TikTok Influencer Marketing: What Is It and How Brands Can Get Started
TikTok has taken over as the most downloaded social media app in 2021. As one of the biggest platforms built around user-generated content and authenticity, it’s a huge opportunity for influencer marketing.
Some marketers shy away from TikTok influencer marketing because it’s seemingly dominated by big names and a younger audience. But the platform’s audience is growing, and it’s easier than you think for your brand to stand out. TikTok’s algorithm and diverse niches make it a place where brands can run influencer campaigns that generate impressive results.
How TikTok Influencer Marketing Works
TikTok influencer marketing is the process of partnering with content creators to make short-form TikTok videos that promote your brand. Advertising through influencers allows brands to avoid coming off as salesy, leveraging the deep marketing power of social proof and brand trust.
Brands often have their own TikTok accounts, posting branded content or paid ads. This is good practice, but this form of content tends to generate less engagement than influencer generated content (IGC). Considering 34% of TikTok users have purchased products because of influencers, it is beneficial to allocate a bulk of your budget to generate IGC which in turn drives engaged and diverse audiences to your brand TikTok account or website.
Why Marketers Love TikTok
TikTok has over one billion users and a unique algorithm that gives content from small creators a better chance of going viral compared to other platforms. There’s high potential to get seen by interest-aligned users without having to pay top dollar for access to well-known TikTokers.
You Can Go Viral With a Smaller Budget
Lesser-known TikTok creators have a high potential to create viral content thanks to TikTok’s recommendation method, which rewards high-quality, relevant content more than follower count, unlike other social media platforms.
TikTok’s algorithm “prioritizes content itself, not a person’s following,” Irina Weisfeiler, Product Marketing Manager at TikTok, said. “That means that anyone in any brand can get discovered and seen by millions.”
Here’s how it works: TikTok shows users videos it thinks they want to see based on their past engagements, like:
- Videos liked and completed
- Audio clips listened to
- Accounts interacted with
- Hashtags followed
- Comments posted
- Creators hidden and videos marked as inappropriate
Its Algorithm Allows Marketers to Target More Precisely
Even when TikTok’s algorithm doesn’t cause small creators to go viral, it does an excellent job at showing users content that’s aligned with their unique interests. These pre-segmented audiences are a goldmine for marketers because they allow you to get your brand and content in front of your target audience.
TikTok users often joke that they’ve all downloaded different versions of the app because TikTok shows such different content from one person to another. Users describe sub-genres tailored to ultra-niche hobbies, interests, demographics, etc. Depending on the videos you watch, like, and share, you may end up on Hiking TikTok or Musical Theater TikTok. You may end up on Celebrity TikTok or Yoga TikTok. There’s Dog Training TikTok. Somewhere along the way, Beans TikTok became a significant talking point. The list goes on and on.
Depending on the type of content they generate, creators are your inroad to each of these niche communities. Marketers who know their niche can tap directly into these segments and promote their brand to specific users interested in similar content.
Its Influencers Build Audience Trust Quickly
TikTok has a distinctly home-grown feel. It’s not about high production value or polish; it’s about being authentic and personable.
A recent Adweek study announced that a staggering “49% of TikTok users said they have purchased a product or service from a brand after seeing it advertised, promoted, or reviewed on the platform.” This willingness to spend based on an influencer’s recommendation is because followers trust their favorite content creators. Once influencers show your brand to their audience, that audience will be far more likely to follow and trust your brand.
Your influencer marketing campaign doesn’t have to be a sneaky or unwanted ad. It should be a genuine partnership, where content creators share your brand on their own terms, with their own unique voice.
How to Find TikTok Influencers in 4 Steps
TikTok influencer marketing doesn’t necessarily mean shelling out enormous checks for the biggest stars. For many brands, partnering with smaller-scale micro-influencers is a great way to stay within budget and actually tap into deeper connections. Here’s how to discover the right influencers for your brand.
1. Understand TikTok’s Demographics and Your Own Audience
First, it makes sense to consider whether your audience is using the platform and if your brand is suited for TikTok.
Over 60% of the users on TikTok are under 35 years old, and 54% are female, but the audience is growing to encompass a broader demographic. “Our demographics became more diverse over the course of last year,” Weisfeiler said. “TikTok as a platform transforms generations, from high school students to parents and grandparents, and we continue to see growth across every age as parents and families enjoy TikTok as a shared experience.”
