Influencer marketing is having a moment, primarily on TikTok, which is permeating culture at the speed of light. Creators who have either grown up on TikTok, or mastered its capabilities, are now influencing the broader social media landscape in a major way.
During the pandemic, TikTok has nearly supplanted TV’s place in the center of the media ecosystem. As The New York Times said, it assertively answers anyone’s what should I watch with a flood of options.
Part of the appeal of TikTok is the discoverability of something new, which is fundamentally built into its algorithm. Logging into the app, users are greeted with an assortment of new accounts and perspectives, often ones that fit within niches you might not have gone looking for otherwise. TikTok is the home of acknowledgment of that weird noise Jennifer Aniston makes before every sentence but also deep-cleaning-during-the-pandemic videos.
As such, it’s changing the brief for influencer marketing.
TikTok’s Authentic Aesthetic
The idea of ‘selling out’ is a wearisome influence on TikTok. People have seen previous endorser platforms like Klout and PeerIndex peter out and prove that commodifying such influence is distasteful to many. Instagram may be an exception to this rule, which now draws an estimated 22 percent of Facebook’s revenues, remains a hot spot for traditional avenues of influencer marketing.
The reality is that people visit TikTok to get authentic interactions. For instance, one of TikTok’s breakout stars is granfluencer, Grandma Droniak, a 90 year-old woman who has almost 2 million followers on the platform. Grandma Droniak is known for her “sweater fashion show” and interactions with her grandson. There isn’t an ounce of artifice in what Grandma Droniak provides.
If there’s a formula to success on TikTok, it’s ordinary people who know how to add entertainment value to their postings.
That’s an entrée for creative agencies. Take Korean Dad, for example. Nick Cho is a creator who has amassed a huge following in favor of bringing people together. Perhaps Korean Dad’s next move could be to answer followers’ questions and give advice, Dear Abby style. And if some of those suggestions happened to be backed by a product he believes in, there's a creative agency that can help facilitate that partnership and build on what is working for him.
Creator Content that Works Hard for Brands
No doubt there’s a wariness among consumers and the portrayal that influencers share on screen. Over the years, this type of social activity has bred cynicism among the public. Similarly, influencers have to be on their guard as well. Rather than cashing in from brands in one fell swoop, they have to be selective about who they partner with.
The brand-side influencer work that usually attracts the biggest audiences are deeply collaborative in nature between the creative agencies and the influencers themselves. The personalities have a strong sense of what will bring entertainment and value to their followers and marketers have the strength to help build the idea for broader appeal.
The agency’s responsibility is to help build a message as part of the larger experience and oversee communication to ensure that messaging adheres to an overall brand positioning. Working together, both can anticipate what their audiences want to see next and provide some value to the communication. By leaning into TikTok’s unique discoverability functionality, brands can broaden who they consider an influencer and bring that influencer along in the creative process.
Coming out of a complicated year that unfolded largely on social media platforms, we witnessed TikTok’s climb from an app dedicated to teens and tweens to a powerhouse that quickly spread to all corners of culture. The creators who have defined the space are giving marketers a refreshed perspective on what the future of influencer marketing could look like.
As TikTok continues to take center stage and the public moves away from slick advertising and toward more new and emerging platforms, agencies can help influencers understand their appeal and why people engage with them.