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TikTok education teaches all of us a lesson: learning should be fun.
Simple and useful educational content should be easy to access. TikTok decided to make this happen. In May 2020, the platform announced its initiative #LearnOnTikTok, recognising a vast demand for educational content amongst young people on TikTok.
This brought together 800 household names, media publishers, educational institutions, and real-world professional experts to bring learning material to TikTok. They also announced a massive $50 million Creative Learning Fund for educational content. Why? TikTok wanted to help its community in a time of need.
Learning through the pandemic
Whether through an educational how-to, tutorial video or fun fact clip, informative videos have always been popular on TikTok. Before the #LearnOnTikTok initiative, these educational videos were creator-led and home-produced, occasionally in partnership with the platform itself. But since the rise of covid-19 pandemic lockdowns worldwide caused mass disruption to education systems, TikTok raised its game.
The app made a $250 million pledge to support its community during the pandemic, and that’s where #LearnOnTikTok stemmed from. TikTok’s partnerships reflect the diverse content Gen Z wants to learn about. Organisations like Aquarium of the Pacific shared explainers on endangered giant sea bass. Mental wellness app Headspace gave tips on meditation, and Nonprofits like It Gets Better shared information on gender identity mindfulness in conversation.
Some of the big names also included 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.
The range in content is perfect for getting into the hearts and minds of Gen Z: a generation of researchers.
Gen Z: ready to #learn
Who’s yearning for TikTok educational content? *Gen Z raises their hands*.
Only 54% of this age group think their education has prepared them for future success. They want to learn more about the world and what it entails rather than more traditional forms of education. 75% of students wish to continue virtual education to some degree after the pandemic, and TikTok is a prime place for learners to keep that momentum going.
Why turn to social media like TikTok? As Fanbytes noted in Digiday, TikTok isn’t a social network in the pure sense: users don’t open the app to simply see updates from friends. TikTok is designed to constantly show users fresh content that will interest them, from any account on the platform. This makes it the perfect learning tool to explore interests and discover more about the world.
The real winner here is short-form videos. Gen Z has an attention span of 8 seconds, so educational content on TikTok caters perfectly to capturing their interest. It’s also ideal for those who don’t want to dedicate hours to traditional, sit-down learning. The most important aspect of education on TikTok is fun. Combine informative, short videos with engaging and enjoyable content and a new form of learning format is born. Welcome to ‘edutainment’ TikTok.
TikTok for education (and edutainment)
Why is TikTok focusing on education? Short answer: because this is what TikTok users are interested in. TikTok is not just a dance app; marketers and brands have dismissed it in the past, but the raw power of the platform (which is the most popular app amongst young people and receives more traffic than Google) is now hard to ignore. TikTok is a learning platform that covers the full range of human interests.
The fact that TikTok is getting serious about education marks the app as different from other social networks. This direction notably contrasts with Meta’s aggressive social commerce direction for Instagram, which has gone so far as to put an entire shopping tab in-app.
TikTok has previously partnered with educational institutions, such as the initiative #EduTok in India, which gained 126.5 billion views on videos across education, motivation and wellness. But you’ll find stellar educational content wherever you look on TikTok. The app has seen big names like Countdown’s Rachel Riley giving maths tips and actor Sean Sagar giving acting lessons, and it has made social media stars out of TikTokers who could make unusual topics interesting and informative. It’s the (free) Gen Z answer to Masterclass – where you can learn anything online from an expert in the field.
Entertainment is the most viewed category on the app. TikTok creators know this, so TikTok educational videos are notably different to other social platforms: they’re fun, bite-sized pieces of info to make people think.
The mysterious ‘Learn’ tab
In the first week of November 2020, UK content creators and TikTok users noticed a ‘Learn’ tab on their home feed, right next to the ‘Following’ and ‘For You’ tabs. TikTok described this as a place for educational content like how-tos and tutorials across arts, crafts, science, cooking, maths, etc.
If you’ve noticed your TikTok learn tab has gone, you are not alone. This tab disappeared pretty quickly as it was only in a testing phase. It was a tool that TikTok tested as an educational ‘creator portal’ to aggregate and deliver educational content on TikTok.