Still, she shares that a significant percentage of the users are in the Gen Z and millennial groups, and they continue to be the fastest-growing demographic. If your brand has an older, more professional following, they may not be using TikTok yet.
2. Determine Your Niche
If your audience is on TikTok, then it’s time to think about their interests and potential niches.
A TikTok niche is a group of people with similar interests. Finding your niche allows you to narrow down potential influencers with a segmented audience likely to enjoy and engage with your brand.
For example, a popular niche on TikTok is parenting. It’s filled with TikToker influencers like Ashlay Soto (@ash_lay), who shares entertaining videos about being a mom and has garnered more than eight million followers.
Some of the most popular niches include dancing, cooking, fashion, and beauty, but these are all very saturated. It’s beneficial to get more specific with your niche to find users interested in your specific brand.
Not sure where to start? TikTok’s platform makes it easy to find trends and popular niches. One way to do this is to click on the ‘Discover’ tab at the bottom of the TikTok app. It will show you trending hashtags and give you an idea of what people are watching right now.
Another way is to start searching key terms that relate to your business. For example, if you have a skincare or makeup brand and type ‘Beauty’ in the search bar, it will populate popular topics. Once you hit ‘Search,’ you can scroll to the left and hit ‘Hashtags’ to see a list of trending hashtags for that topic.
Both of these options allow you to see popular niches and what people are searching for in that niche. Once you are able to narrow down the niche you want to target, you can start looking at content creators who use those hashtags.
3. Find Influencers in Your Niche
Ignore the urge to Google the biggest TikTok influencers and instead research those interested in your unique brand.
You don’t need to set aside a considerable budget for TikTok influencer marketing because “Anyone can be an influencer, even an up-and-coming TikToker or a huge advocate for a specific brand,” Magda Houalla, Aspire’s Director of Strategy, said. “We empower our brand partners to connect with anyone and everyone who can have an impact on their business.”
Here are some popular ways to find TikTok influencers:
- Hashtags: Once you find relevant hashtags from step 2, click on them and see trending videos in that category. You can also follow relevant hashtags, so videos with those hashtags show up on your ‘For You’ page, making it easier to find trending videos from other influencers in the future.
- TikTok Creator Marketplace: TikTok Creator Marketplace is an analytics tool within TikTok that allows you to see an influencer’s engagement reach, views, and demographics. Brands must register for an account, and once approved, they can search for influencers and contact them directly. “There are 14,000 high-quality creators in over 17 countries and regions,” Weisfeiler explains. “You can also search in over 47 different categories using filters.”
- Other social media platforms: Many influencers are on multiple social media platforms. If you like the content someone is creating on Instagram, for example, try searching for them on TikTok.
Aspire: Using an influencer marketing platform like Aspire makes it easy to find influencers on all platforms, connect with them, and track their performance. You can filter by keyword, location, engagement metrics, audience demographics, industry, and more to find the perfect TikTok creator for your brand. Once you find them, you can communicate with them right on the platform and even send them products right from your store.
4. Vet Your Potential Influencers
Before you start reaching out to influencers, make sure to do a marketing background check to see if their content, followers, and reputation are a good representation of your brand.
Specifically, look at their history, branding, and followers: “You want to vet for content, not necessarily just follower count. You want to look at content quality as the most important metrics when deciding to work with someone,” Houalla said.
- Do they get positive engagement? You can tell a lot about an influencer by looking at their likes, comments, and shares. They may get a lot of views, but if conversations in their comments are negative, people may say the same about your brand when that influencer mentions it. Similarly, if people are viewing the video but it isn’t generating shares, you can assume users don’t enjoy or trust the video enough to share it with their followers.
- Is their audience in line with yours? You may like a TikToker’s content, but the ultimate test is whether their viewers have the potential to become customers of your brand. Look at who is engaging with their content and who follows them to gauge this.
- Do their interests and values match your brand’s? Make sure to look at their previous content and do a quick Google search. You don’t want to partner with a creator who contradicts your brand’s values or who has a negative image in the content creation world.
For example, suppose your skincare brand champions looking natural as you age. While vetting beauty influencers, you may come across an engaging creator with high audience engagement. But if you look closer and realize their audience consists of teenagers interested in bold, statement makeup looks, you should consider partnering with a different creator.
Tips for Starting Your TikTok Influencer Marketing Campaign
A solid TikTok influencer campaign is goal-oriented and trackable but also has room for creativity and flexibility.
