THE Gold Coast is gearing up for a social media blitz in China that it believes will create a band of brand ambassadors for the city's $1 billion international education sector.
The campaign, which will involve a competition for Chinese students through the state-sanctioned WeChat and Weibo social media websites, is one of the biggest of any Australian education group into the world's biggest international student market.
It is a long-term strategy to connect with Chinese youth markets that initially is hoped will attract an additional 200 Chinese students over the next three years, worth an extra $20 million to the economy.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate says the plan will build on the council's 'second home' strategy to attract international migration and push the education sector as the third tier of the Gold Coast economy.
Under the plan announced this week, the city's peak education body, Study Gold Coast, has secured an agreement with the Chengdu Education Bureau to offer up to 12 Chinese students a two-week visit to the Gold Coast each year beginning in 2016.
"It's a competition that any Chinese student can enter, and they will be randomly selected," says Study Gold Coast CEO Shannon Willoughby.
"Ultimately it will come down to their enthusiasm for the Gold Coast, their willingness to come over and learn in the city and their English language skills.
"We essentially want to create some ambassadors out of this who will go back with a great experience.
"Some of them will sit in a Bond classroom, some of them with St Hilda's students, some of them in hotel management at Palazzo Versace. What we are trying to do is showcase what you can study on the Gold Coast, the types of accommodation and the community feel and atmosphere.
"With the agreement signed with the Chengdu Education Bureau we will direct market to 20 of their schools that have foreign language classrooms.
"We are hopeful that some will enter, some might win or some might come out and study regardless."
Study Gold Coast chairman Rob Borbidge says the campaign will provide an ongoing link to the youth market and their parents in China.
"The key elements of the campaign will be regular social media exposure about what the Gold Coast has to offer students.
"To put perspective around this, WeChat is the biggest social media platform in the world. They will build our education brand in the eyes of the Chinese market which will have enormous flow-on benefits to the tourism sector.
"This represents an important and unprecedented opportunity for the city to amplify its knowledge economy by enhancing relations with china, the largest source market of international students.
"A legacy of this campaign will be to build our social media presence to over 10,000 followers on Weibo and WeChat, the development of stronger links for our institutions with the vital Chinese market and to transform the perception of the Gold Coast to one of the country's leading educations destinations."
Willoughby says the move is specifically targeting WeChat, which has a firm foothold within Study Gold Coast's key demographic.
"WeChat is the way of everything in China; WeChat is how you do business," she says.
"You can be sitting in a formal business meeting and at the end everyone scans the QR Code and you communicate the rest of business deals on WeChat. It's seriously a powerful communication tool."
The campaign is being supported by the Gold Coast's three universities and TAFE Queensland Gold Coast, along with Imagine Education, Kool Kids Training College, St. Hilda's School Gold Coast, Saint Stephen's College and Palazzo Versace.
Get our daily business news
Sign up to our free email news updates.