Leveraging TikTok Influencers for Business Growth

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I. Introduction

As of March 2023, 150 million Americans are now on TikTok. Globally, the platform has over 1 billion monthly active users. With that large of a potential audience, it’s no surprise that more and more businesses are incorporating TikTok into their marketing efforts.

In addition to the growing size of its user base, TikTok stands out from other social media platforms because of its high engagement rate. An analysis done by Sensor Tower found that users spend the most time on TikTok compared to other social platforms. TikTokers use the app for an average of 95 minutes per day, almost double the amount of time spent on competing platforms like Facebook and Instagram. This makes TikTok a powerful marketing opportunity.

Since launching TikTok for Business in 2020, 5 million businesses are using the platform to market their products/services and grow their brands. Users are becoming more familiar with seeing and engaging with brands on the platform too. According to Gartner’s Social Marketing Benchmarks 2021 report, the percentage of TikTok users who follow brands on TikTok increased 153% in 2021 from 2019.

And it’s not just well-known brands like Chipotle and ESPN utilizing TikTok to help reach business goals. Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are also finding success on the platform. In fact, according to a Hello Alice research report on digital marketing trends in 2022, 59% of SMBs said TikTok helped grow revenue, 42% said TikTok helped them safeguard their business against the impact of the pandemic, and 32% said TikTok helped them raise capital.

How were these brands able to achieve results on TikTok? More likely than not, a big part of their strategy involved influencers. TikTok is now the #1 platform for influencer marketing according to Influencer Marketing Hub.

Is it time for your Shopify e-commerce store to jump on the bandwagon and involve TikTok influencers in your marketing strategy?

In this article, we’ll cover how to use TikTok influencer marketing to grow your business. Specifically, you can expect to read about how to identify the right influencers for your brand, how to build relationships with them, and how to create and measure successful TikTok influencer marketing campaigns.

II. Benefits of TikTok Influencer Marketing

What makes TikTok such an attractive platform for business growth, specifically for small and medium sized businesses? The ability to go viral and get discovered by new audiences.

Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok’s algorithm that determines the content displayed to each user is not based on follower count. Rather than factoring in the popularity of your account, TikTok’s algorithm focuses on showing users relevant, high-quality content that will keep them interested for the longest amount of time. This means that your business, regardless of how many followers you have amassed on the platform, can instantly gain vast exposure if one of your short-form videos goes viral.

Even if you don’t go viral, the personalized nature of the algorithm means that your TikTok content will likely be shown to users that are interested in your product or service.

If you are unsure of where to get started with content creation, involving influencers in your TikTok marketing strategy is a sure way to increase your success on the platform. TikTok influencers are familiar with the platform and have an increased understanding of the kind of content that has virality potential.

Another reason to utilize TikTok influencers is to increase engagement and conversions. According to the Small Business Blog, TikTok influencers, regardless of their follower count, garner a higher engagement rate than YouTube and Instagram influencers.

TikTok does not lend itself well to traditional marketing because the platform is focused on creativity and entertainment. When TikTok marketing is done through influencers though, it doesn’t feel as stale or pushy. Marketing with influencers leverages the power of social proof. This helps lead to conversions since recommendations are coming from trusted sources. In fact, Adweek reported that 49% of TikTok users have made a purchase after seeing it promoted or reviewed on the platform.

Plus, you might be surprised with how simple marketing on TikTok can be. According to Hello Alice, 81% of SMBs that are already utilizing TikTok say that it is easy to use and 73% say that it is fun. Moreover, they are pleased with the results they are seeing so far, as indicated by their intention to increase their investment in the platform.

So, are you ready to enlist the power of TikTok influencers for marketing? Continue reading for helpful guidance in getting started.

III. Understanding the TikTok Landscape

Before you jump in, it’s important to consider whether TikTok is a suitable platform for your brand. Start by comparing your brand’s target audience with TikTok’s user base. Almost half of TikTok users are under the age of 30, but the older generation's use of the app is growing. In 2021, 36% of TikTok users were between 35-54, which is 10% higher than the year prior.

In addition to skewing younger, TikTok’s user base is also majority female. As of March 2021, 61% of users in the United States were female.

If your company sells, for example, orthotics for seniors or supplements for balding men, then TikTok may not make sense for your brand. However, if your company is looking to appeal to younger generations, then TikTok is a must.  

Now that you’ve confirmed TikTok is a strong match for the audience you are targeting, let’s take a look at how to find the right TikTok influencers to help grow your brand.  

IV. Identifying the Right TikTok Influencers

In order to determine the right TikTok influencers to work with, you first need to have a strong understanding of your company’s target audience. That is, who are you trying to reach with your marketing messaging?

You can use your company’s current purchase data to determine the typical audience that buys your product or service. Additionally, if you already have a TikTok for Business account, you can use the built-in analytics to discover more about your audience on the platform.

Before reaching out to TikTok influencers, it’s also important to consider what your goals are with this marketing campaign. Are you looking to raise brand awareness, promote a new product, increase sales, or drive traffic to your website?

