected. A positive influence of social media use on international students’ perceptions of their experiences has been reported (Saha and Karpinski, 2016).
The aim of this paper is, first, to analyse the use of social media by international students and, in particular, if they interact in the social media profiles of their receiving institution. Second, the present research aims at inferring implications from a community management point of view to improve the image of the receiving institution and to enable fluent communications between international students and the host institution as well as other members of the university community, that might ultimately influence their well-being and academic performance.
From a survey performed on a sample of 100 international students at the Universitat de València (Spain), it is observed the wide of use social media among students. In particular, most of students have a profile in Facebook (100% of respondents), WhatsApp (100%), Instagram (87%), Snapchat (83%), Google+ (68%), LinkedIn (60%), Youtube (60%), Pinterest (43%), Twitter (39%) and others. Students are mainly accessing social media through their smartphones, excepting Youtube, Google+, LinkedIn and blogs, where users prefer to access through their laptops. Many students declare spending more than one hour per day at WhatsApp (98% of respondents), Instagram (85%), Youtube (85%), Snapchat (73%), Spotify (72%), Facebook (58%), Google+ (49%), LinkedIn (47%), Pinterest (25%) and Twitter (25%), among others.
Students use social media to chat/send messages (99% of respondents), watch videos and listen to music (95%), discuss news (68%), publish/upload contents (60%), monitor what his/her contacts are doing (55%), follow influencers (47%), for study/professional purposes (36%), promotions (9%), play online (5%) and others (7%).
But in spite of the intense use of social media by university students, only few students look for and check information about the receiving university in Social Media (14% of respondents), follow the university profiles in Social Media (15%) and assess its posts - e.g. “likes” – (4%). Moreover, students are not active in sharing information (e.g. forwarding, retwitting…), participating in conversations and discussions or posting comments and opinions the receiving university in Social Media.
From this evidence, implications for university community managers for social media planning are inferred. In general, it is evidenced that the management of the university profiles in social media may have a great potential to enhance the brand image of the receiving institution and to engage international students in activities as well as in the community of the receiving institution.