Nowadays, TikTok’s “edutaining” content is available in For You Pages (FYPs) and throughout the app. Education is such a pervasive and popular form of content on TikTok, it didn’t make sense to split it out: educational TikToks work better when the videos are more integrated in TikTokers’ app experience.
So how do you go about creating and using TikTok for education?
How can TikTok be used for education?
Making the most of micro-learning
#LearnOnTikTok has over 282.8 billion views. In a wider context, the popularity of TikTok’s education content fits into a trend towards micro-learning.
Microlearning is 17% more efficient than traditional, longer-duration courses and distils topics into digestible, small chunks. Gen Z strongly prefers it. Virtual learning environments and online video tutorials are also a big yes for zoomers. This makes TikTok the perfect delivery vehicle for micro-learning. It’s in their favourite format: video, and on their preferred device: their phones.
Micro-learning can cover anything – and its popularity is easy to see. This maths video has 30.1 million views and counting. This tutorial on how to cut an onion like a chef has 4.3 million views and 63,000 shares. It’s not just demos and how-tos that do well: career advice, life tips and life ‘hacks’ as well as general motivation, wellness and health content has a ready audience on TikTok.
Fanbytes’ work with the Institute of Physics made headlines as TikTok influencers tapped into this trend to demonstrate engaging, at-home experiments that showcased how interesting physics can be. Fanbytes Account Manager Fiona Kolade says of this campaign, “It was great to have the full trust of the IOP team to go down the comedic challenge route which was highly entertaining and the perfect way to attract the interest of the target demographic.”
“Campaigns like this are a great example of the power of TikTok to take what would otherwise be deemed as a ‘less sexy’ topic and transform it into current and relevant conversation starters and teaching moments.”
Brands busting myths
While not a brand you’d typically expect on Gen Zers’ social media feeds, ACCA was one of the first brands to harness the educational side of TikTok to appeal to a younger audience. They came to us to help them showcase accounting as a profession to young adults. It was essential to debunk myths about accountancy being boring and dull, so we combined AR filters with videos from young influencers who talked about why they got into the profession.
Fanbytes Creative Strategist Bean Urquhart notes, “Gen Z loves being the first to something …you want to be the first person to access new knowledge.” Working with TikTok influencers to bust myths or share a new angle on a familiar subject can capture their imagination and kick-start buzz around your brand on TikTok.
Our work with the ACCA saw views in the millions and a high engagement rate, clearly indicating this kind of educational content is genuinely interesting to Gen Z. Brands who are misunderstood by younger audiences should consider making educational TikToks to fact-check and debunk common misconceptions. If you’d like to learn more about how to do this, read more about our work with ACCA to change Gen Z’s opinion on their industry.
Brands reaching self-selecting audiences
We mentioned above that TikTokers are using the app as a way to connect with their interests. TikTok also has a powerful personalised recommendation algorithm. This means that for Gen Zers, TikTok is like Google – but better. Not only can they find answers, but TikTok will showcase more relevant videos without the need to search.
This is leading to an increase in self-selecting audiences on TikTok. App users are teaching themselves about the best brands for their exact needs. One example of this is in skincare: whereas in the past, audiences would be satisfied with treating the symptoms of skin complaints, now Fanbytes are seeing an increase in activity around users educating them on their causes, and the right products to tackle them.
This is something we were able to leverage in our campaign for Clinique. We created buzz around three of the brand’s products, and identified that peer-to-peer marketing from people whose skin experiences closely related to the product (as opposed to using qualified dermatologists) drew the highest engagement rates and best sentiment.
Fanbytes Senior Account Manager Jacqui Smith says “TikTokers wanted to hear about the products from people like themselves.” It’s worth remembering that TikTok education doesn’t necessarily have to come from traditional educators. TikTokers don’t want to be lectured: they want information that’s entertaining and useful to them.
This education-led trend means brands must do more to prove the value of their products. But rather than a threat, brands should be encouraged by this: TikTok provides a platform to create insightful information around your products – and doing so will attract the attention of the ideal segment they are designed for.