Once you know these two key pieces of information, then you can begin conducting research to find relevant TikTok influencers that will resonate with your target audience and help your company reach its goals.

There are a few ways to approach this research and begin crafting a list of influencers to reach out to:

  1. Spend time on the platform

TikTok is known for its subcultures, which it defines as “passionate communities that gather around similar interests, aesthetics, and values on the platform”. Some examples of subcultures found on the platform are #MomsofTikTok, #FitTok, and #WitchTok (a fantasy-inspired subculture). Use the search bar in TikTok to look for hashtags that reflect subcultures related to your company. Then, find influencers that tag their content using those hashtags.

  1. Use an external tool for support

Famous Finder, a free Shopify app, is a great way to help your brand identify celebrities or influencers who have already ordered from your store. The app will give you helpful information on the influencer’s profile such as their social channels and contact information. Since these influencers are already users of your product/service, partnering with them makes perfect sense!

  1. Register for an account in the TikTok Creator Marketplace

The TikTok Creator Marketplace is TikTok’s in-platform collaboration tool that allows you to search for registered TikTok influencers. Within the marketplace, you have the ability to see a creator’s audience demographics, engagement metrics, and rate for sponsored content creation.

Once you have an initial list of possible influencers to reach out to, take some time to evaluate their engagement level and style of content. Ensure that the influencer’s previous sponsored content appeared authentic and was received well by their audience. Also, make sure that the type of content they usually create is in line with what you have envisioned for this marketing campaign.

Now that you’ve chosen which influencers you’d like to partner with, it’s time to reach out.

V. Building Relationships with TikTok Influencers

Prior to approaching influencers, it’s a good idea to first build rapport by engaging with influencers’ content. This shows the influencer that you are interested in developing a genuine relationship.

When you’re ready to reach out, make sure that you approach influencers with a personalized message that clearly outlines how the partnership will be mutually beneficial. Explain why you chose to reach out to them specifically. You can share what you love about their content and how you believe your company’s product/service can help their followers in some way.

For more detailed help with crafting the perfect written outreach, read our blog post on How to Craft Irresistible Influencer Outreach Emails.

VI. Negotiating and Managing Influencer Partnerships

As part of your influencer outreach, it’s important to establish the foundations for a strong partnership. Make sure that you put in place clear expectations as to what deliverables will be required and the timeline for said deliverables.

Additionally, discuss and agree upon appropriate compensation for the influencer. Depending on their reach and engagement as well as the requirements of the campaign, prices will vary. According to Influencer Marketing Hub, the price per post can range from $5 for a nano-influencer (1K-10K followers) to over $2,500 for a mega-influencer (1M+ followers). While companies used to simply pay influencers with free products, this practice is becoming less common. Most influencers expect direct compensation.

The foundation of any relationship is trust and communication, so set up clear lines of communication that can be utilized throughout the campaign and beyond for open discussion.  

To get a more in-depth look at how to best manage influencer partnerships, read our Ultimate Guide to Influencer Management.

VII. Crafting Effective TikTok Influencer Campaigns

Once you have secured the details of your partnership with an influencer, it’s time to outline the details of what your campaign will look like.

In Section IV, you already defined your campaign objective. If necessary, take time to refine this now. 90% of brands use TikTok marketing to increase brand awareness, but you might have other objectives as well such as generating engagement or increasing sales. The goal of your campaign will affect the execution of it. For example, if you’re wanting to increase sales, your campaign might be centered around a contest or include a discount code for users.

Also take some time to think through what you want the overarching message of the campaign to be, how long the campaign will run for, and the budget.

Once you have these key elements defined, it’s a great idea to bring in the influencer to help brainstorm creative ideas for execution. TikTok influencers will know what resonates with their audience best. Plus, they are more familiar with the platform and current trends.

It’s especially important to involve the influencer at this point because you want to ensure that they are able to maintain authenticity within the confines of your campaign. You don’t want the content the influencer creates for your campaign to be too out of alignment with their normal content, otherwise users will spot its inauthenticity and likely not respond well.

Finally, just like in any marketing campaign, make sure to incorporate a strong call-to-action. Over 90% of branded TikTok videos tag the sponsoring brand in the caption. Other popular CTAs include: incorporating a link in bio to direct users to the brand homepage or product page, putting a promotional code in the caption, or asking users to tag their friends in the video.

Regardless of what your call-to-action is, you will then want to track whether users followed through on that action and assess your overall campaign performance.

VIII. Measuring and Analyzing Campaign Performance

There are various tools available within TikTok to help you track the performance of your campaign. TikTok’s Ad Manager allows you to view the performance of specific marketing campaigns. It even gives you the capability to segment the performance data based on audience demographics. Another tool available for monitoring creator-led campaigns is CreatorIQ.

