Ease your student supervision speed bumps.

Discover: #TikTokHigherEd

As a fast pace, fun, and personality-filled platform, Tik Tok is showing higher ed that digital community building strategy doesn’t have to be so serious or extensive – sometimes it is just about jumping in, dancing around, and pressing play.

With over 2 billion downloads and over 689 million individual users – most of which are under 25 years old – TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social platforms that we’ve seen in years. If you weren’t an early adopter, you may already feel behind the curve and even intimidated on this one. In April 2021, the digital community builders met up to help each get up to speed!

About Higher Ed Digital Community Builders

Organized by Dr. Josie Ahlquist, this Facebook group is a clubhouse for higher education professionals to connect, reimagine and transform how we build genuine campus digital communities and strategic online engagement experiences. Every week, community members share resources, discussions, and opportunities to further develop digital communities that serve our students, families, and partners in timely, innovative, and supportive ways.

Highlighted Content from Panelists

Links to what was mentioned during the panel (Click on the Image for Links). 

[1:56] What is your favorite TikTok trend?


I’m gonna make a tik tok dance for this song

♬ Waking up in the morning - Magdacious


[4:40] How did your institutions start out on TikTok?



The RedSteppers are here to show you how to gitup. #gitupchallenge #foryou #foryoupage #challenge

♬ The Git Up - Blanco Brown



[14:40] How do you find student influencers and how do you get them involved on campus?



[22:50] Tik Tok is such a unique platform that curates individualized news feeds. How did you work that into your TikTok strategy?

We use trends that can diversify our content. The diversity of everyone’s For Your page ends up helping us decide what direction you want to go, how we want to apply it, and try to expand our reach.



[32:46] What strategies do you use to engage with your audience on TikTok?

[36:47] How do you get verified as a school on TikTok?


[39:20] How do you engage with prospective students on TikTok?



[43:53] What kind of advice would you give to other higher education social media professionals who are ready or want to start their journey on TikTok?

Spend 30 minutes a day to go on the platform and learn about the feel and tone of it. Because it’s so different from other channels.

Don’t be afraid of talking to students and learning from them. Try to get a feel of what they like, to see what they engage with, to develop leadership opportunities, and to see students as experts on TikTok. Find students who love your brand and naturally incorporate it in their content, figure out ways to apply it to the bigger brand. Because you are looking at students to be the voice of the brand. It’s a missed opportunity to just assume that because we are older, we would know what students would engage with.


[49:04] Do you have any goals for your Tik Tok platform this upcoming year?

TikTok is also a good place for us to monitor potential crises, which has been helpful for us in supporting students through quarantines.


Additional Resources from Josie


Lakeyia Brown, Social Media Specialist at University of South Carolina

Lakeyia Brown, University of South Carolina social media specialist was a military brat, being born in Germany and raised in Japan. After high school graduation, she ended up finding a home at UofSC. In her junior year she became a social media intern for the Athletics department and soon found a passion for social media marketing. After graduation from UofSC, she became the university’s social media specialist. The mission of the university is to educate the state’s citizens through teaching, research, creative activity, and community engagement. Her personal mission in life and social is storytelling.

Morgan Campbell, Social Media Specialist at Indiana University

Morgan Campbell has been a social media specialist for Indiana University Bloomington since fall 2018. Along with her team, she oversees the official IU Bloomington and Indiana University accounts as well as helps consult with partners across campus. Morgan graduated from IUPUI in 2018 with a degree in journalism and public relations. She found her love for higher education while overseeing the IUPUI Office of Orientation’s and IUPUI’s accounts as an intern before graduating. Her favorite thing about social media is how it can bring people from all over together into a community to learn from each other, find new opportunities, and provide open conversation with those who you wouldn’t usually talk to in person.


Kati Hartwig, Digital Media Specialist at Columbus Regional Airport Authority

After two years of working for a wonderful nonprofit in the Pittsburgh area, Kati returned to Youngstown State University to obtain a master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Communication. She has previously served as the university’s Social Media & Digital Marketing Coordinator. She worked closely with colleges and departments across campus, building and maintaining a positive and brand-centered social footprint. Since June 2021, Kati has started a new adventure working in the Columbus Regional Airport Authority as a Digital Media Specialist.

About Josie, Community Founder

Dr. Josie Ahlquist is a digital engagement and leadership researcher, speaker, and consultant. She teaches teens, young adults, education professionals, and campus executives how to humanize technology tools and prioritize building community online.

Josie absolutely loves fostering and educating about digital community building. So, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she created a Facebook group called the Higher Ed Digital Community Builders, which has grown to nearly 2,000 members. She also created and manages the Digital Community Building Cohort, a mastermind educational program for higher education social media managers to improve online community building strategies.

As a researcher and writer, Josie is extensively published and maintains an active blog and podcast, which have received accolades from EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her new book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World was listed as an Amazon #1 new release for college and university student life.

She also serves as a teaching faculty at Florida State University, creating curriculum to build digital literacy and leadership skills for undergraduates up to doctorate level students. Josie received her doctorate from California Lutheran University in Higher Education Leadership, Masters in Education from Northern Arizona University. She majored in sociology and human development at South Dakota State University.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Rebekah Tilley

Assistant Vice President, University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Rebekah Tilley is the assistant vice president of communication and marketing for the University of Iowa Center for Advancement (UICA). In that role she supports fundraising and alumni engagement efforts for the university, including its CASE Gold winning Iowa Magazine, and serves UICA in a variety of strategic communication efforts.

Previously she was the director of strategic communication for the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, and the director of communication for the University of Kentucky College of Law. She is a Kentucky native and a proud alum of the University of Kentucky.

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