This photo shows the TikTok icon on a phone screen. University of Alaska and travel industry officials recently joined forces to attract potential students to employment and learning opportunities in Alaska through the popular app. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

This photo shows the TikTok icon on a phone screen. University of Alaska and travel industry officials recently joined forces to attract potential students to employment and learning opportunities in Alaska through the popular app. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)

New kids on the Tok

University uses popular app to reach new students as states move to ban it from government devices.

Students and staff from the University of Alaska and travel industry officials recently joined forces to attract more potential students to employment and learning opportunities in Alaska by meeting them on their home turf — TikTok.

The popular app, which is currently the fastest-growing social media platform, according to a report by Sensor Tower, has been downloaded over 2.6 billion times across the globe and is estimated to reach more than 50 million users every day in the U.S. with 60% of users between the ages of 16 to 24.

However, TikTok has seen a fair share of controversy since its debut in 2016 by the Chinese company, ByteDance, and on Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed legislation to ban the app from federal agencies’ devices.

Along with that, just this week four states — Alabama, Georgia, Idaho and Utah — banned the app on state-issued devices, which applies to state colleges and universities, many of which use TikTok to reach new students and communicate with current students and alums.

According to Robbie Graham, UA associate vice president of public affairs, in light of the recent bans being enacted by federal and state entities, Graham said UA is monitoring the situation and in the event, the app is banned from state entities in Alaska, she said UA will “respond accordingly.”

In an email, Gov. Mike Dunleavy spokesperson Jeff Turner stated the governor’s office is reviewing the potential risks the app poses and shared that the governor’s office and state departments do not use the app.

The UA ad campaign began releasing videos on the platform last month which highlighted Alaska-themed “Day in the Life” videos created by students, workers and alums who shared their experiences and opportunities in the Alaska travel industry they were able to land after studying at UA. Most recently, on Thursday the campaign also released a holiday-themed reindeer video that shared the UA student opportunities available at the Large Animal Research Station in UA Fairbanks and the campaign is planned to release another three videos on the app after the holidays.

Since the campaigns went live on the app just over two weeks ago, Graham said the videos have made more than 200,00 impressions on users and had nearly 2,000 clicks to learn more about the information.

In a recent interview with the Empire, University of Alaska President Pat Pitney said she hopes using the popular platform for the ad campaign helps the universities be able to reach more young people in Alaska who want to learn more about the ” great environment to study in ” and the range of tourism businesses that relate to programs offered at the universities.

“I think highlighting the uniqueness of southeast Alaska is paramount and using this platform is a great way to grow the location-based opportunities out there,” Pitney said. “We want it to be a tool to attract people to Alaska and go to the place they want to be.”

Kali Spencer, a senior at University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau, said she got involved with the ad campaign after hearing about it during a board of regents meeting, where she serves as a student regent. She said she already had experience working on social media for the university’s ambassador program and said she felt getting involved with the campaign would be a fun way to share some of her favorite aspects of being a student at the Juneau-based campus.

Spender did admit that she was a bit surprised by the number of views her own “day in the life” video received — which clocked in at more than 100,000 and 2,130 clicks so far — noting since it dropped she’s been stopped a few times on campus from students who recognize her from it.

“Wel, I love TikTok, I think it’s super fun,” Spencer said, laughing. “I think that education is empowerment and I want to help as many people as possible find their passion and get into school, and if there is a way to make it more accessible, I’m all for it.”

• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at clarise.larson@juneauempire.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.

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