TikTok for Higher Ed: The Latest Education Social Media Marketing Trend
Date posted: December 2, 2020
What started as a platform known for karaoke-style videos and dance challenges has evolved into a social media giant that is quickly taking every sector by storm. Yes, we’re talking about TikTok.
Despite efforts to ban the platform in the United States, the short-form video app has quickly become a social media giant with over 2.3 billion all-time downloads and a devoted Gen Z user-base.
Whether your school has joined the TikTok bandwagon or is still considering it, our blog outlines everything that schools need to know about the latest player in the social media game. Read on to learn how to utilize TikTok’s short, snappy content for student recruitment!
So… What is TikTok Anyway?
When TikTok was created in 2017, the app looked a lot different than it does today. Most of the content centred around lip-syncing videos and musical performances that were created and watched by a predominately teenage audience.
However, the platform quickly evolved into a highly diverse social network that even those who aren’t part of Generation Z have grown to love.
This is largely due to the different production features the platform offers. TikTok makes the process of creating exciting, engaging video content a whole lot easier through a robust editor that offers plenty of different filters, features, and more.
Another contributing factor is that, unlike other social media platforms, you don’t need to create an account in order to use the app.
Once you download TikTok, you can start watching videos on the “For You” page. This page provides each user with relevant videos to watch and accounts to follow. As you use the app, the algorithm provides suggestions that are further tailored to your interests.
With that being said, you may now be wondering how you can get your school on students’ “For You” pages. Well, TikTok’s algorithm, like many others, is a mystery. But the platform appears to prioritize local content, as well as content with high engagement (i.e. views, likes, comments, etc.).
It’s clear that TikTok is a highly popular and powerful channel, but how effective is it for higher ed? Considering that 41% of Tik Tok users are between ages 16 and 24, the platform’s audience aligns with many school’s target demographics. Not only is the channel a magnet for Generation Z—the audience is also highly engaged. 90% of users access the app daily, and 55% of them create their own content instead of just consuming it.
Many universities—especially those in the United States—have already established their TikTok presence, but there is still room to grow. Many schools of other types have yet to jump on the bandwagon, but as the platform continues to grow and attract young users, this is expected to change.
Paid Media on TikTok
If schools want to reach a larger audience on TikTok, they can also make use of the platform’s advertising options. Currently TikTok offers ads in three different formats: brand takeover (an ad that appears when the app is first opened), in-feed ads, or hashtag challenges (whereby you create and promote a hashtag in conjunction with TikTok’s marketing team).
Keep in mind, however, that paid advertising is a new service for TikTok—it’s still in a trial format—and is available only to certain American clients.
With that in mind, TikTok’s paid advertising services may not be right for most schools at this point in time. However, it is worth monitoring the effectiveness, accessibility, and cost of this service over time to see when the right time is for schools to get the return they need on TikTok ads.
The Infamous TikTok Ban
Fret not, TikTok is not going away at any time soon. Although US President Donald Trump declared that the app would be banned in early November if no American buyer stepped in to purchase the Chinese-owned company, an all-out TikTok ban is highly unlikely.
Firstly, the deadline for an American buyer to purchase the company keeps getting extended. Given both the legal difficulties in banning an app of this size, and the fact that Trump’s presidency is nearing its final days, schools shouldn’t fear creating a TikTok solely out of fear of its demise. Of course, social platforms come and go, but TikTok is likely to be a key component of social media marketing for higher education for years to come.
How to Use TikTok for Education Social Media Marketing
As mentioned earlier, TikTok is a great social channel for creating snappy, compelling content thanks to its comprehensive suite of editing options.
To start creating your school’s first TikTok, you can either film something using the platform’s built-in camera or upload a pre-recorded video. If you use TikTok’s camera, you have access to a variety of effects and filters. Users also have the ability to add music, text, stickers, and even voice effects to their clips, regardless of whether the clip was uploaded or recorded live.
Example: Some of the green screen effects on TikTok, which allows amateur videographers to film quality clips.
If you want to include multiple clips in one TikTok, you may want to make use of the platform’s ‘transitions’ feature which creates short effects between scenes.
Example: The ‘transitions’ section of TikTok’s video editor. Transitions are a great way to create seamless videos as well as flex your school’s creativity.
Once your video is complete, you can share it to your followers across various social channels, as well as add a caption and configure your video settings.
Example: The last step in TikTok’s video uploader. Adding hashtags and tagging other users will help your TikToks achieve greater visibility.
