Universities use TikTok to attract Gen Z students

by Samuel Pordengerg Mar 20, 2023 News
Universities use TikTok to attract Gen Z students

The higher ed institutions are getting used to it.

Many college and university marketing teams are taking advantage of the short-form video application to show off hidden study spots, debunk campus myths, and share snippets of the average day in the life of a student. Two-thirds of teenagers use TikTok, which is a crucial recruiting tool for colleges.

In recent months, some state governments and university systems have banned TikTok, restricting student and employee access to the app, typically by blocking it on campus wi-fi networks. The Biden administration is threatening to ban the app if it isn't sold in the U.S.

Marketing teams at institutions with minor restrictions have been able to circumvent them by using their personal networks and noncampus wi-fi to create and post videos. She suggests posting a goodbye video on social media for institutions that don't allow them to promote themselves on the app.

It's not clear how a nationwide ban would affect college marketers. One of the highest-demand forms of content on other apps has been made possible by TikTok's popularity.

She said that vertical video is doing well on different platforms and that she encourages everyone to download their videos. A lot of money is being put into that. They pay creators to do more of that. That type of content is working for us.

According to the executive director of new media strategy at Washington University, TikTok is home to a unique culture, but she believes that the creators behind it would migrate to the new video platform, Instagram. She pointed out that the university's data showed that the content they reposted from TikTok did better on the other site.

You're looking at something. She said that it changed everything when it came out with stories. We wondered how it could be the same. It was the same and better after that. I don't think there should be any fear in it because we're talking about creativity and creators are going to create wherever they can.

Reaching Gen Z

Universities put a lot of time and effort into learning to use TikTok.

The first TikTok account was launched byWash U in the early days of the Pandemic. Sigaran said she was drawn to the platform because young people seemed to find joy in the videos even though they were stressed out. There was a big learning curve.

The students at that time were very much a Gen Z type of platform, so we didn't have a lot of knowledge about it. Even my interns were not sure what this was.

It was obvious that social media marketing was heading in a direction that would cannibalize resources and time that universities were putting into their existing social media accounts.

We watch and see how new platforms play out before jumping in. Is it necessary for us to invest our time in it? Kira Thomas is the director of marketing and communications at the University of Montevallo. It took us awhile before we got into TikTok.

Teams of student interns are hired by many university marketing departments to help create content. The students bring to the job knowledge of what works well on TikTok and what doesn't.

Four students at Wash U pitch video ideas once a week and spend the week recording footage around campus.

In an email to Inside Higher Ed, Sam Hirsch, a senior and a social media intern for Wash U, wrote that his videos aim to put "twists" on popular TikTok trends while also being "reflective ofWashU's values." Two weeks ago, he posted a picture of a group of students at the Saint Louis Zoo. Large rodents from South America are currently on TikTok.

Popular trends seem to have paid off. A skit about a professor changing places with his students has been viewed over 600,000 times. The majority of videos get over 10,000 views.

He said that his fellow students often ask him if they can be featured in a video. "From outside of the WashU community, we reach a large number of prospective students, and I am always happy to see people commenting about how they have just submitted applications, gotten intoWashU, will be touring campus, etc."

The capybara video was definitely this way. A person joked that the Saint Louis Zoo's capybara was the real reason they wanted to attend WashU.

According to marketing experts, authenticity is an important quality on an app where authenticity is considered a valuable asset.

Universities tend to think of people doing choreographed dances and flawless transitions when they think of TikTok videos, according to a senior digital marketing strategist. We tell them that that is definitely not what they need to be doing, don't over think it. A quick video is all you need to make. You can just take a walk around the campus and show people what you see.

Some universities get free advertising from students who are TikTok creators It is not uncommon for these students to post aesthetically pleasing videos detailing a day at their university, whether that is hitting up a cafe or studying in the quad.

One video with over 191,000 views, posted in January, shows the Columbia University student's "last first day" at the institution, detailing the classes she's taking in her final semester. The comments focused on how exciting her schedule sounded or how much her videos made viewers want to go to Columbia.

One user commented on the classes at Columbia.

One person said that the Columbia campus is pretty.

In a post-TikTok world, that particular form of advertising may not survive.