How TikTok is taking over the education sector

In this episode of Most Clicked, we talk about how TikTok is taking over the education sector

Today on Most Clicked, Nathan, Matt and Kyle accidentally do a TikTok special.

TikTok is now bigger than Google

More people visited TikTok in 2021 than Google. Let’s pause for a moment and consider 1) why this could be the case and 2) what this means for your marketing. Firstly, TikTok not only entertains but (like Google) provides answers. It’s not uncommon for Gen Z to learn via the app – finance, international business, marketing… You can learn it all on TikTok. Supercharge this content with the world’s best algorithm and your entertainment becomes your learning – also, when’s the last time Google made you laugh? In 2022, the best move a university can make on TikTok is to niche down on a specialist topic. If you’re known for the arts, maybe that’s having your students educate your audience on how to make a living as a creative? Or, if you’re more focused on business – how about, every day, an alumnus shares one thing they wish they’d known about the world of work? The key is to start small and be consistent.

Plymouth gives TikTok want it wants

University of Plymouth asked “what would happen if you placed 1,650 ping-pong balls in liquid nitrogen?” and TikTok responded with 105K views. It’s the perfect example of university content that does well on the platform: Visual demonstrations and blowing sh*t up. Maybe the uni should start a side channel or at the very least repurpose this for an open day ad. It’s cool.

Gen-Z is wearing iPods in its hair is millennial kryptonite 

Someone using iPod Nanos as hair clips blew up TikTok. Apparently, this style is called “retro millennial” which absolutely terrifies me.

Nathan Monk
Hello and welcome to Most Clicked, the first Most Clicked of 2022. Happy New Year. So Most Clicked is our show where we round up the biggest news stories in HE digital marketing and break them down. So I’m joined by good friends, Kyle Campbell and Matt Lees, who are here to help me break down those stories. Happy New Year.

Matt Lees
Happy New Year, both.

Kyle Campbell
Happy New Year. Good to be back.

Nathan Monk
Good to be back. Indeed. Yeah. And we’ve got three stories for this episode of Most Clicked. And they’re all pretty related, I think. But Kyle, why don’t you do the honours? What is the first story of 2022, please?

Kyle Campbell
They’re all based on TikTok, which I didn’t realise until about three minutes ago.

Matt Lees
It’s sponsored by TikTok

Kyle Campbell
Indeed, indeed. It’s good though because I think we always do this, don’t we? Like did I put the stories in my newsletter? I find them but then we only share the ones that people read the most. So it’s quite significant that people are reading a lot about TikTok, isn’t it? So that was the first one we have is a general sort of piece about TikTok and outperforming. It outperformed Google in 2021. I don’t think Google has been knocked off the top spot in terms of internet traffic for a decade, at least.

This is incredible, and you have Google which is obviously like the utility of the web, ie the thing you need to actually find stuff. And obviously, there are other search engines. But it’s the go-to one, isn’t it? And to see it knocked off its top spot, not by another utility, but by a social platform. Wow, a different category of a thing knocking off the top. I mean, Nath, you’re a heavy user of TikTok?

Nathan Monk
Yeah, I probably contribute at least 75% of that traffic. Yeah, I mean to be a that is representative of my usage of the internet, I think it’s got to be the most used app on my phone now by a long stretch. I know that Matt and I commonly talk in the “Did you see that TikTok” language now?

Matt Lees
I’m lost to it, it just consumes time like nothing else.

Nathan Monk
But I think the thing that I actually hadn’t realised until I read your newsletter, Kyle, is that you had said, you can do so much on TikTok or at least TikTok makes you think you can do so much like learning. I’ve learnt things, I was saying to Matt the other day like I’ve been cooking fried eggs wrong for my entire existence until I found a TikTok the other day about how to cook an egg properly. And there definitely is a thing of like, it’s not, yes, TikTok is the ludicrous content and I love it for that.

I love it for the throwback to the vine days of just outlandish six-second clips, or people falling over on the hilarity that ensues. But there are other things like you know, from the little tiny life hacks like how to cook an egg through to the recipes. I’ve genuinely gone in the last year, I’ve cooked recipes from TikTok through to even more meaningful things like there’s, admittedly, I saw a TikTok last night, there was about the backlash of business TikTok, where people are giving you CV hacks and things like that.