Education on finances & careers
Gen Z’s desire to learn more isn’t just helping them to expand their knowledge around interests and hobbies: they’re using TikTok to access helpful advice around launching their careers and preparing for the future.
We wrote recently about how TikTokers have used the app to learn about cryptocurrencies. But it’s not just their financial future that Gen Zers are researching on TikTok. Fanbytes worked with student-focused recruitment app Debut to kick-start advice-sharing around graduate jobs in the UK. Influencers shared their own stories, even posting on their graduation ceremony days, to help make finding a graduate job less daunting. We achieved an 11.1% click-through rate and over 5 million views.
Fanbytes Brand Partnerships Manager Helen Clow says “Many brands have preconceived ideas about TikTok as a place where Gen Zers post funny dances and show off the latest clothing haul – but it’s so much more. There is a huge desire from younger audiences to use TikTok as a place to learn – whether that’s exploring how best to invest their money (#personalfinance now at 5.8B views!) or what career they want to pursue.”
Education on politics & social causes
Gen Z are activists at heart. More than 40% of them feel strongly about affordable education, affordable health care, gun rights/control, racial equality, and climate change. You can read about how Gen Z Activists are making an impact in our article here.
TikTok has become instrumental in educational content around social causes and especially the Black Lives Matter movement and Black History Month. TikTokkers also shut down President Trump’s rally last year, showing how politics and political education can be shared on the app.
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 labelled a safe space for LGBTQ content, black history and women’s history – important considering how diverse its Gen Z audience is.
TikTok is the ideal platform for authentic, factual information that will help capture interest, change minds and spark conversations.
TikTok as a tool for teachers
Teachers everywhere have faced the difficult task of teaching virtually. But TikTok can make learning a lot easier. TikTok for teachers (accessed by the hashtag #TeachersOfTikTok) is a helping hand. There are tons of TikTok ideas for teachers on the platform, including TikTok lesson plans and helpful videos.
Here are some educational TikTok ideas to get your classes on-point:
- Show a TikTok video at the start of the lesson to spark conversation. Search your subject on TikTok and find a video that seems engaging. Then you can explain whether or not the original poster of the video was right! Gen Zers love debunking myths or going deeper on subjects and sharing this with their friends.
- Upload short lesson snippets to keep your students engaged and checking in. Ask a question at the beginning of the video, and answer it by the end – or hook your students in and serialise your content over several videos so they keep watching.
- Make a creative duet video. You can either start a video yourself and allow students to duet it (we talk you through how to do this here) or you can search TikTok for a video related to your topic, and challenge your students to think about how they would form a reply.
- Summarise your lesson with what your students will have learned. Turn this into a simple clip for TikTok, then use your profile link to send them to where they’ll find more information.
Educators everywhere can use these tips to get their classes listening. Remember the best educational TikTok ideas are entertaining, so get your thinking cap on and you’ll get Gen Z passing with flying colours.
TikTok education: into the future
Universities, higher education providers and other professional bodies should take note: most of your audience is Gen Z, and they’re on TikTok thirsty for educational content.
Educational content isn’t new to social media; from chemistry videos to woodworking tutorials, painting lessons to cooking tips, we’ve been successfully Pinning and YouTubing for years before TikTok caught on. But on TikTok, the power of educational content is tenfold – and it’s a resource that brands and creators alike are only just beginning to tap.
In addition, TikTok education initiatives bring huge opportunities for brands who may previously have felt cut off from TikTok’s goofy culture. For advertisers and educators alike, this is a golden opportunity: with 1 billion monthly active users hungry for content, it’s the perfect way to bring your brand to the forefront and find an audience that really resonates with your message.
Delivering vetted micro-learning content via the #LearnOnTikTok initiative also 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 allows for more balanced social media consumption.
So what next?
It’s worth thinking about the metaverse to get a glimpse into the future of learning. If you’re looking to find out more, we have an article about the metaverse and what it means for brands. Alternatively, get in contact to find out more about how we can use TikTok educational content and our insights on Gen Z’s hunger for knowledge to make your brand shine.
Want to get clued up on more educational articles? Check out the list below for info on TikTok, education and Gen Z subject matters: