TikTok… for Schools?
For my apprenticeship, I am doing media, communications, and content creation for a high school. When I first saw the role advertised, I thought it was unusual for a school to essentially have a marketing department and such an established social media presence. To give you an idea, our Facebook account has 4,496 followers, Instagram has 2,135 and Twitter has 2,046. We have two main audience groups, parents of students and the students themselves (based in Calderdale). The parents mainly use Facebook and students predominantly use Instagram. Content is generally targeted at both as the parents like to see what their children take part in to promote the school, and the students enjoy being a part of it. The school is often celebrated for its creativity and being a part of that has been amazing so far.
Now, a discussion we have amongst our team is TikTok. We have Facebook, Instagram and Twitter already, and with TikTok being one of the fastest growing platforms, should we not be establishing a presence there too? One of my thoughts is that it would increase engagement with our student audience as I am aware that a lot of them use TikTok. It’s quite easy to gauge what content the parents like on Facebook from comments as well as reactions, but beyond likes and tagging each other, students don’t interact as much. Maybe TikTok could be a better way to connect with the student audience? People enjoy how we showcase creativity on other platforms and TikTok would be another avenue to show that and maybe in a way that’s different to how we usually do things.
However, we face several conundrums. How do we create (regular) content that matches up with our image? Do we feature students or staff or a mixture both (presuming either want to feature at all)? Would parents view it in the same way they see our other social channels, or would they be more critical? Would we be able to integrate the process of making TikTok content into our already busy workload? Let’s take a look at a couple educational organisations that are using TikTok well.
Middelburg Hoërskool (MHS)
Middleburg is a high school based in South Africa. They set a great example of how a school can use TikTok, and it is very student led! Students are filming both at home and in school and wear the school uniform. They use common trends like “POV:…” and “when you…” and make them relevant to school life. They even manage to utilise viral sounds.
POV: When you studied the night before and now you can’t remember anything
We’ve all tried to cram study in before a test and a student is here to tell you that it’s not a good idea. The sound used in this video is the line “got nothing in my brain” from Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake it Off” and it works so well with the topic.
My friend telling me she almost skipped the back page of the test…
A very “that moment when…” video that the student has made relevant to her school life and I’m sure a lot of people can relate to it.
The account features a few regular students implying that the school delegates some content creations to a trusted group. In the videos you can often see the students’ own TikTok handles, meaning that the students probably film them themselves and submit them to whoever manages the account for approval before they are posted. This means that there is a system in place to make sure content that fits the school’s image and strategy. The account has been running for around two years and hasn’t been taken down and the Instagram page linked to the account shows over 4,000 followers, so parents/guardians must think this is good content, because as people with a huge influence in a school’s reputation, if they did not approve the TikTok account would not exist.
University of Limerick
Whilst being an account for a University and not a high school, the content posted by the University of Limerick are all scenarios/templates that a high school could utilise. Campus tours, days in the life, awareness days/weeks and the popular “things in BLANK that just make sense” trend.
The difference between Universities and high schools however, is that the students are the main target audience and are all older and more responsible for their own decisions. Therefore, it could be said that there is a bit more freedom in the content they are able to create. With high school students we have to make sure they are available to be in content and check that their uniform is correct – you really don’t want to have to re-shoot because a shirt wasn’t tucked in! At University students don’t wear a uniform and have more free time. Some of which could definitely be allocated to helping create content for your University’s social media accounts (I spent most of my second year working on student radio).
Where do I go from here?
TikTok for school’s is doable, that much is very clear. However, I think there are several things that need to be considered. One is ensuring that it fits within your strategy and is supported (and also supports) your current social media platforms. Another is making sure that there is an audience for it, and you target them correctly.
My initial thoughts are that this would be great for our students, but then I have to ask the question, how would their parents respond? Would they see it as part of the creative content we are celebrated for? Or would it be seen as wasting their children’s time? They are key decision makers and can influence online opinions of the school. Another big consideration for us is mobile phone policy. We could definitely pick a group of students that we know would do a great job at representing the school, give them briefs and let them come up with content ideas, and ask them to film in school and submit the videos to us. But we would then face the issue of our mobile phone policy, which is that students are not allowed to have their phones out during school time.
Students that get their phones confiscated, and their parents/guardians, would argue that it isn’t fair that some students are allowed their phones out to make TikToks, whilst others receive detentions.
This is a topic that I am going to be digging further into for my pitching task and a workaround that I am looking at is setting it up for our sixth form. Students are older, have a lot more responsibility for themselves and their own time and are quite often willing to help us create content. We don’t have to overthink things like uniform or mobile phone policies, because they don’t wear a school uniform and they are trusted not to be on their phones during lessons.
They have free periods which gives us a bit more flexibility in their availability, and TikToks are easy enough to make that it would not take up a lot of their time, especially if we had a dedicated group. Finally, the students in sixth form are of an age group that knows the app well and would essentially be our target audience. Therefore we could work with them and get their feedback to curate the right content.
Jack Posnett, Cohort 33, Media Marketing Apprentice at Ryburn Valley High School