The Social Platform for Gen Z and How It Could Help Your Influencer Strategy

Photo credit: Aleksei – stock.adobe.com

The Origin Story of TikTok

TikTok, the video app that’s increasing in popularity in staggeringly large numbers, was actually launched in 2016, but not in its current form. Owned by Chinese company, ByteDance, and operating under the name Douyin in China, the app got a makeover when it acquired Musical.ly in 2017 from a startup based in Shanghai. (Rumor puts the pricetag at close to $1 billion).

By August of 2018, the original app was merged with Musical.ly and launched globally as the rebranded app, TikTok, combining key features of both apps.

It’s been called a successor to Vine, the now defunct six-second video app owned by Twitter, and features a combination of comedy shorts (similar to Vine) and lip syncing (similar to musical.ly). And the outlook appears to be good. TikTok is being downloaded at a dizzyingly fast pace as users consume and share content poised to go viral.

TikTok app in the App Store for iPhone
TikTok app in the App Store for iPhone

What makes TikTok so appealing to some is that it’s considered the anti-Instagram. Gone are the highly curated feeds with overt product promotions. Instead, users can create and share 15 or 60 second videos directly from their phone, easily add music and effects, and share across multiple platforms. 

TikTok: Outlook is Good

If you’re concerned about whether or not TikTok is here to stay, you only have to look in the competitor space to see what the future may hold. 

Facebook’s own Mark Zuckerberg has been talking to his team about how to combat the rise of TikTok. He’s been quoted as saying, “it’s married short-form, immersive video with browse. So it’s almost like the Explore Tab that we have on Instagram… I kind of think about TikTok as if it were Explore for stories, and that were the whole app. And then you had creators who were specifically working on making that stuff.”

But according to the same article in which he was quoted, he’s got it all wrong. TikTok “isn’t about you or what you’re doing. It’s about entertaining your audience. It’s not spontaneous chronicling of your real life.”

On some level, he and his team know that they need to reach beyond Instagram and Facebook to stay competitive, which is why they’re continuing to promote their own app, Lasso. Besides the U.S., Lasso is only available in Mexico, where it’s picking up steam but has yet to show the numbers that TikTok has.

TikTik alternatives

In a similar vein, Google is looking to acquire a similar app called Firework, a free app that allows users to share 30 second videos with anyone. Valued currently at over $100 million, it could be a wise investment for Google. But if talks fail, the Chinese social media app, Weibo, might look to step in as well.

Who’s Using TikTok?

TikTok has been downloaded 1 billion times with 60% of those downloads occurring in 2018. That means it was downloaded more than Instagram last year and was downloaded more times in September 2018 than Facebook, YouTube, and Snapchat.

Although TikTok doesn’t release their demographic data, speculation puts 41% of the user base between 16 and 24. Yes, it skews young. And it’s also said to have a distinct female slant. 

That puts this social platform firmly in the hands of Gen Z. It’s an audience that is looking for more creative outlets where they can freely express themselves unfiltered.

With the easy-to-use features for creating videos directly in the app, TikTok has allowed a new crop of influencers to rise to the top with a platform known for virality.

How Influencers Are Using TikTok

As with most social media platforms, influence correlates strongly to popularity. But popularity on TikTok can often come from unexpected places.

For example, The Bailey Bakery, owned and operated by Leanne Bailey, is a custom cookie decorating business in Kentucky. She started posting Tasty-style videos on TikTok of her cookie decorating skills, set to popular music.

She quickly rose to over 1 million followers and brands came calling. She now has over 4 million followers and posts sponsored videos once a week.

For other influencers, they’re motivated by entertaining audiences through dance, comedy, or other creative outlets. And as a result, they can be rewarded by their audience with an in-app virtual currency. 

Others, still, are capitalizing on their brand with merchandising that they can promote through the app. Keep in mind that most followers are more interested in merchandise to support an influencer or join a trend, rather than purchase a promoted product.

The prediction is clear, though. TikTok is rising in popularity and influencer marketing is poised to be huge in this space.

How Brands are Using TikTok

The most obvious question with any new social platform is whether or not your business should be on it. The best way to answer that question is to look at your audience.

If your target audience tends to skew younger, they’re likely to be embracing a new form of media and demand a new form of advertising and marketing. Some brands have recognized this, embraced TikTok and have had astounding results.

Chipotle, for example, took a leap of faith when they followed in the footsteps of one of their employees, who created the Chipotle #lidflip challenge. Soon, Chipotle was embracing the lid flip and creating videos, like the #GuacDance, for their nearly 90,000 followers. 

Other brands have dipped their toes in the water by hiring influencers to create short form videos in their own creative style. Guess partnered with fashion influencers for an #InMyDenim campaign and brands like Coca-Cola, Universal Pictures, Sony Pictures and Google have worked with popular TikTok users to raise brand awareness.

Influencer Marketing on TikTok

If the audience on TikTok is aligned with your brand’s target audience, working with influencers could be a necessity for your marketing strategy. 

Although TikTok has recently launched an advertising platform (we were warned it was coming), the nature of the platform indicates that inclusion in creator content would have a greater reception from users.

Working with a TikTok influencer may be completely different from working with influencers on other platforms so be prepared to adjust your strategy accordingly. These influencers rely on innovation and creativity to keep TikTok fans interested and engaged and brands need to be ready to embrace that.

Start by reviewing TikTok’s own Mission Statement:

“TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.”

If inspiration, creativity, joy, humor, and entertainment aren’t words you frequently associate with your brand, TikTok might not be right for you. But if it is, you’ll probably need to prepare yourself to give up a little creative control.

Brands that have successfully worked with TikTok influencers have learned that incorporating their messaging organically into creator content means giving more creative control to the influencer. These creators think outside the box and your best bet is to let them.

As on any platform, influencer marketing is best when there is a clear strategy and purpose behind integrating TikTok into a specific campaign. Influencer marketing agencies can help find influencers that align with your target audience and can help manage the details of campaign logistics..

Measuring metrics for TikTok is still evolving but tracking followers as well as likes, comments, reposts or shares and rate of full play are engagement metrics that can be tracked by creators. Without an open API, these metrics cannot be tracked by outside parties like brands and agencies.  Ideally, there will be an option to make this easier and more brand-friendly in the future. The jury is still out on benchmarking engagement rates to determine what is above average.  

Read more about TikTok stats here.

How We’ve Worked with TikTok Influencers

Blissful Media Group has been supporting TikTok for the past year by coordinating partnerships with various influencers on YouTube and Instagram to help introduce the app to a variety of new audiences.

Popular influencers from DIY to comedy to reaction-themed channels and profiles have been collaborating with TikTok to drive growth for the app, build brand awareness by creating exclusive TikTok content, and encourage downloads of the app with their audiences.

TikTok trending categories
TikTok trending categories and playlists on the Discover page

If you’re looking to hear more about TikTok and whether an influencer strategy incorporating this platform might be right for your brand, we’d love to hear from you.