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September 6

5 Ground Rules for Successful TikTok Marketing


If you’re considering jumping 100% into TikTok marketing, you’ll need to understand some of the ground rules. Here are my top 5 ground rules for successful TikTok marketing in higher education.

Social media is a vast and dynamic marketing field that, for some, is exciting with all its spontaneous evolution. 

But for others, keeping up with new platforms might be a little frustrating. 

No matter where your excitement level is on this, TikTok is a big deal… 

And it’s becoming even more of a big deal with every passing year.

From 2017 to 2019 alone, TikTok adult users climbed quickly from 2.6 million to 14.3 million TikTokers.

In some of my reading on this, TikTok has already enjoyed over a BILLION installs on both iOS and Android mobile devices.

Sure, TikTok is relatively new, but it is incredible to see just how quickly it has exploded in terms of users and contributors. 

For me, TikTok is the new SnapChat, and I definitely recommend that every higher education marketer find ways to start their TikTok marketing strategy as soon as they have the rest of their social media in order. 

In my opinion, higher ed institutions should have Instagram up and running well before looking into TikTok.

And if you’re wondering about budget, you don’t have to invest a lot of money into it to see some good results on this platform.

TikTok marketing does not have to be something only big schools with big budgets can benefit from!

So if you’re ready to wade into this social media space, let’s get into some of the ground rules for TikTok marketing that you’ll need to know. 

TikTok is young.

Most social media platforms welcome all kinds of users, no matter their background or age. 

But human nature is simply self-selecting, and as a result, each platform tends to skew towards a certain demographic, and that demographic is constantly changing. 

For example, Facebook first started on college campuses, but now it’s seen as a mainly adult platform for those middle-aged and above.

In TikTok’s case, the primary users are young, somewhere in the range of 13 – 24 years old. 

In my opinion, this means TikTok marketing is a must-have component for education marketers, as it hits the primary marketing persona, your prospective student.

Practically, this ground rule means that your TikTok marketing should focus almost entirely on prospective and current students rather than diversifying your content for different audiences.

If you try making TikToks for student parents, for example, you’ll probably end up wasting your time at this point in TikTok’s history.

TikTok is casual and FUN!

TikTok was born in China and remains a big hit over there under a Chinese name. 

At its beginning, most users uploaded music videos of themselves lip-syncing to their favorite music. 

It quickly evolved to TikTokers showing off their dance moves. 

Within the last few years, however, TikTok videos have become much more diverse as users have come to the platform. 

Now comedians, makeup experts, skateboarders, crafters, and a lot more make up the kinds of content you can find on TikTok. 

But one thing remains consistent across all of these kinds of content…

TikTok content tends to be fun and light-hearted!

TikTok marketing should take advantage of this social media platform’s ethos rather than fighting it. 

If you scroll through a bunch of TikTok videos, you’ll see a bunch of TikTokers creating their content, but not taking themselves too seriously.

Perhaps it’s a symptom of our culture on the fringes of a global pandemic, but TikTokers do not go to TikTok for content that’s overly weighty or too serious. 

That doesn’t mean you can’t put up informative content, but I do recommend that you keep the overall tone of your TikTok marketing light and fun.

TikTok is interactive and loves challenges.

While social media challenges have swept the globe on other platforms, user challenges seem to find more traction on the TikTok platform. 

Many “challenges” are simply when a TikToker repeats the same kind of content as another TikToker. 

For example, they dance to the same song to see who is the funniest or the best at that kind of dance.

But other challenges are dares for other TikTokers to take on and record.


Rating some #mild #challenges while I’m waiting for the fake accounts to be taken down. #hotsauceboss #MakingTheCut #foryou

♬ mario sound – mandycap

Speaking of hot sauce, I really enjoyed how my alma mater is getting in on the action! 🔥🌶


Our CRC director Brian Martin took on the #HotOnes challenge! Some serious #heat and good #conversation on the latest episode!

♬ original sound – Anderson University

But TikTok challenges have gotten out of hand before… 

So if you decide to offer a challenge to boost your TikTok marketing, be sure it is something relatively safe to avoid serious injury to your followers. 

TikTok loves hashtags. 

I’ve written before on the importance of using hashtags to drive traffic to your content, including a free ebook you can download here on how to use them in your social media marketing.

But when it comes to TikTok marketing, using Hashtags is even more critical. 

Pre-configured hashtags are the way TikTokers filter the videos the platform suggests for them. 

Also, TikTokers discover new video content by searching by hashtag.

TikTok was built around the idea of hashtags. With that in mind, education marketers should begin using the platform with a list of approved hashtags that can be developed with new content over time. 

In other words, use hashtags as you would keywords to boost your search engine ranking.

TikTok is highly visual, yet high quality video is not required. 

You don’t have to be a social media guru to realize that TikTok is a highly visual, video-centric platform.

But that doesn’t mean that you have to have the highest video and cinematic quality to make it work for you.

The vast majority of the content published on TikTok is made using cell phones and low quality audio equipment. 

TikTokers are accustomed to poor lighting and poor angles.

So please don’t wait until you’ve built your $1 million video studio to get into using TikTok!

However, I still highly recommend giving some thought (and budget dollars) to your equipment, angles, audio quality, and your lighting so that you can differentiate yourself from other content.

Videos with well-placed or interesting backgrounds and colors really stand out in the crowded space of the TikTok world.

Get out there and stake your claim in TikTok marketing!

So there are the ground rules that I recommend you keep in mind as you start out using TikTok.

Right now is an important time to begin using this new platform. 

So far, there are not that many colleges and universities taking advantage of this platform – especially private institutions

Now is the time to stake your claim and begin growing your TikTok audience.

Later, the space will become so crowded with other higher ed marketers, that it will be harder to make an impact on this social media platform.

As always, we’re here if you need help with any aspect of your education marketing. Feel free to reach out.

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Featured image by Inti St. Clair via Adobe Stock

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