Thought Feeder cover photo for Episode 52. Guest, Adrienne Sheares’s headshot is featured in a square image. White text reads “TikTok’s role in Higher Ed with Adrienne Sheares.”

Episode 52: TikTok’s Role in Higher Ed with Adrienne Sheares

Thought Feeder cover photo for Episode 52. Guest, Adrienne Sheares’s headshot is featured in a square image. White text reads “TikTok’s role in Higher Ed with Adrienne Sheares.”
Thought Feeder
Episode 52: TikTok's Role in Higher Ed with Adrienne Sheares

Award-winning, Social Media Marketer, Adrienne Sheares, joins the show to chat about TikTok’s role in Higher Ed. Questions asked include, how can TikTok enhance the student experience? What happens if it gets banned on all college campuses? Do students use it to research potential schools? And lastly, what were some of the biggest takeaways from her viral Gen-Z focus group?

Joel Goodman: From Bravery Media, this is Thought Feeder. My name is Joel Goodman. With me as always is the equitable Jon-Stephen Stansel, and we are super, super excited to have Adrienne Shears with us today. Adrienne is the owner of Vivimae Labs and is a genius consultant, basically, from all of the stuff I’ve been reading in the last few weeks.

Just a brilliant, brilliant social media consultant that has tons of insight. And Adrienne, we are super excited to talk to you today. Thanks for being on the show.

Adrienne Sheares: Thank you for having me, and thank you for that introduction. I need you guys to come with me whenever I go to like pitches or meetings and people put some respect on my name of, she’s a genius, so love that intro.

Joel Goodman: it always helps to have hype folk around you, right?

So we were tasked with kind of focusing this around TikTok because you’ve been writing and talking and I would assume consulting around TikTok for a while and have done some really interesting focus group studies and have all this, I wouldn’t say that it’s like, like new data, but it’s probably data that not everyone has, really heard about or has really been thinking about.

And, so first I thought like maybe we could just start with, like, for me, I’m not very good at TikTok, like J.S., started developing his own TikTok style. I’m the TikTok user that has friends that just send me things that they’re like, hey, I saw this Baker doing bread. Do you wanna look at this bread video?

And then I watch a bread video and it’s great and I love that, but I don’t think I use TikTok to its full potential. And. You know, the point of this conversation today is to talk about how we’re seeing the younger generations, gen Z and, and younger, starting to use TikTok in ways that us, to be honest, us old people maybe haven’t thought to use TikTok before.

So can you kind of give us like your thoughts on the lay of the land of that platform, and then we can kind of dive in. Like what do you, what do you see as really valuable with TikTok in the modern day?

Adrienne Sheares: So I think what people need to understand is TikTok is an inspiration app. It’s a place where you can go, like you were saying, what are you doing? Oh, I’ll make some bread. How do I do that? TikTok rolled out, I don’t know if you guys saw, this new commercial series with Tony Hawk. He’s not allowed to do extreme skateboarding anymore.

So the doctor is like, you can’t do this anymore. You know, it’s a little x-ray and so he has to find a either, I think it was like a non extreme sport. And so you see him kind of going through TikTok to get an idea of what his new sport is gonna be, and I think it’s something with a beanbag. I don’t remember the name of the sport, but, and he’s having a great time with it, so people are using it.

Me for example, I’m not a large TikTok user. Mine is, I love Twitter, but when I was going to South Africa, I used the app to get inspiration of things to do., and so when I did my generation Z, mini focus group study, that’s how they were using it as well. They were wondering, where can I go to brunch?

I wanna see, the different rooftops in New York and the things that really inspired them to try it was really the vibes, in the video. Any brand or higher education institution, you wanna spark inspiration to students, prospective students. That’s where your content is. And so one way we see colleges doing that, I think it was USC for example, they were asking the students as they went by, what they were wearing, because they’re in California.

So clearly wardrobe and different style is going to be important for. That school or people who are attending there?, I think I’m merging into more higher ed of, what different type, what is the vibe of your school. People make decisions on education clearly for am I gonna get a job afterwards?

Or, you know, what are the courses? But let’s be honest, you don’t spend most of your time, at least if you’re a traditional full-time undergrad student. in a classroom. So what the culture is like is gonna be really important, to those students. And I remember being in high school and just dreaming of what college would be like.

