Perhaps inevitably, I am finally writing about TikTok.
Truth be told, when this trend started catching on I didn’t anticipate it would be just as big as it is today. Since being launched in 2017, the app has enjoyed exponential growth. Its popularity, so it would seem, peaking around the time that lockdown measures started being introduced. It’s the type of social media that you find yourself ‘giving in to eventually’ – that’ll be myself included.
With over 800 million active users, it’s hard not to consider TikTok as a platform for influencer marketing, the industry responds well to a little shaking up every now and again. A new app often means a whole new audience susceptible to any branded content that is geared their way.
So, I had a further look into TikTok and looked into its suitability to being pursued as an influencer marketing avenue (though I must say I got distracted by plenty of dog videos along the way).
Here’s what I found.
1. You Don’t Need A Loyal Following To Drive Great Engagement
Something I noticed is that unlike most social media platforms, you don’t need a big following to go ‘viral’ on TikTok.
I’m not really sure how the algorithms that determine what appears on your ‘FYP (For You Page) work, but going off what shows up on my feed, it’s content based on what you’ve previously interacted with. They don’t seem to weight content by interactions as much as relativity. This means as I’m flicking through, I could pass a video with 2.1m likes, then the video after that might have just 10.
In situations like the latter, if the content is good, and if it appears on many users FYPs, it doesn’t take long for that engagement to soar. I also noticed that if a video does pick up a lot of traction, engagement tends to convert to follows. When I knew I wanted to write this blog post, I was so pleased to come across an example that illustrated this perfectly.
On his 4th post to the app, user @callumtrew uploaded a TikTok which asked users to make him go viral after many failed attempts by his sister. The post today stands at 920.7k views and 76.4k likes.
Adding to this, he also now has just under 3500 followers, a figure which I would assume was mostly the product of his FYP TikTok video. Though in correlation, the follower count doesn’t seem so high, when you compare the situation to Instagram influencers, it can take years to reach a milestone like that.
Brands have been interested in accounts for much less.
What does all of this tell us? That you may well be throwing a dice when using TikTok in your influencer marketing strategy. Follower counts aren’t always the product of a genuine love for the user and the content they post, they may just be the result of one viral video. Coming at this from another angle, it also indicates that even when working with a small account, you do have the potential of your product reaching far more eyeballs than your influencers’ follower figure. Almost all influencer marketing endeavours can be considered risky, but I would deduce TikTok is definitely one of the least secure platforms for it. Partly down to the dependency on algorithms (unless you’re working with someone really, really established) and partly down to the newness of the whole platform.
Give it a go, I would say, but don’t place a great deal of trust into an avenue of influencer marketing that still has so many grey areas.
2. People Are Receptive To Buying What They See
I wasn’t overly convinced that TikTok could be used to actually promote the sale of goods and services, so I sought out a little extra help to find out whether it would be effective.
I’d take a guess that this is down to algorithms again, but most of what I see on my app is pet videos and pranks – not much promotion to be had there. Upon a little digging, however, I found that TikTok influencers can, in fact, be more persuasive than originally thought.
Louise Parker, who many would dub the queen of Digital PR TikToks, explained to me a few days ago how influential TikTok can be in the way of promoting products (despite having no easy way of linking through, yet)…
Want the proof in the pudding? You need look no further than this short case study by August Noble to put these above contentions into actual, real-life examples with real-life brands.
This thread by Laura Smith is also an insightful read, too.
Just for good measure, I also asked my own followers whether they think they’d buy something they saw sponsored on TikTok. Given my follower demographic, I expected a flat-out ‘no’. I was surprised to see that 1 in 5 of the people asked said they thought they might.
When you look at all the above, it’s unsurprising really that TikTok is now testing a ‘shop now’ button for influencers of this kind.
3. There’s A Clear Demographics Of Users
Any good influencer marketing campaign will be well targeted towards a specific audience. For example, if you’re promoting a romantic lodge stay, you’ll want to be utilising influencers who are relationship-heavy with their content. There’d be no use trying to work with a user who parades a single life and is passionate about independence, it’s unlikely they’d have a large following of individuals who’re ready to be whisked off for a weekend away by their other halves.
It’s very easy to map out a demographic with TikTok, very quickly. All you need to do is to glance at the content.
According to Oberlo, 41% of Tik Tok users are aged between 16 and 24. Heading to the app will likely confirm this. I’d say that well over half of the content (from what I’ve seen anyway) is produced by users who fall into this age category, a sweeping generalisation would argue that it is mainly 16-24 year olds who’re becoming ‘TikTok influencers’ too.
This tells you a lot about TikTok, and whether it’s worth pursuing as a platform for your influencer marketing. If your product or service is largely intended for those aged between (or around) 16-24, then it could well be worth exploring as a way of getting publicity for your brand. If you’re wanting to target a demographic of say, over 50s, then this may not be a road worth heading down.
4. Lockdown Has Caused A Social Media Surge
Finally, if there was ever a time to decide whether Tik Tok was the next best thing in influencer marketing, it would be now.
In an insightful report by NextWeb, it was found that more than three-quarters (76%) of internet users aged between 16 and 64 said they’d been spending more time using their smartphones in recent weeks compared to their pre-lockdown behaviours.
15% of people also said that they’d been producing more video content during periods of lockdown. It wouldn’t be overly bold to assume that a number of these clips were being created on, and for, TikTok.
As with most avenues of influencer marketing, there’s absolutely no way you can definitively measure how successful a campaign may be. It depends on your KPIs for one, and even then it’s hard to rule a campaign a clear success or failure. In fact, this an issue that blankets most of the PR industry – ROI is intangible, and results can never be guaranteed (see also: my dissertation topic).
However, given the evidence above, I would certainly say it’s worth testing if nothing else. I’ve said it before, and I’ll repeat it now: during this outbreak of Covid-19, your competitors might have gone quiet, meaning if you’re brave, now is the perfect time to put yourself in front of them and communicate with your stakeholders. TikTok could well be your perfect platform for this, and you’ll never know unless you try.
If you’ve experience in TikTok marketing, I’d love to know how that’s going for you. Slide into my DMs or leave me a comment below. Thanks, as always, for reading.