Trending: TikTok for University Brand Awareness and Marketing

If there’s one thing you can count on for 2023 it’s that your prospective students will be on TikTok, the rapidly growing social media platform that allows its 1.5 billion users to create, share and discover short video content.  

Don’t just take my word for it. Look at the data. Sixty-two percent of TikTok users in the U.S. are between 10 and 29 years old. These users are on the platform an average of 89 minutes per day. That puts TikTok in third place behind Google and YouTube on the list of top search engines.

Why are so many of your prospective students on TikTok? Because it just “hits different.” (That’s Gen Z speak for something that is so awesome that it impacts or inspires you on a whole new level.)

TikTok for Brand Awareness

As universities and colleges bring TikTok into their digital media strategies, it’s important to keep in mind that being authentic and real is what drives students to engage with the content. The goal must be to create and curate content from users who are engaged with your school. This means highlighting an authentic and genuine look at the university, student life, and campus culture.  

Although colleges may reach prospective students with TikTok content, we see the platform more to build brand awareness than as a direct recruiting opportunity. 

A few ways universities are leveraging TikTok right now include: 

  • Alumni features
  • Campus news
  • Highlighting majors
  • Student Sharing a Day in a Life
  • University initiatives
  • Tours of campus, buildings, and classrooms
  • Graduation videos 

You can view this directory to see which institutions are on TikTok.

Trends to Recreate and Make Unique to Your Institution

While we are wrapping up 2022 and going into 2023, we thought it would be fun to highlight a few effective ways universities have co-opted popular TikTok trends. 

The University of Utah highlights its beautiful campus.  

@universityofutah Name a prettier campus… we’ll wait. #uofu #utahfresh #prettiestcampus #hasbulla #universityofutah ♬ this sound makes me feel so sickly single x – 🐐

The University of Birmingham takes part in the trend using Taylor Swift’s song, “Anti-Hero.”  

@unibirmingham Who can relate? We forgive you Old Joe! 😍 #university #unilife #universityvibes ♬ original sound – Annelise

The University of Arizona gives advice on campus safety. 

@uarizona If you see something, say something. #campussafety ♬ original sound – University of Arizona

A student from Wesleyan University reveals a day in her life while studying abroad in London.

@wesleyan_university Day in the Life of Sadie Cook ‘24 studying abroad in London 🇬🇧 #studyabroad #studyabroadlondon #wesleyanuniversity ♬ Synchronize (Instrumental) – Milky Chance

Ohio University speculates what Harry Potter characters would major in.

@officialohiouniversity The wizard world meets Ohio University! #OhioUniversity #harrypotter #harrypottertiktok ♬ my favorite hp songs – Kate (Taylor’s Version)

Colby Sawyer College leans in to the “The OHHH THIS IS NICEEEE” trend.  

@colbysawyercollege The Sunshack is our sustainable classroom! Created by students, it’s definitely one of our favorite spots on campus ☀️ #college #colbysawyercollege #classof2026 #colbysawyer #CVSPaperlessChallenge #fyp ♬ Nobodys Fool – Seven11

Transylvania University tells the background story of its mascot, Raf. 

@transylvaniau1780 Raf Week is coming Oct. 22-29. Meet the inspiration behind it! 🦇 #RafWeek #beapioneer #Transylvania #University #collegelife #halloween ♬ original sound – Transylvania University

Mississippi State brings “expression” to its Chapel of Memories.  

@msstate It makes us feel like 🎶😌✨💛 #hailstate #foryou #mississippistate ♬ original sound – Nene💚

The use of TikTok for university marketing has exploded over the last two years! We understand that, with the platform and content changing so quickly, it can be intimidating. Here are a few tips to keep in mind!

Research: Content and trends are changing daily, and every university is using the platform a little differently. Explore what other schools are doing and develop a strategy on how to infuse your brand and audience into your content

Be Authentic: Users come here for authentic, engaging content. Incorporate your students, showcase your faculty, and highlight campus life.

Use Hashtags and Sound: Hashtags are how users discover content, so they’re important for gaining followers. And music and sound are crucial when jumping on trends.

Have Fun: TikTok is a platform where you do not have to take yourself too seriously. Experiment with current trends. Be funny. Post content your audience may not expect of you!

By Sierra Case, Digital Marketing Specialist, Capture Higher Ed