Are you an online English teacher working with platforms such as VIPKid or DadaABC? Do you want to increase your bookings and market yourself better? Part 2 of our blog ‘10 ways to improve your booking’ focuses on using Chinese social media.
6. Use WeChat smart
If you teach English to Chinese students, you probably have already installed the WeChat mobile app to communicate with your students or their parents. What started as a mobile messaging app by the Chinese tech giant Tencent now has over 1.2 billion monthly active users from a wide range of age groups.
Here are several reasons you should make much better use of WeChat:
(1) WeChat started as a Chinese Facebook. A WeChat Moment is similar to a Facebook post for people to follow, share, like and comment.
(2) WeChat is ever involving its functions. Its extension into publishing (WeChat official/subscription account), short video sharing (WeChat Channel) and group management (WeChat Group) can be very relevant to online teaching and learning.
(3) WeChat is becoming like Google within its own closed system. At the moment, one can already use WeChat to search content by keywords and hashtags. Search result is displayed by type of medium: video, moments, article, novel, Q&As. This means students can use WeChat as a search engine to find English language content and source online English teachers.
These trends above mean you can use WeChat beyond its chat function. You can use it as a:
Marketing platform to market your credential and experiences so parents can share your profile among their immediate friends and family circles. You can get your name out that way.
Service platform to recruit students directly. If you get your profile to the right audience, it means you can reach parents directly and recruit students yourself.
Community platform to manage a group of students before/during/after your online teaching sessions. You can send and receive assignments, arrange regular Q&A time, take and give feedback this way.
To improve bookings, you can also recruit students directly beside working with platforms such as VIPKid, Qkids or DadaABC. Social media such as WeChat will be extremely valuable channels to do so. But this requires more efforts and planning. First of all, there is the fundamental issue of your own positioning.
Do you teach a particular group of students, for example, children around 4 years old? Do you specialize in a particular set of English language skills such as oral communication? Do you focus on a specific area, maybe English in a professional environment? Is there a lot or a little competition in your niche area? What makes you special in serving your student segment in terms of qualification and experience? What will be your unique selling point (USP)?
There are some useful templates to explore, discover and define your unique positioning. It is about matching your own background to the needs of your users, to locate the perfect sweet spot for you.
If you don’t live in China, the best way to market yourself and recruit your students will be online. Beside WeChat, online English teachers are using other social media platforms. Each platform has its own positioning and therefore own audience profile. Again, it is important to map your positioning with the platform’s positioning to find the best fit.
It takes time and effort to create profiles and content on social media, so it is not a casual decision on which platform to use and how to do it. There are many things to consider such as number of active users and, , whether it is feasible to register as a none-Chinese user. But the most important criteria is to find the right platform.
Let us take one example here. 小红书 (Little Red Book, a Chinese Instagram equivalent) is a platform with the slogan ‘to label/brand my life’. Users post photos and videos about their travel, skincare, fashion and cooking. More than 80% of its users are female, concentrated on the 25-35-year age group. If you plan to be in the travel or lifestyle English category, this could be an ideal channel to tap into.
Are you interested in evaluating which Chinese social media platform you should consider working with as an online English teacher? Our workshop on working with Chinese social media is on its way. Email email@example.com to register your interest.
9. Work with influencers
Another way to get your name out is to work with good digital partners who can promote you to the right audience. The right partner could be a social media influencer (网红) or a Key Opinion Leader (KOL:意见领袖).
The first reason to engage influencers and KOLs is that Chinese society in general enjoys a higher level of conformity. When parents make purchase decisions, they are more inclined to check opinions of their families, colleagues, friends, and of social media influencers and opinion leaders.
Secondly, many parents lack the ability and language skills to choose and evaluate English teaching platforms and teachers. Facing the many choices of varying price and quality, they look for trusted opinions and recommendations. This has created a demand for KOL who can provide credible and impartial opinions, as experts in their area such as language education or parenting skills.
Therefore, if you can get endorsement from these KOLs, you will be in a good position to attract students and improve bookings.
Complementarity, relevance and compatibility are the three principles to choose the right promotional partners.
Principle of complementary: Let’s take the example that you specialise in improving high school students’ writing skills. A complementary partner could be an expert in advising Chinese students to apply for universities in English speaking countries. That means you offer something different but valuable to his/her followers. There’s an incentive for collaboration.
Principle of relevancy: A social media influencer in cooking Chinese food might have millions of followers but this is not a relevant partner. One that specialises in parenting could be.
