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Dawn GeertsemaSeptember, 13, 20235 min read

How TikTok Legislation May Affect Your Marketing

College and university students today are navigating an unforgiving maze, balancing coursework, relationships, jobs and an increased awareness of devastating world events. It’s a recipe for disaster for their mental health.

TikTok is one of the top-performing social media apps among current and prospective higher education students. Since so much of the Gen Z audience frequents the app, it is one of the most valuable platforms for reaching potential undergraduate students in traditional higher education marketing.

TikTok is a flagship social media app for Gen Z, having influenced many other platforms to change their video functionality. YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels are just a few of the formats that have mimicked the short, vertical videos that so many on TikTok scroll through every day.

For higher ed marketers, TikTok enables ad targeting based on interests and interactions, which allows your ads to filter to the most relevant potential students. These capabilities create more relevant and effective advertising campaigns on the platform.

According to a 2022 Pew Research Center study, two-thirds of those aged 13 to 17 use TikTok, making it one of the top two most-used apps for this age group.

Since Gen Z makes up the majority of current and prospective college students, including the teenagers from the study, TikTok can be a crucial tool for college marketers. TikTok has the power to reach your higher education institution’s target audiences where they are in a way that is most likely to stick with them.

But not everyone sees the potential in TikTok. In fact, many U.S. lawmakers are concerned about data security on TikTok due to its overseas ownership, pushing to pass bills through Congress at the federal and state levels.

Let's dive into the impact of this TikTok legislation and what it could mean for institutions like yours.

TikTok & The Law

While TikTok is one of the best platforms on which to reach Gen Z, the federal government has recently become concerned about how foreign-owned TikTok uses U.S. citizen data. As a result, there are a handful of bills in Congress that aim to ban TikTok from states, institutions and government devices.

In January of this year, a bill known as the Terminate TikTok on Campus Act of 2023 was introduced into the House of Representatives and referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

If passed, this bill would prevent all United States higher education institutions from receiving federal funds unless the institution bans the use of TikTok on campus and campus devices.

In more than half of the U.S., state governments have prohibited TikTok on government devices, on public college campuses or entirely.

For most of these schools, it simply means that TikTok is blocked from campus Wi-Fi networks and devices. For others, like those in Montana, it means a full ban across the state.

What the Bans Mean

As a college marketer, it’s crucial to stay up to date on what your state laws mandate or prohibit when it comes to TikTok use.

If TikTok is banned on your campus, this may limit how many people in your target audiences you would be able to reach with your advertising messages. If your institution had a TikTok presence prior to the ban, let your followers know what other platforms they can find you on through a post or through your bio.

Despite concerns with TikTok, many colleges are still able to utilize TikTok to its full potential to draw in prospects and raise awareness of their institution’s brand.

If you are a marketer lucky enough to be on a campus without TikTok regulations, be sure to take advantage of the flagship app and its capabilities for your marketing efforts.

TikTok Capabilities

Authentic, unpolished content does best on the app, creating a perfect platform for higher education institutions to showcase various aspects of their school—campus life, student highlights and looks behind the scenes.

Since TikTok has targeting capabilities for advertisers, your institution’s organic ad content can easily reach the right people based on their interests, interactions, age, income, behaviors, location and more — connecting your ads to the most relevant potential students.

TikTok also allows you to utilize Spark Ads, which seamlessly combines the use of an institution’s organic TikTok content and an agency’s marketing efforts. This allows you to post an ad in your organic feed, ensuring that all interactions with the post coincide with the organic post.

Another way to use Spark Ads is to take an organic post that is already in your feed, add a call to action and deliver it as an ad to a new group of potential students.

Additionally, you could use Spark Ads with organic posts made by another creator, such as an on-campus club or a local TikTok celebrity on campus. Partnering with influencers in your area can be a useful strategy when recruiting using TikTok.

Epic Best Practices

At Epicosity, our media buyers engage our target audiences wherever they are consuming media so long as the platform is proven to encourage interaction and ultimately drive conversions. In the current media space, short-form vertical videos are the most popular form of content, as they are digestible and easily shared. TikTok has seen tremendous growth based on this form of content, as has YouTube Shorts, Snapchat Discover and Reels on the Meta suite of products.  

Of course, with our partners, we respect any legalities involved with platforms. But as long as our audience is present on the platform and our partners are open to using the platform, we will utilize it in a productive manner.

Looking for someone to amplify your recruitment campaign? At Epicosity, we have a team that specializes in higher education. Reach out to learn more about working with our Epic Commons team.



Chronicle of Higher Education: Public Colleges

Inside Higher Ed: Despite Bans

Pew Research

Congress: Terminate TikTok on Campus Act of 2023

Congress: No TikTok on Government Devices Act

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