One of the biggest draws of TikTok as a platform is its unparalleled ability to deliver engaging and informational content that feels specific and authentic to users.
Much of that power comes straight from TikTok’s creator-first mindset. While influencers are a critical component of most other social platforms, especially Instagram, TikTok was built first and foremost as a platform for creators.
That’s redefining and expanding what “influencer marketing” is—and the critical role it will play in the future of marketing for many brands as TikTok continues its ascent into the very top tier of social platforms.
For younger generations, creators have become a central part of their day-to-day lives. According to GWI, Gen Z consumers are more likely to discover new products on social media than through search, and 76% of those young consumers look to social networks and video sites to research brands, products, or services. In fact, a new Adweek-Morning Consult survey found that 49% of TikTok users said that they have purchased something from a brand after seeing it advertised, promoted, or reviewed on the platform.
So how can you harness the growing power of creators to help your business grow?
What’s different about a TikTok creator marketing strategy vs. traditional influencer marketing?
There have traditionally been two kinds of influencer marketing: major and niche. Major influencers have vast audiences and might be celebrities in their own right beyond social channels, while niche influencers are well-known in specific industries or areas of expertise.
In TikTok’s democratized, creator-first environment, those boundaries are much less strict. Because TikTok’s algorithm makes so-called virality much more likely, unknown creators can amass large followings after going viral for posting unique or even seemingly mundane content that finds success on the platform. Look no further than the now-famous Ocean Spray-toting, Fleetwod Mac-listening Nathan Apodaca for a well-known example.
That’s why your brand’s approach to TikTok creator partnerships should be approached as something fundamentally different than the classic influencer marketing models. The crux here is relatability and authenticity: content on the platform that feels over-produced or not native to TikTok won’t work, even if it’s from the biggest celebrity on the planet. It doesn’t meet the user expectations on the platform and is more likely to get memed and made fun of itself, if it gets any reaction at all.
According to TikTok’s internal data, ad recall is 27% higher when TikTok-specific branded content involves collaboration with creators.
The same study found that creator collaborations resulted in an even bigger impact in certain industries: 72% higher recall for beauty brands, 50% higher recall for fashion brands, 55% higher recall for CPG brands, and 42% higher recall for luxury brands.
The impact on results is also not limited to organic content, although we do recommend starting with an organic strategy on the platform to get the best results. TikTok found that ad content created by partnering with creators had a 93% higher engagement rate while the same content had a 193% higher view rate.
TikTok creator partnerships offer the opportunity for your brand to connect with consumers in a different way that feels more direct, less filtered, and less constrained by traditional marketing guardrails. That doesn’t mean you don’t have any say over what creators are making, but it does mean that building trusted partnerships that free up creators to take risks on behalf of your brand so your business can reap the rewards across the funnel is extremely important.
How can you use the TikTok Creator Marketplace to find the right creators for your business?
To effectively connect with high-value audiences on the platform, brands can start by looking for TikTok creators who are engaged with users in a set niche group that’s relevant to your product or service: BookTok for book lovers, MarvelTok for fans of the MCU, StylesTok for fans of Harry Styles, and more.
But TikTok has built a tool to help streamline the process and ensure that you’re connecting with vetted creators that are right for your business. The TikTok Creator Marketplace provides some essential tools that can help you find the best possible partners from the platform’s vast array of creators, including:
- Authenticated data: TikTok provides and maintains credible data so that you can instantly unlock historical creators’ performance and video data. You can also analyze creators’ audiences with a comprehensive metric analysis.
- A search function: The advanced search function allows you to reach out to relevant creators for your campaign and you can search by using different metrics.
- Creator profiles: Get an overview of creators’ profiles, their most recent videos, and performance over time in one place.
- Direct contact: You can reach out to creators directly through the Creator Marketplace and initiate a collaboration with any identified creator within the platform.
- Reporting tools: You can track and analyze all their campaign results in one place using the campaign reporting tool. See the overall number of videos each creator made, including total engagements they generated.
TikTok has features like duets, stitches, and video replies that make it easy for creators in a long-term relationship to engage with audiences as a brand representative in many different ways. Getting the full benefits of a partnership requires building long-term, ongoing relationships with creators, not just contracting with someone for one-off ads.
How do you build creator partnerships that generate high-value content and drive long-term business growth?
