How harmless TikTok drama benefits everyone

This week on Most Clicked, we discuss how starting harmless drama on TikTok can benefit everyone involved and really elevate the wider conversation.

Everyone is talking about the University of Nottingham and its “world-first” micro-prospectus, including the University of Gloucestershire that pointed out (in what we think is the first-ever example of university beef) that it had already been doing something similar for the last three years. It’s risky, funny and very TikTok.

Check out the TikTok here

Nathan Monk
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the Most Clicked. In Most Clicked, we take the most popular story from the Education Marketer newsletter and we break it down. This week we are talking about university beefs in what is going to be or what is I should say actually, what is the most popular item ever to have graced Most Clicked by a long stretch or at least so I am told. We are joined this week by none other than influencer megastar from the University of Gloucestershire, Hesham. Hi Hesham. And yeah, it’s really is a popular one this week. Kyle, what’s the story?

Kyle Campbell
Yeah, I like that phrase ‘University beef’. I think that’s probably what attracted all those clicks. But the story is that University of Nottingham released the world’s first micro prospectus and there is a really high-quality video covering what it is, I recommend people can have a look at it. But the whole emphasis behind that was it’s a micro prospectus, it’s small so you then scan a QR code and go and look at your prospectus online. And the angle and the hook was there this makes it green, sustainable, etc and we’re the first ever to do something like this. But Hesham to my knowledge, Gloucestershire has probably been doing that for quite some time in a different form, nonetheless. But your TikTok was incredible, very well timed very tastefully put together. We call it university beef, but as beef goes is quite nice natured and very humorous. But I just wanted you to share with our audience some of your thinking behind this, what happened in the office at the time, you know, why did you jump on it and talk to me a little bit about the execution because it’s absolutely brilliant.

A TikTok from the University of Gloucestershire bantering with University of Nottingham about the launch of their micro prospectus

Hesham Abdelhamid
Okay, thank you. It’s a really interesting story, myself and my colleague, Lewis Ford, who is the other social media officer. So I’m a social media officer at the university and we work as part of a huge team that helps the university grow, get people to notice who we are, we were on campus and classic, in true digital marketing style. The group chats going off. Have you seen this? Have you seen this? Then my own friends sending me being like, Oh my God, have you seen the University of Nottingham just announced that they’re the world’s first-ever digital prospectus. Now everyone at the University of Gloucestershire knows that’s not true. And we’ve been doing it now and we’re in our third year, I believe, that was launched in 2020 after the pandemic. I think a lot of research went into figuring out what young people care about the most and sustainability is a huge issue. Climate control is huge. So we, the university decided to kind of cut all paper prospectuses and go with a more eco-friendly, green-conscious solution of creating these bookmarks and wristbands, so people who we meet out and about, like at fairs, and when we go to schools, they can scan a QR code and get in touch with us, and then they can reuse this piece of paper. So when we saw the University of Nottingham, doing it, our first thought is like, hold on a second, that’s not correct.

And then my second thought was like, Oh, this is really cool. What we’ve actually done is enacting change is inspiring other universities to kind of follow suit and get rid of paper, because if you think about it, on average universities print over 20,000 copies of prospectuses, some universities print a whole lot more. They’re the size of like a full-on novel, that’s a lot of paper. So we said we want to do something that kind of gives them a nod to being like, hello, we’re here, we’ve done this already. But also we want to recognise how important it is for universities to kind of do this thing. And we had a lot of ideas in the office and Lewis and I kind of narrowed it down to using just TikTok as a way of responding to it because we saw they published on TikTok and yeah, we decided to use a very funny noise and sound that’s trending and TikTok. Which, I think I believe it’s called, Am I allowed to swear? So they call it shit flute, which just is like an awful recorder sound. And we were like, you know what this is the perfect thing in true social media manager like thinking, the more ridiculous it is, the better. And yeah, we decided to duet their video and publish it. And it took us, it took about a week and a half for us to be like, Oh, they’re not gonna bite, they’re not gonna respond. But they have since responded. They have admitted that we were the first and they were very apologetic about it. Apparently, their social media team had COVID so they were off. So I hope they’re okay now, I hope they’re healthy. But yeah, it was one of those classic things of how can we take this kind of like, what you call beef, which I love that term, by the way. And then how can we present accurate information, but also commend them for taking the right steps in the right direction? So yeah, if anyone from Uni of Nottingham watches this, it’s all a bit of banter. We love banter on social, but also congrats on like, launching something that is in the right step. And I really hope other universities follow suit.