And now thanks to TikTok, you can kind of see what are the dorms gonna be, what is the food, what’s, what are the games like, what are the professors like, what is the quad like? And so, schools can really, tap into this by really showing what’s unique about.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I think that’s an excellent point, and there’s so much untapped potential there. And you know, the, the question I have, especially, I’m really eager to hear more about this because you, you, you held a focus group, which so many schools just don’t do. We just assume there’s somebody that says, oh, I saw, I saw on 60 Minutes that the kids were on TikTok and Andy Rooney.

Or wherever they have now. That’s how old I am. I remember Andy Rooney. I was upset about it., But they don’t really have the data always to back it up. So do you think from, from your research with the focus group that Gen Z isn’t, we can all agree they’re actively using TikTok, but are they using it to research potential schools?

Adrienne Sheares: So that is a good question, and I’ll be honest, I’m not sure because the focus group that I interviewed, they were already either in college, or had just recently graduated. So they were a little before., the look of looking for schools. However, over 50% of 18 to 20 year olds are using, TikTok and interesting enough, 26% of 18 to 29 year olds.

And this is, according to Pew, they’re actually getting their news from TikTok. So I don’t think it’s without, I think it would be a safe bet to assume they are using it. I noticed since I’ve been to college, like when I was in college, Facebook was the thing, when I’m talking to different students, I do notice.

So it had been Instagram that I was noticing that they were kind of trying to get a vibe of what their schools were like. So I think with the progression of TikTok, it would be understandable that they would be turning to that.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Oh, for sure. And so they’re, they’re not getting their news from 60 minutes? We can agree on that.

Adrienne Sheares: Well, I will say the focus group that I interviewed, they were not getting their news, from TikTok. I think, well, one of them was, but majority of them had realized that maybe getting news was not a good idea., but there is the trend among Gen Z and., other adults like Gen X millennials are starting to turn more to TikTok for news, not as prevalently as, Gen Z and that’s, Pew, I think it came out like a couple months ago. So that was actually a little interesting. And since doing the focus group, the funny thing is now people come up to me unprompted, to tell me what they use TikTok to search for. And so I’m getting everything from, you know what Google had found? They had found gen Z is using it for, you know, finding a restaurant or looking up a destination.

But I had friends like, yeah, my stomach hurts. So I went to TikTok to see what was wrong, and I’m just like, that is not what you’re supposed to be doing. But they’re like, it’s great, you know, it’s easy, it’s fun. I see a nice happy doctor who’s telling me, and they’re like, great cured.

Joel Goodman: My TikTok heavy friends. I guess that’s the way to say it, my friends, my friends that, use TikTok, heavily that are, you know, my own age are, are in their, their, you know, mid, mid to late thirties are, are very much using TikTok in that in a very similar way. And so I think we’re like starting to see it trickle up too.

Uh, where, I mean, my friends are currently working on. A kitchen, here, here in Louisville, Kentucky. They’ve been renovating the kitchen. My friend Stacy, like jumps on TikTok and is just like, like you were talking about it being an inspiration app. Like she’s going in not only to figure out like, oh, how do I install a cabinet, or, you know, whatever her task is, but she’s also looking for that inspiration side of it.

It, it’s interesting to me that, well, oh, I think, I think your, your original focus group was kind of, at least a little bit kicked off by a TechCrunch article, if I’m right, that talked about like Google was real scared that , that TikTok was taken over their, their search, their search, like ownership.

I guess there their stake there. It’s such an interesting.

Adrienne Sheares: Yeah, so it actually worked out perfectly because I had got the idea before the article. Came out because I was talking to one of my former interns and I had heard rumblings on Twitter of this, and I had kind of bookmarked it to be like, is this really a thing? But you know, things are busy. And so I’m having a conversation with her about like fashion, and she’s like, oh, that hasn’t come across my TikTok.

And I’m like, what is what I’m. lot to do with TikTok. She’s like, oh, I use TikTok to find outfits to go on a trip and all these things. And so I was like, oh my gosh, do you like more people? Like you do this? And she was like, yes. So I had asked her, I said, you know, could we get a focus group going? And as we’re getting that together, the Tech Crunch article came and I’m like, okay, this really is a thing.

