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September 13, 2023

An Expert’s Guide to TikTok Influencer Marketing

by
Ellie

Ellie is a Writer, Creative Strategist and Content Passionfruit Specialist. Having previously worked TikTok and Spotify, she’s an expert at tapping into trends, humour, and emotional touch points to tell entertaining stories and make meaningful connections for brands.

An Expert’s Guide to TikTok Influencer Marketing
Table of contents

Let’s talk about what makes influencer marketing different on TikTok and how to help your brand succeed on the platform.

Since its launch in 2016, TikTok has seen a meteoric rise in popularity, becoming the most downloaded app in the world. TikTok currently boasts over 3 billion downloads and 1 billion active users spanning across generations, demographics, and interests. It’s a space truly built for anyone to show up and find their audience. 

What makes TikTok so special is its emphasis on authentic content and community engagement. At its heart, it's a platform for fans to connect with the things they love and the communities they belong to. It's because of this, and its highly tuned algorithm, that so many accounts (Creators and brands alike) have seen massive growth and overnight success on the platform. Plus, TikTok has an average engagement rate of 4.25%, the highest of all social media platforms by far (for comparison, Instagram has an average engagement rate of just 0.60%). This is largely due to its vibrant Creator community and their focus on authentic content, and if that wasn’t enough, only 18% of marketers are on TikTok currently.

TLDR: Now is your brand’s time to shine. And Creators can help you do that. 

Never before in social media has there been so much opportunity to connect with your target audience on an equal playing field and invite them into your brand storytelling. Brands who are open to experimenting and creating quality content can reap the rewards on the platform and beyond. But if that sounds overwhelming and scary, fear not. Tapping into TikTok Creators is a great way for any brand looking to build their presence on TikTok or expand their following. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of TikTok influencer marketing, how to get started, and why TikTok Creators should be a part of your marketing mix (if it isn’t already).

Other guides in this series:

What is influencer marketing? 

For those in need of a refresher, influencer marketing is the practice of working with individual content creators or accounts within a specific niche to produce content on behalf of your brand. Influencer marketing is a popular solution for brands who want to align with an influencer’s established aesthetic and persona to connect with their loyal fanbase. The influx of social media platforms over the last 15 years has allowed more and more influencers to enter the space and given rise to the Creator economy - where individuals can make a living and share their message by working in partnership with relevant brands. But just because influencer marketing is popular, doesn't mean that it's always successful. With everyone spending more and more time online, followers are increasingly critical of influencer content and can easily identify when content doesn't feel authentic. But that's where TikTok comes in.

How TikTok Influencer Marketing Works 

At face value, TikTok influencer marketing functions the same way as traditional influencer marketing by leveraging the following and aesthetic of an established influencer to speak on behalf of your brand. However, working with Creators on TikTok provides a much greater opportunity for brands to build meaningful partnerships and loyalty (TikTok refers to all app users as Creators, so I will too from here on out). Thanks to TikTok’s full-screen video, immersive audio and engaged comments section, viewers feel more connected to what they're watching and are more likely to build a sense of trust with Creators. Plus, the primary currency of TikTok is entertainment– whether that's humor, education, emotional connection, positivity, etc –  so creating resonate content is imperative for both brands and Creator. 

Why Should You Use TikTok for Influencer Marketing?

There are so many reasons why you should use TikTok for influencer marketing, but let's get into some of my favourites. For starters, TikTok is a community. It has its own trends, way of speaking and even ways of editing videos. Working with a Creator who understands the language and trends of TikTok allows brands to harness that knowledge to connect with potential consumers in a meaningful way. And, because of the platform’s ability to help people connect with even their most niche interests, users feel more connected and familiar with the Creators they follow. This in turn makes them more primed to take Creator marketing to heart and purchase, sign up or follow a brand that a Creator vouches for. 

Second, TikTok is a place of positivity. For the most part, people visit the app to feel good and lift their spirits, and this applies to the Creators they follow, too. TikTok users expect valuable content from Creators, whether that be a story, a tutorial or a recommendation. Users are also more open and receptive to advertisements from Creators they follow. Plus, TikTok’s positive atmosphere makes it a great environment to build positive associations with your brand. Outside of simply building awareness or consideration, brands and businesses have an opportunity to add to this positive space by helping Creators share their passions and expertise while doing what they love.  

