TikTokThe role of TikTok in the student recruitment revolution

The role of TikTok in the student recruitment revolution

Universities can directly reach potential recruits through creative organic and paid content that inspires students and showcases their institution

Embracing TikTok can help universities engage prospective students and evolve their recruitment strategies to reach the next generation of learners.

At a Times Higher Education session, held in partnership with TikTok for Digital Universities Week, institutions were encouraged to incorporate the video-sharing app into their recruitment plans.

Hannah Bennett, brand partnerships manager at TikTok, said the platform had come a long way since 2019, when it was best known for lip-syncing and dance videos.

Bennett said a wide range of content was now available on the platform, including education through hashtags such as #LearnOnTikTok.

TikTok has more than 100 million active users in Europe, and with 46 per cent saying they use the app to discover new things, it presents an opportunity for universities.

“The algorithm TikTok uses is powered by the content you’re interacting with, [instead of] who you’re following on the platform, which means everyone has that personalised experience,” Bennett said. “It gives brands and universities a real opportunity to have that conversation with the community because everyone has the potential to go viral on TikTok. You don’t need loads of followers to show up on the platform. It’s much more about the content you’re creating.”

Bennett said universities could create organic content themselves, use paid promotions or implement a mixture of the two. When it came to creating the perfect TikTok video, she advised that universities “tap their talent” by engaging their own students.

“You have that resource on your doorstep. A lot of the students at your university are already active on TikTok; they’re probably creating some really great content,” she said. “I would definitely recommend having that discussion with your own student community and seeing who is already creating content. Can they do that for your university as well?”

The sweet spot for video length is 15 to 20 seconds, Bennett said, and spending time on the platform would give a sense of what trends universities could contribute to with their own content. While humour and emotion often appeal, authenticity is key.

Case studies of institutions that have used TikTok for campaigns include Lancaster University, which worked with student ambassadors to create a series of in-feed ads promoting its online open days. The campaign received more than 10 million impressions and more than 90,000 clicks.

Other examples include Newcastle University, which has prepared a guide to writing the perfect personal statement as well as videos showcasing its campus. The University of Strathclyde, meanwhile, produced three creatives, each focusing on a different aspect of university life, in time for the Ucas application deadline.

Watch the session on-demand above or on the THE Connect YouTube channel.

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