Since its launch in 2017, TikTok has massively grown its audience, surpassing 2 billion downloads in 2020, and marketers around the world are taking note of the social media platform’s meteoric rise.
TikTok marketing is more than a fad—36% of U.S. marketers used TikTok for influencer marketing in 2020, up from 33% in 2019. By 2021, that number rose to 42%, and 2022 promises to be a banner year for TikTok influencer marketing.
The platform’s unique format allows for experimentation but also creates challenges for advertisers. Campaigns that do well on Facebook or Instagram may flop on TikTok so it pays to do your homework and study TikTok trends. This article will offer easy, actionable tips to optimize TikTok influencer marketing.
What is TikTok and how does it work?
Initially, TikTok distinguished itself from other social media platforms with extremely short-form videos and the opportunity to see videos from creators you don’t already follow. 90% of TikTok users open the app daily with an average usage of 52 minutes—meaning that advertisers have access to a young, engaged audience. A whopping 43% of TikTok users are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old.
In order to compete with other platforms like Instagram and Facebook, TikTok raised the cap on video length from 15 seconds to 10 minutes in 2022.
Why use TikTok for influencer marketing?
Gen Z’s notorious skepticism towards traditional marketing means advertisers need to get creative to capture their attention. A new community of TikTok influencers taps into this zeitgeist and captures otherwise hard-to-reach young audiences. Bear in mind that you don’t need millions of followers to qualify as a TikTok influencer. Many creators with small, dedicated followings have landed lucrative deals with brands.
TikTok is a force in social media trends
Many social media platforms, like Twitter and Facebook, allow for video content, but TikTok is entirely focused on video. Many creators forgo captions altogether, allowing the videos to speak for themselves.
Unlike YouTube, which is also a video platform, TikTok is built for mobile browsing. These qualities attract younger generations, who tend to be glued to their phones and prefer visually compelling content. Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube have all rolled out features in order to play catchup with TikTok.
Better chances to go viral with a smaller budget
TikTok users respond to ironic, irreverent content, rather than big budgets or slick pitches. While it can take a while to find a brand image that connects with TikTok users, the results are well worth it.
Many brands collaborate with a single TikTok influencer to create native content and post it to their page. Because TikTok shows creators’ videos to users who don’t already follow them, it’s never been easier to go viral and reach a huge audience. Even if your previous videos performed poorly, TikTok does not factor creator statistics into the algorithm, so every video has the potential to go viral.
Build an authentic connection with your audience
The ability to blow up overnight attracts TikTok influencers in droves, bringing their fans to the platform with them. A strategic partnership with a popular TikTok influencer can instantly expand your brand's reach and redefine brand perception among users.
Social media takeovers are a great way to create connections with new fans and maximize TikTok influencer marketing.
Influencers build audience trust quickly
Most influencers build trust with their fans so users are more receptive when they see paid posts in their feed. For instance, TikTok influencer @zachking is known for using advanced editing techniques to make visual magic tricks. When he partnered with Chipotle and made it seem like his burrito bowl and chips were floating in mid-air, fans recognized his distinctive style and approached Chipotle’s products with less skepticism.
In another collaboration with teen skateboarding wunderkind Sky Brown, King draws a skatepark that magically comes to life. With more than 2.3 million views on TikTok, the video connected both influencers’ audiences, allowing for a greater reach than either could have accomplished individually.
6 ways to capitalize on TikTok influencer marketing
As marketers experiment with TikTok influencer marketing, several strategies have emerged that consistently attract large audiences and translate into higher sales.
1. Organic content
Despite decreased relevance on other platforms, organic content still performs well on TikTok. Of course, it’s important to partner with creators who are relevant to your brand, but once you start a successful collaboration, there’s no need to pay for further promotion. Many videos are passed from subscribers to new audiences through fully organic channels.
2. Paid advertising
If you have the budget for sponsored posts, consider creating “in-feed” ads that mimic TikTok content and feature popular TikTok influencers. You can also pay a higher fee for “top view ads” which are the first video users see when they log on to TikTok.
3. Branded challenges
Engage your community with branded challenges that create a fun, lighthearted competition and entice new fans. A great example is the #3MinuteMakeupChallenge, which inspired users to do their makeup in under three minutes and provided makeup brands with a golden opportunity to promote their products.
Related Article: How athlete influencer marketing can grow your brand awareness
4. Branded dances
Similarly, branded dances offer a chance to associate your company with a popular trend. For instance, Walker Hayes’ song “Fancy Like” blew up on TikTok and created a dance craze. Because the song name-drops Applebees, the restaurant chain capitalized on the trend and began incorporating branded dances into its advertising.
5. Product reviews
Although YouTube reigns supreme for unboxing videos and reviews, it’s possible to incorporate product reviews into TikTok’s short format videos. This forces TikTok influencers to get to the point and highlight your product quickly and efficiently. Influencers can also use the new 10-minute long-form video feature for more involved product reviews.
6. Leverage user-generated content
Engaging with everyday users—either through your brand's page or with a TikTok influencer—will make your company seem authentic and widen your audience. Promote users’ content if it is complimentary of your brand. Alternatively, side-by-side videos are a popular way to compare your content with user-generated content.
Examples of TikTok influencer marketing campaigns
As previously mentioned, TikTok lends itself to influencer marketing campaigns with its high levels of engagement and surplus of unique creators. The following are instructive examples of TikTok influencer marketing that went viral and boosted brand awareness.
Back in 2018, American clothing brand Guess launched the massively popular #InMyDenim campaign. Guess used multiple TikTok takeovers with successful influencers that included “before” videos where the influencers were unkempt and “after” videos wherein the influencers were dressed nicely in Guess apparel. The campaign helped Guess overcome a North American sales dip and reach a younger audience.
In 2021, PepsiCo recruited nine talented student-athletes to create its Gatorade Social Squad. The athletes—who participate in a variety of sports from soccer to football and basketball—posted training videos and more personal videos that highlighted Gatorade’s role in their success. Fans were encouraged to post their own videos in response to the Gatorade Social Squad, which supported organic momentum on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
Because original music is such an integral part of TikTok marketing, Warner Music was well-positioned to promote new artists to Gen Z. One of their first attempts was Justin Quiles and his #DjNoPareRemix. Warner chose six TikTok influencers to promote the song in Mexico and Argentina, and the videos garnered a total of 1.5 million views. From there, fans took over and created more than 13,000 of their own videos featuring the song.
Selecting the right influencers for your brand
A single well-crafted TikTok marketing campaign can change the trajectory of your company overnight. Find a TikTok influencer that reflects your brand’s style and values. If you take the time to develop a strong partnership, you can earn the trust and brand loyalty of influencers’ fans.
This is especially true of athlete influencers, who have notoriously loyal fanbases. Consider engaging with the LGBTQ+ community as well for a more inclusive and wider-reaching campaign.