Using TikTok for Alumni Engagement

By Andrew Davies
alumni engaging with gamification on a phone

Cover photo by cottonbro studio

Unlock TikTok’s power in alumni marketing: foster connections & vibrant communities with insights on engagement & outreach strategies.

From Viral Playground to Engagement Powerhouse

TikTok, the once-frenzied dance app, has shed its youthful skin to become a powerful marketing platform. Alumni marketers are using its reach and community to build stronger ties with grads, especially Gen Z and millennials who dominate the platform. With a staggering 62% of US users aged 10-29, TikTok offers fertile ground for alumni engagement activities.

Beyond Popularity: 4 Reasons Why Alumni Teams Love TikTok

  1. Engagement on Steroids
    Reaching young alumni through TikTok is super effective. In the education sector, engagement rates soar to 16.3% (compared to a meager 0.7% for Instagram), according to a 2023 Rival IQ report. This means tapping into a huge network of enthusiastic alumni already active on the platform.
  2. Breaking Through the Noise
    Unlike traditional platforms, TikTok’s algorithm prioritizes showing content to users based on their interests, not just who they follow. This means even small alumni programs can reach a large audience organically, as long as their content resonates with the community.
  3. Expanding Your Reach
    TikTok lets you connect with potential alumni who haven’t interacted with the institution before. Since the algorithm shows content based on interests, it is easier to broaden your reach and build a more diverse alumni base.
  4. Leveraging Existing Communities
    Lots of universities already have lively student communities on TikTok. Alumni groups can get involved by encouraging students to create videos about their experiences using specific branded hashtags or challenges. Additionally, they can collaborate with student content creators to showcase various aspects of campus life and the alumni journey. This approach leverages TikTok’s existing presence to engage both current students and alumni enjoyably and authentically.

How to Use TikTok to Expand Your Digital Alumni Engagement

The platform’s format is ideal for crafting quick, impactful messages that boost your institution’s visibility and encourage alumni to participate in discussions, events, and fundraising initiatives. Additionally, TikTok’s global reach fosters connections with international alumni, fostering a more inclusive and diverse community.

Integrating TikTok into your digital alumni engagement strategy allows you to reach alumni where they are most receptive, significantly increasing the chances of active participation and fostering long-lasting connections.

1. Celebrate Alumni Success

Showcase notable alumni and their inspiring journeys to motivate current students and recent graduates. These stories can highlight the value proposition of your institution and strengthen alumni engagement.

For example, The University of Illinois Alumni Association used National Whipped Cream Day to highlight the special life-changing contribution of one of their alumni. Since one of their grads literally invented the reasons for the holiday, it was a fun opportunity to use a trending sound to spotlight what makes their school unique.

Illinoisalumni TikTok video engaging alumni for National Whipped Cream Day.
Illinoisalumni created a TikTok video bragging about their alumni’s contribution to National Whipped Cream Day

2. Amplify Events

Promote popular events like Homecoming, reunions, or ideally activities special to your school as a way of getting alumni to reminisce about their time on campus. Better yet, take advantage of TikTok’s live-streaming feature to broadcast the event. You’ll end up providing a valuable service to those alumni who couldn’t make it while offering up a unique way to drive donations. Kansas State Alumni Association used student videos and photos to showcase their annual Homecoming football game.

One of Kstatealumni's TikTok videos getting alumni excited for their Homecoming football game.

3. Harness User-Generated Content

Leverage the power of challenges and branded hashtags. This not only boosts engagement but also fosters a strong sense of community among alumni and prospective students. For example, The University of Nebraska asked alumni to submit photos of their pets in UNL gear for this UGC campaign. And who can resist showing up their little doggo?

NebraskaAlumni's cute TikTok video celebrating alumni pets.

4. Optimize Your Bio Link

You can use the bio link on your alumni TikTok accounts to direct users to a landing page promoting various ways to engage, such as registering for events, updating contact information, volunteering, and linking to the alumni website. Take a look at how Houston Christian University’s Alumni Department uses their landing page.

Houston Christian University alumni link in bio page.
Houston Christian University gives alumni a lot of ways to support their alumni association directly from their bio landing page.

5. Make Data-Driven Decisions

To make the most of your TikTok efforts, you can ignore vanity metrics like likes and followers. Instead focus on key metrics like engagement rates, follower growth, and conversion rates. By upgrading to a Pro Account, you gain access to TikTok’s sophisticated analytics tools. Although this is a bit of an investment, it’s worth it for the data. This ensures that your TikTok strategy achieves the desired results.

Screenshots of TikTok analytics dashboard
Screenshots from TikTok analytics dashboard

By cleverly weaving TikTok into your alumni engagement playbook, you’ll unlock TikTok’s massive potential to spark up old connections, cultivate a lively alumni crew, and get your graduates engaged in a way that matters.