TikTok has taken the world by storm, with 1.1 billion monthly active users—and yet in many ways for brands, TikTok is still a tactical enigma. The app simply hasn’t been around for long enough for brands to perfect a TikTok strategy. And if TikTok is a relatively blank slate for brands, Influencer marketing as a strategy has been blueprinted, but not solidified. Brands have established best practices and have tested and established what drives results, however, it’s not nearly as set in stone as many traditional marketing mediums. Even channels like Instagram—barring new features like Reels and Guides—have an established playbook. Influencer marketing, however, is always evolving, and its status as a channel-independent marketing medium may mean that it never truly reaches an end state. There will always be a new channel to learn, and new strategies to integrate. This blog will cover how to marry your influencer and TikTok strategy. Specifically, how to work with influencers on TikTok, and where TikTok influencers fit within your global influencer marketing strategy.
TikTok differs from many traditional marketing mediums in that followers and engagement aren’t inherently linked. The For You Page (FYP) is almost entirely algorithm-driven, which means that even small brands can reach large audiences. It’s not uncommon to see brands on TikTok with views in the low thousands on the majority of their posts, alongside several posts with hundreds of thousands. Unlike other channels, followers are no longer your ceiling.
Brands that have embraced TikTok and taken the time to test content, have seen monumental results. Take Popsockets for example. The brand has amassed a following of over 200K in just over a year. Vogue is another great example, with 138K Followers gained since December 2020. The magazine’s average views on TikTok are anywhere from 150-250K, with the most viewed video being 3.5M. Brands like Popsockets and Vogue have done a phenomenal job of leveraging brand-created content and on-feed influencer content as a vehicle for growth.
As with any new social initiative, establishing goals is crucial to optimizing performance. However, one of the challenges with TikTok is that posts can gain traction months or years after posting—making optimization difficult. TikTok performance relies on staying on beat with top trends and creating relevant content quickly. Brands that can create a trend are consequently several steps ahead of the game when it comes to getting content in front of potential customers. Influencers are a fantastic way to kickstart a trend, and are likely to be knowledgeable about what kinds of trends will perform.
While strategies differ based on the brand and industry, commonalities include a focus on catching viewers’ attention in the first 1-3 seconds and providing real value throughout the video. As TikTok users have finite attention spans and cognitive bandwidth, media that captivates viewers' attention immediately will fare much better in the algorithm, which shows content to a small number of users first before sharing it more broadly. Influencers add familiarity, and as a result, are much more likely to stop scrolls.
See more tips on How to Go Viral on TikTok.
89% of companies said that their ROI from influencer marketing was comparable to, or better than, that from other marketing initiatives in 2019. 17% spent more than half of their marketing budget on influencers in 2019. While these figures likely don’t include TikTok, they do show the value that influencers can have to brands on other channels. In many ways, influencers and TikTok are the intersection of the desire for less curated content from brands. In contrast to the editorial-style static imagery of the past, modern consumers demand content that isn’t overproduced or gimmicky. This is particularly true in advertising skeptical Gen Z, many of whom are TikTok power users.
Short-form video is the perfect medium for creators to show a more genuine glimpse into their lives. Likewise, recent data shows that 94% of marketers believe the effectiveness of influencer marketing depends on authenticity. Influencer marketing is the perfect complement to TikTok marketing because of this requirement for uncurated content. For brands struggling to find their niche, creators are a great resource to lean on for advice, as they understand the app best— they're constantly adapting their content to participate in trends and stay relevant, which means that they can help your brand to do the same.
To learn more about building a data-backed influencer marketing program, see Centering Data in Your Influencer Marketing Strategy.
