Three Questions to Consider as Leaders Mull TikTok Ban
From viral pranks to heart-melting confessions, it has become hard to avoid TikTok—and Gen Z’s obsession with the social media platform. But an outcry over data and privacy concerns has both government and higher education institutions thinking twice.
In short order, TikTok has become an essential part of schools’ marketing and communication strategies, but with lingering worries about its future, many are turning to alternatives. If TikTok is restricted or outright banned, what other social media platforms do students use, and what will savvy institutions need to do to keep up?
TikTok Recent History
Owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company, TikTok is subject to a Chinese law that requires companies to give their government any data relevant to the country’s national security. In other words, if the Chinese government asked ByteDance to turn over user data, it would have to comply. TikTok’s CEO said in a congressional hearing that there is no evidence that the Chinese government has access to the data and has never asked for it, but because of the vast amount of data TikTok collects, the fear still exists.
Recently, many state governments and public institutions started banning the social media app on government devices—or in the case of Montana, on any device. Some institutions are banning it from being accessed on campus-based internet services, to the annoyance of their students.
While TikTok is by far the trendiest social media platform, and one where schools have found great success, the question on the minds of many university marketing departments these days is: who uses it most and what are the best alternatives?
Alternatives to TikTok?
Eduventures conducts annual survey research of both high school-aged (Student Sentiment Research™) and adult prospective students (Adult Prospect Research™). We ask both audiences how often they use specific social media apps or platforms.
Of prospects who use TikTok daily, Figure 1 shows which other social media platforms they also use. This is broken out by age cohort.
Figure 1 indicates that for avid TikTok users, Instagram and YouTube are the most accessed alternative social media platforms. But beyond this observation, key differences emerge based on age.
- Snapchat: 75% of high school students report daily use of Snapchat, compared to 65% of 19- to 24-year-olds, and just 49% of 25- to 44-year-olds. In fact, for avid high school TikTok users, Snapchat is the second most used social media, beating out YouTube.
- Facebook: On the other hand, just 28% of high school students report daily usage of Facebook, compared to 54% of 19- to 24-year-olds, and 81% of 25- to 44-year-olds. For this older age cohort, Facebook is the second most popular social media platform.
The data confirms what we intuitively know: age plays a role in social media preference and consumption. Younger prospects who use TikTok prefer Snapchat. Older TikTok users prefer Facebook. Instagram and YouTube span all ages.
The Bottom Line
Regardless of the future of TikTok, institutions need sound digital marketing and social media strategies that drive engagement, increase reach, and enhance brand appeal. Social media is an important tool to help guide interested prospects to your institution’s website.
Here are three questions institutions need to be thinking about when it comes to their social media and marketing:
- How prevalent should social media be in digital marketing plans? The goal of a digital marketing plan with a focus on driving engagement and enrollment to prospective student cohorts is to be present in the places that cohorts are already spending their time. For Gen Z, social platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram represent significant opportunities to reach these prospects and therefore offer the chance to influence marketing goals significantly. These platforms should be strategically used in a significant way.
- How diversified should your social media strategy be? Prospective students are no longer single platform adopters. Gen Z requires an omnichannel approach to create influence. Diversification is the key. Yes, lots of students use TikTok – but many of those same students are just as active on popular platforms like Snapchat.
- What considerations should university marketing departments be thinking about when it comes to their social media strategies? Content. Content. Content. Create content in paid efforts that feels organic. Effective social engagement combines a mixture of both organic and paid content. Paid strategy drives new engagement while organic drives ongoing interest and interaction.
The New Normal: Successfully Recruiting the Whole Family
In this on-demand webinar, Eduventures Principal Analyst Kim Reid and Vice President of Encoura Digital Solutions Jason Stevens dive into the latest findings from Eduventures 2023 Prospective Student Research™ and lay the framework for best digital marketing practices to engage Gen-Z.