Once you’ve decided if you’re school is ready for TikTok, you’ll need to put in the up-front time of setting up your account, creating a following and adding some content. If your school has a presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, you’re at least somewhat familiar with the process of setting up a new social account. But part of the reason TikTok is effective is because it’s a little different from other platforms – so the set-up process is different, too.
Plan content before creating a TikTok account
The average TikTok user spends almost an hour a day on the platform – so you need to make sure your content is worth a few of those minutes! Have some ideas in mind for videos before you create an account for your school. Even just an introductory video – maybe featuring some of your students – would be appropriate.
Bring your students into this conversation. It might even be worthwhile to create a small “TikTok advisory committee” with faculty, staff, and student representation. They can help your communications team plan and create content for placing on your school TikTok account. Here are some fun ideas for TikTok videos for your district or school:
- TikTok challenges
- Sporting events and practices
- Quick interviews with teachers or staff
Some content, like news updates or formal messages from teachers or administration (which might be appropriate for Facebook Live or Instagram Live), is not going to find a good home on TikTok. This platform should be for quick, personable videos created by and for your community members. Keep it light, fun and playful!
DC Everest (Wisconsin) School District is one district that has taken the plunge with an official TikTok account. Beware the "unofficial" accounts that may not present your school in such a positive light.
How to set up a school TikTok account
TikTok’s help center will walk you through the nitt-gritty details of creating a TikTok account for your school, which isn’t very difficult. You can sign up using an email address, phone number or your school’s Twitter or Facebook account.
Pro tip: To streamline the sign-in process for your social platforms, you also might want use SSO via Google and add TikTok as a single sign-on domain. This way, multiple creators can access your TikTok account without the constant need to share passwords and usernames.
Choose an identifiable username for your school’s TikTok account, but don’t stress to much: you can change it later. When you get onto the app, you’ll have two feeds side by side: For You, which is just TikTok’s aggregated guesses about what you’ll like based on some (very limited) information, and Following. Since you haven’t started following anyone, and TikTok hasn’t had any time to get to know you, these might be pretty strange at first.
Who your school should follow on TikTok
Choosing who to follow is an important part of creating a useful TikTok presence for your school. Here are some ideas:
- Your students: More than a quarter of TikTok users are teenagers between 13 to 17 years old. If your district has a high school, this means your students are likely on TikTok and they should be targeted as your following. Students might even have some school-related content, if you’re lucky!
- Other schools: Other schools can be a great resource for content ideas.
- Educators: There is a large community of teachers and instructors on TikTok that provide educational videos or musings on the education industry. Some of them are certainly worth following.
Playing with editing features on TikTok
When you record a video in the TikTok app, you have a selection of cool editing features at your disposal. From the most basic – like playback speed – to filters and even a green screen that you can use to change the background of your video, there is a lot to discover on your school’s TikTok account. You can even add text to the finished video to emphasize a part of your message.
Don’t get too fancy with your first video. Use some basic video edits at first until you’re more familiar with the app, and dedicate some time to playing with these tools.
The importance of audio on TikTok
TikTok is a surprisingly audio-focused app, despite the fact that it’s a video platform. Particularly for TikTok Challenges, you might have to find some very specific audio.
At the top of the screen when you’re recording in the TikTok app, there is a “Sound” button. Clicking this opens a library of sound effects and music. You can also use your own recorded sound, which you should do if you’re talking, but most popular TikTok videos have an audio overlay of some kind. But for your first video, keep it simple!
Upload your school’s first TikTok video
Once you’re happy with your video, there are three more steps to publishing it: set a cover image, write a caption, and choose your hashtags! The cover image will be a thumbnail still from your video. Make it intriguing!
The 150-word caption should be a short description of your video, using hashtags and keywords that will help TikTok decide where to promote your content. This is perhaps the most important part of your entire TikTok process!
TikTok will suggest several keywords for you, and you can also see how popular a certain hashtag is when you put type it in. Use very popular search terms for your first few videos, to ensure you get lots of traffic.
TikTok also offers a “Drafts” button at the end of the process, so you can save your TikTok video as a draft and let another content team member review it before you post.
Not so fast, TikTok!
While TikTok has the potential to be fun and useful for your school community, it’s not without a little controversy. It’s important that schools are aware of how parents and families feel about this app – the user base can skew young, and, like so many social media platforms, it has been associated with cyber bullying. Furthermore, TikTok is Chinese-owned, which has contributed to some concerns over the app’s security.
Another thing to consider before you go diving into the wild west of TikTok videos is this: social media expert Andrea Gribble says your time might be best focused elsewhere.
"It's all about time a resources," said Gribble, who's been helping schools manage their social media since 2014. "While it's certainly easy to say you're going to add another hot new social media channel to reach your kids and younger parents, it does take time to manage that and most schools don't have the bodies to do that."
Gribble went on to say that Facebook is where schools get the most bang for their social media buck.
Using TikTok analytics for your school
TikTok’s “pro” feature gives you access to a wealth of analytical data that can be useful for your communications team. It gives you detailed feedback about what days and times you get the most engagement on your videos, so you can be more intentional about when you post your content.
If you want to promote interest in your school via TikTok, this feature is key. It’s also FREE, so there’s really no reason not to “go pro” on your school’s TikTok account. Just go to “Me” then click the three dots in the upper righthand corner. From there, click “Manage Account” and “Switch to Pro Account.”
Use this data to create even better, more targeted TikTok videos for your rapidly growing audience.
Emma Castleberry is an education writer and contributor to the Campus Suite Academy blog. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.