This isn’t just you and your friends, so the timing actually worked out beautifully.

Joel Goodman: That’s amazing. I mean, like, I love it when that kind of like, you have that idea and you start working on it, and then like the mainstream media starts, like actually talking about it, like hopefully gave you a little bit of lift in, in just reach online.

Adrienne Sheares: I think it definitely did for me.

Joel Goodman: So I don’t know how much you pay attention to social media marketing in the higher ed space, because that’s relatively niche, I suppose.

Uh, but I wouldn’t say that many colleges and universities are super progressive with how they tend to market, or at least like when they’re marketing, it’s a lot more of that news and events oriented or like general brand messaging thing. And you know, to some extent I think like TikTok has that, but like what ways do you think universities could approach, developing a better TikTok strategy?

Keeping in mind that it is sort of this inspiration platform and it is this, way for, Users to kind of get more of a feeling for the, the space and the place and the activities and all the, all the really cool stuff. Like, you know, what, what, how, what are like the keys to success that a, that a university or a college could start thinking through and developing that strategy.

Adrienne Sheares: Oh, awesome. And then, funny enough, I actually did, do a little bit of higher ed marketing. I wrote a white paper on how colleges and universities can use social media to attract students. This was before TikTok, but what I will say, I had taken a look before, you know, coming on here today, and I was really interested to see, some universities that you thought would just be on TikTok and killing it.

Were not., and I think it could be due to higher education. They’re spread very thin, and so for that, looking at user-generated content, what the students, are talking about, and seeing if you could form some type of partnership or ambassador program because they’re already creating content. I noticed regardless if the school was doing it, the students were doing it.

And I think it’s important for the colleges and universities to note, it’s a buzzword, but it it’s true. On TikTok, there’s a lot about authenticity, people can see multiple perspectives of an event, of a hashtag. So if we’re talking about your food, your mascot or you know, what, what have you, whatever’s popular at your school, searching that hashtag I’m going to see multiple accounts and it’s not just going to be the brand account.

And then actually we see this outside of higher ed. Generally, the popular content is not coming from the brand. It is coming from either, in this case, the students, or the fans, what have you. But what I would say for colleges and universities, start gearing up to be there., and the way that you’re gonna have to do that is probably allowing budget, which I think Jon could speak more to cuz I don’t understand how that works. But I’ll just talk from maybe the tactical, part of what to do., but what I did notice though, is some of the schools were doing it in a very creative way. And so my first tip would really be, look at what other schools are doing, but not just what other schools are doing, what other brands are doing, so for example, a really popular thing is a day in the life. And so I had noticed that some colleges were doing day in a life of the students, which is great for prospective students, but also from alumni.

So for example, like Baylor had a newscaster that’s an alumni, and she did, what is it like being a morning newscaster?, and so I thought, you know, this is great because like from a career perspective, I remember being in high school really wanting to be a journalist. So that’s type of content that really would’ve resonated with me.

Then there’s just, thinking of the culture of TikTok. People come to TikTok to have a good time and laugh, so how can you do that? For example, one school that I saw, I believe it was University of Kentucky, they had a kind of like a joke of when your professor comes in and immediately gives an assignment on the first day of school.

And I think it was like a little clip of like, what happened to saying hello? What happened to saying, how are you? So it’s kind of like just a little. And like a girl kind of like doing like little facial expressions. And it was like funny because everyone remembers there was that professor that you know either had, the first day of class was really nice and easy and we’re all getting to know each other and the other professor’s like, we’re diving in and this is like, we’re really in school.

And you’re just like, whoa, we just got outta break. Like why are we doing all this

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I was that Professor You can start hard and get easy. You can’t start easy and get hard on as a, as a teacher. So like my first day I was like really strict and then I would just get As. So, okay. I’m a little more laid back, but I think you bring up some really great points there and there. There’s a few things I really wanna address because I know there’s.

There’s gotta be a couple listeners in our, in our audience right now that are asking themselves this question, and I don’t have an answer for it. And I’m sure, and it’s okay if you don’t, other than just like put your hand arms up in frustration. But just yesterday, we got a new governor here in Arkansas.

Who signed one of the, her first acts was to sign an executive order banning TikTok from state owned devices. So if you work at a state institution in Arkansas and many other states are, are passing similar legislation, you cannot use TikTok, on a, a state run device. I guess you, you could get rounded by doing your personal or or hiring an agency to it.