And there’s a bit of alike, no, I just want owls falling over again, please. But there is so much to it. And the algorithm, which I know you’ve covered previously, Kyle and how I think TikTok is gonna sell access to the algorithm or something. It learns so fast and yes, TikTok knows. I mean, does all of this sound similar to your experience Matt?

Matt Lees
100% I was gonna mention because you put in your newsletter about the algorithm, Kyle, and its daft little things like, before Christmas, I was fitting a kitchen, hadn’t gone on to TikTok to look for anything related to that. But all of a sudden, there’s people tiling their kitchen. I’ve seen videos of these things and I’m like, how does it know and how does it time it so perfectly it’s uncanny.

Kyle Campbell
So all big fans of TikTok so I guess if you’re a university marketer, bringing it back round, and you don’t have a presence on this app yet, I think this year is the year and if anything, if your resources still mainly going, it’s like Twitter and Facebook, wherever other channels are on YouTube, etc. It might be time to rebalance. And it’s a good time early in the year to think about these sorts of things. But yeah, it’s not a fad. It’s here, it’s massive. And there’s no other social channel ever knocked Google off the top spot. So yeah, definitely worth your time to get involved.

Nathan Monk
It’s phenomenal growth, I think, absolutely phenomenal.

Kyle Campbell
Incredible. So our next story is, again, TikTok related, a university example. This time, I was a bit late to the party and this one and this video isn’t particularly new, but it did catch my attention. Ironically, I found it first on YouTube. And it was in kind of like mobile format, and I thought well they must have used this on TikTok. And it didn’t do very well on YouTube, as you’d expect, but it’s really really popular on TikTok, and it’s the University of Plymouth, it’s got 100,000 views.

It’s essentially one of their scientists blowing up a big bucket of ping pong balls with liquid nitrogen. This has all the makings of a brilliant TikTok video, it has the unexpected result, it’s very visual and it has that sort of kind of rapidness about it, I love the slowdown footage there, really, really cool, very shareable. So I was thinking that you know, in addition to having sort of channels like this as a university, I think content like that really cries out to even have side channels. So you can have your university profile on TikTok.

But then you might have a separate channel, this just like science blow sh*t up, or whatever it is. The same content, time and time again, different results, build a following. I’d love to see more of that stuff but I don’t see many universities are doing it yet. You don’t need to have your brand on it, you can just create a side channel and then worry about what you do with that later. Get the audience first, then you can do what you want with it. But yeah, lots of potential really, really good than what you guys thought of that?

Matt Lees
Yeah, I went through a phase of seeing a lot of videos where people were putting random objects into a giant press and seeing what the press did to them like stress toys or, you know, toy cars, lighters, whatever it happens to be. And yeah, they’re strangely addictive to watch. And once you’ve seen a couple of them, they show up all the time. You see a lot of kind of science-based stuff. And I was interested to hear your thoughts, Kyle on how you take something like that, but then actually turn that into recruited students, how you use that following to then turn it into conversions.

Kyle Campbell
It’s an interesting one, isn’t it? I think with any kind of content marketing initiative, if you focus on building some sort of profile or platform that attracts an audience to it, you can think about this sort of stuff that further down the line, if you’ve got a bunch of people who are mid to late teens, looking at your content, as university-related, science-related, you don’t necessarily have to go the undergraduate route, you could go down like short courses, or just a lower cost or whatever it is.

You could invite people onto campus for in-person events, and then build off the property that way, there are lots of ways you can do it. It’s not a familiar route to market for a lot of universities. But there are loads of content creators out there who build that channel first, and then monetize that content or build on that content in some way further down the line. There’s absolutely no problem in building up an audience for 6 to 12 months and then going into that second base of monetization.

Nathan Monk
I kind of had this shower thought the other day, actually, which is that TikTok is perfect for universities to begin their sales funnels earlier. And actually, in hindsight, I’m not saying that the pandemics behind us, but during the pandemic was actually a really neat time. And I’d love to know if any universities have really taken advantage of this, but would have been a really neat time for universities to start targeting people way earlier in the recruitment period, and I know that there are universities that will start targeting kind of 12/13-year-olds, I know there’s a whole thing around that.

