TikTok & Education: How TikTok Is Pushing Educational Content For Gen Z

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TikTok & Education

TikTok’s moving into education. The social media giant announced the initiative #LearnOnTikTok, in recognition of a huge demand for educational content on the platform. While educational how-to and tutorial videos have always floated around on TikTok, they’ve been creator-led and home-produced, occasionally in partnership with the network itself. 

The #LearnOnTikTok Initiative

#LearnOnTikTok will bring together 800 household names across industries to deliver short-form creative learning content. Some of the big names include long-time TV educator Bill Nye, YouTuber-turned NBC host Lilly Singh, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson…and even Tyra Banks of America’s Next Top Model fame. TIkTok also announced a huge $50 million creator fund for educational content.

These partnerships reflect the diverse content Gen Z wants to learn about. #LearnOnTikTok is pretty well-timed, considering many people want to learn new skills during coronavirus lockdowns.

The real winner here is TikTok’s short-form video format: perfect for it’s Gen Z and millennial audience with shorter attention spans of up to 12 seconds. It’s also perfect for those who don’t want to dedicate hours to traditional, sit-down learning.

The mysterious ‘Learn’ tab

In the first week of November, UK content creators and users noticed a ‘Learn’ tab on their home feed, right next to the ‘Following’ and ‘For You’ tabs. This was described as a place for educational content like how-to’s and tutorials across arts, crafts, science, cooking, maths and more.

However, this tab disappeared pretty quickly. TikTok’s #LearnOnTikTok announcement mentions an educational ‘creator portal’, so the Learn tab could be one of the ways learning content is aggregated and delivered, at least in the UK market.

In short, TikTok is getting serious about education. This is a different direction to other social networks, especially considering Facebook’s aggressive social commerce direction for Instagram which has gone so far as to put an entire shopping tab in-app. 

With big names like Countdown’s Rachel Riley giving math tips, actor Sean Sagar giving give acting lessons…TikTok is the (free) Gen Z answer to Masterclass – where you can learn anything online from an expert in the field. 

Why is TikTok focusing on Education?

Not just a dance app

Marketers, brands and users have often dismissed TikTok as a ‘cringe dance app for 12 year olds’. While dances are popular and the audience is younger, TikTok actually hosts hugely diverse content. 

This focus on education isn’t sudden: TikTok’s previously partnered with educational institutions as part of #EduTok in India, which gained 126.5 billion views on videos across education, motivation and wellness.

From it’s musical.ly roots to political education

We’ve seen TikTok become instrumental in educational content around the Black Lives Matter movement and Black History Month. TikTokkers have serious political issues on their mind, as proven with their shut-down of President Trump’s rally early this year. Knowing that Gen Z is thinking about more than just Renegade dances, TikTok even brought out a guide for first-time voters during the recent US election. The platform has been labeled a safe space for LGBTQ content, black history and women’s history – important considering how diverse it’s Gen Z audience is.

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Jus some unwritten rules my mom makes me follow as a young black man #fyp #blacklivesmatter

♬ original sound - Mar🅱️oolin

Shifting into maturity as Gen Z demand education content

So, TikTok wants to be taken seriously. Educational content has always existed: from chemistry videos, to woodworking tutorials, painting lessons and cooking tips. In fact, educational videos were so popular in the Indian market that an educational program was announced for its 200 million Indian users

The Learn tab, and #LearnOnTikTok continue this shift into a ‘mature’ image for the network.

How does Gen Z feel about educational content on TikTok?

Gen Z don’t just approve of educational social media content, they’re hungry for it

#LearnOnTikTok has over 40.3 billion views. This chemistry video about Bromine has nearly 7 million views. A tutorial on how to cut an onion like a chef has 4.3 million views, and 63k shares. This doctor’s sciatica relief tips gained 2.4 million views.

It’s not just demos and how-to’s that do well: career advice, life tips and life ‘hacks’ as well as general motivation, wellness and health content do well. A brilliant case study of Gen Z’s appreciation for ‘career advice’ delivered well is our work with the Association of Chartered Accountants (ACCA)

While not a brand you’d typically expect on TikTok or Snapchat, ACCA was one of the first education brands to harness TikTok and appeal to a young audience. The aim was to showcase accounting as a profession to young adults, debunking myths about it being boring and dull. We combined AR filters with videos from young influencers who talked about why they got into the profession. With views in the millions, and a high engagement rate, it’s clear this kind of content is genuinely interesting to Gen Z. 

Reflecting a wider ‘micro-learning’ trend

In a wider context, the popularity of TikTok’s education content fits into a trend towards micro-learning. Micro-learning distills topics into digestible, small chunks, and Gen Z strongly prefer it. 

Gen Z like virtual learning environments, and online video tutorials. So, TikTok is the perfect delivery vehicle for micro-learning. It’s in their favorite format: video, and on their preferred device: their phones.

The future of education on TikTok

So, we’ve seen huge Gen Z demand for educational content, and TikTok’s commitment to delivering this. What does this say about the future of education on TikTok? 

In the meta sense, delivering ‘vetted’ micro-learning content via the #LearnOnTikTok initiative helps debunk the rise of fake news and fake facts. We live in the era of online misinformation, and it spreads fast. In this sense, offering objective educational content alongside TikTok’s user-generated content allows for more balanced social media consumption. 

More practically, these education initiatives bring huge opportunities for brands who may previously have felt cut off from TikTok’s goofy culture. For advertisers and education marketers, this is a golden opportunity.

Diversifying marketing opportunities for brands

There’s a huge selection of educational apps, platforms and brands out there. TikTok’s educational focus is a huge signal for education and career brands to get involved. It’s a golden opportunity to bring your brand to as many young eyeballs as possible: TikTok’s going to end 2020 with 1 billion active users and shows no signs of slowing growth. 

Take our earlier example with ACCA: while professional bodies don’t jump to TikTok as their first port of call, they should consider it given how well it went for ACCA. This campaign not only engaged its audience and exceeded goals, it also won ACCA a ‘Gold’ award for ‘Best Digital Strategy’. 

Universities and higher education providers, as well as other professional bodies should take note: most of your audience is Gen Z, and they’re on TikTok thirsty for educational content. Coronavirus has accelerated changes in online behaviours too, with formal education (and graduation) already shifting online for some universities, schools and colleges.

A bright future for education brands on TikTok

In conclusion, we think this educational focus opens up avenues for brands to connect with Gen Z in an entirely new way, through a channel they might have dismissed before. We think brands can look beyond simply ‘advertising’ and commercials and deliver real impactful value to their audience. 

The ACCA aimed to educate young teens around considering accounting in their career options – this is just one example of how you can harness TikTok to make a real, positive difference for Gen Z. We encourage brands to think outside the box, but realize they can no longer ignore TikTok. And of course, if you need any help with your TikTok strategy, get in touch with us!

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