With the continued growth of its social networking efforts, the University has added yet another initiative to attract international students.

Weibo, a Chinese website similar to Facebook and Twitter, is a social networking site that connects students from across the world. The University began using the site about five months ago, through an initiative started by Will Foreman, the global communications manager and public relations representative at the University’s News Service, and his colleagues, Zhang Xiaoxi.

“With Weibo you can post videos and photos, and people were able to do that almost a year before Twitter had that capability,” Foreman said. “So it’s really quite incredible.”

As a result of government restrictions, individuals living in China are prohibited from accessing Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, and turn to Weibo for their social networking fix. On Weibo, people make profiles to create and comment on 140-character Weibo posts, photos and videos that their followers can view.

The University’s Weibo profile currently has about 4,000 followers, comprised primarily of people from Beijing and Shanghai.

“(Weibo is) the most important source of information for a large segment of the Chinese population,” Foreman said. “Right now the most recent estimates are 400 million Chinese are using Weibo.”

According to Weibo analytics, Foreman said the University’s Weibo site was the most influential American university profile and ranked fourth among other global university Weibo sites.

The University’s Weibo account also serves to attract prospective students overseas and publicize the University’s acclaimed programs, while also allowing alumni to remain connected.

Foreman and Zhang send three posts a day and post pictures and videos regarding University matters, deriving their content from campus life and University activities. Foreman said the program attracts viewers of a wide age range of users, including parents and alumni.

Foreman added that the page allows the University to promote school spirit overseas.

“It’s a great platform for engagement,” Foreman said. “For example, during (the) Michigan-Alabama football game, I was (posting) quarterly scores on Weibo, and alumni in China started sending me pictures of parties that they were having.”

Foreman specifically noted an instance last spring when he posted a photo of maize and blue cookies at a Ross School of Business graduation event. The photo was reposted by a Hong Kong investment banker who is a University alum with more than 10,000 followers, many of whom are former Ross students.

“The coolest part of it was people started tweeting back to her, ‘Oh, I didn’t know you went to Ross.’ This was great exposure for the University… That’s what we’re doing. We’re trying to raise the awareness of the University of Michigan overseas,” Foreman said.

University students who use Weibo feel that it has become an important part of their lives.

Dang Shuodong, a Business and Engineering junior and a Chinese international student, said he has used Weibo since it first started.

“I basically go on Weibo every single day,” Dang said. “On Weibo, I tweet about college life … other times I retweet other people’s tweets.”

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