Our Community

Time to use TikTok in Education Marketing & Recruitment

September 7, 2021

If you are the CEO of comments, or the Heather of #Hotgirlsummer, then DNI with this article. For anyone else who has no idea what that first sentence meant, then this is for you. There are a great many people working in our world of education marketing and recruitment who are social media positive, but for whom TikTok seems a bit too frivolous or bewildering, but with Facebook most popular with the over 40s, and Instagram firmly for the 20-40 year olds, there is just no avoiding TikTok in your strategy.

We get it. You feel like you finally got used to using Canva to make beautiful Insta stories, and worked out how to refine that audience on Facebook ads to get the right kind of engagement. All the courses and conferences to learn more about social media engagement, and the established platforms now feel like an integrated part of your operation. Opening the Instagram app is like engaging in conversation with a peer. Your feed is curated to reflect what you like and want, how you think and feel.

And in bursts TikTok with bussin' lip-synch dance challenges that are ironically cheugy. Opening this app can be even more overwhelming than that last sentence. User Generated Content that has you saying "but...why?" makes it easy to disengage and write off as something that could never be a serious asset to a K-12, higher or further education institution.

Meeting Gen Z and Alpha where they are

Take a look at the demographics. TikTok's users are clearly the forthcoming generations for K-12 to Higher Ed, and it is easy to see why. Instagram does see more use among Gen Z and millennials , with 71% of 18-29 year olds using it regularly compared to 48% for TikTok, but Gen Alpha coming up behind them are clearly TikTok loyal. Demographics shift, disruptions happen, but one thing is for sure: TikTok is way more fun than Instagram.

Perhaps that is why TikTok engagement rates are far higher than Instagram, even after they introduced Reels in an attempt to compete. More than one study has concluded that Millennials prefer to consume content, whereas Gen Z and Alpha want to create it and engage with it. And for those still saying that it is the parents as decision makers we should be focusing on in education, never forget the unrivalled pester power and growing maturity of Gen Z and Alpha.

Yes Instagram has the far greater reach, credibility and the platform, and is part of a marketing approach you should never ignore, but for younger generations who want to actively engage with you, rather than passively consume content, TikTok is where you have to be.

Is TikTok a flash in the pan or worth the investment?

You've probably guessed that we're not going to write an article suggesting you make TIkTok a serious part of your marketing strategy, if we think it's going to get "Myspaced" in a year or two. The growth predictions are strong. TikTok currently has about 1 billion active users monthly, which means it has nearly tripled in size since 2018.

Growth like that cannot last forever, and institutions in the US may also want to keep a close eye on the particular challenges the app is having there. Though President Biden has Rescinded former President Trump's ban on the Chinese-owned app, he has requested a thorough review of privacy issues. The general feeling is, however, that TikTok will continue, even if some of its US operation has to change behind the scenes.

With a billion users and growing, the unmatched engagement rates on TikTok will soon have the reach and visibility to match; especially as more brands and organisations come on board. The clock is both ticking and tocking and it's past time to set up an account.

TikTok in Education M&R

At NEO we write all the time about authenticity. How important it is, not just from a values' perspective, but to connect with new generations that can sniff out a hollow sales pitch in seconds. We have to be real.

Looking through the example list of higher education institutions using TikTok, you can see two key angles playing out again and again. Fun and insight.

Studying at a college or university has a serious side. The ROI for the fee, and the real skills you hope to learn to prepare you for an uncertain world. But if you went to college yourself, is that what you remember? The website version of your degree?

The experience of an institution is much more than this, and until now it was something that was hard to showcase. The only way was to talk to someone you knew had studied there, or to student ambassadors who, when they ran through all the brochure stuff, finally started to talk about what it was really like to be a student there. How did it feel

TikTok gives prospective students a window into the reality of that experience, in a way that is fun and light-hearted, but also engaging and emotive. Getting current students involved in a way that gives them free reign (ish) on creativity is also a no-brainer. There is still a place for testimonial videos of course, but for current and prospective students to be cognitively, emotionally involved and engaged, that red button has to be pressed.

Ok, but how? 

In part two of this article we will answer the following questions to give you the right start on TikTok, whether you work in K-12, further or higher education.

  • How do we get started?
  • What kind of content should we produce and why?
  • Do I have to do one of those weird dances?
  • Should institutions staff be in the videos, or just students?
  • How do we manage and protect the brand whilst encouraging open creativity?

Check back in next week for the answers to these questions. And remember, for support in navigating these new media and emerging trends to reach and connect with prospective students in authentic ways, NEO is here for you.

This is some text inside of a div block.