But I’m talking about the 13 to 16 gap, and actually starting the sales process earlier, totally makes sense for a competitive advantage for universities to start doing that, and I don’t know many that have really laid any groundwork to do that, again, very interested in any universities that have but TikTok seems like a great platform to do that. And I think it’s just its things about the algorithm. It’s things about the absurdity of content that can you can get people interested in a subject area very early on, by not being recruitment content, by simply being cool content that later on can transition to ‘Now we think that you’re into this type of content. Why not come and study for three years at a university?’

Kyle Campbell
‘We happen to offer a course on this topic? Here’s the person you’ve seen doing the TikTok’s’, and all that, it becomes more of a package then, doesn’t it?

Nathan Monk
Yeah, exactly. You know, a slower burn process for sure. And obviously, I know there will be some risk attached to that. But like say, I had this shower thought and I was like, huh, yeah, TikTok’s exactly how you could that

Kyle Campbell
Yeah, yeah, for sure.

Matt Lees
I think so like later in the cycle as well, lifestyle comes into it. I saw some examples from, I think it was LSE. I think they were paid, they were ads as much as anything, but they were like user-generated things around the lifestyle that studying their degree at LSE was allowing them to do and there’s was this guy, and he was at home and he was studying from home, he had his dog there. And I think one of the lines was more time to spend with my pup or something along those lines. It was kind of selling that lifestyle, as well as the experience that you talk about there

Nathan Monk
I was gonna say TikTok seems to be one of the social platforms that seem to have gathered a lot of age demographics very quickly. Like usually they start as youth audiences and slowly creep up to like boomers. But this one, you know, there seems to be a TikTok for everybody on there at that moment. So what is our third and final story, Kyle?

Kyle Campbell
Our final story is again, TikTok related. In the culture shock of my newsletter, I like it when the content in this area does really well because often really weird and wonderful stories. And now essentially, this is a TikTok of someone who was using Apple iPods like early editions, sort of the early 2000s, as hair clips and every millennial exploded. And it had 2 million views and this person here, she has a Depop store, which is sort of like a, it’s the opposite of fast fashion. It’s like finding kind of retro and used clothes and selling online, building your own profile while doing so. And she’s built this TikTok channel and she highlights all the fashion items that she has to sell and the outfits etc.

And it’s a way in for her business essentially. We’re talking about ways to monetize there. That’s one way this person has done. But the hook here is, oh my gods, you know, the shuffles are now a retro item. And I cry inside, it’s painful. But it’s wonderful to watch because that means that sort of nostalgia and retro periods, the distance between this in terms of time is getting squashed a wee bit. So I wonder if retro is now four years ago? No, it’s funny. I just loved it. It’s painful to watch, maybe. But at the same time, it’s hilarious.

Nathan Monk
Yeah, I saw this one. This one came up on my for you page. I was one of the outraged millennials. I was like, how does this? I had that realisation of like, if you remember an iPod Shuffle, you’re old now. But it is quite interesting. I don’t know how universities can exactly leverage that. But it’s definitely one of the reasons that TikTok is, in my opinion, deservedly in that number one spot for traffic this year.

Kyle Campbell
Yeah, I think the message to take from it, though, is how an idea that just a small clip like that can explode without any profile history, without any sort of tried and tested methods of content marketing, it’s a viral piece of content that finds an audience quite easily on the platform and has no presence before anything like that. So if you’re creative, and you have something that connects with a lot of people, then you can be literally overnight hit on TikTok, and I don’t think there’s any other channel that has an algorithm that promotes content in that way and that makes them unique. So yeah, with you Nath, I just think there’s there’s a lot of opportunities here on TikTok this year.

Nathan Monk
You know, I know a lot of the kind of ad agencies and media people, if you’re on LinkedIn, you’ll see them talking about how you should be exploiting TikTok. So I’m really excited to see what universities bring to the table this year and I expect to be targeted heavily by those people. It was it’s been lovely to have you guys back. Happy New Year once again. And see you in a couple of weeks. Kyle, Matt, I’m excited to do more Most Clicked this year. So on that basis, if you want to find out more about Most Clicked, you can do so wearesmile.com/mostclicked. There are lots of ways now we’re on YouTube, LinkedIn, we’re a podcast. We’d love to hear from you, do get in touch but for now, have a great day and see you soon. Bye.

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Elliott Barnicle

Lead Designer