Third, TikTok allows for unbridled creativity. As a brand you have the ability to promote self expression in all its forms and invite people to engage with you. Instead of a traditional static post, why not team up with a filmmaker to make a short film inspired by your brand? Or a songwriter to write a song? Or a multimedia artist to create a mural? The possibilities are only as limited as your brief. And that brings us to our next point. 

Tips for Starting Your TikTok Influencer Marketing Campaign

TIkTok makes it incredibly easy to execute Creator campaigns on the platform. Even if you’re new to Creator marketing, the TikTok for Business portal offers step-by-step instructions to quickly run ads and set up a Creator marketing campaign based on your objectives, budget and target demographic. Simply create a TikTok for Business account to get started and you’ll be guided through a webflow to get your campaign up and running. If you’re unsure of where to start with Creators, TikTok makes it easy to quickly sort and find Creators that match your brand category and needs all within their self-service portal. 

The recommendation I always give to brands and businesses who are looking to start working with Creators on TIkTok is to simply start using the app. Encourage your team to download the TikTok app and spend a few minutes a day scrolling through their For You Feed to familiarise themselves with what’s trending. Being a TikTok user, or at least being familiar with the platform, makes it easier to identify impactful Creator content and guide your Creator partners in the briefing process. But remember, you’re creating TikToks, not rewriting the brand book. Guidelines should be put in place so that all parties understand the expectations at hand but allow room for a Creator's natural strength to shine (more on that below). 

Experiment With Different Content Types

Say it with me: iteration. TikTok is the platform for experimentation. Especially when you're first building your presence on TikTok, it's important to try different styles of content. Whether it be long form or short form, storytelling versus text driven or emotional versus humorous, exploring different types of content and seeing what resonates is a great way to find your niche on the platform. 

Create Campaign Guidelines that allows Influencers Some Creative Freedom

When working with TikTok Creators, it's important to have a strong brief in place. Remember, not every Creator has a marketing or advertising background. Many Creators today are passionate individuals who grew a following simply by sharing their gifts. I’ve found that having a structured brief with a clear objective and deliverables ensures that everyone is on the same page at the start of a project. Remember, you want the Creators to bring their whole selves and their unique perspective to a project. A brief creates the sandbox for them to play in, but you have to let them build their own sandcastle. Nowadays, Creator management platforms like the TikTok Creator Marketplace with TikTok for Business make it easy to search for and connect with Creators who speak to your Target demographic, so you can easily execute a campaign without a lot of legwork. 

Again, I'd recommend any marketing team looking to hire TikTok Creators actually be on the platform themselves. This doesn't mean you have to be creating videos (although we love to see it) but knowing how the platform operates will help you make more informed decisions and give stronger feedback for your branded content.

Track Conversions And Campaign Goals

Once you have a piece of Creator content that all parties are happy with, it's time to go live! TikTok makes it easy to track views, comments and click throughs on their self-service platform and within the app itself. Depending on your campaign goals, it’s also common for brands to give Creators an exclusive discount or promotional code to use in their content as an additional way to track success. The great thing about TikTok is that it's not just an awareness play. There have been numerous examples of Creator content and everyday testimonials leading to products selling out, such as Peter Thomas Roth's eye cream.

Use a TikTok Marketing Expert To Streamline The Campaign Process

Brands with smaller marketing teams or strapped resources can benefit from hiring a TikTok expert (looking at you startups and small businesses). They can provide support while your team gets comfortable with the platform and share in-depth knowledge of the TikTok ecosystem you can use for your brand's advantage. Passionfruit has an amazing community of TikTok marketing experts like myself who specialise in creative strategy, Creator management and implementation, as well as brand marketing.

What Types of Content Do Well on TikTok?

The short answer is: it depends. Every style of content has a place on TikTok, but not every style of content will make sense for your brand. Some Creators do really well with longer format storytelling videos, while others have seen success with short form comedic bits. The unifying theme across the platform is entertainment. When briefing a Creator or coming up with ideas for content, ask yourself: would I watch this? If the answer is no, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

TikTok Advertising vs. TikTok influencer marketing: what's the difference?

Advertising on TikTok is simple in the sense that all content, paid or organic, has one place to show up: The For You Feed. When working with Creators, assets will have the option to live on your brand channel, as paid ads in the For You Feed, or on the Creator’s organic page. However, it is important to note that TikTok doesn’t prioritise duplicate content (meaning the algorithm will work against you), so if an asset exists on two organic channels it needs to be edited slightly or share a different POV. Depending on budget and marketing objectives, TikTok also offers a variety of video advertising products – from interactive shoppable units to TikTok homescreen takeovers. These units provide additional exposure and opportunities for engagement, though also come with additional investment. Explore TikTok’s full suite of advertising options here

Why Do Marketers Love TikTok?