The, the law still has some gray areas. If you could pay an agency for ads, I don’t the ins and analysis of it, and it’s gonna vary from state to state, but I think you do bring a good point that. The bulk of the content that students find is not from the school, but from other individuals.

And maybe we could hire influencers or get, you know, alumni to post on our Hals, but what other alternatives, what, what, what would you say to, a university who’s really now hampered? They’ve got one of a major social media platform. that is a tool for communication that they can no longer use. What can they do?

Adrienne Sheares: So I think you ironed it out perfectly. There’s no easy solution, right? Because does the social media manager now need to use their personal phone? I will say, I mean I’ve had to in my career, but you know, putting that pressure on someone, is a lot. I did like what you said about the creators, and having someone do it on your behalf.

Um, I think that’s something, that came up in the focus group. Well, not I think, it did come up in the focus group of the Gen Z participants were quite frank in saying, they trusted creators more than brands, even if the creators were getting paid., as long as what they were promoting or what type of content they were creating was a aligned with the creator’s brand.

So they would say, okay, you’re getting paid, but it’s authentic. I could believe you use this. I could believe you support this., and as I said, the creators reach, and trust is probably far greater., they understand the. and I think it’s a great way to maybe find a loophole to get around., but then the challenge you have is your official account.

How do you repost? I guess you have to repost from, personal accounts. So I think you’re just gonna have to get, a little uglier to, to be frank, I don’t see a way around because what I hadn’t thought about when that law, you know, has been passing in different places is the state owned universities.

Cuz you’re right that technically then it’s a state-owned device.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah. Is it? Well, we, politics aside, like, I just think it’s a terribly short sighted law. Like, you know, we, we can all agree. Okay, maybe a, you know, a a a state auditor doesn’t need to have TikTok on their personal or their, their, their state owned device. But like marketers, it is a marketing tool and the state has public information officers, PR people, all these other professionals.

And on top of that, a lot of them, our, ours, I believe, has a, a law enforcement loophole where they can. Log in and see like, okay, there’s a video we might need to monitor threats or, or, or other things. But also I think it hampers universities as far as social listening goes, and seeing what’s being said about their institution on social media.

So I think we’ve just, social media managers at state institutions have just been put into a really tough position of these new.

Adrienne Sheares: They really have, and with the social listening component that made me think of. Point on you can’t be on TikTok as a brand or a university, and not respond. I had noticed when I was looking at some accounts, you know, they’re posting about happy holidays, you know, fun stuff, but in the background or in real life, if you will, the school was going through some controversy.

They had incidents with students and police and. You know, violence with students and people are like, did you expel so and so yet? Why is this here? Why have we not addressed this? So the thing about TikTok is it can’t fix or cover up anything that’s really happening in real life. If you’re having problems with, you know, students or there’s disarray is going to come out regardless if you, you know, address it on TikTok or not.

So you might as. , you know, have a plan put together of, you don’t need to respond to every single comment if you’re getting like thousands and thousands. But seeing, you know, I personally didn’t know what the incident was at the school, so I Googled it and then I was like, oh my God. Like why aren’t they saying anything about this?

It is just all the comments like, expel this girl expel. And I’m like, who is this girl? What does she do? And I’m like, oh man, they should have expelled her. The thing about it is if someone had, you know, just put a thing like, you know, we’re addressing this and blah, blah, blah, and the president will be making a speech at noon, check it out.

I’m sure there’ll still be people, you know, commenting, but at least as a prospective student, as a maybe potential donor or you know what have you, I can be like, okay, things happen, but it’s being.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Exactly, and I, I think that kind of goes down to the, the idea, and I say this about any social platform, whether or not you’re on TikTok. , you’re on TikTok. Like somebody’s filming at your school. Somebody’s talking about your school, and if you’re not able to control or, or respond to that, that message, you’re letting tho that group control the message.

