June 9, 2023

This seems to be a typical first day of class.

In January, Taco Bell head of communications Matthew Prince, who teaches at Chapman University of Southern California, told 80 students what to expect from his influencer marketing class as he walked them through a projected Syllabus on foreground screen. lecture hall.

This semester, he said, things will be different: If someone in the class can make a TikTok video that gets a million views before him, the final exam will be canceled.

His words caught the attention of Sylvie Bastardo, a 20-year-old sophomore sitting in the back of the room. She pulls out her iPhone and starts filming.

First, she zooms in on the screen. Beneath the words “TikTok Influencer Challenge,” it said: “The first person to reach viral status wins. (Me to the class.) If you win, the finale is cancelled.” After catching an explanation of the challenge, She cuts to a classmate with a surprised look on her face.

The next morning, Ms. Bastardo chose a song to soundtrack the six-second segment, a catchy tune about a bad day with hair that started gaining traction on TikTok. Ms. Bastardo said she was a TikTok user savvy enough to know that a trending audio clip could help boost ratings.

After adding the song to one she filmed in class, she posted video And a simple headline: “My professor said that if our class gets 1 million TikTok likes, he will cancel the final exam!! PLEASE LOVE!!!”

Technically, getting a million likes is not a task. In an explanation of the challenge, Mr Prince asked for a million views. In an interview, Ms. Bastardo said that once he gave up the challenge, it was difficult to hear what the professor was actually saying in the lecture hall. But she thinks the sheer number of likes will entice the app’s algorithm and help her videos take off.

“It’s easier to get views than likes,” she said.

Ratings began to rise as comments poured in from people cheering her on. There are plenty of detractors, too. “Someone commented, ‘Oh, I don’t like this because you’re supposed to take final exams. I hope you all don’t become doctors or medical students,'” Ms. Bastardo said. But even negative reactions help her project because TikTok’s algorithm is at least in part driven by comments.

A day after posting the video, Ms Bastardo found she had achieved her goal.

“My mom said, ‘You’ve got to email him,'” she said.

But instead of sending a note to her professor right away, Ms Bastardo took a nap, she said. When she woke up, she saw that Mr. Prince had “chorused” her video — that is, he had recorded a new video and posted it alongside hers.

At the beginning of the next class, he took her to the lecture hall and announced that the final exam was cancelled. Ms. Bastardo bowed and the other students applauded.

Mr Prince asked if anyone else was trying to make the viral video. No hands were raised.

Ms Bastardo’s videos have garnered more than 5 million views to date.she also made a follow up video On her success, one clip itself has been viewed more than a million times. “MVP,” Mr. Prince wrote in the comments.

Mr Prince said the response to the challenge was mostly positive, aside from naysayers who popped up in Facebook social media professor discussion groups.

“A gentleman who has been in the education system for a long time has basically downplayed the role of influencers and this research,” said Mr Prince, who is a member of the group. “‘So you’re asking for a game on social media, not an impact test?'”

Mr. Prince, Taco Bell’s director of marketing communications and public relations, said he wanted his students to learn firsthand about the possibilities of social media.

“I’m just trying to come up with new ways to help support some of the teaching that I’ve been trying to accomplish throughout the semester,” he said. “Mainly, how virality and influence is democratized on social media, especially TikTok, you don’t really have to be a celebrity to drive it.”

In Ms Bastardo’s view, Mr Prince actually never expected to skip the final. “He didn’t think anyone would do it or have a chance,” she said.

Mr. Prince, an adjunct professor at Chapman College, is not the only educator trying to incorporate social media into lesson plans.Offered by Duke University course teach students how build a personal brand online.At Emory University’s Goizueta School of Business, Marina Cooley, assistant professor of marketing practice, has set up a Douyin account Her class last semester.

She divided 65 students into groups and asked them to post a TikTok video that would count for 20% of their final grade. The professor and her students decide that a video with 25,000 views is worth an A.

first in class video Scenes from the campus are clipped together in order for the grades to show. It dubbed Emory the “Harvard of the South,” a moniker that tends to infuriate the university’s fans and critics alike.

more successful virality Breaking through the three million markIn the video, Margaret Chang, a 22-year-old senior, ranks the six best college majors for dating while lip-syncing to an audio clip of the reality show “Dance Moms.” (“Finance Brothers” topped the list.)

Chang said she was surprised when she realized the course required her to produce social media content rather than just study. “Especially because it’s essentially equivalent to a final exam or final project in terms of grading,” she adds.

Much like Ms. Bastardo’s clip, Ms. Chang’s video is poorly produced. Short and simple, the photo shows her wearing earmuffs and sunglasses while giving a presentation. “The audience, especially my generation, Gen Z, I think we’re tired of all the artifice, like the embellishment of curated media,” Chang said.

Although she was nervous about “being seen by thousands of people on the internet”, she said she was excited to take part.

“As someone on the internet, you can’t really escape influencer marketing, period,” continued Ms. Zhang, who plans to go on to law school. “I’m interested in intellectual property, business, corporate law. Maybe it will eventually play a role in my career.”

Ms. Cooley said her marketing class was known on campus as a “TikTok class.” This week, students will register for the upcoming semester. The school is doubling class sizes.

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