A guest post from Jason Wheeler, CPC, Marketing Coordinator for the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District.
Has your school district spoken about the social media platform TikTok?
Are you concerned about starting another social media platform? Have you heard terrible things about the TikTok app?
In this article, I explain how your school district can expand its social media engagement using the popular Generation Z app: TikTok.
Should Your School District Create a TikTok Account?
In 2020, TikTok emerged as the most talked-about social media platform, with many school communications experts questioning its merit. Much like the early days of Facebook in schools, TikTok has been criticized and stereotyped based on rumors.
The Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District in North Dallas recently launched a TikTok account to test the waters. During the one-month trial run, we saw positive engagement with our students. CFBISD’s TikTok account during their test trial gained 2,045 followers, accumulated 5,154 likes on their content, and had over 10,000 video views. Click here to see the CFBISD TikTok account.
Even if your TikTok numbers are positive, should a school district or a campus be using the platform to interact with students and their other external audience? Let’s educate ourselves on TikTok.
What is TikTok?
According to Influencer Marketing Hub, TikTok is a short-form, video-sharing app that allows users to create and share 15-second videos on any topic. This simple yet highly engaging app had the most downloads of any app in 2020. Its popularity grew as more and more teens were stranded at home during the pandemic.
The ease of creating a video on TikTok makes the platform even more popular. In his March 10, 2019 article in the New York Times, reporter John Herman states, “It’s easy to make a video on TikTok, not just because of the tools it gives users but also because of the extensive reasons and prompts it provides for you.”
TikTok has created a new world of creative filmmakers and video editors. Many teens would say the platform has launched a whole new type of short-form entertainment.
Bradtastic defines a TikTok’s first experience as a whirlwind. “When you open TikTok, a whirlwind of amateur videos greets you. Most of the videos are teenagers lip-syncing to music or sharing something about their day, their romantic crush, or school life,” says Brandtastic Content Writer Daniel, “For anyone over the age of 20, this content has no relevance. But to those in the age demographic, it can garner millions of views and followers.”
To get the true sense of the app, you have to dive in. I suggest creating your own TikTok account to help you better understand the platform.
Learn by Watching on TikTok
The most efficient way to learn a social media platform is to consume as much content as possible, and then when you feel comfortable, create your own content. It can be scary to watch and research videos on TikTok, but if anything, it is an incredible insight into our students’ minds.
In my opinion, the key to performing well on TikTok is to discover student influencers who will assist you in building your school account. This process also creates a strong relationship with your young students.
Finding TikTok Influencers to be Successful
The most important thing CFBISD did to help create their TikTok was locating a student who had over 200,000 followers on the platform. Along with a younger administrator at the student’s school, they guided me by creating our first successful content on TikTok. Just their presence in our first video generated buzz amongst our students.
The student mentioned above originally got her start on the platform when it was called Musical.ly. One of her videos went viral, and she began to earn an audience who continued with her after Musical.ly shifted to the current incarnation of TikTok.
Generation Z has much more influence over parent decision-making than ever before. That’s why marketing to students and getting their help with the marketing process will become more important in moving forward.
How to Get Started on TikTok
Even though the platform has been refreshed since they posted their YouTube video, TechBoomers has an outstanding video demonstrating how to get started on TikTok.
Our school district always produces content with students with their administrators or coaches present. We schedule an appointment at the student’s school and have an in-depth discussion with her teachers. I would never approach a student online or on the platform to help you create content.
It is amazing all the information teachers remember about their students. We approach popular teachers in or schools to find key student influencers. It is crazy the amazing content produced by our students on the emerging social media platforms.
After finding a TikTok expert amongst your students, there are certain things you can do to be successful. Here are my top ten TikTok tips for school districts.
Ten TikTok Tips for School Districts
- Claim Your Username
Even if your district has no intentions to join TikTok, I would still claim your branded username on the platform. You never know when you might change your mind and take a dive into TikTok. And it is always a good idea to secure your district name, so the general public does not hijack your account.
