What is TikTok?
TikTok, formerly referred to as Musical.ly, officially hit the scene in 2016 in China. TikTok and Musical.ly started off as lip-syncing apps where users could sing along to their favorite songs and edit the video into a short 15-second experience. Fast forward to 2018, TikTok was one of the most downloaded mobile apps for Apple and Android devices with nearly 1.5 billion downloads.
Today, TikTok has shifted into a platform that can do much more. It has turned into a launching pad for viral memes, comedic skits, musical sensations, and the most popular – TikTok collaborative and trending challenges. In addition, TikTok is starting to be used as an informative and easy way of teaching to teen audience.
More than 500 million people around the globe use TikTok monthly, with the largest population of users coming from India and 150 million users in China (data as November 2019).
These users usually spend close to an hour a day using the app. 66% of those 500 million users are under the age of thirty, so the most common users and viewers are Generation Z.
Gen Z, College Students & TikTok
Generation Z is defined as anyone born between 1994-2015 making it the youngest, most recent generation. Gen Zers are currently between the ages of 5-25 years old. In regards to media consumption, most of this generation had some kind of access to mobile phones since an early age, whether it was their own or a parent’s or guardian’s. The majority of their world has been hyper-connected to technology.
Based upon user statistics, Gen Z is loving TikTok. 41% of TikTok users are between the ages of 16-24, translating as a major demographic for potential and current college-aged students. With teens able to log on as early as 13 (even earlier as it appears that pre-teens have found creative means to be on the app), they have single-handedly propelled the success of the app.
Gen Z users report feeling included in a digital community that isn’t chalked full of famous influencers. They love TikTok for its rawness and realness compared to the perceived perfection of Instagram and YouTube. It’s a straight-forward platform that is centered around creativity and just having a fun time.
The First Signs of TikTok on Campus
The University of Florida was one of the very first colleges on the platform, setting a trend and possibly a future common practice in higher education: making TikTok a part of its campus life. With over 93,000 fans and nearly a total of more than a million hearts (similar to the number of likes on other apps), University of Florida has paved the way for higher education institutions on TikTok.
“I can’t stress this enough: as social media managers in higher education, our job is to keep the university relevant. If TikTok is the new thing, jump headfirst and immerse yourself in it and start creating. The user base is mostly middle/high schoolers, who will eventually attend college. So it just makes sense for us to engage directly with that audience.” – Ryan Morejon, Social Media Specialist at the University of Florida
Student Reactions to a Campus TikTok Presence
Another exciting outcome is the positive response thus far from TikTok users who discover university branded accounts. Students are shocked and proud to see their schools on TikTok. It’s almost like they get brownie points for going to a school that’s “in the know.”
Students use the app to post content and talk about their college experience. For example, this TikTok post about waking up on Monday mornings from students of Alabama State University, titled “College am I right”, received over 75,000 likes and 318 comments. They are wearing Roll Tide apparel and the comments are full of users showing off their school spirit.