It’s time to talk about TikTok… Or is it?

By Posted in - Social Media on March 30th, 2020 0 Comments A clock in the background. Text reads "It's time to talk about TikTok... or is it?"

TikTok is widely heralded as the Next Big Thing.

It’s easy to see why.

Since launching in China in 2016, the video-sharing app has surpassed 1 billion downloads and 800 million daily users across 155 different countries.

60% of TikTok’s US audience are between the ages of 16 and 24, so naturally the education sector has started to pay attention. Colleges such as the University of Florida and Austin Peay State University have already established a presence on TikTok to reach their target demographic.

As TikTok expands into over 155 countries, it’s only a matter of time before education marketers are asked to write a TikTok communications strategy…

But should we?

If you were to ask Pickle Jar Communications, we would likely give you our classic answer to most questions:

“Well, it depends…”

It would depend on your objectives, your audience, your brand, and more. These are unique, or at least nuanced, for every organisation, so there is never a one-size-fits-all answer.

Here are a few considerations that might tempt you to dive into TikTok, but also a few things you might want to consider before taking that leap.

Yes, TikTok is popular.

As noted above, it has surpassed 1 billion downloads. That alone might be enough to convince you to start an institutional channel. However, TikTok’s vast numbers are chiefly comprised of younger demographics. Therefore, if your recruitment base is predominantly postgraduates or adult learners, then TikTok probably isn’t the platform for you.

Yes, TikTok is popular with younger demographics.

But many of these young people are in China or the US. TikTok followings in other countries are growing, but are not yet as established as in these two markets. Therefore, if your recruitment targets include students from China or the US, then you have a stronger case for considering TikTok than institutions operating in other countries might have.

Yes, TikTok might be popular with the very audience, the very country, that you are hoping to engage.

But that doesn’t mean that you should. Your audience might not want to hear from your institution when browsing TikTok. They might want a safe social space, away from reminders of their looming life choices: their education, their career, their future. Alternatively, your young audience might worry that you are viewing their own TikToks – daft dance, lip-syncing, who knows what else – and fret over whether this will have implications for their chance of admission.

Yes, TikTok might be popular with your audience and your audience might love seeing you engage with the platform.

Perhaps they relish seeing your institution on TikTok: having fun, showing willing, experimenting with the format. But the audience isn’t always right. TikTok might go against your brand, your persona, your tone of voice. It might defy the very reputation that your senior stakeholders have worked hard to establish.

More to the point, an education institution rarely has one audience. Your young prospective students are just one audience of many. Your other audiences – alumni, businesses, researchers – might have very different feelings about seeing you dabble with TikTok.

Ultimately… we advise cautious curiosity.

Establishing a new social media channel on an emerging platform is a bold undertaking.

The new channel – whether it be TikTok, or something else – requires ongoing attention: planning content, creating content, posting content, monitoring engagements, replying to comments, and measuring performance.

Any new channel will trigger an instant increase in workload, expectation and exposure. Therefore, it needs to be worth your time. It must serve your institutional objectives.

The bottom line: start with research.

Before you launch any new channel, you need to explore it for yourself. Get a feel for how its users interact, what kind of visual and textual language they use, and how they respond to brand accounts in their space. Then we suggest you review your strategic documents, interview your stakeholders, and research your audiences.

Understand what makes them Tik.

We would love to hear more about your experiences with Tik Tok. Please do share your thoughts about this new social media phenomenon in the comments. Equally, if you would like to discuss how we can help you with social media strategy, planning, training and content creation then feel free to say hello. We always have time for a chat.

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