The chances are that if you’re over 30 you’ve never heard of TikTok, or even its predecessor (in the Western World), Musical.ly. However, if you’re a teen or tween, particularly if you’re a girl, the odds are high that you are a TikToker – somebody who uses the video-based social network, TikTok, regularly. As with most social networks, TikTok is well suited to influencer marketing, and many of the more established TikTokers earn good money on the platform.
TikTok certainly isn’t as well established as YouTube, yet, and doesn’t have as an efficient way for TikTokers to earn money as YouTubers can with their ads, but it is rising in popularity rapidly. We recently traced TikTok’s impressive growth, to the point whereby 2018, TikTok had over 660 million downloads worldwide. It ranked No. 1 in Apple’s App Store in terms of worldwide downloads, during Q4 2018. TikTok app exceeded 70 million downloads worldwide in Q1 2022, making it the top app by worldwide downloads.
It didn’t take long for TikTok to create a new generation of influencers. We recently profiled 21 TikTok influencers to start following now.
Now, these influencers may be young, but they are making a good living from their TikTok activities – much more than mere pocket money. However, you will realistically need to build to the point where you have followers in the thousands before you should consider monetizing your TikTok account.
How much could an influencer make form TikTok? As with all influencer activities, this can be a hard question to answer – influencers can derive their income from multiple sources. However, we have developed our TikTok Money Calculator to give a guide to influencer engagement and income.
How Much do TikTokers Earn?
Main Ways to Make Money on TikTok
Note that you need to be at least 16 before you can begin to make money (directly) on TikTok (with your parents’ consent). You need to be 18 to deal directly with brands and third parties legally. There may, however, be a few younger broadcasters making money by selling merchandise in cooperation with their parents.
In the days of Musical.ly, its livestreaming platform, Livel.ly became extremely popular. The name may have changed, but livestreaming remains, in the form of Go Live. You need at least 1,000 followers to per able to live-stream.
Your followers can gift you coins as you live-stream. Once you have accumulated enough of these to make it worthwhile, you can trade the coins for real cash.
It is best to think of coins as the virtual currency of TikTok. TikTok users buy coins, in amounts ranging from 100 coins to 10,000 coins. The price for each pack varies at different times and depending on the size of the pack they purchase and their currency.
At the time of writing this, users could buy 100 virtual coins for $US0.99. They store their coins in their online Wallet and then give coins to deserving TikTokers as they perform live. TikTok and Google/Apple (depending on your platform) keep half of the amount spent on. But performing livestreamers get to keep the reminder of every tip their fans give them.
In practice, when a user likes a performance, they use their coins to buy either a special emoji or another virtual currency (a Diamond) which they can use in the performer’s chat. Different emoji are worth different amounts of coins. You tip an emoji that relates to how much you like the performance (leaving Diamonds for the absolute best acts).
Performers can redeem gift points at any time, up to a maximum $1,000 in any day.
2. Brand Partnerships and Influencer Marketing Activations
TikTok is no different from most other social platforms. If you are popular enough, brands will start to notice you, and begin to approach you, asking you to partner with them in influencer promotions.
TikTok’s equivalent to a Like is a Heart. If you’re getting plenty of hearts on each post, plus regular comments on your videos from your fans, it is likely that brands will begin to follow and examine your activities.
You are most likely to find that it will be brands that sell a product that would appeal to your followers who approach you. So, if you are popular with the average TikToker (girls aged 13 to 18 years) then expect brands who sell products to teenage girls to take an interest in you.
The top TikTokers can earn $50k–150k for a successful brand partnership.
For TikTok influencer marketing to be successful, it’s essential that the brand and the influencer talk with the same voice, i.e., the influencer must be a natural fit with the type of people likely to buy the brand’s products. Any influencer should be wary of a brand that tries to make them change their voice. Your fans watch your videos because they like what you do or say. They don’t come to hear a brand’s message. With successful influencer marketing, you will talk naturally about the brands (or use their product naturally in a video). If the product sticks out or jars, then your viewers will be disappointed and question your authenticity. The absolute last thing you want from an influencer marketing partnership is a requirement to make a scripted video – or even worse, upload a scripted video made by somebody else.
Don’t forget that the FTC guidelines about influencer marketing apply just as much to TikTok accounts as they do to influencer marketing on any other social platform. If you have accepted money to make a promotional post, make sure you disclose that fact.
3. Attending Brand-Sponsored Events
Some TikTokers can earn money off-platform due to the reputation they gain on TikTok. Brands will often approach them to appear at events such as Beautycon or Comicon. The brand will usually pay you to represent them at a brand-supported platform (or if you have built your TikTok reputation as a good musician, the brand may give you the chance to perform live on their behalf).
4. Selling Merchandise
If you’ve established a big enough support base on TikTok, you could consider setting up a Shopify eCommerce store and sell merchandise from there to your audience.
Savvy marketers can turn their TikTok imagery into a brand and sell that brand in the form of merchandise. By doing this you are creating a feeling of exclusivity – they can only buy that T-shirt promoting your brand directly from your Shopify store via your TikTok account. They can wear that shirt and feel special in some way because they know that non-TikTokers won’t have access to it.
The initial step of selling merchandise is first to build up a community. You can easily do this with your TokTok fans by engaging with them. Livestreaming can be particularly useful in encouraging community feeling.
In fact, you can create TikTok videos to sell any types of merchandise, not just a Shopify store. If you’re into selling craft items on Etsy, make videos showing your products (and perhaps even your actual production techniques) and upload them to your TikTok channel.
Remember that your fans don’t come onto TikTok to see ads. If you upload videos promoting your merchandise you need to make them attractive. This is much easier to do in some niches than others. For example, if you’re in a craft niche, your videos can almost be educational on how you make your products. It is much harder to make authentic promotional videos if the bulk of your videos show you lip-synching someone else’s music, however.
A variation on selling your own merchandise is to participate in affiliate marketing. Here, you recommend certain products to your fans and include a link taking them directly to an online store to buy the product. You will receive an agreed percentage of the sales made to people who’ve followed your link, depending on the deal you’ve made with the affiliate company. You could offer discount coupons if you chose to encourage your followers to follow your link (rather than buying the product directly at a full price elsewhere).
5. Cross Promote on Your Other Social Networks
Most influencers, known for their success on one specific social media network, also operate reasonably successful accounts on the other social networks. TikTok is no different. Being video-based, many TikTokers also manage successful YouTube accounts.
This gives plenty of opportunities for cross-promotion. You can, for example, build up an audience for a potential live stream, by promoting it across all your social networks. Similarly, you can create TikTok highlights videos which you upload into your YouTube channel, making sure that you add YouTube advertising on the front.
The average person uses three or four social media apps regularly. One of these may be TikTok, but there are an awful lot of people who don’t use TikTok. By cross-promoting your merchandise and TikTok activities you are expanding your overall audience, and potential spending market.