Marketing your school is getting increasingly competitive, and focusing your digital marketing strategy on one platform might not work anymore. With a steady growth rate and a ton of cultural buzz, it’s easy to see this popular platform’s appeal - but is TikTok right for your school?
Kids spend, on average, 75 minutes per day on TikTok
80% of TikTok users are between the ages 16-34
It was the most downloaded app of 2021 (and continues to be extremely popular)
At Metric, our clients have been able to see how video content is generating more views, shares, and likes than static content and it’s becoming a key component of many of our digital marketing strategies for private and independent schools.
In our State of Independent School Marketing survey with NAIS, 99% of private and independent schools are using social media - but only 53% reported that these efforts have been effective. They do see the potential for social media to drive leads (ranging from 50% at the elementary level to 63% at the secondary level). But ‘which marketing channels (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, etc) should we be using?’ was the fourth most popular question when it came to digital marketing.
All this to say that if you are asking these kinds of questions at your school, you are far from alone. The ‘should we be on TikTok?’ question was a hot topic of conversation in 2022 - so as we’re all looking forward to 2023 and beyond, we wanted to take some time to help you make this decision for yourself.
Determining your audience is essential. As a private or independent school marketer, you already know who you need to reach - a group that is likely to include prospective parents and, if you’re recruiting for a middle or high school, prospective students too.
TikTok offers a unique mix of audience groups. The biggest age group on the platform is 10-19, but it’s also gaining popularity with young parents who are searching for parenting tips and feel-good-family content. This makes it an especially compelling option for schools who are targeting parents of Pre-K to 3rd Grade students or teens.
You may have some professional digital videos on hand that you want to repurpose and reuse on TikTok, which is great. However, it's important to acknowledge the fact that content that feels user-generated performs (a lot) better on TikTok.
Using content that looks organic creates brand trust - think home video rather than high-budget commercial. Posting videos directly shot on your mobile phone engages the audience more, as it is authentic. Not only are these types of videos great for budget, they’re also quicker to produce.
TikTok's algorithm will naturally push videos that are designed for TikTok. Practically speaking, this means formatting your videos to be the correct aspect ratio (1080x1920) and picking music from TikTok’s audio library - an expansive collection of songs and sounds.
This can mean a departure from your core brand guidelines - and that’s okay. If you’re considering a move to TikTok, you should consider developing a one-page guide for your brand on this platform. Think about things like categories of content or topics you’ll cover, tone & voice, style, acceptable humor, music and content guidelines - the more you can decide in advance, the easier it will be to streamline content development later.
Looking to jumpstart your content plan? Here are some ideas great private and independent school content on TikTok:
Capture and share behind-the-scenes videos (think: teams practicing before a big game or competition, dress rehearsal for the musical, student council setting up for an event)
Tour your audience through different parts of your campus
Interview students who participate in different clubs and ask them questions about what they do
Showcase different field trips and events
Create a ‘day in a life’ style video that follows a student (this could be a great series that shows how each student has a customized set of classes and activities that’s unique to them)
As with every social media platform, we encourage you to start with a plan you can maintain consistently. Post regularly, at the same day and time, and measure your performance - then use that data to start to test new days, new times, and new types of content to see how your performance is affected. This new information can be used to create new versions of your content plan.
Current data on TikTok - as of Fall 2022 - suggests that these may be optimal times for you to post new content (at least to start):
Between 6 and 10 AM
Between 7 and 11 PM
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays
Frequency and consistency matter on TikTok. The more frequent and consistent you are, the better your TikToks will perform. Try to post once a week - if you have time, two to three times a week is even better.
In order for your TikTok strategy to be effective, you need to be where your audience is. The best way to do this is to follow the trends (and be on time for them). This ensures that your content is boosted to the top of your followers’ feeds and is easily found by people who don’t follow you yet.
Trends come and go very quickly on TikTok. A sound can trend for as long as a few months - or as short as three days.
The best way to keep up with TikTok trends is to spend time on the platform - but if you want to streamline that ‘research’ time, you can look at the Discover page or follow other private or independent schools you admire and see what kind of content they're doing. Many post-secondary institutions have larger marketing teams than K-12 schools and are more active on more platforms, making them a great source of inspiration.
Here are a few universities that are currently winning on TikTok:
Another idea? Ask a teenager. Involving some of your students in your TikTok content planning and creation can help you be more relevant - and it will feel authentic and right on trend, because it is.
Once you have eyes on your content, make sure you’re engaging, as you would on other social platforms. This type of interaction adds authenticity and helps to build community - two key components of social media success.
Every move to a new social platform should start with strategy. Know why you’re there (and ‘because everyone else is’ is not a reason). Ask yourself what TikTok can help deliver or add to your marketing mix that other social platforms can’t. What new opportunities might it open up for you? What new audiences could it unlock?
Some examples of a ‘why’ for private and independent schools on TikTok might be:
To showcase athletics teams and extra-curricular opportunities
To connect with younger parents
To connect with middle and high schoolers who might want to enroll
To showcase the culture of the school and help it feel less elitist and more approachable
To raise awareness of the school and show potential students who we are
To build more community - connect with current parents and students and share what’s happening at school day to day
Once you understand your ‘why’ for TikTok, plan your content and evaluate new ideas and opportunities through this lens. It can be tempting to jump on a trend just because it’s trending - but stopping to ask yourself how it might fit into your strategy is critical. If it’s not representing your brand, connecting to your audience, or furthering your communication strategy, it might be a ‘no’ this time. Having a plan helps to make these quick decisions easier.
Now for the fun part (and the challenging part too). Once you’ve decided to be on TikTok and you’ve planned your strategy - it’s time to get creating. We’ve created a step-by-step tutorial on how to create a TikTok from start to finish.
Write a mini creative brief.
Purpose (Why are you creating this TikTok?)
Idea (What are you planning to do?)
Audio (Which TikTok sound/music will you use? [HINT: Check out TikTok's Discover page to find an appropriate sound or audio that’s trending])
Time, Date, and Location (Where and when will you shoot the TikTok?)
People (Who will be in the TikTok?)
Resources (What will you need to create your video - props, equipment, etc?)
Posting Date & Time (When will you post this TikTok?)
Film your TikTok.
Edit and prep.
Use TikTok's in-app editing feature or download InShot, iMovie, or Adobe Premiere Rush
Write a good caption.
As of September 2022, captions can now be up to 2,200 characters long. Use this space to describe your video, and use words that your audience would be likely to search for.
Find relevant hashtags by noting which hashtags are being used most commonly by other schools.
Post and engage.
Post your TikTok at a time when your audience is likely to see it and engage with it.
Be sure to reply to comments and engage with your community.
Plan your next TikTok!
Take a look at what’s working–and what isn’t–and adjust your plans accordingly. Test new days & times or different types of content to increase engagement. And be patient… it takes time to master a new social platform and create a loyal audience there.
Are you ready to try TikTok? We’d love to hear about your plans–or help you create them.
At Metric Marketing, we develop measurable and practical strategies to help private and independent schools like yours to make the most of your marketing efforts. We'd love to discuss your private school's marketing requirements with you. Contact us today to speak with our marketing professionals or sign up to receive more marketing tips in your inbox.