Set Up Tracking Based on Campaign Goals
Most TikTok influencer campaigns have one of two primary goals: brand awareness or conversions. Set up proper tracking to make sure you can gauge how well your campaign achieves those goals. For example, “if your goal is brand awareness, you might partner with a larger creator with a huge reach,” Houalla said, and “if your goal is sales, you might be better suited partnering with more of a niche creator who has a strong audience that is relevant for your brand.”
Common indicators of success on TikTok include:
- Brand Awareness: Video views, reach of a branded hashtag
- Engagement: Video likes, video comments, video shares
- Conversion: Traffic to the website using a trackable link, sales generated using the influencer’s promo code
Tracking the ROI of an influencer campaign can be challenging in some cases, so many brands will opt to use an influencer marketing platform. With tools like campaign dashboards, promo code creators, and content measurement, these platforms allow for accurate influencer-driven sales data.
Experiment With Content and Video Types
Understanding your audience will help you start to think about the content types they like to see. Don’t be afraid to partner with multiple influencers who create different types of content to see what resonates best.
Popular content types include:
Trend videos: Trend videos are highly relevant for a short amount of time, usually based on a popular event, topic, song, or hashtag. A user creates a TikTok that encourages others to jump on the trend with their own unique perspective. Brands can try to create their own trends or capitalize on an existing one to get in front of their target audience in a way that feels native.
A popular trend that brands participate in is challenges. Challenges dare people to try something and share their video with a challenge-specific hashtag. When enough people do the challenge and use the hashtag, it can make huge waves across TikTok. Brands can leverage TikTok challenges by creating their own or participating in a trending one.
Chipotle is notorious for starting and taking advantage of trends. In 2019, they partnered with David Dobrik (@daviddobrik) to promote their #ChipotleLidFlip which encouraged users to film videos flipping their Chipotle lid onto their bowl. The challenge accumulated 110,000 videos and 230 million views.
Educational Content: TikTok has tons of educational content, from advice about taxes and the stock market to tips for cooking and hair care. Brands can take advantage of this content by partnering with popular educators who can mention who the brand is, what they stand for, or how to use the product or service.
For example, check out Doctor Jess Andrade (@drjesss), who has over 1.4 million followers on TikTok. She provides education to her followers on a wide variety of topics such as how to get better sleep, fitness routines for different health issues, and skincare advice. She has partnered with brands like @brooklinen to promote their sheets for better sleep.
Ongoing Content: This is where you’ll find a series on creators’ pages where they tell stories or perform similar actions over a significant amount of time, and people will follow them to get updates.
TikTok creator Candice Callins (@candice867) is popular in the gaming niche with 74k followers. Her videos consist of her trying out different games and narrating her experience. Gaming brands like Run Around have seen success partnering with Candice.
Make sure to reach out to content creators who have different approaches because “The more diversity you have in terms of targeting approaches, campaigns, and creative theme, the better success people have,” Weisfeiler said. “This allows you to have enough data to test and learn from, and also they reach new audiences.”
Create Campaign Guidelines That Leave Room for Creative Freedom
It’s essential to communicate your guidelines to a TikTok creator while also allowing them creative control of the video.
Influencers are popular on TikTok because they know the platform, so let the creators do the talking. “Gone are the days of polished campaign guidelines, where you’re spoon-feeding your creative partners. TikTok is a different beast,” Houalla explained, “brands would be doing themselves a disservice if they took away that creativity.”
Additionally, dedicated followers will know if an influencer is reading a script. Brands need to let the influencer work their magic to convey authenticity.” Our data shows that letting content creators take the lead on how to create amazing TikTok videos results in better-performing ads,” Weisfeiler said.
That being said, when partnering with TikTok influencers, brands should try to limit themselves by only sending over:
- The campaign’s main goal and overarching message
- Any specific talking points that need to be mentioned or avoided
- Content deadlines and campaign timelines
Use a TikTok Influencer Marketing Solution to Streamline the Campaign Process
If you want to streamline the TikTok influencer marketing process, consider using influencer marketing software. Influencer marketing platforms take the manual guesswork out of TikTok influencer marketing with vetted influencers, communication tools, and plenty of data.
And remember, you’re not alone in the TikTok influencer marketing madness. We have built a community of fellow brand marketers, brand leaders, and founders hosted on Slack! We would love to chat about TikTok best practices and strategies with you. Check out some of our resources and a list of the brands in our space by visiting our community resource page on Notion.