Because it works. If your marketing team is willing to trust Creators, experiment and think outside the box, there is so much opportunity for success. What started as a fad during the pandemic, has become a tried and true way of connecting with passionate audiences across the world. I also love the outward funnel model of TikTok. Anything that succeeds on TikTok can succeed anywhere else in your marketing ecosystem. For example, did your TikTok go viral on the platform? Great! Make it a part of your television ad spend. Did a trend your brand started take off? How can you turn it into a moment for fandom, perhaps with an exclusive merch drop or pop-up event? The possibilities are endless.

How Much Does TikTok Influencer Marketing Cost? 

Costs vary by Creator, depending on their follower size, level of experience and management.  However, on average, Creator videos tend to be more cost-effective than traditional marketing channels because of their low production lift and engaged fan bases. Working with a Creator management platform such as the TikTok Creator Marketplace will allow you to filter Creators a number of inputs including cost. 

How Can Startups Leverage TikTok to build brand awareness

Many small businesses and startups have seen success on TikTok. You don’t need a ton of fancy equipment, you just need a great mission and story. Look at August Co: their team uses their channel to break stigmas and have real conversations about menstrual cycles. Or the Spike Ball account: it's a simple strategy, but they clearly show off product benefits and get people excited to play. Another example I love is We Are Not Really Strangers. The car game really hits home on their mission of helping people connect in a perpetually disconnected world through heartfelt quotes and inspirational content. The lesson here is to use the resources your brand has on hand, focus on telling a story and being authentic rather than striving for perfection.

Conclusion 

No matter the size of your company, there is so much potential in TikTok Creator marketing. The platform’s focus on authentic and engaging content invites us to rethink social strategy and prioritise building real connections with your audience rather than pushing a product. Remember, TikTok is a dialogue not a monologue. When you're in conversation, remember to be a good conversationalist by providing helpful information, telling a story or simply lightening the mood. And if you need help navigating the TikTok ecosystem, a Passionfruit expert is always on hand to help.

Professor Passionfruit Illustration
Table of Contents

Let’s talk about what makes influencer marketing different on TikTok and how to help your brand succeed on the platform.

Since its launch in 2016, TikTok has seen a meteoric rise in popularity, becoming the most downloaded app in the world. TikTok currently boasts over 3 billion downloads and 1 billion active users spanning across generations, demographics, and interests. It’s a space truly built for anyone to show up and find their audience. 

What makes TikTok so special is its emphasis on authentic content and community engagement. At its heart, it's a platform for fans to connect with the things they love and the communities they belong to. It's because of this, and its highly tuned algorithm, that so many accounts (Creators and brands alike) have seen massive growth and overnight success on the platform. Plus, TikTok has an average engagement rate of 4.25%, the highest of all social media platforms by far (for comparison, Instagram has an average engagement rate of just 0.60%). This is largely due to its vibrant Creator community and their focus on authentic content, and if that wasn’t enough, only 18% of marketers are on TikTok currently.

TLDR: Now is your brand’s time to shine. And Creators can help you do that. 

Never before in social media has there been so much opportunity to connect with your target audience on an equal playing field and invite them into your brand storytelling. Brands who are open to experimenting and creating quality content can reap the rewards on the platform and beyond. But if that sounds overwhelming and scary, fear not. Tapping into TikTok Creators is a great way for any brand looking to build their presence on TikTok or expand their following. In this article, we’ll cover the basics of TikTok influencer marketing, how to get started, and why TikTok Creators should be a part of your marketing mix (if it isn’t already).

Other guides in this series:

What is influencer marketing? 

For those in need of a refresher, influencer marketing is the practice of working with individual content creators or accounts within a specific niche to produce content on behalf of your brand. Influencer marketing is a popular solution for brands who want to align with an influencer’s established aesthetic and persona to connect with their loyal fanbase. The influx of social media platforms over the last 15 years has allowed more and more influencers to enter the space and given rise to the Creator economy - where individuals can make a living and share their message by working in partnership with relevant brands. But just because influencer marketing is popular, doesn't mean that it's always successful. With everyone spending more and more time online, followers are increasingly critical of influencer content and can easily identify when content doesn't feel authentic. But that's where TikTok comes in.

