TikTok Influencer Marketing: How Brands Can Benefit from Partnering with TikTok Influencers

TikTok is the most downloaded app in the world. With over 1 billion active monthly users, it’s no wonder brands are flocking to this social platform to expand, engage, and convert their target consumers. In addition to creating and establishing a brand or business profile on TikTok, it’s most effective to leverage TikTok in your social media marketing strategy by partnering with TikTok Influencers. If TikTok influencer marketing is unfamiliar to your brand or you’re looking for updated advice and practices to help you get the most out of your TikTok marketing campaigns, Sway Group has you covered.

Below, we’ve created a comprehensive guide to TikTok influencer marketing: what it is, how it works, and how your brand can benefit from it.

But First: A Crash Course on How Brands Market on TikTok

Hand holding up a phone with the TikTok Now app showing on the screen.

Covering the Basics

TikTok is a short-form video sharing social media platform that was created in 2016 by the Chinese media company, ByteDance. Under ByteDance, TikTok became the second iteration of the Musical.ly app where users could post lip sync covers and dance videos created around popular songs. Then, between 2019 and 2020, TikTok skyrocketed to become the most popular and most downloaded app in the world. While music is at the heart of TikTok’s identity, users have branched off to create original content and challenges, feeding a social movement toward user-generated content and authenticity on social media.

TikTok Video Content

Videos on TikTok have a maximum length of 10 minutes. Initially, users were restricted to recording and uploading videos that were only 15 seconds long. However, due to popular demand for longer videos that could incorporate more content, this limitation was later extended to one minute, and then to three minutes. Although TikTok videos can be up to 10 minutes long, videos that are 15 to 30 seconds are the more popular lengths. Most content fits into at least 1 of 3 categories: educational, informational, or entertaining – regardless of if you’re a brand/business account or an average user.

One of the primary reasons TikTok is such a popular platform is because small creators have a better chance of going viral more easily than other social media platforms due to the TikTok algorithm.

The algorithm categorizes content and populates individual users’ For You Pages based on their expressed and tracked interests. This makes it easier for a post from any creator (brand, influencer, or average) to land in front of a genuinely interested user, truly optimizing the discoverability of content.

An indication of TikTok’s emphasis on user-generated content is the prevalence of viral videos produced by ordinary users and posted with average quality; shot on phone cameras, even sometimes blurry or poorly lit. The content itself is down-to-earth and relatable enough that it doesn’t have to be flashy or professional to resonate with users. This speaks to a major shift in Gen Z and millennials’ preference for consuming more authentic content.

How Brands Market on TikTok

Before we dive deeper into TikTok influencer marketing, it’s important to understand how your brand should set up its independent presence on TikTok. Keep in mind that any campaign you run with a TikTok influencer or TikTok creator will likely drive traffic to your brand’s TikTok profile. Your business profile will function as a home base to garner its own attention and engagement within the app and – ideally – drive users to your website or directly to product pages for easy purchase.

*If your brand is already set up with a TikTok business account, you can scroll to the next section of this guide*

Organic Content

TikTok is a premiere platform for organic growth and creates a unique opportunity for brands to share both professional and more relaxed content. While TikTok allows for paid advertisements – which we’ll cover next – there are a variety of organic types of content brands can share to their pages to connect with their target consumers.

Here’s a list of organic content ideas for brands:

Educational Content

  • Behind-the-scenes content: showing the office, how orders are packed, who’s on the team, etc.
  • Valuable information about products: key ingredients, correcting misinformation, answering FAQs, special features (if a product has a primary and secondary use)

Informative Content

  • Discussing topics relevant to the brand but not necessarily about the brand (ex. a sustainable beauty brand giving tips on how to live a more sustainable life)
  • How-to guides/product demonstrations
  • Content highlighting limited edition products, sales, promotions, and events

Entertaining Content

  • Trend videos: participating in hashtag challenges, dance trends, trending CapCut templates, or incorporating trending audio into your content
  • Comedic content like skits or cringe videos