So I worry, I’m glad I’m no longer at a state funded higher ed institution right now and have to deal with it. But I feel so, so much and, and not just higher ed. There’s government accounts. that do really good work on TikTok that are, are, are in danger, there. So, if, if any lawmakers are listening, which I sincerely doubt, like it might be time to like make some amendments to those laws,

Adrienne Sheares: Yeah. Or have some certain protections put in place on the phone so that, I mean, I don’t know, this is beyond my reach, but I’m just saying like, maybe it’s a special TikTok phone or it’s a, you know, VPN’s in order. I don’t know.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: let, let, let’s address some of the ideas that, that, you know, they can do like, There are a lot of students who have large followings, who have, who are TikTok influencers or, or may even be like professional TikTok ERs. I mean, it’s, I’m sure at least every campus has one. Right? So how can schools ethically leverage those students who have a large following on TikTok?

What, what, what, what’s a good way to, to, to work with them in, in a way that, that isn’t just, Hey, would you make us a video for free

Adrienne Sheares: That’s a good question that I would kind of thinking about. My former intern, her name is Jayla. One thing I noticed in her college experience, she was a student ambassador for many, many brands, from, Bumble to Victoria’s Secret to they’re just, . Endless, endless, endless. Like she had like eight of them.

And you have to create content for the brands. And I believe they pay you or they pay you In swags it was, you know, some of them I was looking like, Hmm. But you know, she got, you know, really great experience. And so my thought would be, there’s a couple of options. One, starting a student ambassador program, so that either could be, maybe it’s associated with.

of course. So if there’s like a large university and we’re doing a social media course and you can apply to be a student ambassador, so it’s like homework and credit, so you’re not just doing for free. Then of course what would be great is you’re actually paid like a work study or internship., you know, for the schools that have more of a budget, you know, to do this, that some of that should go to actual creator, or for especially the ones, who get it.

Paying them like you would pay any creator. So whatever their rates are., because to your point, there are students who are making money being creators. One of my friends had me cracking up because she has her own, you know, social media agency and she was talking about her younger colleagues and you know, they’re walking and the girl gets it a Tesla and she.

How you got this Tesla, like, I don’t pay you that much. And she’s like, oh, I have deals with, with brands. She’s a creator on the side. And so she’s like, can you teach me your ways because you work for me and you’re living this good life , and I’m perplexed. So I think there’s a few different ways, to do it because I’ll give these students credit, like that type.

Way to make money wasn’t really available., when I was in college, I remember, you know, a few people had blogs, but you just did that for fun. Like there was nobody, you know, making money., so I think, not taking advantage of the students is key. I think, you know, working out. how you’re going to use user.

Generat generated content asking first, don’t just take it., and if you’re going to be using it in advertisement, then there needs to be a larger conversation because now you’re getting into what is the rights, what is the licensing? How long can you use this content? So. , I think having a good understanding of, how to leverage your students without taking advantage of them.

Because one thing about generation Z, well, a, you do this because it’s the right thing to do, but also Generation Z is pretty savvy., and so in the focus group they were talking about, they. Would never support a brand that takes advantage of creators., they don’t like it when brands steal from a popular creator and don’t give credit or just take and maybe give credit but didn’t ask.

Um, so really making sure you’re on your Ps and Qs there.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: That’s good advice everywhere, especially for high higher ed, like that is our, like the cardinal sin in higher ed is plagiarism. Right. So, you know, I’m, I’m curious about this folks group. Is it, was there anything that, that just stood out and surprised you that you learned from the focus group?

Adrienne Sheares: So I have to go back in time because now I have adapted, I’ve become more well versed in TikTok and, you know, looking for things. I think the very first thing is that surprised me is they just thought it was more efficient way to find. Things. I think that was the first thing that was like, because when I first heard the trend as other people, I’m just like, what is more efficient than looking at something in Google?

But as they were talking to me about it, they’re like, look, I go on Google. It’s kind of the same result. , it’s a lot of advertising. I’m going through pages and pages of results versus when I go on TikTok, I know in the first few seconds if this is what I want or not. So I can just keep swiping and I’m entertained as I go.

Um, so I think that was the thing that was most baffling to me., and they also thought us not getting, it was baffling to them., but they said many times, you know, they grew up on YouTube, so. Getting information in video form is not a foreign concept to.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, it seems completely wild to me. Like that would not be, you know, the first place I would look for information., but eh, I mean, times change and, and there are different, different methods and, and white ways to do it, and there are some just really incredible creators on TikTok putting out amazing content that are, is reliable, but, Right.