While integrating some existing partnerships into your TikTok strategy will likely be effective, we recommend focusing on influencer-first partnerships. Since TikTok is so trend-driven and moves at such a fast pace, creators who aren’t staying up to date with the latest trends won’t achieve the same degree of reach. The TikTok algorithm is quite sophisticated. Working with TikTok-first influencers ensures that your content reaches an extremely targeted and engaged audience immediately, which will ultimately drive more conversions. However, as with any digital marketing strategy, results will differ depending on your brand. Always segment content and test your pillars to see what’s driving progress toward your key performance indicators (KPIs). Additionally, as opposed to segmenting your paid, organic, and influencer strategies on TikTok, Forbes recommends looking at them as one and the same. Putting ad spend behind influencers who are part of a consistent model on TikTok will likely yield the best results. They’re all part of a holistic TikTok strategy which should involve extensive testing, and a willingness to be creative and leverage non-traditional tactics.
When looking at the influencer marketing lifecycle, Creator Marketplace makes sourcing TikTok influencers much more streamlined than other channels. However, there’s no clear-cut best practice for how to integrate influencers into your TikTok strategy. Instead, savvy brands are leveraging some or all of the following tactics, or coming up with new ways to work with creators.
There are a few ways to leverage influencers as part of your overall TikTok strategy:
1. Paid partnerships
TikTok is a channel that heavily values unpolished, authentic content, so leveraging influencers can provide a canvas for less curated content. Using influencers for ads stops the scroll because viewers recognize the face of a content creator that they already know and love.
2. Use creators as a jumping-off point to collaborate with their community
#aeriereal, with 7.4B views, is a great example of a brand leveraging influencers to start a trend. Aerie partnered with influencers like Charli D’amelio, a TikTok influencer with almost 115M followers. According to a spokesperson from the brand, digital sales rose 75% gain for Aerie in Q1.
This campaign was particularly successful because Aerie was able to create a trend, and get their community engaged with the brand. TikTok recommends an additional $100,000 – $200,000 in ad spend within TikTok to promote a hashtag challenge. For smaller brands without extensive ad budgets, partnering with more niche influencers may be more effective than targeting creators with millions of followers.
3. Product reviews
Product reviews are one of the most common types of content shared on TikTok organically—but can easily transfer into a paid relationship as well. For example, an influencer could start by asking a question and encourage their audience to stitch with a response. Reviews could be shared on either, or both, pages.
4. As a content creation funnel
Instead of brands creating content themselves, some are solely choosing paid partnerships for in-feed content. For example, the majority of Popsockets’ timeline is made up of content produced by influencers, featuring Popsockets. Each piece of media follows that influencer’s style. Take @rod, an influencer who primarily posts about corporate life as a millennial with anxiety.
Rather than be sold to in a traditional sense, modern consumers like to “co-create” with brands. Leveraging influencers as part of your organic strategy brings humor and a sense of accessibility as compared to more curated posts.
TikTok has released an analytics suite for creators. TikTok excels at measuring overall data about trending music, trending hashtags, and opportunities for content. Currently, campaign analysis and historical trends are more difficult to measure on the platform. Content segmentation is particularly important, where TikTok strategies are shifting rapidly as more brands begin to experiment with the channel.
Learn more about TikTok Analytics and Best Practices: A Guide to TikTok Analytics for Marketing.
In many ways, influencer and TikTok marketing are similar. They both hinge on creating real relationships with a digital community. For them to be effective as strategies, they both require a level of candor. They both have the opportunity to showcase your brand to thousands—or hundreds of thousands—of potential customers. And they’re both rapidly growing as digital strategies. When integrating TikTok influencers into your digital marketing strategy, taking a channel-specific approach at the start is likely to glean the best results. The rapid-fire nature and focus on fleeting trends on TikTok requires a level of focus that most influencers who are spread across platforms won’t fully grasp. Regardless of how you decide to move forwards with integrating influencers into your TikTok strategy, it’s crucial that you remain willing to test and be innovative—your KPIs will thank you!
Learn more about working with influencers on TikTok in our interview with Lauren Nally, an expert on both leveraging TikTok as a brand, as well as working with brands as an influencer. A Guide to TikTok Influencer Marketing: A Brand and Influencer Perspective.