10 things you need to know about TikTok

Higher education institutions are beginning to pay attention to TikTok, the platform previously known as Musical.ly.

And rightly so.

It now has over 500 million active users worldwide and was one of the most downloaded apps last year on both iOS and Android.

The app thrives off challenges and trending hashtags. These are community-created and usually originate from one short video introducing the challenge. Then everyone else catches on to the challenge or trend by recording their own version. Challenges can fade away just as quickly as they started, but if it gets picked up by a celebrity or an online influencer, it can last for weeks.

The viral platform has become the launchpad for millions of memes, comedic skits, musical sensations, and collaborative trending challenges. And institutions are beginning to dip a toe in the water with the platform.

We wrote about TikTok in our September post which you can read here if you missed it. But since then we’ve been reviewing the platform in more detail. This is what we’ve learned from using the platform over the past few months.

10 things we found out to factor into your TikTok activity

1. The content is fun, visual and funny. And now we’ve passed through the Christmas and the New Year celebrations, lots of the content involves dance and music again.

If your institution is going to get involved with its own content, and involve students, you need to think about dance and movement as well as how content is shot so that it’s appropriate for TIkTok.

2. The demographic profile of TikTok users is in the sweet spot for student recruitment. 60% of active users are 16 to 24 years of age. If your institution can generate content that this audience can relate to and will appreciate, it could pay dividends for your institution being active on the platform.

3. Unlike Instagram, TikTok has placed ‘likes’ in a prominent position on the app. There is even an all-time-likes counter on your profile which serves as an ego-boost for the individual but is also a great measure to cross-check when you’re targeting potential people to follow.

4. TikTok advertising is embedded in the platform so from a user perspective seeing ads interspersed in content is already standard practice.

But from an advertiser perspective, the platform is currently only accepting direct advertisers from certain countries and regions so the options are still limited.

For the time being at least, it makes sense for institutions to invest in creating authentic organic content and developing campaigns and challenges that will get some traction.

5. The inbox is much more than messages. It’s also a place for comments, likes, mentions, followers and direct messages. Think of it more like a hybrid communications tool providing a thread of engagement updates in all its forms in one place on the app…something we may see introduced on Instagram if it proves popular.

6. The homepage and discovery sections are where users find the latest and freshest content. Both tap into TikTok’s powerful algorithms to deliver content from accounts you’re following or randomly (or not so randomly) selected.

7. Much like Linkedin, people can see who’s viewed their profile. It means users of the platform will know if an institution has been viewing their content. But conversely will mean you can conveniently review who is viewing your content and engage with them where appropriate.

8. Timing is critical. We know this of course from digital marketing campaigns. But given the demographics skew towards youth audiences, it’s even more important to release content at times when they are active on the platform.

These times are likely to differ from your team’s standard working hours. Regrettably, TikTok doesn’t come with any scheduling functionality and there aren’t yet any social media management apps that allow you to link your TikTok account in order to schedule content. But watch this space…we expect the likes of HootSuite and similar services will bring TikTok into the fold soon.

9. Gaining followers isn’t the only way to get engagement. Popular posts can be pushed up the content tree by the TikTok algorithm resulting in them being included in the user’s homepages and discovery areas.

Focus on quality content and engagement will follow.

10. The platform is evolving quickly. Even during the months, we reviewed TikTok subtle changes and updates were coming regularly. And more institutions started coming on-board throughout the quarter. 2020 is a good time to get involved and to get experimenting with TikTok.

Is 2020 the time to seize the opportunity to gain a presence on TikTok

There are still very few universities currently on TikTok, so there is lots of opportunity for creativity and exposure.

And TikTok users seem open and have given a positive response so far to university branded accounts. Existing students are proud, sometimes shocked to see their universities on the platform.


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