These Higher Ed TikTok strategies for boosting enrollment are part of an ongoing series we have called Higher Ed best practices. Included in this series: Higher Ed Snapchat strategies.
TikTok has boomed in recent years, becoming an increasingly viable and effective platform for organizations to achieve brand awareness and website traffic. After 2020 there was almost a 600% increase in visits compared to 2019. And while this channel now appeals to audiences of all ages, its heavily Gen-Z audience makes it a no-brainer for institutions in higher education looking to target younger individuals.
With 63% of Gen Z youth using TikTok on a daily basis, compared to the 57% who use Instagram, and 54% who use Snapchat, TikTok is now the most used social media channel among Gen Z in the U.S.
Conversely, only 50% of top brands have a TikTok account as of 2022 and brands that do use TikTok strategically are able to achieve broad organic and paid reach compared to other social media channels.
For marketers in the higher-ed space looking to launch a TikTok strategy and boost enrollment among their target audiences, we’ll cover the dos and don’ts of university accounts on TikTok, along with tips for paid advertising on the platform.
Current audience demographics as of September 2021.
- 25% are 10-19
- 22% are 20-29
- 22% 30-39
- 20% 40-39
- 57% female
- 43% male
What to do as a university on TikTok
Reserve your username early: Make sure to secure your university username as early as possible so it’s still available, even if your account remains dormant before you begin posting.
Keep it short and snappy: 10 minutes( in 2022), best practice is still videos of 15 sec. max length.
Use the right format: All videos on TikTok are vertical, with a 9:16 aspect ratio. Start filming videos vertically for ease of use when creating videos for this platform.
Use your resources: Getting current and prospective students involved in your TikTok content creation will help make your videos more authentic and compelling to your target audience. Try reposting videos that tag your account (like “day in the life” videos from current students and acceptance videos from prospective students).
Add hashtags to your caption: Adding 3-5 hashtags is ideal for TikTok videos in order to increase your video’s reach and appeal to new audiences. There is no limit to the number of hashtags you can include, but the caption is capped at 300 characters.
Experiment with posting times: While sources say the best times to post on TikTok are Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday between 7 am and 10 am PST, this may vary depending on your unique audience. Experiment with posting times and ask students when they’re most active on the app.
Get creative: Videos sharing challenges and contests are great to engage with users on TikTok, as well as generate content from students to reshare on the university account.
What NOT to do as a university on TikTok
Post once and expect to grow: When first starting your TikTok account, performance usually depends on posting frequency. Higher-ed accounts should try to post at least 3 times a week, if not every day, in order to build their audience and increase reach on the platform.
Pretend to be one of the kids: younger audiences won’t connect with brand accounts that they view as inauthentic. Rather than focusing too much on dancing videos or fleeting trends, universities on TikTok should focus on the areas that their audience responds to. This may include campus tours, breaking down the enrollment and application process, hearing testimonials from current students, and more.
Be afraid to experiment: The TikTok algorithm works in mysterious ways when it comes to promoting certain videos over others. To find what type of content works best for your account and audience, try sharing content across academic topics, performing arts, student life, extracurriculars, and alumni activities before narrowing your account’s focus.
Forget about the music: Not only is music integral to the entire TikTok experience (originating from the app’s evolution from “Musical.ly”), but audio tracks are one of the best ways to achieve growth on TikTok. Users can choose from the entire music library and add trending music tracks to videos, while brands are restricted to the platform’s commercial music library. Original audio tracks can also be uploaded to your videos.
Paid advertising on TikTok offers a unique opportunity for universities to increase brand awareness among their target audiences and boost website traffic to enrollment landing pages. Here is a breakdown of the different ad types that TikTok currently offers:
In-feed video ads are the most popular on TikTok, appearing on viewers’ “For You Pages,” and should be between 9-16 seconds. These ads feature a clickable CTA button which can be used to drive traffic to an external landing page or to your brand’s TikTok account.
Top View Ad
Top view ads occupy the first In-feed post after first opening the app. They show up to 60 seconds of full-screen video, without any distractions from other surrounding videos.
Brand Takeover Ads
These ads pop up as soon as users open the TikTok app, taking over the full screen before changing into an in-feed video ad. They can appear on the “For You Page” as still images or videos of 3-5 seconds with links and are effective for generating brand awareness and traffic.
There are other options when it comes to advertising on TikTok, including branded hashtags and branded effects/filters.
Video ideas for universities (with examples)
To kick off your content posting on TikTok, here are a few ideas of videos to create and examples of how other universities have executed them.
- Tours of the campus or school buildings. See this example from the University of Kansas
- Study spots on campus. See this example from Clemson University
- Graduation features. See this example from the University of Florida
- Quick tips from students.See this example from the University of Arizona
- Answering FAQs. See this example from the University of Georgia
- Day in the life of a student. See this example from the University of Phoenix
- Videos about the university’s mission. See this example about Bryn Mawr College
- Content about career development services and post-grad job placements. See this example from the University of Northern Iowa
- Alumni success stories. See this example from Borough of Manhattan Community College