It’s no surprise that TikTok has emerged as a powerhouse of opportunities for brands to engage with their audiences in recent years. With dupes, hauls, and Amazon buys making the rounds, the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt craze has proven that the platform is a great place to discover new products online.
One of the key drivers of TikTok’s success is the creativity and authenticity that influencers bring to the table. For brands, finding the right balance between influencer creativity and brand guidelines is crucial to creating compelling content that resonates with your target audience while staying true to your brand identity and values.
That’s become especially challenging as TikTok has continued to evolve through ever-changing content trends and new products and capabilities for advertisers and influencers alike.
Whether you’re exploring sponsorship deals to TikTok Shop affiliates, you need to ask: how can your brand get the most out of your influencer partnerships?
Get on the same page with your influencer partners
When you start a new relationship with a creator, your team should first make sure you’ve set the right expectations for the content they’ll be making. There are strict rules for influencer ad content that your partner needs to be aware of in advance, like clearly marking the content as sponsored.
It’s easy for big mistakes to happen if you fail to put the right guardrails in place for content. Don’t assume your partner (however experienced) will take care of it; include those expectations in your creative brief. Look no further than Charli D’Amelio’s collaboration with Muse, when D’Amelio made a TikTok that wasn’t labeled as sponsored.
She tagged the brand itself, but that’s not enough to meet regulatory standards on the platform–she should’ve used TikTok’s branded content labeling tool as well.
@charlidamelio #answer to @Rafif @drinkmymuse ♬ original sound – charli d’amelio
Beyond just breaking platform or governmental rules, failing to make sponsorship disclosures can erode the trust creators have with their audience, since viewers don’t know whether they’re being sponsored or not.
That’s a problem for brands, since that trust is likely the reason you’re working with an online personality to begin with. Consumers are looking for authenticity online and don’t want to feel like the people they follow are trying to sell them snake oil, or worse, have sold out to some big-name brand they don’t care about.
While it might be tempting for creators and brands alike to hide the sponsored nature of their posts, transparency around the collaboration is essential to good influencer marketing. Chipotle’s TikTok with Brent Rivera, a TikToker who first got his start on the humor-focused Vine, is clearly marked as an ad. That label doesn’t detract from how compelling Rivera’s video is.
@brentrivera When guacamole is free @chipotle when you order online/in-app on July 31st😍 #GuacDance #ad ♬ The Guacamole Song – Dr. Jean
Chipotle gave Rivera the freedom to be funny, which is why his audience likes him to begin with. The blend of humor and transparency resulted in a funny, interesting ad that engaged Rivera’s audience without infringing on their relationship with the creator. According to Insense, the campaign got 250k video submissions using #GuacDance in the first six days, and Chipotle served 800k+ guacamoles in the 24 hours following the post.
Make sure you have an established process to onboard new influencers properly. Your team should provide anyone creating sponsored content for your brand with rules around making and marking branded content, brand guidelines, and background materials so they can get to know the brand before endorsing it. You should also have a clear timeline in place with your content creators to review any content before it’s posted.
Start every partnership with a creative conversation
When working with TikTokers, it’s crucial to keep the unique nature of the platform in mind. Just because something works for audiences on other social media apps doesn’t mean it will work on TikTok. The platform can be fickle and the rules for success aren’t the same as Facebook, X, or Instagram.
That’s why you need to have conversations with any influencers you’re working with before coming up with content ideas. Start with a creative concept call to discuss your brand, your product or service, and the goal of your campaign so that you and the creator get on the same page.
Your goal shouldn’t be to restrict the creative thought process; creator partnerships should be truly collaborative. Be receptive to their ideas and feedback and open to innovative suggestions. Success on TikTok is all about storytelling and authenticity, and a two-way conversation can unlock more creative freedom so influencers can effectively narrate your brand’s story in their own unique way.
With the right guidance, influencers can bring a whole new perspective to your brand. For example, when Converse partnered with Jake Sweet, he saw an opportunity to create something that fused the brand’s basketball beginnings with its current creative persona. Within 15 seconds, he showed what the brand was about and what the audience could do with just a little imagination.
@jakebsweet #ad I see white shoes as a canvas #ConverseAllStar ♬ Converse Runstar – Zedig Sound Ltd.
If your end goal is to feature the influencer’s content on your own brand page, you may want to put a brand manager in place to work directly with influencers and help create more relevant content for your brand’s target audience. Brand managers can serve as “influencer whisperers” if you need to put out any fires or wrangle any unruly content creators.
Leverage TikTok Shop for ecommerce wins in the app
While TikTok has long been a powerhouse for creating product trends, they’ve recently made strides to turn their discovery prowess into real conversions by selling items directly from the app. The platform’s new social commerce functionality, TikTok Shop, lets users make purchases in the same place they were inspired to buy.
This new feature can be an effective flywheel for brands because users don’t need to leave the app to go to another site, eliminating a source of potential friction in the customer journey. Your audience can make quick purchases without jumping through any additional hoops that might slow them down or reconsider the decision to buy.
If your brand is looking for new ways to optimize your TikTok presence and partnerships, consider testing TikTok Shop as part of your strategy moving forward. It can supercharge the influencer collabs you’re already investing in on TikTok since those audiences are already dedicated TikTok users.
TikTok is currently promoting the feature by offering discounts and deals to new shoppers and pushing TikTok Shop products within its algorithm. TikTok Shop can also connect your brand to more creators, since the TikTok Shop affiliate program offers direct commissions on any sales driven by creator content. Once someone has made content about your TikTok Shop, you can then reach out to them to create further content if they’re a good fit for your brand.
@graceannryu Replying to @Giselle Ashley #tiktokshop #tiktokaffiliate #affiliatemarketingtips ♬ original sound – grace
But TikTok Shop is a brand new feature, and comes with some challenges: since its launch, the store has had problems with a proliferation of scammy or counterfeit items. It’s still in the early stages, and widespread adoption by users, creators, and brands is going to take time.
For now, you can make sure your brand isn’t getting lumped in with any less reputable sellers with clear branding and partnerships with respected influencers who are trusted by audiences on the platform. Those collaborations are especially important if you have lower brand recognition overall and need to build trust.
New opportunities (like TikTok Shop) to maximize influencer partnerships are cropping up all the time. No matter how you look at it, influencer marketing is growing into one of the most important aspects of your brand. After all, 84% of consumers say they are more likely to purchase a product or service after seeing it recommended by an influencer, according to Inmar Intelligence.
By taking a truly collaborative approach that strikes the right balance between creative freedom and brand guidelines and leverages the latest offerings, you–and your influencer partners–can create TikTok content that truly resonates and drives real results for your business.