TikTok Is Recruiting College Students to Entice New Users

Social media site hired ‘campus talent ambassadors’ during spring semester

The company posted job listings at 17 college campuses. Source: Getty Images
Headshot of Kelsey Sutton

Facebook was borne out of college dorm rooms. TikTok is trying to get into them.

The mobile app on which users can create, share and view short videos is hiring college students to serve as “campus talent ambassadors” to help attract new users during the spring semester on more than a dozen U.S. college campuses.

At schools like Illinois State University, Florida Atlantic University and the University of South Florida, campus talent ambassadors are working to build the company’s brand and bolster its user base.

A major part of the job, based on public videos and LinkedIn pages shared by several of the college students TikTok hired as ambassadors, is incentivizing students to download TikTok on their phones and use the app to upload content. Those incentives usually come in the form of free stuff: branded TikTok drawstring bags, slices of pizza or even the chance to win Amazon gift cards. TikTok-branded booths promoting the app have cropped up on campuses like the University of North Florida and Florida Atlantic University.

The company in February put out job listings for TikTok Campus Talent Ambassadors at 17 U.S. colleges in Illinois and Florida, including Northwestern University, Florida State University and the University of Chicago.

“TikTok is looking for a high energy and active student that wants to help identify peers who 1. have special talents or passions 2. want to document college life or 3. simply want to express themselves and show their creativity,” the job listings read. “We are NOT looking for someone to hand out flyers or swag at college events. We want a leader, entrepreneur and out-of-the-box thinker to help build a community of on-campus creators who will use the TikTok platform to express their passion and craft.”

While TikTok offered “competitive compensation,” it primarily emphasized the other benefits for students, including “resume building,” marketing skills and “exclusive brand merchandise.”

The merchandise, including branded denim jackets, branded hats, branded water bottles, and branded shirts, is featured in some of the TikTok videos the company’s brand ambassadors have uploaded to the app.

Fuse Marketing, the company that posted the listings, did not respond to requests for more information, including how much the students were being paid, nor did a spokesperson for TikTok.

TikTok, which is owned by the Chinese technology company Bytedance, isn’t the first tech platform to turn to college students for help deepening the its usage among young people. Facebook, once the digital home for college kids, in 2016 sought out brand ambassadors on campus to help make community pages centered around specific universities more popular. (Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, has not participated in similar campaigns, a spokesperson for the company said.)

For TikTok, the focus on college campuses is another way it’s trying to ramp up its appeal in the U.S. The short-form video platform is already wildly popular outside of the U.S., surpassing 1 billion global installs in February, according to the mobile market intelligence firm Sensor Tower.

The app is already growing in popularity in the U.S., chiefly among young people. U.S. installs of TikTok totalled more than 96 million in February, according to the same report.

TikTok’s collection of children’s data without parental consent prompted a record $5.7 million fine levied by the Federal Trade Commission.

On the advertising side, the company is exploring a biddable option and is experimenting with shopping tools with some retail brands.

One TikTok campus talent ambassador offered students the chance to win Amazon gift cards if they signed up for TikTok.

@kelseymsutton kelsey.sutton@adweek.com Kelsey Sutton is the streaming editor at Adweek, where she covers the business of streaming television.