Paid Ads

While TikTok favors more authentic, organic content, there are options for businesses to post paid advertisements. Here’s a list of the types of paid ads available through TikTok:

  • In Feed Ads: pay to have ads appear in users’ feeds/on their For You Page as if they’re organic posts.
  • Top View Ads: pay to have ads appear as the top/first post in a user’s feed.
  • Brand Takeover Ads: similar to top view ads, you can pay to have an advertisement be the first thing a user sees when they open the app. It takes over the screen by appearing as itself, not as a post (with a caption and the options to like, comment, or share).
  • Brand Hashtag Challenge: sponsor a branded hashtag and create a challenge that prompts users to complete a specific action, all within a paid post. The hashtag challenge detail page can feature a short message or description highlighting the brand’s intention for the hashtag.
  • Branded Effects: pay for a branded effect/filter to inspire meaningful engagement from your audience while promoting your brand at the same time. Similar to branded hashtag challenges, a branded effect will have its own detail page where you can create a brand/campaign-related description.

If your brand isn’t already established on TikTok with a business profile, that is the first step to take. A branded TikTok page should feature a balance between professional marketing content and the more relatable, authentic content characteristic of the platform.

While your independent profile should garner its own engagement, the best way to optimize your presence on TikTok is through TikTok influencer marketing.

TikTok influencers creating content for sponsored influencer marketing campaign.

What is TikTok Influencer Marketing?

What is Influencer Marketing?

As a broad term, influencer marketing is when a brand collaborates with content creators who have sway with a sizable audience relevant to their brand. Influencer marketing helps brands expand the reach of their branded content and campaigns.

Why Brands Need Influencers

Influencers play a vital role in making brands more relatable and trustworthy to consumers. In the same way that traditional ads aren’t as effective with today’s emerging generation of consumers, neither is content created by a brand itself.

Whether you’re producing studio-quality marketing content or posting organic content with soft calls to action, consumers see brand-created content as biased, and therefore not as trustworthy. Influencer partnerships help build trust through “social proof”, validating a brand product, service, campaign, or even presence by proliferating those elements through content creation. Essentially, the more TikTok influencer marketing, or non-brand-created content there is about a brand, the more trustworthy that brand becomes.

Influencers can speak on behalf of a brand to their followers – sometimes on their own, but often through paid sponsorship – and use their influence to drive their followers to engage with the brand and – ideally – make a purchase.

The Impact of TikTok Influencer Marketing

Between the power of influencer marketing alone and the unique landscape and user-experience of TikTok, TikTok influencer marketing in particular can be highly impactful for brands.

The TikTok Discover Page functions like a search engine; allowing users to see the top content, top searches, top users, and top hashtags for a given keyword. In the same way that search engine optimization allows content to appear higher in Google search, similar optimization can help content – posted by a brand or by an influencer – rank higher for keywords and/or phrases in TikTok.

So, as a brand, you can leverage collaborations with influencers whose voices and styles align with your brand image and whose audiences align with your target consumers. Additionally, if a piece of content is optimized for a specific keyword that is relevant to your target consumers, that influencer’s campaign post can take advantage of TikTok’s characteristic high-discoverability and appear in the feeds of users who don’t follow your brand or the influencer.

While this isn’t impossible to achieve on other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, it’s much harder to do organically.

A woman in a yellow shirt holding makeup and using her phone to create content for TikTok influencer marketing campaign.

How to Create a Successful TikTok Influencer Marketing Campaign

To create a successful TikTok influencer marketing campaign, you should follow these steps:

  1. Define campaign goals
  2. Identify your target audience
  3. Select influencers on TikTok who align with your goals, audience and image
  4. Develop a campaign brief
  5. Track KPI and measure campaign performance

Define Campaign Goals

Clearly defining the ideal outcome of your TikTok marketing campaign allows you to develop a targeted strategy and reduce the potential for wasted resources. Here are some basic campaign goals that can define any campaign on any social media channel:

  • Increase brand awareness: meaning the purpose of the campaign is to increase the number of users who know your brand and products exist.
  • Increase brand audience: meaning the goal of the content is to convert viewers into brand followers.
  • Increase brand engagement: meaning the content should drive users to like, comment, share, save, repost, etc. Engagement is key to increasing your discoverability because if the algorithm perceives your content as engaging – keeping users inside and active on TikTok – it will push that content to a wider audience.
  • Increase sales: meaning the content should convince the viewer to purchase a product or service from your brand.

