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Don’t roll your eyes … WVU is on TikTok!

In social media, we often talk about taking risks. We tout our willingness to fail as we set out to attempt something new. We convince our bosses not to worry, that we know what we’re doing, even (and perhaps especially) when we haven’t the slightest clue how the new venture will work out. 

And so we present to you: TikTok by WestVirginiaU

Did we just see you roll your eyes? If so, we aren’t offended. Just about everyone on our entire social media staff did the same when we first heard about the app. We rolled them even harder the first time someone in the office suggested we consider WVU’s place on the platform. 

But here’s the thing: If middle and high school students are on TikTok, then that’s where we need to be. So we set out to determine how we would tackle a space that is, presently, strictly for entertainment. 

Back to that whole rolling eyes thing for a moment. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, we social media managers can really come across as trying too hard when we aim to capitalize on the latest trend. There’s nothing that keeps us up at night like the thought of posting a meme only to see Steve Buscemi in the replies, saying hello to fellow kids.

That’s why at WVU, we aren’t creating the content ourselves. We’ve enlisted a group of talented, much-cooler-than-we-are students to star on the account. 

We found the students in a variety of ways. In early October, we held an open casting call at our Creative Arts Center. We asked students to read one of three prepared scripts, and then followed up with some questions about their involvement on campus and how they could factor into our content going forward. 

We also asked what they knew about TikTok, and whether they would feel comfortable creating on that platform under our name. 

Just about everyone said, yes, they’d be up for it. One even went so far as to say she is “obsessed” with TikTok. Another acted out one of his favorite TikToks, which required that he play three different roles. 

Outside of the Casting Call, we relied on a few members of our Social Media Ambassadors group, as well as some who we randomly found because they were already making popular TikToks that just so happened to show up on our “For You” page in the app. 

We got them all together to meet one another, and they immediately hit it off. In fact, they left the first meeting early just so that they could go shoot an introductory TikTok together before they all went home for Thanksgiving break. It was one of our prouder moments to see them so excited so soon. 

We knew we’d have a cast, so now we needed to determine what we wanted them to do. 

If you look at our Twitter account, you will see from time to time that we find a meme we like, and we essentially paint it gold and blue. We give throw in a reference to Country Roads, or President Gordon Gee, or our Mountaineer - and boom! - we’ve got content. 

That is not what we want from our TikTok account. That’s exactly why we won’t be the ones creating the content. 

Instead, we want our students to be themselves. Find the popular sounds of the day, or the trends they enjoy individually, and make their own. The only reason someone watching the content should know it’s by WVU (other than our WestVirginiaU handle) is that the student is wearing our logo on his or her shirt. Or maybe it’s shot on campus in front of a sign or a recognizable building. 

That’s it. That’s all that makes it “WVU’s TikTok,” rather than Maggie’s or Jake’s or Asharay’s or any of the other students who will be the actual stars. 

Screenshot of the WVU TikTok account

The result will be a space that is almost strictly meant for brand awareness, though it will inevitably also feature student experiences since it is run by current Mountaineers. 

Our TikTok crew won’t just be doing this for the fun of it, though. They have been hired on a freelance basis, and will be paid per TikTok that runs on the account. Not every one of their efforts will land, and they know that, but the ones that do will be compensated accordingly. 

We launched the account today, Dec. 1, with the intention of adding new content daily to build our brand on TikTok. 

Could it fail? Sure. We’re ready for that, but we are in no way planning for it. We think TikTok can be a fun space for higher education, if done the right way. We think we’ve found the right way. 

Now it’s time to watch our plan unfold.

We invite you to follow our account and see it in action over the coming month. Let us know what you think of the way we’re using TikTok, and feel free to reach out with any questions you have. We’ll be back on this blog at the end of the month to recap how it’s gone, and what’s next for the WestVirginiaU TikTok account. 

Hopefully we’ll keep your eye-rolling to a minimum.