Principle of compatibility: This means there is overlap between your audience and your promotional partner’s audience. It also means compatible size of influence. For example, if you just start to teach Chinese students English, it will be hard to convenience an influencer with millions of followers to collaborate with you immediately.
If you have recruited your own online students to teach English, and if you want to go beyond the 1-1 online tutoring model, you should look at how to manage your own community using Chinese social media. This helps you improve your bookings by increasing number of students you can teach and reach online at a time.
The demand for English language learning is extremely high in China. The current 1-1 VIPKid teaching model is very much like the Gucci brand for the English learning market. If you can manage a community to enable small group teaching, you can significantly get more bookings and customers with a lowered price per student. However, for you as an online English teacher working from home, you might earn more income.
Not every student is suitable for a group lesson. But group lessons have their benefits. Some teachers and students prefer a community environment to a solo environment. You might earn more money compared to teaching a 1-1 model: students can form a peer-to-peer support network and motivation can be high.
From a technology perspective, WeChat’s evolving functions in communication and self-publishing makes it a perfect tool for community management at a distance. The group video and audio calls afford synchronised interaction, e.g. small-group live discussion. The group chat function allows people to send text, photos, videos back and forth with WeChat’s embedded translation service (free). You can also share your video content (sits on WeChat channel platform) and article content (sits on WeChat subscription platform) in between to deliver curriculum and teaching materials.
It is very common for Chinese schoolteachers to use WeChat as an after-class group communication tool with parents. Teachers use it to update students’ classroom performance. Parents receive after-school assignments in the group. Teachers and parents are already very accustomed to using WeChat in this fashion.
But to design group lessons for students using WeChat, there is much more to plan and consider. First of all, it requires sorting out payment. Secondly, it definitely takes some re-thinking in terms of content delivery, student/teacher interaction, lesson management as well as communication with parents outside online lessons.
Are you interested in learning how to manage your own community to facilitate teaching? Our workshop on using WeChat for teaching is on its way. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.
The above 5 ways show you how to engage Chinese social media to improve your bookings. Using these methods helps you to market yourself, recruit students, increase your influence and cultivate a group culture with your students.
Have you tried any of these five ways yourselves? How are they working out for you? Do you have further questions? I would love to hear you voice in the comment box.
Our digital course ‘Become a Successful Independent Teacher’ empowers you to develop a sustainable and successful independent teaching career. Please register your interest.
Have obstacles while launching your independent teaching path? Book my 1-1 business coaching via the link.
Are you a teacher of English, working with online platforms such as VIPKid or Qkids? Do you want to increase your bookings or better manage the booking frenzy? This blog gives you the 10 ways to improve your bookings. They are strategic, user-focused and actionable.
For example, instead of just saying ‘build an attractive profile’, I suggest you ‘build a professional, unique profile that resonates’, then explain why and how you can do it. My suggestions are based on interviewing Chinese students and their parents. The free resources (templates, checklists, complete guides) after each strategy show you clear and quick actions to take.
1. Plan your slot smart
Some companies require teachers to block a minimum number of ‘core’ hours. Or will prioritise bookings for teachers with more open slots, so it can make it more challenging to have more than 2 or 3 companies running simultaneously.
You might hear advice such as ‘open as many of your slots as possible’ after signing your first online teaching contract such as VIPKid contract. I would also suggest you ‘open your slots as smart as possible’.
For example, the first week of October is China’s National Holiday week. Most families are on vacation during that week. People are on the move. You might make all the slots available but still have low bookings simply because your students can’t use their computers to take online lessons when they are travelling. On the other hand, April is the rainy season for many cities in the south part of China. Would that encourage the parents to book more English lessons online with you?
Do your research to find out when are peak and low seasons for your students. Some factors to consider are: when are holiday periods, during which months are your students are more likely to stay indoors, when do their summer and winter school holidays begin and end, when are their exam seasons?
Matching your students’ calendar with your teaching calendar allows you to schedule your slots wisely. It also helps you to plan your own life better: why not take a holiday when your students also are on holiday?
2. Build a professional, unique profile that resonates
You might hear suggestions such as ‘build an attractive profile’. Again, I don’t fully agree. I want to convince you to build a unique profile that resonates with your students (whom you teach) and parents (who purchase your lessons).
Qualifications and professional experience matter in China. Pay attention to how students and parents view you.
It’s all about being professional, authentic and, observant to find out what matters to your students and their parents. If you communicate your relevant qualifications well through words, photos and videos, you are making it much easier for parents to choose you and book your lessons.
Academic background, teaching qualification and years of experience are utterly important to make you stand out as a professional teacher. There’s much more you can do to curate a professional, unique and relevant profile.