Kyle Campbell
Yeah. 100%. And I have a follow-up question on to this, you know, when you were designing your response, your idea? Did anyone say, hang on a minute, is there any risk attached to this? Because I know some universities would never have done that in a million years. And it is nice natured. And it’s funny, and it’s executed really well. But it could have gone a different way. So I wonder if you’ve got anything to say to people about the nature of risk and TikTok. How perhaps you might be able to get away with more on that platform than you would on others?

Hesham Abdelhamid
Well, let me start off by saying the first ideas that we had were a bit too rude, were a bit more like forwards like blunt, in your face confrontational. Then we said, okay, what does it actually achieve? Because yeah, it’s funny, and it can get a lot of shares. But like, it’s not good for us, it’s not good for them. There is obviously a risk to anything like this, where you respond to other brands and acknowledge other brands, I think a lot of institutions and brands, in general, try to emulate this idea that they’re the only one in their industry, that they’re the only one that exists, that their product means the most. But we are a university, we’re not selling a tangible product, we’re selling an experience that is so bespoke to certain people. So it’s really important for us to recognise other universities and kind of get engaged. And when we were thinking about what we should do, we literally just spoke about, okay, how do we kind of be tongue in cheek about saying, hey, you’re not the first hello, that’s not true. But also, how do we say, okay, also congratulations. And we think it’s a great thing for the planet. And it’s all about, yeah, we took a risk. And we were really lucky. And we were very lucky, myself and Lewis, who is my colleague who helped me film the TikTok that we have a team around us that is trusting of what we do, and they understand that we will never do anything that hurts the brand. I always say people that work in social media are people that genuinely love their brand, they believe in the message behind what they’re trying to sell to audiences.

So when we knew that we had to do it on TikTok, because technically, it’s one of the only platforms where we can be really, really tongue n cheek. And also, we just felt like it’d be really diminishing of University of Nottingham’s like efforts in announcing this thing if we do it on other platforms. And we didn’t want to do it across all platforms, because we felt that that would be a bit too much, and TikTok you can get away with so much. And that’s the best thing about it, I can pretend like I can pretend to play a recorder really badly, while holding our micro prospectus, trying to educate people on the effects prospectuses have on our environment without it being too serious or too heavy, because it’s a heavy topic, but we did it in a fun way. So I guess going back to your question, yes, there is a risk. And it’s one of those things that unless you take the risk, you’re not gonna know what’s gonna happen. And we have this kind of philosophy between me and Lewis, where we say, we just do it and see what happens like it was it wasn’t that could happen is that we have to take it down, which is fine. But you know what, at the end of the day, our TikTok did better than theirs. They weren’t hurt about it. They were very good sports about it.

Matt Lees
Just keeping that beef going, though aren’t you, keep on poking them.

Hesham Abdelhamid
I am always keeping it alive. I also thought about when we were thinking about doing this, I thought about like last year, or I think it was 2020 when this whole Colin the caterpillar thing about the cake happened on Twitter. And it’s a great example of how beef can be a great generator for engagement and reach and impressions, which if anyone that works in marketing or public relations that’s like gold to us. So we thought let’s just do it. The worst thing that could happen is that yeah, it doesn’t catch on. They might get offended. They might send us a strongly worded DM tell us how dare you and we just take it down but everyone won at the end, our audiences got to see their name and the logo and vice versa. So in my opinion, I think more universities should engage in more uni beef because it benefits all of us. And it also kind of creates a community around the higher education sector online that we all exist for different reasons, and ultimately to help create those amazing experiences for the students that come through. So yeah, go ahead, create more beef.

