by Alexandra DeMarco
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Center for Global Engagement has recently launched accounts on video-focused social network TikTok; Douyin, the Chinese counterpart to TikTok; and WeChat, a Chinese instant messaging and social media app.
“We are constantly thinking about new ways to engage volunteers and future Vols worldwide,” Rachel Rui, communications director at the Center for Global Engagement, said. “Launching these accounts will help us meet where our audiences are and give the global community a window to look into the great things that are happening at UT, Tennessee and beyond.”
The CGE TikTok account, led by CGE student communications assistant Valentina Gómez, aims to make UT students aware of international events on campus and increase engagement across CGE’s social media accounts.
CGE TikTok videos feature celebrations such as a “birthday bash” for the 53rd anniversary of UT’s International House, a “home away from home” for many international students at UT, and the annual 865 Night Market held by UT’s Asian American Association. Students representing other international positions on campus, such as the treasurer of the Portuguese Language Club and a peer advisor from the Programs Abroad office, have also made cameos on the account.
A unique aspect of TikTok is its “For You” page, where users scroll through videos recommended to them by a personalized algorithm. The algorithm often recommends content created in users’ nearby vicinities; so, for example, content created at UT could be recommended to students on or near campus.
TikTok videos are also converted into “reels,” short-form videos shared on Instagram, which have performed quite well in terms of engagement and attracted new followers to the CGE Instagram account.
Through Douyin and WeChat, CGE shares University of Tennessee, Knoxville content with a Chinese audience.
“We are thankful for the partnership and guidance of the social media team at the Office of Communications and Marketing,” Rui said. “Our alumni, students and partners in China are thrilled to see the new promotional video of UT, read the news about Smokey XI and see videos and pictures of many other events that are happening on campus.”
On Douyin, CGE’s goal is to post video content highlighting aspects of life at UT or in Knoxville that are unique to the area, such as a crowded day at Neyland Stadium. The account’s first post featured a video tour of UT’s campus — filmed by CGE student communications assistants Chang Gao and Olivia Song — including sites such as the Student Union, Stokely Hall and Pedestrian Bridge.
Gao had the idea to create a space for UT within the Chinese social media market while scrolling on Douyin when he came across a video of the Vols football team, posted by a general sports account, with millions of likes.
“In the beginning, I see UT football, like football video in Chinese TikTok. … I select UT Knoxville and see they don’t have our official account. … I’m in (the Chinese Students and Scholars Association). I joined that meeting, and they said we need to increase international influence and get more international student(s). … So that is why I decided to do this,” Chang said.
Gao realized there was potentially an interest for UT or American-related content in the Chinese social media market, and because UT does not have a university account on either Douyin or WeChat, Gao —with the support of the CGE office— created CGE accounts on both.
WeChat, which is similar to messaging platform WhatsApp, is particularly useful for interacting with international students who are either interested in coming to UT or already enrolled.
The app has both a posting feature, similar to Instagram but without likes and comments, and a chat feature. The CGE WeChat account currently has 184 followers and 12 posts, which consist of UT news, general campus information or iconic East Tennessee imagery, like Smokey the dog or the Smoky Mountains.
Through the CGE account, Gao has answered questions from WeChat users in China — some of whom are future UT students — related to being a UT international student, such as renting an apartment or arriving at the airport. The account also facilitates student introduction to a WeChat group specifically for international students from China at UT.
As of late 2021, TikTok has one billion users worldwide. The app has experienced exponential growth in recent years — TikTok had 54,793,729 million users worldwide in Jan. 2018. WeChat has more than one billion users in China and Douyin has more than 600 million, making all three platforms assets to brand growth and community engagement.
Keep up with the Center for Global Engagement on Tiktok, Douyin and WeChat, all with username @UTKGlobal.
Jason Moody (865-974-5752, email@example.com)