Are you also a parent, grandparent or teacher, so you can demonstrate your experience interacting with children? Do know have knowledge about the school systems in your country which Chinese parents are hugely curious about? Do you have hobbies to make your background interesting? How do your friends describe you? If you have started online English teaching already, what do parents’ reviews say about you? Have you asked your students what they enjoy most from your lessons? Have you travelled to the country where you students live, or watched movies and read books about it?
It’s a good idea to start by working with a mix of platforms for several reasons.
First, you are likely to get additional bookings and make more money.
Second is risk management. Say you primarily work with VIPKid, you might want to look at similar platforms such as DaDa ABC, 51Talk, Qkids, etc. If one of the platforms does not generate enough income or no longer fits your personal goal, you still have other options.
The third reason (probably the most important one if you teach English online) is to gradually position yourself. Different platforms have different pricing, branding, teacher requirements and student profile.
By initially working with a handful of platforms, you can progressively figure out which one fits your own goal and style best. The better the platform fit, the more you will enjoy working with it and get more bookings as a result.
Some criteria to evaluate platforms are: salary structure, company overview and culture, teacher requirement, teaching method and student type.
The first, and most important to many of us, is salary or payment structure. With the number of hours that you put into teaching, you will want to make sure the income can sustain your lifestyle.
Regarding the company, what is its past history and future growth opportunity? Is it financially stable? What do other teachers say?
Third, what is the platform’s requirement for teachers? Do you need to get qualifications, or do you just need to be a native English speaker from a specific country? How is the teacher recruitment, onboarding and training process? The lower the entry barrier for now, the higher the competition in the future.
Last but not least, which kind of teaching experience you will get working with a particular platform. Is it 1-1 tutoring or small class tutoring? Are you teaching adults or children? Do you have preferences?
If you are teaching English online to Chinese students, another way to increase your bookings is to expand your teaching markets.
Have you considered teaching English online to Japanese or Korean students? These countries share similar cultures such as their emphasis on education, similar styles of learning, sufficient demand for learning English language and well-equipped internet infrastructure. As they sit on similar time zones, you don’t need to teach early morning and late night on the same day.
It will take a bit of research and preparation but if you want to get more bookings by expanding your scope, and are interested in working with different cultures, why not?
You can search English online platforms for Japanese or Korean students via Google, Goo (search engine in Japanese) or Naver (search engine in Korean) with the help of Google Translate.
5. Talk to parents and students
This is probably the most effective way to help you get more bookings. Communication with the users gives you insight to teach better and build deeper connections, which means more bookings for your online English teaching classes.
If you can, ask your students and their parents to tell you a few things. Why have they purchased the extra tutoring services? What is their expectation, and have you met (or not) their expectations? What have they enjoyed from your lessons? Is there anything else you can help them with? This information can help you plan your slots (strategy 1) and build a unique profile (strategy 2). If they are happy with you, can you remind them to book your lessons again and encourage them to recommend you to their friends and families?
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of communication. Talk to students and parents, read their reviews, and ask for their feedback and referrals. Gaining insights about your users creates a win-win outcome, you get more bookings and your customers become happier.
If you are teaching beginner-level English, you can still get valuable feedback by giving your students multiple choices.
For example, at the end of your lesson, you can ask your students to choose if the lesson is (1) fun (2) easy (3) interesting (4) a lot of learn, then gradually take it from there.
When your students’ English language level gets more sophisticated, you can ask more open-end questions and see which kind of answers they come up with. Always encourage reviews from your students and parents, read them carefully.
Schedule a one-to-one interview with a student or his/her parents if possible. That will be the most valuable time you can spend to understand users and get more bookings.
If you don’t have the opportunity or time to conduct this type of market research, you can book our workshops. During our one-hour workshop ‘Understand Chinese Parents’, you will gain insights of the journey a Chinese family takes to choose and evaluate online English teachers.
As an online English teacher, if you are not getting bookings or have low bookings on platforms such as VIPKid or DadaABC, these five strategies will help you to increase the quantity of your bookings.
The five ways are: plan and open your slots smart; build a professional, unique profile that resonates; choose a good mix of platforms; get the right mix of markets (if necessary); talk to your students and parents to gain user insights. I hope this blog will help you get more bookings from online English teaching platforms.
My next blog is about how to improve your bookings teaching English online, by using Chinese social media such as WeChat.
Have you tried these five ways yourselves? How are they working out for you? Do you have further questions?
I would love to hear you voice in the comment box.