Using TikTok to Showcase Your Campus
Once you know your way around TikTok’s video editor, you can start creating content to engage current students, keep alumni in the loop, and reach prospective students—there are plenty of ways to use TikTok to reach your school’s particular goals.
For instance, in a time when few schools are offering in-person tours, TikTok provides a great opportunity to show off your campus to prospective students without having to invest heavily in video content.
All you need to do is take a quick walk around your campus and piece together the notable sights into a 15-second highlight reel: it’s as easy as that!
Example: A short TikTok tour of the University of Bedfordshire’s beautiful campus.
You can also get creative in the way you present your school on TikTok. Even a simple building tour can be made exciting with different transitions.
Although TikTok offers a number of different transitions, many users incorporate manual transitions into their videos. For instance, if you’re featuring students in your videos, you could have them clap or pass an item in one direction in order to directly flow one clip into the other. Creative elements like these will help you spice up your campus tours so that even repeat visitors will see your school in a new light.
Example: The University of Arizona uses its wildcat mascot to transition between different sports-centred areas of the school’s campus in this TikTok. When the mascot appears out of the corner of the screen, it’s time to visit a new location!
If you’re looking for other ways to showcase your school’s campus on TikTok, you could also feature students in their natural element, whether that be studying, celebrating a football game win, or taking part in clubs and activities.
Entertaining TikToks for Student Engagement
If you want your school to truly shine on TikTok, it’s important to keep up with the latest trends. You can, of course, use your TikTok channel to provide future students with useful, practical information, but it will also be highly beneficial to show your school’s fun side too.
Now, if you’ve ever worked on your school’s social media strategy, you know how tough it can sometimes be to come up with creative posts. However, with TikTok, you don’t need to spend a lot of time searching for new ideas.
New TikTok challenges and trends are constantly emerging. It’s likely that your students are already participating in them on their personal social accounts, so you have plenty of experts to draw from when creating these types of TikToks.
Example: University of Limerick graduates trying their hand at the famous TikTok #handclapchallenge.
Having a TikTok presence in the first place is a great way to show future students that your school has its finger on the education social media marketing pulse—but an understanding of TikTok latest trends, transitions, and challenges will show that your school is really in tune with its target audience.
Example: These University of Florida students partake in a viral dance challenge while showing off the university’s sunny campus grounds.
Inbound marketing for schools is all about engaging with students using the methods they prefer best. This allows you to create authentic connections beyond simply selling your school’s courses or programs. If you’re looking to upgrade your school’s inbound strategy, TikTok is a worthwhile investment.
Show a 15-Second Slice of Student Life on TikTok
A great way to engage current students and attract future students on TikTok is to share what your students are up to.
There are many ways to showcase a slice of student life. For instance, you could capture a day in the life of one of your students, or have students share stories about their college experience.
Example: A TikTok from the University of York, whereby current students share things they wish they had known at the start of their studies.
If you’re thinking that it may be tough to coordinate a TikTok takeover with your students or finding someone to film their day-to-day activities, fret not—there are plenty of other video options. As the video below shows, creating an engaging TikTok can be as simple as having one of your team members asking students a simple question.
Example: One post from the University of Roehampton’s interview series whereby they ask students various questions and compile the answers into a 15-second video.
Although these TikToks don’t directly promote your school or outline your programs, they can work wonders for recruitment. If future students can feel connected with current students online, your school will start to feel like home even before they arrive.
Student Recruitment TikToks
After reading through this guide, you’ve probably gathered that TikTok is an entertainment-focused platform more comparable to, say, Instagram, as opposed to LinkedIn.
However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get down to business on TikTok. In fact, there are plenty of ways to creatively package a recruitment-focused message directed at prospective students.
Example: A TikTok from the University of Victoria highlighting the different ways that interested students can learn more about the school. These types of videos are great for students who don’t know much about your school, or recently discovered it on TikTok.
For prospects further down the admissions pipeline, you can also creatively present information about your school, its programs or courses, as well as its deadlines.
Example: A TikTok from the University of Strathclyde Glasgow showing its master’s degrees starting in January 2021.
If we continue along the enrollment journey, the next objective would be to create TikToks that target those at the end of the admissions funnel in order to ensure that those who apply to your school go on to enroll.
Example: TikTok video capturing a family’s emotional reaction to a Syracuse University student’s acceptance letter.
The possibilities for using TikTok for student recruitment are as endless as the number of trends, challenges, and video editing options available. If you’re looking to improve your school’s social media strategy, TikTok is a great option for engaging with students at each stage of the enrollment journey.