How Can Education Providers Use TikTok To Engage With Learners?

Joshua Stoneham
October 18, 2023

TikTok is a growing arm of marketing across different industries and sectors. But is it now breaking into the education space to connect with learners in new ways?

If marketers in education want to pull this new lever of engagement, what is the best way to do it, and what opportunities can be found from utilising this exciting engagement tool?

Is TikTok the future of education marketing?

According to recent data from Hootsuite and Sensor Tower, TikTok has over 50 million active users and has been downloaded 3 billion times since its launch, making it one of the most popular social media apps in the world.

In an interview with Digiday, Rob Jewell, chief growth officer at Power marketing agency Power Digital, described how marketers are embracing TikTok. “While TikTok accounts for less than 10% of total spend for our marketing firm, it has more than doubled year over year,” he points out, “Advertisers that have tested TikTok generally see success in driving incremental revenue, and are continuing to double down on the platform,”

Large education institutions are embracing the trend of TikTok as well. Anu Hautalampi, head of social media at the University of Cambridge, spoke to Times Higher Education, saying that, “as our social media platforms are ageing, the users on them are also ageing, and we noticed that we weren’t really reaching the prospective student audiences anymore.” This led to the university embracing the social media app to connect with Gen Z users, saying it was a “no-brainer” of a decision. 

Providers can follow in the footsteps of major universities and connect with a wider range of users, most notably young learners aged 18-25.

Decide on your budget and goals before starting

Before starting a TikTok project, think about the specific goals you want to achieve. Do you want to increase enquiries or just raise your profile? Understand why you’re using it in the first place, and if you’re worried about investment risk, create more frequent content that is simple to produce.

If it doesn’t suddenly generate more money, don’t blame the platform. Think about whether your strategy is driving a user towards converting or whether it is there to raise awareness. If it’s the latter, you may have to wait longer before seeing the impact of TikTok, but it can pay dividends in the long run as you raise your profile amongst a younger audience. 

Decide on your style of content

TikTok content can focus on building your brand, which is done through Persona content, or you can seek to connect with your audience through a specific niche, known as subculture content.

Persona content is purely about getting your name out there. A good example of this is Duolingo, who successfully increased their market share on TikTok, amassing 7.8m followers  through their entertaining content. The key thing missing from their content was any kind of invitation to convert, focusing entirely on producing videos that featured their owl mascot ‘Duo’ in entertaining situations. 

Meanwhile, for brands that want to take a subculture-led approach to connect with users by focusing on a specific niche, such as course content, speaking to leaders in a space about innovative new products, knowledge, or topics can be a good engagement strategy. 

Providers can opt for a mix of these two styles, showing learners both their expertise in their space as well as showing their more entertaining side.

Be authentic

TikTok differs from most other social media platforms, whereby users mostly interact with content on their ‘For You Page’. This means that users are less likely to actively follow pages but wait for the algorithm to work out what it thinks they will likely do and then automatically provide them with the content when they open the app. 

This means users can be more wary of inauthentic, spammy or salesly content. The best result a marketer can hope for is for users to stay on their video when it pops up, similar to how they will interact with non-marketing content. Marketers are competing against millions of videos, and users are creating content for entertainment, not marketing, so it’s important to engage with the user genuinely and put them first rather than seek to put salesy content in front of them. – a TikTok marketing success story

One of Candlefox’s course comparison sites,, managed to fully utilise the potential of TikTok when one of their posts went viral, amassing over 3.1 million views, 500,000 likes and 46,000 shares. 

Speaking about the success story, Content Specialist for, Kristen Michealides, explained the planning and process that went into the brand’s TikTok strategy.

“We launched the TikTok campaign to support the business’s audience expansion efforts. It’s been an exciting journey as we’ve continuously experimented with various video formats, concepts and trending sounds,” Kristen said.

After months of planning and working on their TikTok content, Kristen discussed the moment she realised they had gone viral.

“The team’s dedication to the process and the unwavering support from the business as a whole paid off recently, with one video standing out.” She said, “Leveraging a clip from a popular TV show that resonated with a broad audience, our team member Rory Lippell suggested we create a “meme” type video that made a joke about people who are always swearing too much in the office. The video got 3.1 million views, over half a million likes, and more than 50,000 saves.”

TikTok’s algorithm can be hard to understand at times, but Kristen explained how having a good-natured and fun approach to their content was the key to going viral.

“While TikTok’s nature can be unpredictable at times, this video seemed to have resonated with multiple groups of people, including fans of the show, office workers, and anyone who appreciates a good laugh really!” Kristen explained, “We’re excited to continue the TikTok journey and engage more people in our community.”

TikTok can be an excellent engagement tool for education providers and course comparison sites, driving up awareness and potentially leading to increases in revenue. 

Sites like demonstrate how taking an innovative approach to marketing and audience engagement can pay off in the long run and show what success looks like in the TikTok viral lottery. 

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Joshua Stoneham
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