As TikTok continues to dominate social media, universities and colleges are using the platform as a marketing tool to attract prospective students. With over 1 billion monthly active users—60% of whom are 16–24 years old—TikTok is able to reach potential students early in their higher education journey. As a result, TikTok has become an effective way for institutions to engage with both prospective and current students.
Here we'll explore valuable tactics that higher education institutions can use to effectively market themselves on TikTok to connect with prospective students. Some questions we hope to answer include:
- What TikTok marketing is
- Ways higher education can use TikTok in their marketing strategy
What Is TikTok Marketing?
TikTok marketing is the process of promoting a product, brand, or service to consumers directly through the social platform. By consistently creating organic content, brands and services are able to build relationships, awareness, and engagement for their consumers with little to no cost.
5 Ways You Can Use TikTok to Market Your Institution
Since TikTok’s overall cost and social reach is ideal for college admissions teams, here are five ways you can use this type of marketing to potentially increase enrollment.
1. Highlight Academic Programs
TikTok is a great tool to showcase the various academic programs your college or university has to offer. Remember, academics are often the deciding factor for students committing to your school. With TikTok, prospective students have the ability to gain insight into your educational programs and opportunities in a more dynamic way compared to static program pages and generic email marketing.
Harvard University’s admissions TikTok account is an excellent example of how academic programs can benefit from this type of content. With nearly 64,000 followers and 691,500 likes, Harvard’s admissions account ensures prospective students understand the value of the channel’s content by including their mission statement in their bio, “Harvard College Admissions & Financial Aid, 100% need-based finaid program.” Their page also includes a direct link to its website for easy user access.
Videos are steadily posted throughout the week with valuable information regarding their various major and minor programs through interviews with current students. These Q&A’s are incredibly relevant to potential students because these conversational answers are much closer to how potential students think about topics relating to their future education.
@harvardadmissions free travel free friends ✈️#modelun #harvardcollege #extracurricular #studentlife ♬ original sound - Harvard Admissions
While much of this information can be found on the website, prospective students engage with this type of content because it can be both entertaining and informative. These videos also allow students to gain a perspective of the university and bring words to life.
2. Give More Visibility to Prospective Students
TikTok is also an excellent resource for giving prospective students a preview of student life at your school. If you’re finding that many students are hesitant to apply because of anxiety of the unknown, you should consider leveraging this social platform to offer more visibility into your student life through interviews, “a day in the life” reels, and campus sneak peeks. All of these elements can be wrapped up into 30-second videos for students to both enjoy and learn from.
Interviews are a good way for institutions to allow their students to speak on their behalf. When current students share their experiences, it creates a sense of trust for prospective students. While offering a diverse background of student testimonials is important, make sure you’re interviewing personable students. This type of content is key for marketing higher education on TikTok, especially since prospective students are trying to find their four-year home.
Here’s another example from Harvard University’s TikTok account. Harvard’s account includes several interviews with students regarding:
- Favorite professors
- Popular courses
- Exciting electives on campus
@harvardadmissions sky's the limit here at Harvard #explore #harvardcollege #studentlife #PetSmartMadeMeBuyIt #fyp ♬ original sound - Harvard Admissions
Day in the Life
A “day in the life” video follows a student throughout their daily tasks and activities on campus. This type of video became extremely popular on social media at the end of 2022 and continues to be considered “trending.”
Not only do these videos bring satisfaction to your target audience, it helps them imagine themselves in the shoes of a current student. By imagining what their life would be like on and off campus as a student, these potential students are more likely to make the right choice in their college decision.
Most material posted by students is considered user-generated content (UGC). UGC is any type of content that is created or posted by an individual not employed by a brand. Most students already create amazing content on your campus, which can help encourage prospective students to attend. Though this type of content isn’t affiliated with the school itself, it can provide much needed social media assistance to the university. In some cases, universities even allow students to manage their TikTok page, as suggested below. This, however, isn’t considered UGC, since these videos are posted directly to the university’s account.
High Point University’s TikTok page has several student interaction videos such as, “a day in the life,” and “what I eat in a day.” Student interviews and campus updates are also included. High Point seems to be particularly successful at this strategy because they also incorporate diversity within their TikTok posts. They involve students of different majors and extracurricular activities, which is a key factor when publishing user-generated content.
Below are just a few examples of High Point’s student “a day in the life” videos.