Identify Your Target Audience

Before you can identify the influencers who can reach and sway your target consumers, you have to understand where your target consumers are on TikTok. At this stage in TikTok influencer marketing, your goal is to identify what your target audience is watching on TikTok by searching for content similar to what your brand posts (this can be competitors, similar content style, similar topics, etc.).

One of the best ways to do this is to use the Discover page on TikTok:

  1. Search a term relevant to your brand. For example, we’ll use “sustainable fashion”.
  2. When you type “sustainable fashion” into the Discover Page search bar, it’ll take you to the top posts for that keyword. If you scroll down, TikTok will also show you what other users, who are interested in sustainable fashion, are searching in relation to that topic. Those searched phrases can offer narrowed-down topics/niches for your brand to consider. Currently “affordable and sustainable fashion” and “affordable sustainable fashion brands” are two highly searched phrases associated with the umbrella term “sustainable fashion”. If your brand offers affordable sustainable fashion, then this is a niche your campaign should speak to. You can also adjust the filters (located in the top right corner of the searched screen) to show you the most liked content posted within the past 24 hours, week, and month to gage what content within a specific niche is going viral.
  3. From there, you can tap “hashtags” in the menu below the search bar and see the top hashtags related to “sustainable fashion”. Hashtags allow you to see what people are posting and searching in relation to your niche.

As you get to know your audience, what they’re watching, and what they want to find on TikTok, you can develop a campaign that speaks directly to them.

Select Influencers on TikTok

Now that you know what kind of content resonates with your target audience, you can search for prominent creators in those areas/niches who have sway with that audience.

Types of TikTok Influencers

There are four distinct types of TikTok influencers:

You’ll want to select an influencer that best feeds your campaign goal. For example, if your TikTok influencer marketing goal is to increase brand awareness and discoverability, you’ll probably want to partner with an influencer who has a large audience. They might not have the ability to sway a majority of that audience, but their reach will achieve your campaign goal. On the other hand, if your goal is to drive sales, you might partner with a micro or nano influencer because influencers with smaller audiences tend to have higher engagement rates and more influence over their followers’ purchasing decisions.

Where to Find the Best TikTok Influencers for Your Campaign

The best place to find influencers for any social media campaign is a full-service influencer marketing agency, like Sway Group. An influencer marketing agency will host a vast network of professional, vetted influencers and take the guesswork, searching, and risk out of your influencer discovery phase.

Instead of conducting organic searches or using influencer marketing platforms, a full-service influencer marketing agency like Sway Group will give you more than names and access to statistics. Our quality assurance teams vet influencers for authenticity – in terms of persona, content, and engagement – before adding them to our network. The Sway network itself consists of more than 30K influencers.

We reduce the time the influencer discovery phase takes by delivering a targeted list of influencers who can achieve your campaign goals. From there, we can communicate with the influencer in a timely fashion about the campaign and facilitate an efficient, mutually-beneficial brand-influencer partnership. This is both safer and quicker than you conducting an independent search and spending valuable time trying to capture the attention and trust of influencers.

Develop a Campaign Brief

Once you’ve selected influencers for your TikTok campaign, you’ll have to create contracts and an influencer campaign brief. These documents will establish clear parameters and expectations for the partnership by defining your key performance indicators and clarifying what a successful campaign looks like to you and your brand.

