Key points
  • TikTok has exploded in popularity over the past few years, and many schools are considering whether to add TikTok into their social media strategy.
  • TikTok can be a valuable tool to engage current and future students, but, as with any new marketing platform, there are a few things you should consider before diving in.

You've probably heard of TikTok: currently the fastest-growing social media star on the block. In a nutshell, it’s an extremely popular app that allows you to record, edit and share short videos with a strong focus on trending topics and localised content. You’ve probably also heard the negative stories about inappropriate and damaging content created by TikTok’s young user base.

As of 2021, TikTok is now the most downloaded and highest-grossing non-game app on the App store. It's available in 75 languages and has surpassed 2 billion users and is currently valued at almost $70 billion AUD. 

TikTok is big business and is almost certainly used by a good percentage of your school community. So should school marketers take notice of this platform? Absolutely. Should your school add TikTok to your social media toolkit


Not so fast.

What do schools need to know about TikTok?

Let's start with a bit of background. TikTok is a video-based social media platform owned by Zhang Yiming, a Chinese internet entrepreneur. The platform allows you to quickly create bite-sized videos using their suite of templates, filters, editing tools, music clips and sound effects available directly within the app. Video themes range from hilarious short sketches and challenges to pranks and, of course, dances.

How do businesses market on TikTok?

Businesses that choose to jump on the TikTok train can participate in a number of ways. The first is to simply start creating engaging videos while also promoting your brand. San Diego Zoo is an early TikTok adopter who uses the platform to post cute videos of their animals mixed with fun music.

The second is to create a hashtag challenge. Hashtags — while used in other social media platforms — are one of the foundational aspects of sharing and promoting content on the platform. As The Verge noted, "TikTok practically runs on hashtags. It's what makes the app so fun." American fast-food chain Chipotle is a great example of a brand that pulled this off through its #GuacDance challenge. It garnered a tonne of user interaction while also promoting its delicious guacamole.

Finally, businesses can create and post advertisements using TikTok Ads — however, they require a minimum investment of $600-700 AUD and a full campaign can cost up to $400,000. This means advertising on TikTok is usually less accessible for schools than other platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

Should my school start marketing on TikTok?

As with any marketing platform, schools have several considerations to keep in mind when deciding whether to invest their time and resources. 

1. Audience

TikTok's creators designed the app to reach a young demographic, and it worked — 61% of its users are aged between 10 and 29. Depending on your marketing strategy, this platform may not reach a large portion of your target audience (usually parents). However, if you're marketing to millennial parents or you are looking to engage students, TikTok may be the breakthrough you need.

2. Goals

Before you invest in a new marketing channel, it's important that you define your objectives to ensure that the channel will deliver a positive return on investment (ROI). Common social media goals include: generating leads, boosting brand awareness, driving traffic to your website or increasing your community engagement. Again, depending on the audience that you’re trying to reach, TikTok may or may not contribute to these goals. 

3. Time and resources

Finally, as with any other social media channel, TikTok requires you to continually post, engage and invest in the platform in order to see success. In fact, TikTok usually requires an even bigger time and resource investment than other social media stalwarts like Facebook and Instagram. 

One 15-second video can take hours of your time to plan, shoot and edit, and you will probably need to post regular videos over a long period before you’ll see any ROI from the platform. Your marketing team will need to consider whether you have the time and resources to invest in another social media channel.

4. Privacy concerns

When considering TikTok, one final thing to note is that the company has attracted controversy due to their data collection measures. In 2020, both American and Australian military forces banned the use of the app on work devices. TikTok also has a history of violating privacy laws in the US, after they settled government claims that they illegally collected personal information from children. It’s important that you consider whether actively marketing on a platform with a history of privacy breaches will raise questions from parents in your community.

How your school can get started with TikTok

If you've decided to work TikTok into your marketing strategy, we have two big recommendations for your school to take on board. 

First, we strongly recommend that you ask students to get involved with planning and executing your content. The great thing about TikTok is that you don't need to come up with out-of-the-box, brand new content ideas. Instead, you can leverage community engagement and provide your spin on existing content, challenges and hashtags. Students who use TikTok will already have their finger on the pulse when it comes to TikTok trends, which will significantly cut down on your research time and ensure that your content is fresh and timely.

Second, we recommend taking some time to explore the platform for yourself before posting. TikTok is a social media platform unlike any other, and it has its own unique style and content. Content will need to be creative, experimental, playful and interesting in order to capture users' attention. There are already a large number of schools actively using TikTok to engage current and future students — check out how they’re using the platform for inspiration for your own videos.

Final thoughts

We certainly haven't reached the peak of TikTok popularity, so it's natural that schools will consider implementing TikTok into their social media strategy. If your school is active on TikTok, we'd love to see what you're creating! 

Published 14 July 2020