- Use Your Students
Students want to see other students’ faces. They trust their peers or friends much more than a school communications professional. Find students who have a following on TikTok. Ask them to be in your first video. And always ask them to tag themselves or share the video with their followers.
- Discover What’s Trending and Use It
Just like life, things are always going in and out of vogue. Make sure to keep up with what content and challenges are trending on TikTok. Fanbytes states it simply by saying, “make the most of viral sounds, memes, challenges, and hashtags.”
TikTok makes it simple because they rank the top trending videos, hashtags, and sounds on the app. Discover these viral elements and incorporate them into your videos. My only word of warning is to be careful because you could be labeled as an imposter. Teens will easily call you out if your content is lacking and just posting to jump on the viral wave. Act fast, yet always plan your content.
- Use Hashtags
Much like Instagram in the past, it is important to understand which hashtags are trending and how they relate to your content. Many users on TikTok search for similar videos and challenges using hashtags. If your content relates to a specific hashtag, use it. I would suggest watching several videos that use a trending hashtag to see how it relates. Don’t use a hashtag to get more eyeballs on your content. It won’t work if you are trying to cheat the system.
- Hashtag Challenges
And speaking of hashtags, creating your own hashtag challenges is a great way to engage your students. You can create specific hashtags for your challenges. TikTok even lets organizations purchase TikTok challenges that will let your challenge go out to a larger audience. Purchasing a challenge might be a great way to recruit teachers or students.
- Research, Research, Research
In the first week of launching your TikTok account, I would suggest consuming content. Before you post your first video, make sure you know what works and what does not. This is not YouTube. It is not Instagram. It would be best if you researched what is resonating with your audience. Once you have a good sense of good content, try to implement those elements into your videos.
- Be Consistent
Like any social media platform, you will not go viral with your first video, second video second, or probably not your 100th. You need to produce consistent content over a period of time before your videos catch on. At first, your students are going to shy away from your posts. The more you develop content, and the more you utilize your students’ help, the more popular your posts will become.
- Tell a Story
Marketing is more successful when you tell a story. The same is true on TikTok. What are you trying to achieve on the platform? Who is your audience? What stories resonate with your viewers? You only have 15 to 60 seconds to tell your story on TikTok. How will you create short stories that will resonate?
- Use Sounds… The Music Can Make a Video
The beauty of TikTok is that the platform has an extensive licensing deal with top music artists. You pick the right trending song, and you can amass views for your content. Sometimes the sounds are more important than your video. And you are not violating copyright if you use a song on your video on TikTok. Pick an awesome song that will help tell your story.
- How-To Videos Work
“How To” videos on TikTok work really well. There is a lady on the platform that produces Excel Spreadsheet tips each day. She gets millions of views for each video she posts. Try to figure out an engaging way on TikTok to create a “How To” video for your district. It could be anything from scholarship tips for high school seniors to how to tie a tie for freshman football players. Figure out what works and capitalize on it.
Be Careful Taking the TikTok Journey
With any new social media platform, you need to be comfortable creating and releasing content. If you are scared, don’t create an account. However, let us not forget Facebook in 2005. Many school districts across the county prevented using this now powerful platform to interact with our parents. TikTok could have the same potential for reaching our students in our school district.
If you would like to watch a recap of this article on YouTube, check out a simple video I created that outlines our process:
Guest contributor – Jason A. Wheeler, CPC, is Marketing Coordinator for the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District with 16 plus years experience in public education. Jason is a proud graduate of CFBISD and Texas A&M University, where he received a BBA in Marketing. Jason also holds a Certified Public Communicator certification from Texas Christian University.
After 12 years in the public school classroom, Jason discovered his passion for marketing and social media in the Strategic Communication Department for CFBISD. Jason manages marketing, advertising, promotion, and social media for the school district.