I worry about media literacy, , like reliable sources, but we’ve always have, like, since Wikipedia, IM, I remember back when I was teaching it was never, never, never use Wikipedia. Now it’s like, yeah, but, you know, check the references and sources, you know.

Adrienne Sheares: Yeah. I wish I could find, I think I was reading this morning, I don’t remember if it was Sweden or nor. I’m gonna have to look it up. But they had incorporated, online literacy into their education system so that kids can spot misinformation or disinformation, whatever they were calling it., I think.

it’s going to be critical for the social networks and search engines to really evolve. I know they don’t have to evolve at this time as far as misinformation because they’re like, look, we just pull up what exists. But I’m thinking from when I was a kid, when I was looking for inform. , most of it was credible sources, right?

I had to go to an encyclopedia, I had to go to a library. And so a lot of like misinformation that would never make the cut, didn’t get published. Not saying everything is perfect, but you could reliably trust this information and the internet has changed that. And to think that people are going, you know, if you just want to answer to something, , you just want the answer.

So you’re like, oh, this came up. Sounds good. Great. And expecting people to triple check. You know, how many times did we go to a party and we’re like, who won the Oscar in 2005? Like, we’re not gonna go and search everything. We’re gonna take the first answer that pops up. So I think there’s gonna have to be some type of stamp or some type of algorithm and I don’t know, maybe with AI can.

Fact check and promote things that are more credible than others. I’m really not sure what the answer is going to be, but something’s gonna have to be done because as we’ve seen with trials of like Megan, the Stallion, there’s so many people who did not realize that the blogs were just making things up.

And several other cases, and it’s just like once it’s out there, you know, put a little graphic on it. People are like, oh, this blah, blah, blah. And even my own husband we’re at the dinner table. He’s like, oh, I could’ve Swo, I read this. I’m like, yeah, that wasn’t true. And he’s like, oh man, imagine he’s been to college.

He’s a reasonable man. But your mind, once you’re sorting through all this information, you don’t like compartmentalize, like, oh, that was fake, that was not, it just all comes back in your.

Joel Goodman: Well, and all those algorithms today, you know, are so different from even 10 years ago where. Today, it’s, it’s about elevating that content that’s going to make the most amount of money for the platform. It’s not about truth, it’s not about facts. It never is. It’s about, it’s about engagement. It’s about selling advertising.

And, you know, that’s, that’s where, that’s where we see, you know, all the, all the problems that, started cropping up on Twitter and that are, you know, Somewhat back with its new ownership, but you know, the amplification of misinformation is not, is not necessarily because someone is evil in trying to push their political agenda.

It’s because someone’s evil and is trying to make as much money as they can off of the platform that they have. May not that they’re evil, but, and, and that is a problem because, you know, as you were saying, like with your husband, it’s. Even for people that do have those media literacy, backgrounds or the filters in place, and like, I’m one of them.

I, I have a master’s degree in media studies and media literacy was one of the things I really focused on in my studies. But I still have to find, I still have to catch myself making sure that I’m critically analyzing stuff that’s coming across in search results on social media. Mostly just because you get into mental routines, right?

And so, like, there, the systems are designed to build trust and the algorithms are designed to build trust with you, whether that’s a good thing or not., and, and it is a, it, it’s a, it’s a dangerous place to be, in, in the modern world when, we don’t have those media literacy, education. Programs set in our public schools, set in, you know, general curriculum, you don’t really get any of that till college maybe.

Um, and actually generally you don’t get that stuff till college . You gotta go do a master’s degree with a specialization in it, to really start thinking about it or, or seeking out those media literacy tools at the same time. It’s a, it’s a scary thing.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I wonder though, and, and, and we, we’ll move on past this and get back to TikTok in a second, but, you know, if, if the younger generation’s more of a trial by fire were, were like, , you know, we grew up with reliable sources of information. Evening news, you know, Dan rather says it, it’s gotta be true. It’s published in Time Magazine, whatnot.

But this sort of trial by fire isn’t pushing the younger generation to more skepticism, which I hope, because I also feel sometimes I feel like the younger generation has better media literacy than like my parents or grandparents. who, who. Just, oh, assume you made a video. It’s a video. It has to be true.