How TikTok Influencer Marketing Works 

At face value, TikTok influencer marketing functions the same way as traditional influencer marketing by leveraging the following and aesthetic of an established influencer to speak on behalf of your brand. However, working with Creators on TikTok provides a much greater opportunity for brands to build meaningful partnerships and loyalty (TikTok refers to all app users as Creators, so I will too from here on out). Thanks to TikTok’s full-screen video, immersive audio and engaged comments section, viewers feel more connected to what they're watching and are more likely to build a sense of trust with Creators. Plus, the primary currency of TikTok is entertainment– whether that's humor, education, emotional connection, positivity, etc –  so creating resonate content is imperative for both brands and Creator. 

Why Should You Use TikTok for Influencer Marketing?

There are so many reasons why you should use TikTok for influencer marketing, but let's get into some of my favourites. For starters, TikTok is a community. It has its own trends, way of speaking and even ways of editing videos. Working with a Creator who understands the language and trends of TikTok allows brands to harness that knowledge to connect with potential consumers in a meaningful way. And, because of the platform’s ability to help people connect with even their most niche interests, users feel more connected and familiar with the Creators they follow. This in turn makes them more primed to take Creator marketing to heart and purchase, sign up or follow a brand that a Creator vouches for. 

Second, TikTok is a place of positivity. For the most part, people visit the app to feel good and lift their spirits, and this applies to the Creators they follow, too. TikTok users expect valuable content from Creators, whether that be a story, a tutorial or a recommendation. Users are also more open and receptive to advertisements from Creators they follow. Plus, TikTok’s positive atmosphere makes it a great environment to build positive associations with your brand. Outside of simply building awareness or consideration, brands and businesses have an opportunity to add to this positive space by helping Creators share their passions and expertise while doing what they love.  

Third, TikTok allows for unbridled creativity. As a brand you have the ability to promote self expression in all its forms and invite people to engage with you. Instead of a traditional static post, why not team up with a filmmaker to make a short film inspired by your brand? Or a songwriter to write a song? Or a multimedia artist to create a mural? The possibilities are only as limited as your brief. And that brings us to our next point. 

Tips for Starting Your TikTok Influencer Marketing Campaign

TIkTok makes it incredibly easy to execute Creator campaigns on the platform. Even if you’re new to Creator marketing, the TikTok for Business portal offers step-by-step instructions to quickly run ads and set up a Creator marketing campaign based on your objectives, budget and target demographic. Simply create a TikTok for Business account to get started and you’ll be guided through a webflow to get your campaign up and running. If you’re unsure of where to start with Creators, TikTok makes it easy to quickly sort and find Creators that match your brand category and needs all within their self-service portal. 

The recommendation I always give to brands and businesses who are looking to start working with Creators on TIkTok is to simply start using the app. Encourage your team to download the TikTok app and spend a few minutes a day scrolling through their For You Feed to familiarise themselves with what’s trending. Being a TikTok user, or at least being familiar with the platform, makes it easier to identify impactful Creator content and guide your Creator partners in the briefing process. But remember, you’re creating TikToks, not rewriting the brand book. Guidelines should be put in place so that all parties understand the expectations at hand but allow room for a Creator's natural strength to shine (more on that below). 

Experiment With Different Content Types

Say it with me: iteration. TikTok is the platform for experimentation. Especially when you're first building your presence on TikTok, it's important to try different styles of content. Whether it be long form or short form, storytelling versus text driven or emotional versus humorous, exploring different types of content and seeing what resonates is a great way to find your niche on the platform. 

Create Campaign Guidelines that allows Influencers Some Creative Freedom

When working with TikTok Creators, it's important to have a strong brief in place. Remember, not every Creator has a marketing or advertising background. Many Creators today are passionate individuals who grew a following simply by sharing their gifts. I’ve found that having a structured brief with a clear objective and deliverables ensures that everyone is on the same page at the start of a project. Remember, you want the Creators to bring their whole selves and their unique perspective to a project. A brief creates the sandbox for them to play in, but you have to let them build their own sandcastle. Nowadays, Creator management platforms like the TikTok Creator Marketplace with TikTok for Business make it easy to search for and connect with Creators who speak to your Target demographic, so you can easily execute a campaign without a lot of legwork. 

