Back-to-School 2021: Marketing tips to win sales on TikTok

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Back-to-School 2021: Marketing tips to win sales on TikTok

July 15, 2021

InsightsCultureSmall Business

The back-to-school season has always presented unique opportunities for marketing and sales. But the return to classes this fall will be unlike any other year—and vastly different from 2020, when back-to-school meant stay-at-home. Today the pandemic situation is improving around the world. Lockdown measures are being lifted and schools are reopening. Classes will soon be back in session.


Students will be going back to school for real in 2021, and they’re excited to see their friends and restart their social lives after being locked down at home for so long. They’re scrambling to upgrade their wardrobes, get new hairstyles, and stock up on all the supplies they need—and some of the ones they want.


All of these things are more important than ever this year. But what are back-to-school shoppers looking for? We’ve compiled some insights to help you better understand TikTok users as they prepare to return to the classroom this fall.

Parents are the gatekeepers

First things first: Find the parents and guardians. Did you know that nearly 1 in every 3 TikTok users is the parent of a school-age child? In 2021, TikTok has become a platform for everyone. Marketers are turning to our community to reach the gatekeepers who make the household purchasing decisions—and who have the money to spend. Parents look to TikTok to get new ideas for their kids, scouring the platform and discovering new products for their families to enjoy.

 

Did you know:
29% of TikTok users are parents with children between 6-18 years old.1
41% of those parents fall in the high-income segment.2

GWI, TikTok users with children aged 6-18, Global, Q3 & Q4 2020, “How old are your children?";  “Household Income (by segment)”

GWI, TikTok users with children aged 6-18, Global, Q3 & Q4 2020

Students search for inspiration

It’s not just the parents that turn to TikTok for new ideas—so do the mobile-first generation. Last year, TikTok played a role in 81% of back-to-school purchases among US-based users.3 From cute accessories to high-tech school supplies, TikTok makes it easy to find the biggest trends and must-have gear. Some of our favorites include:
#BacktoschoolOutfit – TikTok users are hungry for fashion inspiration and actively seeking out advice from other users and TikTok creators.
#BacktoschoolHaul– Whether they bought it themselves or received it as a gift, students on TikTok have a passion for showing off their cool new purchases.
#BacktoschoolCheck– Users love to put it all together and flaunt their final looks—and with 200 million views, this hashtag shows that the TikTok community likes watching those videos, too.

Students (like everyone else) love high-quality products and great discounts from brands they like. But on TikTok, consumers have an additional purchase motivator: participation. Compared to other platforms, TikTok users are 22% more likely to promote brands when they feel like they’re involved and participating.4 This gives businesses a special opportunity to connect with consumers by turning them into participants. And when TikTok users feel involved, they become ambassadors for your brand.

School-related hashtags trending on TikTok

Surf a hashtag, find a trend

Ready to go back to school? So is the crowd on TikTok, where the hashtag #schoolhas been viewed over 66 billion times. Whether you want to join existing trends or kickstart your own, a good place to start is by exploring these popular hashtags that we’ve handpicked for back-to-school 2021. They’ll give you a feel for what’s hot this year among the student community on TikTok, including music, effects, and other trends.
#schoollife– 7.3 billion views
#collegelife – 4.3 billion views
#backtoschool – 4.7 billion views
#collegehacks – 2.9 billion views
#transformurdorm – 909.5 million views

Getting started on TikTok is easy

For businesses that want to take advantage of this year’s back-to-school season, TikTok For Business has you covered. We provide a wide range of easy-to-use solutions—plus all the guidance you need to create successful marketing campaigns that truly connect with parents and students.

Target Audience #1: Parents

  • Raise awareness with TikTok Creators. Parents trust other parents. On the TikTok Creator Marketplace, you’ll find amazing creators who excel at making content geared towards families and parents. Leveraging their talents can help brands break through and connect.
  • Drive action through In-Feed Ads. Discounts are particularly effective for back-to-school because parents are trying to make their dollars stretch. Brands can highlight discounts and drive traffic to their websites with In-Feed Ads targeted at users ages 35 and up. Bold call-to-action buttons and visually appealing display cards help to grab attention and increase the number of clicks.

Target Audience #2: Students

  • Inspire students with captivating Business Account content. Students are actively on the lookout for back-to-school ideas and items to purchase—and they love to be surprised and delighted with creative, entertaining content that sparks joy. To give them the inspiration they’re searching for, get involved with the latest trends in the days and weeks leading up to the first day back. Need a little inspiration yourself? Take a look through the Business Creative Hub, and be sure to make use of our creative tips and tools!
  • Engage them with a Branded Hashtag Challenge. There’s no better way to tap into the culture than with a Branded Hashtag Challenge, which prompts your audience to participate and get their creative juices flowing—all while thinking about your brand. Check out #CollegeGotMeLike to see what it’s all about.

Back-to-school is better than ever with TikTok

We can all remember the excitement of the first day back to school after summer break, of seeing friends you hadn’t seen in months and plunging back into the swirling social dynamics. You wanted to look just right, have the coolest new stuff to show off, and find a sense of belonging. For the kids returning to class this fall, all of those feelings are even more amplified than usual. Back-to-school 2021 simply matters more.

TikTok helps the younger generation find that place where they belong by connecting them (and their parents!) with a community that shares their interests and passions. And it’s in this magic moment of connection where brands can truly shine by providing the inspiration that TikTokers are looking for.


Whether your business sells apparel, laptops, sneakers, or snacks—you can reach your target audience with popular hashtags and powerful solutions. By using TikTok to transform consumers into participants and ambassadors, brands can turn back-to-school into a brilliant marketing success.

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1.  GWI, TikTok users with children aged 6-18, Global, Q3 & Q4 2020, “Audience Size (All)”

2.  GWI, TikTok users with children aged 6-18, Global, Q3 & Q4 2020, “Household Income (by segment)”

3.  TikTok Marketing Science Holiday Shopping Behaviour Research 2020, conducted by Walnut Unlimited

4.  GWI, Gen Z Users of TikTok, Global, Q4 2020 & Q1 2021. "What would most motivate you to promote your favorite brand online?"

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