One of the most vital requirements for online marketing, indeed any marketing, is that you target the types of people you hope will become your customers. With influencer marketing, you have to drop one step back and focus on the people who appeal to and influence the behavior of your target customers. If you sell to a youthful demographic, you could consider working with influencers on TikTok.
Like YouTube, TikTok's most significant feature is sharing videos. So any TikTok influencer marketing campaign will revolve around influencers making, sharing, and sometimes livestreaming videos that will in some way promote your brand and make it attractive to their followers.
Of course, if you're over 35, you have probably never heard of TikTok, unless you have been keeping up-to-date with our previous Influencer Marketing Hub posts on the subject. So, we will begin by discussing, what TikTok is and how it works.
TikTok Influencer Marketing Guide:
What is TikTok?
TikTok as we now know it began life as two separate apps, both originating in China. The first started as Douyin in China but was named TikTok internationally. TikTok/Douyin initially found most of its supporters in Asia. The other app was Musical.ly. Like TikTok/Douyin, this was founded by Chinese developers but built a sizeable audience in the West, particularly in the USA. In 2018, however, the owners of TikTok decided to buy Musical.ly. They rebranded a combined app TikTok outside of China. They still operate their original Douyin app in China, however.
A common feature of TikTok/Douyin – Musical.ly is that they are beloved by Generation Z, who have downloaded the apps in surprisingly large numbers. Soon after the merger, TikTok became one of the most downloaded apps in the world, with substantially more downloads than the better known Instagram.
With the growth in TikTok's popularity, we are beginning to see the rise of another video-based social network – a bit like a niche version of YouTube, with many of the social features of Facebook.
How Does TikTok Work?
The original selling point of Musical.ly was that it provided an easy-to-use platform for predominantly young people to create videos of themselves miming to their favorite music tracks – a glorified karaoke vehicle. The original TikTok had a similar basic premise, so the two apps merged well.
Things have changed more recently, however, and people are now uploading more original videos, covering a more extensive range of genres.
As with all social / video-sharing apps, you begin by setting up an account the first time you open the app. Most people probably start by "lurking" – watching others' clips, finding channels they like, and following those they would like to revisit. In time, however, many of TikTok's members gain the confidence to make a 15-second video and upload it for the world to see. And yes, many people still begin their TikTok uploads by sharing a video of themselves lip-synching to their favorite music track.
TikTok makes it easy to make and create videos that aren't too cringeworthy (well at least for today's tweens and teens). There must be few teenagers nowadays who lack a smartphone with a good camera. TikTok includes all the necessary editing tools and effects you need to make a serviceable video. You can quickly merge your raw film, music, filters, and effects to create something your audience will appreciate.
Indeed, you can even merge your 15-second videos into longer ones, adding further possibilities for your TikTok influencer marketing.
Although you will still find simple karaoke videos on the platform, there has been a big push towards other types of videos, which give many possibilities for those wanting to express themselves, both as themselves and as representatives of a brand.
Who are the Main TikTok Users?
TikTok is strongly youth-oriented. The youngsters of Generation Z may have Facebook accounts, but they rarely use them. Facebook is where their parents spend their time. Instead, Generation Z wants their own social spaces. Sure, they are prepared to "share" Instagram with Mom and Dad, but they are just as happy to use SnapChat (for sharing what they want to keep secret form "The Olds" and TikTok as a “kids-only” video-sharing platform.
The largest group on TikTok are people aged between 16 and 24. They make up 41% of the total user-base.
There aren't any rules prohibiting older people from joining TikTok. And we sometimes stretch "kids" to mean people up to about age 30. But you will find few TikTokkers older than that.
TikTok also has a distinct female slant. That doesn't mean it can attract guys – there are still many young men, both making videos and watching them on the platform. It has probably more to do with interests. TikTok is not very strong in the gaming niche – gamers prefer to use Twitch for their livestreaming.
What Types of Content Do Well on TikTok?
Like YouTube, the heart of TikTok is the videos that people share. The more entertaining the videos, the better they resonate with the audience. Unlike YouTube, the videos are generally short, and they are filmed in a vertical format, the usual way that people hold their phones.
Home-Made music videos still perform well on TikTok. Original music can be even more popular than cover versions. But they probably provide fewer opportunities for delivering promotional messages than other types of video.
There is now more non-music video on TikTok. Many are comedic. Others include short skits, cringe videos, fashion and beauty tips, cooking demonstrations, and even short clips of sports action.