You took the time to make this right. So, I, I do think, you know, we worry a lot about, about the younger generations, but they might actually be better at it than we think.

Adrienne Sheares: I think it depends on who. So for the focus group that I did, they were very aware that misinformation was rampant on TikTok. And so the way they protected themself was just assuming unless., said otherwise that the information that they were coming across on TikTok was no good., me. And what I mean by that, like for as far as news or politics or health is concerned, and they also said they didn’t necessarily care if the information was true or not pending on the situation.

So if they’re just wanting to be entertained, like it doesn. I’m just having a good time. Now, if they’re going to now buy something or go somewhere, now they’re going to start doing their due diligence off of TikTok. Well, they, we’ll start with TikTok with seeing how many followers the person has. What are their comments?

What are the, the. the other content and then seeing what other people are seeing about it. And then, you know, going further and further into their rabbit hole until they’ve determined they have enough information to be like, okay, I think this is credible., and the focus group, they talked a lot about, they viewed Google and Twitter.

This is before Elon Musk took over and changed some things, but they viewed Twitter as credible. And I think they were really citing the election of when Twitter had the, oh, you know, this is not true, or, you know, whatever., and they said they wished more platforms would have that., and they spoke a lot.

About being burned by TikTok. Meaning in the beginning, like, I guess 2020 pandemic, they had followed some people who were, I guess, health experts and, you know, this one woman in the focus group was like, I followed them, I believed ’em, you know this. And then it came out that the person was a fraud. So after that she was like, pretty upset.

And so she’s like, I’m not, I’m no longer trusting. , any of these health experts on TikTok, if there’s something I’m gonna go to another, credible source. So I would say with this group, they were very understanding of the problem with misinformation and had taken different steps on, you know, making sure they weren’t, I guess, a victim to it.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: Yeah, it, it’s definitely a, a problem for sure. And. Fully one. I I, I do think better, better media literacy courses are, are the solution. But also, yeah, our students are, are, are are smart , you know, you get, they might get burnt once you’ve gotta touch the stove every now and, you know, once in your life and like get burned and you never touch it again.

You know who, who among us has not accidentally shared disinformation., you know, it, it happens to everybody. We, someone, we all have to be vigilant. Back to the, the, the practical usage of TikTok, the, the, the fun stuff. You mentioned at Content Marketing World that you enjoy several brands on TikTok., have you seen any schools, on the platform that you think are doing particularly good job or are just other brands in general that you think are doing well?

Adrienne Sheares: Yeah, so I would say I, I took a little gander, so I went and saw like Howard University, I think they’re building up their TikTok. They didn’t have like as many followers as some of the big schools, but I loved what they were doing for homecoming, kind of showcasing their, their culture and the band. And, you know, the uniqueness of of Howard, I really enjoyed.

Uh, usc, I think they were, you know, really embraced the Florida, I mean, not Florida, sorry, the California I’m clearly just coming back from break., and Clemson University, they were kind of, they really played up, you know, the football and, I guess, you know, I’m not a big football fan, but the tiger.

They had like the tiger different, like for winter break they were doing, You know, the Tigers by the fire and reading like a holiday book and they’re playing like holiday music. So getting, people in the spirit, and I would suggest people check out, rival iq. They are a, I guess, software company.

You could look at, you know, competitive., data on social networks and they actually have a higher ed study, where they’re looking at the colleges and universities and they rank them by, their engagements on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. And this is the first year that they’re, doing TikTok., and the thing that I also wanted to point out, because I know Jon, this speaks highly to you.

Being great at all social networks is very, very hard. And the thing that this study uncovered is the top 10, you know, most engaging, like, Let’s say Instagram follow, Instagram accounts on higher education. This, this top 10 is not the same for TikTok. So they change with each, each, each school.

Um, so yeah, so I think one thing I really liked, I don’t remember unfortunately, which colleges were, so they kind of all ram together. But I really liked, I think I mentioned like, what are you wearing?, and I really liked some schools, like, I think it was a Texas school, you know, they’re showing like their Greek, Fraternities and sorority life and really putting it together.