Again, I'd recommend any marketing team looking to hire TikTok Creators actually be on the platform themselves. This doesn't mean you have to be creating videos (although we love to see it) but knowing how the platform operates will help you make more informed decisions and give stronger feedback for your branded content.

Track Conversions And Campaign Goals

Once you have a piece of Creator content that all parties are happy with, it's time to go live! TikTok makes it easy to track views, comments and click throughs on their self-service platform and within the app itself. Depending on your campaign goals, it’s also common for brands to give Creators an exclusive discount or promotional code to use in their content as an additional way to track success. The great thing about TikTok is that it's not just an awareness play. There have been numerous examples of Creator content and everyday testimonials leading to products selling out, such as Peter Thomas Roth's eye cream.

Use a TikTok Marketing Expert To Streamline The Campaign Process

Brands with smaller marketing teams or strapped resources can benefit from hiring a TikTok expert (looking at you startups and small businesses). They can provide support while your team gets comfortable with the platform and share in-depth knowledge of the TikTok ecosystem you can use for your brand's advantage. Passionfruit has an amazing community of TikTok marketing experts like myself who specialise in creative strategy, Creator management and implementation, as well as brand marketing.

What Types of Content Do Well on TikTok?

The short answer is: it depends. Every style of content has a place on TikTok, but not every style of content will make sense for your brand. Some Creators do really well with longer format storytelling videos, while others have seen success with short form comedic bits. The unifying theme across the platform is entertainment. When briefing a Creator or coming up with ideas for content, ask yourself: would I watch this? If the answer is no, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

TikTok Advertising vs. TikTok influencer marketing: what's the difference?

Advertising on TikTok is simple in the sense that all content, paid or organic, has one place to show up: The For You Feed. When working with Creators, assets will have the option to live on your brand channel, as paid ads in the For You Feed, or on the Creator’s organic page. However, it is important to note that TikTok doesn’t prioritise duplicate content (meaning the algorithm will work against you), so if an asset exists on two organic channels it needs to be edited slightly or share a different POV. Depending on budget and marketing objectives, TikTok also offers a variety of video advertising products – from interactive shoppable units to TikTok homescreen takeovers. These units provide additional exposure and opportunities for engagement, though also come with additional investment. Explore TikTok’s full suite of advertising options here

Why Do Marketers Love TikTok?

Because it works. If your marketing team is willing to trust Creators, experiment and think outside the box, there is so much opportunity for success. What started as a fad during the pandemic, has become a tried and true way of connecting with passionate audiences across the world. I also love the outward funnel model of TikTok. Anything that succeeds on TikTok can succeed anywhere else in your marketing ecosystem. For example, did your TikTok go viral on the platform? Great! Make it a part of your television ad spend. Did a trend your brand started take off? How can you turn it into a moment for fandom, perhaps with an exclusive merch drop or pop-up event? The possibilities are endless.

How Much Does TikTok Influencer Marketing Cost? 

Costs vary by Creator, depending on their follower size, level of experience and management.  However, on average, Creator videos tend to be more cost-effective than traditional marketing channels because of their low production lift and engaged fan bases. Working with a Creator management platform such as the TikTok Creator Marketplace will allow you to filter Creators a number of inputs including cost. 

How Can Startups Leverage TikTok to build brand awareness

Many small businesses and startups have seen success on TikTok. You don’t need a ton of fancy equipment, you just need a great mission and story. Look at August Co: their team uses their channel to break stigmas and have real conversations about menstrual cycles. Or the Spike Ball account: it's a simple strategy, but they clearly show off product benefits and get people excited to play. Another example I love is We Are Not Really Strangers. The car game really hits home on their mission of helping people connect in a perpetually disconnected world through heartfelt quotes and inspirational content. The lesson here is to use the resources your brand has on hand, focus on telling a story and being authentic rather than striving for perfection.

Conclusion 

No matter the size of your company, there is so much potential in TikTok Creator marketing. The platform’s focus on authentic and engaging content invites us to rethink social strategy and prioritise building real connections with your audience rather than pushing a product. Remember, TikTok is a dialogue not a monologue. When you're in conversation, remember to be a good conversationalist by providing helpful information, telling a story or simply lightening the mood. And if you need help navigating the TikTok ecosystem, a Passionfruit expert is always on hand to help.

Written by
Ellie Brzezenski
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Professor Passionfruit Illustration

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