The best partnerships happen when a brand lets a creator craft content that feels true to their audience AND the brand. After all, creator-first content is what TikTok is all about.
Successful creators are already very good at building content that fits their community—that’s why you want to partner with them in the first place. We recommend starting with a creative concept call to discuss your brand, product or service, and the goal of your campaign so that you and the creator can be on the same page.
Your goal shouldn’t be to restrict the creative thought process; on TikTok, creator partnerships should be truly collaborative. You’re not just buying access to a creator’s audience, you are engaging their expertise as a creator. To get the best possible results, work with the creator instead of just telling them what to do.
Remember: you are tapping into the creator’s brand, community, and creative expertise, not the other way around.
One big difference on TikTok is the importance of sound; in fact, 88% of TikTok users agree that sound is vital to the experience of scrolling on in the app. So it’s important to consider how creators use sound when assessing creators and ideating around content. Your creator partners should be recreating memorable sounds or engaging with one sound in multiple ways as they expand their organic reach.
A good example of conversational sound is elysemyers. Her rambling yet engaging storytelling is relatable and covers topics that can be layered over fellow users’ video content. Her branded content leverages her unique style to connect with her audience without feeling inauthentic or opportunistic.
User zzzachariah grew his following by testing out weird appliances, sharing his love of coffee, and creating hilarious skits. That’s why his partnership with Dunkin Donuts was well received, earning him 12.1 million views, 147.1k likes, and 1441 comments.
Because TikTok is an engine for discovery, brands need to stay active on the platform to gain traction. Your goal is to take an audience through a full-funnel experience and build familiarity and loyalty over time by investing in long-term partnerships that can become an influencer marketing hub that drives business growth.
That collaboration runs both directions. Your brand account can also interact with the creator’s content, comment on relevant user posts, run ads utilizing the creator’s content, or creating your own content that will have more of an impact because you’ve built a level of familiarity and trust through creator partnerships.
What best practices should you have in place to successfully launch a TikTok creator partnership?
It’s absolutely essential to get permission from creators to reshare content across Tiktok and other platforms. Their content is protected, and you will not only ruin a potential relationship with a creator if you use their content without permission, but potentially face a public backlash or even legal repercussions.
This is especially important as more and more brands recognize that creator content originally made for TikTok can be effectively repurposed across other channels.
Work out in advance what you can and cannot do with the content a creator builds for your business.
Your budget will depend on several factors. If you’re looking for a widespread brand awareness campaign, you are likely looking to work with a creator who has celebrity status or multiple macro-influencers. A healthy budget to support this type of engagement can be $100K or more, including cross-channel usage and exclusivity terms.
If your brand is seeking something more mid-funnel or a higher volume of content that reminds users of a product’s everyday use while driving education and CTR, a budget of $30-50K could bring a healthy mix of macro- and micro-influencers together for a campaign.
It should generally take between three to five weeks to prep and launch your first TikTok creator campaign. This includes creating the campaign brief and brand discovery materials for creators, conducting creator outreach, negotiating rates and holding creative concept calls, and reviewing the first piece of content before posting.
You also need to set the right expectations for return on that investment internally before launch.
Results won’t necessarily be immediate; start digging into analytics and insights five to eleven days after the content goes live and initially focus on organic engagement metrics and other upper-funnel KPIs. Later, you can leverage brand lift studies and other tools to better understand the full business impact.
Finally, set aside three to four weeks to get the most out of the highest-performing content. That might include setting up TikTok Spark Ads (similar to Meta boosting or whitelisting campaigns) to get the content in front of more people and/or setting up ad campaigns using the TikTok creative on other channels (with permission, of course).
Getting started on your TikTok influencer marketing strategy
If your brand already has influencer campaigns running on other channels, you should start with the influencers you know. Take a look at their performance metrics and overall results; if they’re doing well, check to see if they also have a TikTok and pitch to test the platform by expanding content deliverables with an already established partner.
All brands should have a couple of things prepared before reaching out to any creators:
- Defined business goals
- Existing educational materials that can introduce the brand’s product or experience
- A campaign brief outlining the focus of the product or experience, your target audience (particularly any demographic or psychographic information), and intended action or reaction you want the content to drive
If you don’t have experience vetting and contracting with influencers or are unfamiliar with TikTok, a trusted partner can mitigate a lot of the risk and position your brand for success.