@highpointu Day in the life of @wtmab #highpointuniversity #hpu #dayinthelife #edutok #college #campus ♬ The Island Paradise - ZydSounds
@highpointu Day in the life of student and freshmen baseball player Easton LaPlaca! #highpointuniversity #dayinthelife #collegelife #studentathlete #d1 #collegebaseball ♬ Hip Hop with impressive piano sound(793766) - Dusty Sky
Higher education institutions showcasing their campus on social media channels is a very effective way to engage prospective students. This method also creates convenience for students considering attending. Education marketers should take advantage of their ability to present their campus to prospective students through an easy tool like TikTok.
Using a trending sound with beautiful footage or your campus can really boost a university’s account long-term. Another example from High Point University is one of its recent posts, showcasing the campus. The video incorporates a sneak peek of the campus along with a current TikTok trending sound. By combining these two factors together, the video has been incredibly successful.
3. Answer Prospective Students’ Questions
TikTok isn’t just a social media platform to watch funny or educational videos, it can also act as a method of communication for universities to answer potential students’ questions. These types of videos should include background details, school facts, and educational advice concerning your university’s offerings.
A few examples of universities answering questions are included below.
@yale.admissions Hear what John's favorite thing about being an admissions officer is!! 💙 #fyp #foryou #college #collegeapplications #admissions #yale #yaleuniversity ♬ Aesthetic - Tollan Kim
@ut_admissions UPDATE: Early Action admissions decisions will be release in your Go Vols portal on Tuesday, December 20 beginning at 7 pm EST!!! 🎉 #newvols #utk27 ♬ original sound - maddie✧.*
What's the Word on Campus? We asked current student about their favorite 'Canes Care for 'Canes moment, and we loved their answers 🙌♬ original sound - University of Miami Admissions
@harvardadmissions Harvard has 450+ student organizations for your to explore! #studentlife #collegeclubs #extracurricular #harvard #fy ♬ original sound - Harvard Admissions
These TikTok accounts are successful because these videos explain topics such as:
- Important admission decision dates
- New information about student life
- Events happening on campus
Students potentially enrolling in any university are more likely to have these questions. Therefore, this content specifically targets those students who need nurturing to ensure they pick your school. By providing answers to questions students may not have yet, TikTok can act as a reliable source of information for those seriously interested in your school.
4. Boost On Campus Events
Institutions are now using TikTok as a source of information regarding campus events.
These videos can include the who, what, where, and when of every on-campus event taking place to ensure your student body stays up-to-date.
If you plan on using your TikTok account for this, be sure to post these on the university’s main account. Providing campus information through this platform is a key way to reach current students. Solely posting on the main university account will provide credibility to viewers as well as cause more traffic to the main social source.
While some staff members might be skeptical of TikTok’s reach, our poll (included below) shows that 75% of the 125 students who responded indicated they prefer receiving information regarding campus events through TikTok, while only 25% preferred email.
Information about student opportunities regarding career development, course information, tutoring options, and academic programs are typically shared through email. Why not share this information on TikTok as well?
With the average TikTok user under the age of 18 reporting upwards of 91 minutes per day on the app, promoting events on TikTok may be more effective than email for universities. Consider this Quinnipiac University student’s emails concerning student opportunities (shown below).
After speaking with several university students in regard to these emails, most indicated a preference for campus information to appear on both TikTok and email. Ready Education backs up these claims, finding that less than 50% of students read emails from their academic department—even though most universities exclusively rely on email for communicating with current students.
As a result, email may no longer work as a primary communication strategy. So colleges really need to consider using social media platforms, like TikTok, to help increase student engagement.
5. Grow School Spirit
There are many ways to keep current students engaged, especially in targeted TikTok videos based on student interests. Universities who are known for their sports teams—specifically football—focus their attention toward athletics. LSU is an excellent example of this, differentiating itself by not only focusing on football, but all Tigers’ sports.
This method is incredibly effective for both prospective and current students because it ultimately promotes a sense of community and school spirit. School spirit can be enticing for prospective students who want to be part of a community, while keeping current students engaged in student life.
Take the First Step in Your TikTok Marketing Journey
TikTok is a powerful tool for higher education marketing for several reasons. By keeping current students involved, encouraging prospective students, and engaging with both, the platform can ultimately lead to long-term enrollment success. Whether it’s highlighting academic programs, student takeovers, answering questions, showcasing on campus events, or encouraging school spirit, all are useful ways to use TikTok in your marketing strategy. Learn more about what to post and how to analyze your content by downloading our Social Media Publishing Checklist below!