How to Use TikTok to Influence Prospective Students

Teenage boy and girl dancing next to a TikTok logo

Searching for a way to get your school’s message right to the source of your target audience? TikTok might be the answer. The app is ideal for attracting and retaining the attention of Generation Z, TikTok’s primary users. 

What is TikTok?

TikTok has taken the world by storm and is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms. Initially launched as Douyin in September 2016 in China, it’s now the go-to app for pre-teens and teens worldwide. According to Sensor Tower, as of March 2020, the app has been globally downloaded more than 2 billion times — 130 million of those downloads coming from the U.S. alone — and boasts an estimated 60 million daily users. In such a short period of time, TikTok now competes with social media giants such as Instagram, Facebook and YouTube.

According to TikTok’s developers, “the app enables everyone to be a creator and encourages users to share their passion and creative expression through [short 15-second] videos.” For young people, there couldn’t be a more perfect or simpler way to channel their innermost videographer extraordinaire. 

More recently, TikTok has extended video limits to 60 seconds by allowing users to string four 15-second segments together. However, this only applies to videos recorded natively on the app. If you upload a video that was made elsewhere, it can be longer than 60 seconds.

How can your school use TikTok?

I don’t advise that you consider advertising on TikTok at this time. Compared to Facebook or Instagram ads, the cost can be rather expensive; ads start at $10/CPM (cost/1000 impressions) and a minimum spend of $500/campaign. And you’ll be competing with the likes of Nike, Elf Cosmetics, NBA, Vineyard Vines, Guess, Disney and other brands that have deep pockets and target younger audiences.  

You can, however, make your presence known on the app organically if you do it right. 

First off, DON’T SELL! People don’t go to TikTok to learn about brands and products. The last thing young people want to see are ads for your school. They go to the app for entertainment and to share their creativity. 

Think of using TikTok to generate awareness and arouse curiosity. Set up a channel for your school that offers value to your followers. Let your students be the “influencers” and produce videos for you that interest their peers and followers. 

Just as motion pictures pepper films with product placements and hidden messages, your school can subtly do the same with the videos shared by students on your channel (and approved by you first). At the same time, you get to control the content by giving your students ideas to spur on their creativity.

Here are some video ideas that students can create to amplify your school’s messaging:

  • Comical skits that demonstrate the fun in classrooms, sports, arts, etc. from a student’s perspective
  • Original dance routines that spontaneously take place in your school’s gym class, at a special event or classroom
  • Previews of upcoming music, arts or humanities events
  • Videos of teachers and staff to show that they have a fun, creative side, too
  • Challenges: Start a challenge yourself to get your followers to help spread your message or capitalize on trending TikTok videos and challenges — your students will know what that means

While your students are at home during the pandemic, why not ask them to create a video (that you approve) such as: 

  • Favorite thing to do at home during the quarantine
  • Creative ways they manage their school work
  • Quickie Zoom concerts with other students
  • Have teachers give students TikTok assignments that are relevant to what they’re learning online

For inspiration, here’s a great video that was created on TikTok and streamed to Facebook. It was created by University of Maryland students who are working from home during the pandemic and volunteer to raise future guide dogs for the blind.The 3-second videos they string together make for a fun, engaging production.  

TikTok in the classroom.

Eventually, students will go back to their classrooms. Allow classes to create and manage their own TikTok channel, and ask your teachers to incorporate the platform into their lesson plans. That will certainly capture the attention of their youthful audience. Here are some links to ways teachers across the country are using TikTok in their lesson plans and more:

TikTok can be used to harness and engage creativity and imagination, while at the same time offer new avenues for learning. Teachers can use the social media app to build relationships with their students and provide valuable content. 

What are your thoughts on using TikTok for your school? Let us know as a comment.

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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