The absolute worst mistake on TikTok, however, would be to post anything resembling a traditional advertisement. Don't attempt to give your influencers a script. Influencer marketing at its heart is like storytelling. You need to give your influencers enough flexibility to tell your story to their fans in a way that keeps them authentic. The influencers' followers will instantly know if the videos promoting your products are made in a different style to the influencer's usual videos, and they are likely to react badly.
Why Should You Use TikTok for Influencer Marketing?
As with all influencer and social media marketing, you have to avoid coming across as too salesy on TikTok. This is particularly the case because of TikTok's youthful demographic – brands find Generation Z notoriously difficult to reach because of their total disdain for anything that resembles a traditional advertisement.
As with all influencer marketing, the key to success on TikTok is working with influencers whose followers match your target market. Therefore for influencer marketing (or indeed any other form of marketing) to be successful for you on TikTok you need to appeal to the TikTok demographic. So, if you sell fashion accessories to tweens and teens, by all means, use influencer marketing. If you tell tools for DIYers, then TikTok marketing probably wouldn't make a good investment.
You can market on TikTok without using influencer marketing. It's taken a while for TikTok to implement it, but there is now a formal advertising system. You could also try to promote using a business TikTok account. However, as with all social networks, it can be tough building a sizeable audience on TikTok to hear your company message. This is particularly so for most businesses who don't have a staff of the same demographic as their audience and struggle to run a company account.
It is far easier for most brands to work with TikTok's established broadcasters – their influencers – than to build a loved and much-followed company account.
How Do Brands Market on TikTok?
TikTok has recently introduced paid ads. It is still early days to see how successful or cost-effective these will be, particularly when targeting the advertising-hating Generation Z demographic.
TikTok has suggested you combine you use one of the following ad formats:
- Brand takeover
- In-feed native video
- Hashtag challenge
- Lens 2D, 3D, and AR
In-Feed Native Videos
Whether you use them as a paid ad, or from your company TikTok channel, you could consider sharing some in-feed native videos. These can last up to 15 seconds, although you can share brief video clips as short as nine seconds.
TikTok users respond exceptionally well to challenges. There are usually multiple challenges going on at any time for TikTok users to participate.
The usual type of TikTok challenge involves somebody setting a challenge (beginning its name with a #, hence the term Hashtag Challenge. The challenge typically challenges others on TikTok to make and share a particular type of video.
For example, in one viral challenge, Jimmy Fallon launched the #tumbleweedchallenge on TikTok. He challenged TikTok users to make a video of themselves dropping to the ground and rolling around like a tumbleweed, with Western music playing in the background. People have now shared more than 8,000 #tumbleweedchallenge videos on TikTok.
TikTok recently shared a deck with a European advertising agency and recommended hashtag challenges as an excellent advertising format for the platform.
Influencer marketing is likely to be the most effective form of marketing on TikTok. You don't suffer from the negative implications of ads, and you don't have to worry about building the right audience as you do with native videos on your company account.
You just need to work with your influencers to come up with a creative strategy that helps them pique the interest of their audience to build interest in your brand and product.
As with much influencer marketing, you should take most notice of metrics relating to engagement and awareness. These can be an excellent guide to brand loyalty.
Selecting the Right Influencers for Your Brand
It doesn't matter which social channels you use for your influencer marketing. The number one rule is to choose the right influencers for your brand.
You first need to ensure that your brand's target customers use TikTok. Are you focusing on the ideal demographic?
Assuming you sell to a youthful audience (possibly, but not necessarily with a female bias), you then need to consider which types of videos are most likely to attract your target market. Are they going to be most interested in TikTok's core music videos, are they more into clips showing beauty tips, are they into comedy sketches, or maybe even skateboarders performing tricks?
You will then want to find popular TikTok influencers who appeal to the same niches as your primary target customers. If you need help finding relevant influencers, you might consider working with an influencer platform. We have previously looked at 7 Best Platforms for Finding Influencers on TikTok.
The advantage of searching for popular influencers in your niche on TikTok is that they will have a large enough following of interesting, engaged people, who will take notice of any videos they share about your product/brand.
Always remember, however, relevance is more important than reach. Don't merely opt for TikTok influencers with the most massive followings – go for those with the most suitable audiences for your goals.
Once you have selected suitable influencers, you will need to contact them and form a partnership. You have to ensure that any deal is acceptable to your influencers. They will not want any involvement unless there is something for them, and also they can see how it can help their followers.