And I think Harvard had like a, I don’t know if you guys saw, like on Vogue for example, they asked celebrities like 70 questions or 71 or, I don’t know, certain amount of questions. So they were asking, the dean of Harvard as he is walking around campus, you know, 21 questions, really bringing into the spirit of TikTok. And I think another interesting one, and unfortunately I don’t remember the school, they were giving tips to the students in, I think things that are relevant to today’s, you know, students. So for example, there were tips on going home for the holidays if you’re a member of the LGBTQIA.

And it was advice on, you know, what to do if someone, you know, picks a fight with you at dinner., so it wasn’t necessarily just academics. A lot of these accounts. Mixed in with, I guess, the Gen Z culture or, you know, gen Z students or what they cared about. So Black Panther was another big one of, a lot of the schools, I guess, had partnerships or something going on with Black Panther.

And so we’re seeing behind the scenes of the kids getting, a preview or some people are saying, what, you know, black Panther meant to them, or, and they’re also inserting like their major, they’re like as a. You know, music major and the songs and you know, all that great stuff. So really capturing what is going on with the students and what’s going on with your campus and what’s going on with the uniqueness and your culture.

I think some people were emphasizing, I think it was U S C again. How awesome their, you know, graduation is. And I believe they had Oprah as a keynote. And so, you know, repurposing Oprah’s speech, which I think was their most watched video because I mean, hello Oprah. I’ve seen her speak before. And it is, you immediately want to make your life better after hearing her speak.

Um, so I think a lot of the schools have come up with creative ways on how to do things., another cool thing that I saw was,, before and after picture. So if you’ve ever been on a college tour, when schools aren’t in session, it looks dead, right? So they’re talking about coming back from the break, and they said before, so the campus is empty.

It’s kind of like a few people milling around. Then it’s. After the students are back, you’re seeing like the vibrancy of the campus and it’s just a really quick, like, I don’t even think the video was 15 seconds, but it was paired to some cool music. So that’s another thing that’s important of popular music choices Can.

Help, I guess, your video perform., so I’m seeing different colleges using different, popular tactics that work for brands on TikTok. I think the main thing for colleges to be aware of, of why people are coming to TikTok, They’re coming to be inspired, they’re coming to laugh, they’re coming for an authentic, experience.

So having something that’s just purely academic 24 7 is not gonna work. And I would say similar things that have probably worked on your Instagram of showcasing your uniqueness and vibrancy will also work on Tic-Tac. You just have to, you know, make sure it fits with the.

Jon-Stephen Stansel: I can’t think of a better bow to like wrap this episode up on, like, I’ve got so many more questions, but like, that’s just the wonderful note, to end on. This really sums it up very well. So that said, Adrienne, where can people find you, read more about, about your focus group?, plug anything that you, you, you, you see fit.

Adrienne Sheares: Okay, well, hello everyone. I’m Adrienne., you can find me on Twitter @AdriShears, you probably would like to follow me on Twitter, or on LinkedIn since those are where I am the most. I do have a TikTok, but it is really for researching and seeing other things and planning my trip. So I have not posted to TikTok as of yet, but you know, now that my hair is done.

Maybe I’ll make a little video today., and you can go to my website, I’ll be having some more changes of having, you know, revamping my blog and having a LinkedIn live series. But if you go to my website and subscribe, you can get all those details cuz they’re forthcoming.

Joel Goodman: Thank you so much for listening to The Thought Feeder Podcast, and again, a very special thanks to Adrienne for being with us today. Thank you so much.

Adrienne Sheares: Thank you for having me.

Joel Goodman: You can find Adrienne on Twitter at adri shearers. We’ll also have that linked up in the show notes on our website at You can also find back episodes and transcripts for every episode that we’ve done.

There can also follow us on social media. We’re sorta of on Twitter at Thought Feed Pod still. But you know, pending whatever, if Twitter burns down, are we still there? Who knows?, we are definitely on LinkedIn. We’ve got a nascent Instagram happening. All of that is at Thought Feeded Pod and, there’s plenty more content coming out.

Uh, thought Feeder is produced and edited by Carl Gratiot and hosted by Jon-Stephen Stansel and me, Joel Goodman. If you are a fan of the show and are feeling generous, we really would appreciate a review. And a rating on specifically Apple Podcasts. But if wherever you get your podcast, supports that sort of a thing, please leave a comment and a review and, that’ll really help other folks find the show.

We’ll be back with another episode in a couple of weeks.