TikTok Do’s and Don’ts for Independent School Marketers

TikTok has gained sizable traction during the pandemic. Marketers — including independent school marketers — now know they need to seize this opportunity if they want to stay relevant. While TikTok was gaining momentum most of the audience was Gen Z. The app has now acquired more Millennial and Gen X users, and that’s not expected to dip anytime. 

With TikTok’s short form videos and our ever-shortening attention spans, the platform is perfect for disseminating information easily and through engaging formats. What’s great for viewers and schools is that the app truly gets to know what each user is interested in through a precise algorithm. This means what might show up on my page as “popular content” might never be seen by another user, if the app determines that our interests do not coincide.

Schools should use TikTok to personalize content for students and their parents. Once you understand how the algorithm works and a few basic TikTok tools and tips, you can use this growing platform to share your school in authentic ways.

Personalizing TikTok Content 

When you make a TikTok account, you will see two sections: “Following” and “For You.” To view content created by only the accounts that you follow, you can easily filter out outside content by only scrolling through the “Following.” 

If you want to be adventurous, see what other TikTokers are up to, and tune in to all that is trending, go ahead and scroll through the “For You” page. It’s TikTok’s algorithm that tailors the content flow to your interests. It is based on the time you spend viewing specific content, the videos you “like,” and the content you share with your friends.

Now that TikTok is on the rise, and other platforms such as Instagram are taking advantage of the trend through “Reels,” smart marketers will want to start creating. Through TikTok you can engage and interact with prospective students and organically showcase important communications with both current students and potential new ones.

TikTok Tips for Your School

Do:

  • Use hashtags: Like other social media platforms, TikTok allows video publishers to add hashtags to their captions. Since the captions are limited in length, you’ll want to be strategic about which hashtags you include on your videos. Stay within the range of 3-4 hashtags per video and be sure to use hashtags that are currently performing well. If you want to use a hashtag but aren’t sure how popular it is on TikTok, you can check hashtag performance by searching tiktok.com/tag/[insert your keyword here].
  • Leverage students to star in your content: TikTok is a platform of younger Gen Z creators, so seeing faces and ages that are similar to your target audience will help with the overall performance and relatability. Universities like Boston University utilized students in a featured TikTok campaign during the pandemic to spread awareness about how to stop the spread and be smart on campus. If you are sending an email announcement, how could you better use a student to creatively convey the same message in a short TikTok video that plays off a current popular trend on the app?
  • Use popular sounds: TikTok is all about sounds that are reusable and relatable for different types of content. By including sounds that are popular in your TikToks, your content is more likely to be boosted in the algorithm and seen by a wider audience. If you’re feeling bold, try creating your own sound. Record students singing your school’s alma mater for them to repost and share in their own content creation.
  • Place on-screen text in an accessible area: Don’t let your TikTok flop due to mechanical errors. The TikTok navigation screen prevents some of the video footage from becoming covered once published on the app. To eliminate this, try using TikTok’s new preview function that will allow you to see what your video will look like once it’s been posted. If you’re planning on adding any text overlays, you’ll want to be sure it’s in an area of the screen that is legible.
  • Talk about what’s relevant: Epic basketball dunks and dance videos will always stay on trend and leave people engaged with your content. Feature students who are dancing in an upcoming performance or a student ensemble getting ready for their latest recital as promotional pieces. These videos will get your student body hyped for what’s to come, and may even allow your account to go viral by highlighting the amazing talent coming out of your school.
  • Take advantage of trends: Trends are evolving everyday. You never know how they might start or what they might be. Some seem completely random and make little sense. It’s the beauty of the app that anyone can participate, and it doesn’t have to be a high quality production! Follow @trendtokapp on TikTok to stay up to date with the latest trends.
  • Subscribe to your niche: Find something and stick to it. Followers want to see consistent content and know what they’re expecting when they follow your account. Colleges have taken advantage of this well, for example the University of Michigan has dedicated their TikTok account to talking about their sports team and facts about the state of Michigan. On the other hand, the University of Tennessee made an entire account dedicated to housing-related inquiries and brief tours for prospective students.

College readiness is something that is top of mind for many high schoolers. Having a college counselor give tips on your TikTok account about college preparation is just one example of a niche your TikTok account can capitalize on. Just as you would keep your school’s branding consistent, your TikTok content should reflect your school accurately and thoughtfully.

Above all, keep it simple and relatable and funny only when applicable.

Watch this video to learn how to utilize TikTok’s latest features

Don’t:

  • Try too hard: TikTok is about authenticity and being natural in your content. If you feel like you’re stretching your ideas too far and that they might not actually follow a trend, scrap the idea and start over. There’s no shame in producing a lot of TikTok content, but quality is always valued over quantity.
  • Forget to post regularly: Creating a regular posting cadence is key to gaining a following, reaching a larger audience and potentially having content go viral. Don’t force yourself to post if it doesn’t feel natural, but use a content calendar to plan out ideas far in advance and get ahead on recording and prepping. TikTok allows you to save drafts to your account, which means you can record a TikTok months in advance before you even post it, allowing you to prepare and stay on track of your content creation.
  • Try to cover too much in one video: While TikTok recently increased its video length from 60 seconds to up to 3 minutes, keeping your video as short and concise as possible is key. Each TikTok video should cover one specific theme or topic. This makes content easily digestible and keeps the audience more engaged. If you’re recording a school tour, there’s no need to cover the dining hall, the gym and the performance hall all in one TikTok video. Instead, pick one area to focus on per video, go into detail about it, show different angles, and use text overlays to provide interesting facts and tidbits. Not everything on your account needs to be crammed into one video. Posting multiple videos on TikTok at once is totally fine. When it comes to “video content,” less can be more! 

Check out other social media trends for 2021, curated by Kalix’s digital and social media expert, Gerri Baum.

How can Kalix help you harness the power of social media to share your school’s unique value proposition and better engage your prospective students? Contact us.

About Channing Capacchione, Kalix’s Digital and Communications Associate 

Photo of Channing Capacchione

Channing is pursuing a M.A. at Emerson College in Digital Marketing and Data Analytics. She received a B.S. in Advertising and Sociology from Boston University, where she worked as a student admissions representative, tour guide and student speaker at Boston University Admissions Center. She also interned with the Boston University Marketing department designing flyers and handouts, writing copy and aiding with website development. Channing attended Garrison Forest School, an all-girls’ independent school located in Owings Mills, Maryland. During her 14 years there, she led the tour guide program and worked with the school’s admissions and communications department on video and website projects to engage prospective families.

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Jonathan Oleisky

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