Here’s what you should include in a campaign brief:

  • A brand bio: a brief outline of who/what your brand is, represents, and your brand’s mission. This introduces influencers to your brand and familiarizes them with your voice and values.
  • Campaign overview and goals: outline what the campaign is and the goal of the campaign (promoting a new product, inviting viewers to an event, showing users how to use a product with the goal of driving sales for that product, etc.).
  • Key product and brand messages: this is the messaging you want influencers to incorporate into the content. Ideally, you’ll leave room for the influencers to adapt the message to their own voice so the promotion can feel authentic to their followers.
  • A list of platforms you want the influencer to post on and relevant deliverables: Different platforms prioritize and allow for different types of content. If you want the campaign to extend beyond TikTok, make sure to specify that in your brief.
  • Content prompts and theme outlines: this can be examples of successful content you’d like influencers to emulate.
  • What not to include: anything you don’t want featured in the campaign content (e. no competitor logos).
  • Sharables: links, hashtags, and accounts that should be tagged in the posts.
  • Image directions and sample photography if relevant
  • Deadlines
  • Content review process and payment process
  • Exclusivity and licensing requirements
  • FTC disclosure guidelines

Track KPI and Measure Campaign Performance

Quality assurance checks should happen before and after content is published. A flexible strategy will allow you to track your key performance indicators and adapt the campaign to achieve the best results.

When you outsource influencer marketing campaigns to a full-service influencer marketing agency like Sway Group, your assigned team of social media experts will complete campaign tracking and performance reporting to streamline any strategy revisions and efficiencies to further improve posting for the campaign.

TikTok content creation with a phone showing a TIkTok influencer filming videos wearing a dark shirt and denim pants.

Best Practices for TikTok Influencer Marketing

When working with influencers it’s critical to strike a healthy balance between instruction and creative freedom. While it might be tempting to leave no room for error by providing detailed instructions, you have to trust and respect the influencer’s authority within your partnership. When you’re working with an influencer, their audience’s attention may be more beneficial that the content itself. The influencer you select for your campaign is The Expert on how to communicate and connect with this specific audience/their audience.

The influencer’s job is to translate your brand’s products and services into a language that will resonate with their followers. To accomplish this, the influencer needs enough flexibility to make your brand their own. Too many guidelines will create content that feels scripted instead of genuine, and dedicated followers – the followers that listen to what their favorite influencer tells them – will know when their influencer isn’t being authentic and true to their personal brand/voice.

In addition to trusting your influencer’s authority on their audience, you can take extra steps to increase the content’s chances of reaching and resonating with the campaign’s target audience.

  • During your audience search, if you discovered viral videos on TikTok or trends relevant to your niche, consider how you can incorporate those into the content for the campaign.
  • In addition to listing branded hashtags for the influencer to add to the post caption, add a few niche-related hashtags to optimize your posts positioning on users’ For You Pages and the Discover Page.

Why Brands Should Use TikTok Influencer Marketing

The key takeaway from this guide is that influencer marketing has emerged as a highly-successful way for brands to increase their reach and impact on social media. TikTok influencer marketing specifically offers a unique opportunity for brands to work with smaller niche and larger mass influencers to accomplish a range of campaign goals. Plus, TikTok’s unmatched organic discoverability makes it easy for new and small businesses to leverage influencer marketing campaigns on a budget.

In 2023, TikTok is expected to inspire people to make changes in their everyday, with newfound confidence. Based on global research studies, three macro trend forces will shape TikTok in 2023: actionable entertainment, making space for joy, and community-built ideals. The platform will help people discover new paths to success, happiness, and well-being, as they seek out new ways of thinking. TikTok communities, which are specific and deeply relatable, will help users quickly bond over these new interests and priorities. Brands that embrace these changes and showcase content that aligns with these macro trend forces can better connect with audiences, drive success on the platform, and ultimately improve their bottom line.

Work with Sway Group

If you want to create impactful and effective TikTok influencer marketing campaigns, work with Sway Group. We are a full-service influencer marketing agency that has been pairing brands with professional influencers and facilitating successful influencer marketing campaigns for more than 10 years.

As a full-service agency, we oversee the influencer marketing partnership from start to finish, ensuring the campaign is completed quickly, accurately, and effectively. By outsourcing your TikTok influencer marketing campaign to Sway Group, you can streamline the entire process with full confidence in the influencers you’re paired with, the quality of content produced for the campaign, and the campaign reporting.

Level up your influencer marketing today when you work with Sway Group!