Ohio University has joined millions of other users and created a TikTok account to connect with students.
With just over 200 followers, its content includes tips for incoming freshmen, dorm-friendly recipes and even squirrel facts. Stephanie Fiorelli, social media specialist, said that based on her research, 60% of all users on the platform are in the 16 to 24 age range, and spend about an hour on the app each day.
“So that's not just where our current students are, but where our potential students are,” Fiorelli said.
She said that in addition to doing research to make sure the app wasn’t going to be shut down, they decided the two main audiences of the account were current and prospective students. Fiorelli said the analytics indicated that most videos being viewed on TikTok are from outside the university.
“Maybe the stuff that we're putting on there isn't going to be totally relevant to everybody who sees it because this is very focused on Ohio University, but also how can we leverage that on our other channels,” Fiorelli said.
For example, Fiorelli said a video that got 300 views on TikTok got 5,000 views on Instagram stories because of its established following on that platform.
“My goal for the content is to make the college experience easier and to show the amazing things that Ohio University has and that Athens has,” Fiorelli said. “There's so many people who have an expertise around campus, whether that's like staff members who are working with students or students themselves.”
Fiorelli said that they are working with various partners to create content for the account, including Residence Life, the Academic Achievement Center and student organizations.
“I think having our students be making this content, they understand … what type of things that they would be interested in, and also how to make it interesting and funny for their audience,” Fiorelli said.
Grace Dearing, a senior studying journalism and student social media coordinator for University Communications and Marketing, said that she helps to provide a student perspective on videos.
“When we talk about this in our meetings and stuff, TikTok is such an interesting algorithm because it’s so interesting to see what shows up on peoples For You Pages and what doesn’t,” Dearing said.
Fiorelli said that to create content, they always start out with a brainstorming session to consider issues or ideas that might be common among students.
“And then we kind of dive deeper into what their specialty might be,” Fiorelli said. “So, for a student org, that might be what type of events are they doing, what type of thing do they do in their meetings.”
Donna Gallo, digital content director, said that they are also working on offering campus tours through TikTok and Instagram stories for incoming students.
“We really hope to see a lot of our admitted students coming in with questions, asking to see places that they would have wanted to see had they been able to come here, and then just have this be a very, sort of, real time response opportunity to engage with their students before they even arrive,” Gallo said.
Dearing said that the account provides a window into what life is like in Athens for prospective students and those that are home due to COVID-19.
“Not only is it just fun to sort of feel like you're part of the community even if you can't physically be here right now, but also has that informative side as well,” Dearing said.
Fiorelli said that creating a well-performing video includes an interesting idea, a trendy sound, challenge or hashtag. They are also working to get verified, she said.
Dearing said that using popular audios is one of the best ways to get content to reach students.
“You know, not necessarily making a viral video but we are really fortunate to be on the campus that we are on,” Gallo said. “Because we have noticed that the things that are really engaging, with our alumni as well as our current students and our prospect students, is just how beautiful the campus is.”
Dearing said that TikTok offers a way for students to communicate, and it is important for OU to stay updated on where students are finding each other.
“It’s always good to stay in touch, in the loop and up to date with the trends of those people that you're trying to communicate to,” Dearing said.
Fiorelli said that including diverse voices is important to her to make every Bobcat feel welcome at OU.
“With having 20,000 students on campus, there are so many different stories and experiences, and I want to share them all,” Fiorelli said.