Most Clicked Episode 16 TikTok,glos

Nathan Monk
I could not have put it any better than that. And I think what your TikTok did for me is it just ignited this new passion that I desperately want it to be a new award category at every HE award ceremony like best university beef 2021. Kyle, you shared another one about Greenwich. And we were talking just before we came on, about how I didn’t realise that you were like, social media friends with Greenwich, they kind of called you out in another. I was like what let’s start let’s fuel another beef here. Let’s like tag and it’s, there’s something just really fun about it. I love it. And you’re right, everyone benefits. I personally, was like, because right at the end of that video, SMILE gets a name check. I was like, whoo, I didn’t know we were ranking that well, for those search terms. You know, with Matt and I, I think we’re pretty biassed. But I think we’re incredibly proud of that digital prospectus project. Like you say that the kind of the third iteration of it, and I too, it’s, at first, I think you kind of see other people doing, like, what they doing. what they doing, and I need to know more or less, but then you realise that actually, like the beef thing, everyone benefits if you’re all talking about the same topic of conversation, you know, if more universities are doing more sustainable initiatives, everybody in that arena benefits, it’s a great conversation to be having. But yeah, I’m here for more University beefs.

Hesham Abdelhamid
It’s also one of the things that like the reason why I say we should have more uni beef, it’s like in a light-hearted manner. And if any, like managers or communication managers are watching this, at the end of the day, all these university accounts, whether it’s on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, it’s managed by people like myself, humans who have feelings who have their own sense of humour. And it’s about its so much fun when we get to engage as you mentioned, we have a close relationship with some universities on TikTok like the University of Greenwich and the University of Reading, where we have these great relationships online, and we create content together, we duet, and we stitch TikTok’s together, but I’ve never met the people behind the screen. And it’s kind of that’s like the camaraderie that we all have. So yeah, it’s a great thing. Everyone benefits. And I think if any universities are watching this beef unfold, and if you’re thinking about going paperless with your prospectus, go for it. What we’re doing and what we’ve done two years ago, and what the University of Nottingham is doing, it proves that the people that we’re trying to reach, believe in this message, and they believe that paperless is the way to go. And like Nathan just said, we are obviously super, super proud of the work that we’ve done with SMILE and the prospectus and as we release this third instalment, something that we kind of wear proudly, as you can see in the TikTok. So yeah, there’s no harm and people following in our steps. And, please, if that means that we get to call you copycats, then do it.

Nathan Monk
Well, before we wrap up, actually, Matt, you and I, we’ve been doing a lot of work around prospectuses. I know that you’re kind of working on bits of research around digital prospectuses. How can people get in touch with you to talk about digital prospectuses in more detail?

Matt Lees
Through LinkedIn would be good. We can always strike up a conversation there or through our website, wearesmile.com. Yeah, reach out if it’s anything that you’ve considered, even if it’s just an early conversation, would love to pick that up with you and understand what you’re thinking of, what are the driving factors behind it? And yeah, that would really contribute to that research piece we’re doing.

Nathan Monk
Nice one, whilst we’re on plugs, Kyle, you recently went full-time Education Marketer, congratulations.

Kyle Campbell
Thank you. Thanks for the plug. I didn’t expect that was going to happen.

Nathan Monk
I just thought you know what, why not? Let’s add some plugs in. What’s the best way for people to contact you, Kyle if they want to get more insight all the time?

Kyle Campbell
Well, hit reply to the newsletter. That’s a good one. But also yeah, like most people these days LinkedIn, just send me a message and I would love to have a chat with you, it’d be great. But yeah, it’s great to be a full-time Education Marketer. It’s, it’s been years in the making, and although it might look like a leap to a lot of people. I’ve actually been working on this for a very long time. So yeah, I’m really happy. It’s great. It’s a great move full of energy for it. So yeah, it’s awesome.

Nathan Monk
Congratulations. And Hesham. I’m sure that people will want to get in touch with you to know more and probably even to just start new beefs I imagine now, so how can people start beef with you?

Hesham Abdelhamid
If people want to start beef I am available 24/7 Just @ at the University of Gloucestershire, uniofglos on Instagram. I’m here I’m ready. I’ve got my green screen ready to go

Nathan Monk
Fantastic. Well, I’ve really enjoyed this episode. This has been this has been fun. If you have enjoyed this episode, please consider dropping us a like maybe even a subscribe as well. That’d be great. We are live every Monday 9am GMT with your weekly dose of inspiration. So until next week, see you soon

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Elliott Barnicle

Lead Designer