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Should My School Use TikTok?
Lanitta Collier
Picture this—it’s March 2020, the pandemic just started, and in the middle of all the uncertainty, you start seeing short-form videos pop up in your social media feed(s). You’re intrigued by how engaging the content is and decide to create an account. No big deal, right? An hour into the endless abyss of never-ending content, and now you’re hooked into your own personal feed filled with content curated just for you! That’s right—TikTok is the newest and fastest-growing platform with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

While the platform continues to engage users through its organic approach to building niche communities, it poses a question for schools and districts alike: “Should we add TikTok to our social media strategy?” It’s a valid question, but it’s not entirely “one size fits all.” Even though TikTok seems to live under the category of “unnecessary,” your school may have more capacity to take on the platform than you think. Nevertheless, we want to provide you with what we know right now to help inform your social media plan.

What is TikTok?

At this point, you probably have an overall idea of what TikTok is to describe it in its simplest form, a video-sharing platform. TikTok encourages users to craft short videos of up to three minutes. Users can create and upload videos that range anywhere from comedic skits to compelling think pieces and dances, most often set to music. You can explore new content through the For You Page (FYP for short). Your FYP is your main source of new content, as it curates towards the type of content you engage with most. Much like other platforms, you can follow hashtags to see what’s currently trending — Simply head over to the Discover section to explore new content.

TikTok is like the brainchild of Tumblr and Vine — two popular platforms of the early 2010s. Both utilized their own individual knack for community-building and visual content in Gen Z’s and younger millennials’ sphere of influence — something that TikTok does effortlessly. Coupled with its high virality rate, TikTok has become the next frontier in content creation. 

Does TikTok have a place in my school’s social media plan?

As a 24-year-old and member of Gen Z, I can say that I’ve spent at least half of my life on social media. So, it’s not surprising that my generation dominates the TikTok space with 60% of the platform’s users being around my age or younger—the majority being teenagers. TikTok, in a nutshell, fills in the gaps from its social media predecessors by making full use of the mobile-first mindset.

Now you might be thinking, “I keep hearing about TikTok and just want my school to be involved in the trend!” As with any other platform, you should first take a step back and not only think about the ramifications of the platform, but you should also be honest about your school’s goals as well. There are a number of questions to ask yourself before incorporating TikTok into your school’s social media calendar.

  1. What are our goals for social media?
  2. Who do we need to engage with to meet these goals?
  3. Are we already active on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and/or LinkedIn?
  4. Do we have the capacity for additional content creation?

If your school is already active on other social channels and has the capacity, TikTok might be the answer to engage Gen Z, effectively reaching both current and prospective students. Doing so might unlock a new way to drive awareness and demand for your school's programs and community. That being said, unless your school is already social media savvy and is looking to engage with this demographic, it won’t do much for you except add another job for your communications team. 

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Still considering TikTok? Here’s what you need to know.

How do you find content on TikTok?

TikTok is populated by user-generated content, which is a tactical choice, considering the nature of its younger demographic. This makes TikTok different from the channels you know and love. Breaking the mold of the typical social media platform, its unique algorithm is more about introducing you to new content, rather than ranking content based on who you follow. Because of this, brands and organizations had to change their approach to reaching their potential audiences.

If you download TikTok, your feed will be filled without requiring you to follow anyone. The interface will begin by asking you questions that determine your interests—and POOF!—you can start endlessly scrolling through content before you even create an account.

TikTok hashtag results for #schoolmarketing

To reach users, your content has to match what your intended audience is interested in, and it must be engaging enough to garner a following. General social media mistakes, like not posting enough or not using hashtags, still apply here.

How can my school use TikTok?

There are a number of schools that are already creating their own niche communities on the platform, so there is plenty of content for you to look to for inspiration.

One school that is using TikTok and is using it well is McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. McCallie offers the perfect example of using the platform for its intended fun nature while passing the vibe check for its young students—which is not an easy feat. When we caught up with their marketing team at Finalsite University, they shared that they even had one prospect attend an open house after he found their videos on TikTok!

McCallie School's TikTok

Their first TikTok video featured a clip of their football team entering the field for a game. Since then, they have grown to over six thousand followers and have garnered an astonishing 126.2K likes!

Their content has a large focus on their students and faculty. This works, because current students naturally want to participate, and prospective students get to see the school’s culture up-close-and-personal. McCallie smartly participates in TikTok challenges, in which users will post videos with a challenge hashtag, performing similar tasks to a particular song. 

Here, they show off their football players who also participate as candlelight singers, and they showcase their dean of students with the #starwarschallenge hashtag!

These videos are quick and light-hearted, and they no doubt take cues from their own students. If your school has the capacity and appropriate goals to have a presence on TikTok, be sure to get your students involved! They’re the ones using the platform, so they can help you stay on top of these trends and will likely be excited to help generate ideas.

I heard TikTok isn’t safe, is that true?

With a young user base comes privacy concerns. TikTok once received backlash and a subsequent lawsuit back in 2019 for gathering user information of minors below the age of 13. In response, TikTok opened the Transparency Center— a content moderation center as a means to boost transparency. With more details on privacy and security. This resource can be what schools need for an added level of assurance.

Key Takeaway

TikTok has introduced new territory for schools that are on social media. It’s a platform that thrives on Gen Z’s desire for quick, user-generated content — and it poses a challenge for brands and organizations that need to reach users in an organic way. Aside from its privacy concerns, TikTok only has a place at schools that are already performing well on other channels and desire to reach and engage with current and prospective students. When done right, TikTok can be an excellent recruiting and nurturing tool for younger demographics.

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Lanitta Collier Headshot

In her position as Content Marketing Specialist, Lanitta assists with demand generation efforts across all social media channels, email, and website communications. With almost 5 years of experience in content creation, digital marketing, and social media management, Lanitta has worked with several of clients to create, produce, and strategize. She holds and maintains a number of certifications from Google, Hubspot, and SEMRush.

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