While using these tools to monitor your campaign performance, make sure you are measuring and analyzing the right metrics. For instance, if your goal is to increase brand awareness, you’ll want to track video views. If your goal is conversions, you’ll want to track traffic to your website and sales generated using an influencer’s code. And if you’re wanting to monitor engagement with your brand, you’ll want to look at metrics such as average watch time. In other words, are your videos engaging users enough so that they watch through until the end?

Once you’ve thoroughly analyzed the campaign’s performance, use the insights you’ve gathered from the data to optimize future campaigns. With the tools mentioned above, you can evaluate whether your campaign reached the intended audience and met the stated objective outlined in Section IV. As you continue to create campaigns, look at the data holistically to identify trends and evaluate your brand’s performance over time.

IX. Leveraging TikTok’s Advanced Features

When creating your campaign, keep in mind the special features that TikTok has to offer that distinguish it from other social platforms.

  • Hashtag challenges

Hashtag challenges have great potential for virality due to the snowball effect. When one person is seen doing something then other people are inclined to try it as well. This is especially true if you involve influencers, who have clout in their communities.

An example of a successful challenge done by a brand is #Snoozzzapalooza from the mattress brand, Simmons. In 2020, during the pandemic lockdown, Simmons partnered with creators Destorm Power and Montana Tucker to challenge users to create a musical festival in their beds.

  • Duets

Another fun way to engage with users on TikTok and create a community around your brand is through duets. A duet is a video with a split screen that allows you to record a new video that appears side-by-side next to the original one. The San Diego Zoo challenged users to duet with their video in the #SanDiegoZooDuetSweepstakes to win 4 free zoo passes.

  • User-generated Content (UGC)

While not unique to TikTok, UGC should be a vital part of your campaign. Branded hashtags, especially those promoted by influencers, can encourage users to post content related to your company. These videos can then be shared or reposted on your own channels to showcase how much users are enjoying your brand’s product/service.

You can use TikTok’s advanced features to amplify any positive UGC brand messages and also manage negative ones. For example, Leze the Label created this duet video reacting to a user trying on their product.

All of these special features are meant to encourage user participation in your campaign. As Forbes points out, one downside to the user involvement prevalent on TikTok is that you will have less control over your brand message. Prior to launching a campaign on the platform, think through how you will respond to different scenarios that might arise. Lean into the distinctiveness of the platform and the benefits that can come from building authentic relationships with influencers and customers.

X. Mitigating Risks and Challenges

There are risks involved with joining a new social media platform and working with influencers. However, there are a few ways that you can mitigate the chance that these challenges arise:

  1. Do your research and vet the influencer well

When selecting an influencer to work with, ensure you really take the time to look into their previous work with brands. You might even reach out to some other companies they’ve partnered with to learn more about their working style. Partnering with an influencer means that they are representing your brand, so ensure that you are comfortable with the other content that they post on their channel as well.

  1. Manage expectations and ensure campaign transparency

Make sure to follow all of the FTC guidelines related to influencer marketing. Sponsored content is required to be disclosed. Even though disclosures might be less obvious on TikTok, make sure the regulations are followed properly to avoid legal issues.

  1. Stay updated with TikTok policies

TikTok recently updated their community guidelines in March 2023. Periodically check the TikTok Newsroom and follow TikTok on Twitter to stay up to date with any new policies that come out. Also, stay aware and be willing to adapt to any changes in the algorithm.

XI. Best Practices for Successful TikTok Influencer Collaborations

In order to have a successful collaboration with a TikTok influencer, keep in mind the following tips:

  • Build a long-term relationship

You want the experience for you and the influencer to be a positive one, so focus on transparent communication, clear expectations, and treating one another with respect. These efforts will lead to a fruitful long-term relationship that will be mutually beneficial for both parties.

  • Promote creativity

Don’t put too many restrictions on creators when it comes to executing your campaign vision. While you should explain your goal and discuss the overarching campaign message, let the influencer do their job and determine the way that is executed. You want to promote storytelling that is authentic to the influencer that you chose.

  • Experiment with trending content and formats

Have fun on TikTok by engaging with new formats of content creation. Run experiments to see what trends perform best in terms of achieving your goals. Have you tried educational content related to your product/service? What about product reviews? Both of these formats are commonplace on the platform and worth a shot to see if they resonate with your audience.

  • Leverage TikTok ads

In order to amplify the effects of your influencer campaign, look into using TikTok ads. There are various ad formats to choose from including: in-feed ads that appear on a user’s For You page, top view ads that appear at the top of the For You page immediately upon opening the app, and branded effects ads which allow users to interact with your brand through the use of special stickers or filters. According to Forbes, “strategic paid ads plus quality, authentic influencer content equals winning on TikTok. That’s the formula.

XII. Conclusion

Employing a TikTok influencer marketing strategy can be a great idea for your ecommerce business! With it’s unique features and powerful algorithm, your brand has the ability to reach vast new audiences on the platform. Countless small businesses have gone viral and seen tremendous business growth as a result of creating authentic content and engaging with the TikTok community.  

Use this guide to get started today with leveraging TikTok influencers for your own brand’s growth.

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