'Not just a dancing app': Student ambassadors promote campus engagement with TikTok, other brands

While many students hope to work for national corporations during summer internships or after graduation, a few have the opportunity to learn new skills and build their resumes by representing big-name brands all year round. 

Duke’s campus brand ambassadors have a variety of duties, from creating social media posts and hosting events to partnering with student organizations.

Binisha Patel, a junior majoring in neuroscience, is one of Duke’s TikTok college representatives. She found the job through a posting on DukeList, and she explained that her job includes making TikToks and creating content to post on other social media outlets. 

Before the pandemic, TikTok representatives did in-person tasks, like handing out merchandise to students, Patel said. However, the program has transitioned to a completely virtual format, so the tasks tend to be focused on creating or sharing specific types of TikToks. 

For one of those tasks, called “passion points,” Patel had to find and share TikToks related to different creator specialties, which could include singing, art, education or cooking. Patel said an element of the campus representative role is increasing student engagement by showcasing the versatility of the app.

“Part of the big message is that TikTok is not just a dancing app,” Patel said. “It’s about feeling safe in a community.”

Patel said that after the Black Lives Matter movement took off, she tried to focus her work with TikTok on sharing educational posts and elevating the voices of Black TikTok creators. 

“I really wanted to show the positive, socially aware side of TikTok that promotes education, but I also wanted to highlight and uplift Black creators, because I think they should be recognized more,” Patel said. 

Nhu Do, a senior majoring in computer science and visual media studies, has served multiple roles in Bumble’s brand ambassador program over the past three years and is currently a community leader for Bumble. This job includes helping to facilitate local Bumble ambassadors’ college-centered brand initiatives. 

“At the end of last year, Bumble teamed up with Niche to launch a $40,000 scholarship sweepstakes to equip students with meaningful resources, especially as Bumble wanted to build a network of support in the time of COVID-19. Our local team of college ambassadors helped spread the word about the scholarship here at Duke in the hopes that Bumble could provide a sense of relief as students prepared for a new semester in 2021,” Do wrote in an email. 

Do, who learned about the campus ambassador program through a friend in Bumble’s home state of Texas, decided to join the Bumble team because she loved the company’s focus on women’s empowerment and was impressed by the creativity of the brand’s student-based marketing strategies.

“I was drawn to the program due to Bumble’s mission of helping people make safe and equitable connections online and empowering women to make the first move. Women’s empowerment is something that I am incredibly passionate about, and I wanted to share that message with other students on campus,” Do wrote.

Before the pandemic, Do enjoyed partnering with local businesses, including Devine’s and Buoy Bowls, to host off-campus events. 

Rania Soufny, a sophomore majoring in math and biology, decided on a whim during her first year at Duke to fill out a Riddle and Bloom application. Riddle and Bloom, Soufny explained, is a company that manages campus brand manager positions for dozens of large companies. When students apply, they fill out a general application that doesn’t ask for specific brand preferences.

Several months later, during the fall of her sophomore year, Soufny was asked to be a Microsoft Teams campus brand manage. Her role includes creating social media content and partnering with student organizations to transition them to using Microsoft Teams. Last semester, she worked with the Duke Student Advisory Board for Human Rights and Duke Devilthon.

Both Soufny and Patel emphasized that the workload for their brand representative positions is very manageable. Soufny said that while the Microsoft Teams program does not require students to track their hours, she spends an average of four to five hours a week on content creation and in meetings with student groups. 

Patel also estimated that she spends an average of four to five hours a week on her job as a TikTok representative.

“I personally don’t think it’s that much of a workload. If you’re really good at scheduling your events and managing your workload, this is an easy job for you,” Patel said. 

While the students are compensated for their work as brand ambassadors, all three reflected that they have created meaningful connections through their roles. 

“My favorite part of being a Bumble ambassador is the people that I get to meet. Bumble has allowed me to form meaningful connections with so many inspiring people all around the country who are passionate about empowering women and spreading this mission in a creative way,” Do wrote. 

Patel, who is on the pre-medical track, said that while she doesn’t want to go into marketing or communications, she has still learned valuable professional skills through her role as a TikTok college representative. 

“By marketing the app, I’m also kind of learning to market myself, which is really valuable. I wouldn’t change this experience,” Patel said. 

Anna Zolotor profile
Anna Zolotor

Anna Zolotor is a Trinity senior and recruitment chair for The Chronicle's 118th volume. She was previously news editor for Volume 117.


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