Learn how to use TikTok to effectively engage with your student body at scale. Written by Jay Slawter & edited by Brent Colby, who together have over 50,000,000+ combined video views and 35,000+ followers on TikTok.
TikTok was introduced to me first by my younger sisters so I believed it was something for the younger generation but once I learned my first dance, I was hooked. As a trained dancer, TikTok pulled me in because it at first was a fun place for people to share dances and collaborate on different types of choreography. I use TikTok at least 4 times a day either scrolling on my timeline or posting my dances. Essentially, the application is a place where creators can post short video clips of their content. The app is a platform for all content and can appeal to any user.
While yes, the thought of how much they know can be scary, it's also quite incredible and makes for an astonishing user experience by only showing you content that you’re almost guaranteed to be interested in. From the second you open the app for the very first time, everything you do is being tracked and analyzed by AI; what you click, what videos you watch and for how long, what's in the videos you watch, and much more... The massive amounts of data that TikTok collects, paired with some of the world's most advanced AI is what has allowed TikTok to become the world's fastest growing social media platform. As of September 2021, TikTok has surpassed YouTube in average video watch time which is an incredible feat. It is also worth mentioning that TikTok is currently undoubtedly the #1 platform for organic reach and growth; whereas Facebook and Instagram require you to spend money to promote your content to a larger audience, the organic reach that can be achieved on TikTok is like no other platform.
On TikTok, users' timelines are called "FYP" also known as the "For You Page". This page is filled with specific videos targeted to the user's profile. Since I am a dancer, my FYP consists of many dance videos, other user's FYP may consist of workout videos, golf, personal finance and whatever else the AI thinks (more like knows) you’re into. This is where we dive into the app's algorithm. TikTok's FYP is a form of recommendation algorithm. "Recommendation algorithms map our preferences against others, suggesting new or forgotten bits of culture for us to encounter.
Algorithms manage our interactions on social networking sites, highlighting the news of one friend while excluding others" (Gillespie 2013). When a video is posted to TikTok, the For You Page will show it to a small number of users for viewing. Depending on the response of the video (likes, comments, shares) the video may show up on a larger number of users for you page, leading it to go viral. Depending on what videos you like and watch on a loop, the app will show you videos of similar interest.
Understanding the algorithm of the app is only the first step. The other side of TikTok is the creator side - Creators come up with unique content to engage with their audience. I’ve used the creator side of TikTok on my personal account and my highest viewed video sits at 885k views. It’s unbelievable the amount of reach you can within such a short time span. Taking this note into consideration while being involved in student politics at my university, I knew that this would also be an amazing opportunity to engage with students.
TikTok paved the way for a new innovative opportunity to engage with students. During the fall term, the campus spirit felt low so I decided to hop on a TikTok trend showcasing my University's pride. This video ended up receiving over 71k views and over 7000 comments. The comment section alone created a way for students in the community to connect and I have personally myself formed connections with new students from this one video.
Showcase personality and something that you know is either trending or that your audience will understand. The next powerful way to boost your engagement on TikTok is through the share button! TikTok rewards your profile with more engagement whenever someone shares your videos. Videos can be shared through TikTok DM, Instagram, SMS, Twitter or Facebook. Get as many individuals to share the video so that your profile will continue to grow. TikTok is also an outlet to have fun and let loose. Your audience will love to see something authentic and personable that makes them want to engage. Have fun with it and your audience will too!
If you’re looking for a way to engage with students at your school or any audience overall - TikTok is a great way to make that impact. With over 1.1 Billion users, someone from your school is bound to see your videos!