Today, we’re going to talk about short-form video. That is, videos that are less than 60 seconds and used on a variety of mediums. You don’t just see short-form videos on TikTok, they’re also on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. There’s all sorts of ways that short-form video can be implemented in social media. I’m going to focus on how to use short-form video with TikTok, but there are multiple applications for short-form video. If you have concerns with using this app in your classroom, you can apply these ideas to another form.
It is important to prepare students for a future in marketing by helping them understand the channels that marketers can use in order to reach their intended audience. The app, and the songs and dances it features, are a talking point in culture today. Marketers need to have their fingers on the pulse for those kinds of things. You should also know, I’m NOT a TikTok star. I’m simply an educator that’s on TikTok and uses it to help educate students in marketing.
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TikTok & Its Community
TikTok has several features that make it’s community unique. First, is TikTok’s home screen. Users have two primary feeds on TikTok. There is the “following” feed which is similar to feeds you see on other platforms. However, what makes TikTok unique is the “For You” feed. This feed is what keeps TikTok interesting. Anyone can, in theory, become viral through the “For You” page. This page is curated for users using an algorithm. There are signals the algorithm uses, such as how long you watched the video, if you watched it all the way through, or if you shared it. Instagram came out with Instagram Reels recently and it has a lot of the same functionality that TikTok does. What makes it different is that it doesn’t have a “For You” page yet.
About 100 million U.S. users are on TikTok each month. For comparison, Twitter has about 48 million monthly active users in the U.S., and Facebook has about 250 million monthly active users. On average, U.S. users spend about 45 minutes per day on TikTok. However, Facebook had a daily usage time of 58 minutes in 2019 in the U.S. If the average time on TikTok is 45 minutes and the average time on Facebook is 58 minutes, there’s probably not a ton of overlap between those. It’s worth pointing out, because Facebook is primarily used by older generations, which we often assume spend less time on their phones.
However, TikTok isn’t just for “young” people. You might be surprised to find that only 50 percent of TikTok users in the U.S. are under the age of 34. There’s a whole community of “old TikTokers,” which the community defines as being over 30. However, you’ll find that those “old TikTokers” are just as creative with what they’re doing as the “young” people. It was disturbing to me that #Over30 exists and is well used. I found that #Over30 content is mostly parents talking about the crazy things their kid did that day. As a new parent, I found myself nodding in agreement with videos about how to handle diaper changes. There’s also a #TeachersofTikTok with many great accounts where teachers will share lesson plans. For example, they’ll share how to use Google Slides more effectively and they’ll talk about incorporating Bitmojis. It’s pretty neat. From a marketing standpoint, these users are very relevant to us, but TikTok is interesting from an advertising perspective as well. The cost is a little bit higher than advertising on other platforms.
What You Need
Let’s move into what it takes to make a TikTok video. For most of these videos, it’s just one tool being used: a smartphone. If you have the TikTok app and a smartphone, you have the most important tool for making a video. Another helpful tool is a video editor. Some of the videos you see might need some editing or they might have been edited. TikTok has a built-in editor that allows you to trim clips, add text, put in transition video effects, and more.
Here are a few assignments that you can consider implementing into your classroom this year.
Assignment 1: Have students identify promoted content in their TikTok feed
I used to think that ads or promoted content was pretty obvious to students. Then I did an assignment where I asked students to identify sponsored content in their existing social media feeds. I was expecting questions or comments about how advertisers target them. Instead, I got questions about how to tell whether something was an ad or sponsored content. I received that question multiple times. Students had a surprisingly hard time identifying what an ad or sponsored content looked like relative to other things in their feed.
Assignment 2: Create a 15-60 second “explainer” video on a life-hack
This assignment is a staple of our social media class that doesn’t necessarily have to be on TikTok. If you’re concerned about TikTok, there are lots of platforms to do this assignment on. One of my favorite parts about TikTok is that it provides short videos. The creators of these videos have to be concise and creative in explaining what they do. I think there’s tremendous value in that within marketing. You have to get your message across in a way that is compelling, but it also has to be pretty condensed. For this assignment, you can choose to make this as simple or as difficult as you want in terms of the video editing you require.
If you require editing, have the students think about adding text, transitions, or effects to the video to make it more appealing to the person watching. I love these videos because I get insight that I may not necessarily get about students in a normal setting. Not every student wants to open up and tell me about something they are really good at or really excited about. With these videos, I get some insight into who they are.
Assignment 3: Develop 5-10 concepts for a company
This last assignment has students identify a company, evaluate its current social content, and come up with 5-10 content ideas that would help increase its reach with 15- to 22- year-olds.
For instance, students could review the gas station QuikTrip on TikTok. Is what they’re doing working? Is it not? Have students provide examples of what is and isn’t working in their social content. This assignment can be tweaked to fit another social media platform if you don’t want to use TikTok. You can also use Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram. You could also have students make their concepts into videos and post them on their private channels if they feel comfortable on TikTok.
You can also consider specifying whether students should pick a national company that everyone knows or a local business or nonprofit. The short videos could then be adapted for a social platform the small business actually uses. Chances are a lot of small businesses don’t have a TikTok account.
As educators, we’re embarking on a challenge semester, with schools teaching in-person, online, and remote. Many teachers need content that can fit all of these options. The nice thing about these assignments is that they can work in any of those settings as long as a student has a phone and Internet access.
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About the Author
Nick Schreck is an assistant professor of digital marketing at Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska, and an undergraduate student. Nick attended Midland and also met his wife there. So needless to say, he is thrilled to be a part of the campus community again and to be teaching a more modern approach to marketing. As he says, he’s also sometimes funny. You can give him a follow on Twitter.
For more resources, check out the “Essentials of Social Media Marketing” courseware! The courseware added Chapter 11: Marketing with TikTok in 2020 and has several projects and discussions to facilitate platform-specific learning.