TikTok Influencer Marketing: The Quick Jumpstart Guide

TikTok Influencer Marketing: The Complete Guide to Get You Started

TikTok has proved that it is here to stay, so it’s now or never for brands to get on board if you are eager to reach younger generations. Of all of the social networks, TikTok’s unique culture and functionality make it the most challenging social media platform for content creation for many marketers. That is why the brands that invest in TikTok influencer marketing have a major advantage.

It should come as no surprise, then, that TikTok is forecasted to surpass YouTube to become the 3rd most popular platform after Instagram and Facebook for influencer marketing spend.


What is TikTok and How Does It Work?

TikTok is a video-based social media platform that uses short-form content. TikTok’s rise to prominence came in large part due to its format; users are able to craft tailor-made videos with existing audio, filters, and song and dance routines that makes it easy for virtually anyone to create videos that are interesting and in keeping with current trends and preferences. Not unlike other social media sites, TikTok has profiles and a feed that is displayed when you open the app, in order to keep up with other accounts and interact with people using the app. 

Because TikTok is designed for extremely short video sharing, clips are limited to 15 seconds in length, though clips can be threaded together to create longer videos. Although this can seem extremely limiting, this extremely short length is actually what makes TikTok so popular: in an extremely short period of time, users and creators alike can consume truly enormous amounts of content. 

Who Uses TikTok?

TikTok is a newcomer to the social media scene, but it isn’t a small network. In fact, if you haven’t been following, TikTok surpassed 2 billion cumulative downloads earlier this year. While TikTok is much more popular abroad, it appeals to a young audience: almost 70% of TikTok users are under the age of 40, and quite a few of those are under 18. If your brand depends heavily on the high school and college crowds, then you need to start TikTok influencer marketing.

What Types of Content Do Well on TikTok

TikTok does one thing very well: short-form video. Originally, TikTok limited videos to just 15 seconds, but you can now go for a whole minute. Users often used it to demonstrate pranks, short dances, jokes, cooking demonstrations, music videos, and more. Videos on TikTok, as with Instagram, must be filmed vertically.

Because videos are so short, it isn’t easy to do tutorials on TikTok. Although the long-form tutorials are popular on YouTube and Instagram, any kind of demonstration for TikTok has to be relatively short. Simple products might lend themselves to tutorials on this platform, but the majority can’t. Also, TikTok lets users add creative filters and special effects to their videos. This is a fun feature that lends itself well to creative products and services.

With that said, there are other kinds of collaborations that can be done for a variety of products. For instance, a manufacturer of designer evening wear could have an influencer dance in their clothes. Likewise, the newest game controller can probably be shown off in a minute. So can food and a variety of other consumer goods. As with other types of campaigns, it is important to design your TikTok influencer marketing strategy carefully and make sure it actually suits your product or brand well.

Why Use TikTok for Influencer Marketing

Every marketer knows it is getting much more difficult to reach potential customers with advertising messages. Tired of slow download times and crowded pages – and increased distrust of advertisers – people are installing ad blockers at a rapid rate.

Even in social media, some of the larger networks are facing a decline in advertising effectiveness as people start tuning it out and engagement rates drop.

Combine this with the fact that brands are simply not wired to create the kind of authentic content that teenagers would engage with, and you have quite an issue plaguing social channels. After all, when was the last time that a brand took part in one of those trending dance videos that end up becoming viral videos on TikTok?

That’s where TikTok influencer marketing comes in: If you want to be heard above the noise as a local TikTok user, let the locals guide you on and speak on your behalf. This concept holds true for influencer marketing wherever your target audience is on any of the social media channels, but it carries special weight because of the unique audience demographics that use TikTok and the culture they have created.

How Brands are Currently Marketing on TikTok

Right now, brands are using TikTok to reach the younger generation. High school and college students are a major consumer segment, and the habits they form at this age often follow them for life. With the launch of TikTok business services, advertisers have several options to reach this demographic.

Organic Content

Unlike Facebook, TikTok has so far retained a significant organic reach for business posts using influencer partners. Here, you simply post videos on your profile and wait for users to find and pass it around. Distribution starts with subscribers, and hopefully the video will go viral.

As you can imagine, viral video clips on TikTok are very hit and miss, but if you can get ROI from your original video content on TikTok, all the better. Unfortunately, for the reasons mentioned above, this doesn’t come easy for brands unless they truly embrace the platform like active users do.

Paid Advertising

As with other social media networks, TikTok offers paid advertising services. There are several kinds of paid ads available, many of which are unique to TikTok and its culture.

  1. In-Feed Ads: First, you can pay to have your video placed into people’s feeds. This is similar to Facebook sponsored posts.
  2. Top View Ads: These are the same as In-Feed Ads with one crucial difference: They appear as the first in-feed post.
  3. Brand Takeover Ads: Brand takeovers give even more real estate to the advertiser as, similar to Top View Ads, they are the first thing a user will see, but Brand Takeovers actually take over the entire screen upon logging in. It’s an expensive option, but delivers a lot of impressions quickly.
  4. Hashtag Challenge Ads: Showing up at the top of the search page, hashtag challenges let users create videos and use a branded hashtag to go along with it.
  5. Special Effects Ads: These allow brands to create custom filters that users can use on their videos, indirectly promoting the brand.

TikTok Influencer Marketing

These days, influencer marketing has taken off on TikTok. For now, it is primarily used to raise brand awareness and run small promotions. Because of the shorter video length, casual mentions and showing off a product are some of the best approaches to wield an influencer partnership. However, you need to be careful in this area. TikTok users are typically devoted to an influencer’s unique style. TikTok influencer marketing is one of those places where personal branding and business branding are closely linked. As a result, experts recommend that you give influencers significant creative freedom while remaining FTC-compliant to make sure that your influencer partnership does not read too much like an ad and actually turn users (and potential customers) away.

How to Create a TikTok Influencer Marketing Strategy

As we discussed above, finding suitable influencers for your marketing partnership is key to create a successful campaign. Before you can leap to this step, however, you need to create a solid strategy from which to base all of your TikTok operations. Creating a marketing strategy will help you identify your goals, determine why you are using TikTok specifically, narrow down what type of influencer you want to use, and develop the parameters of your campaign. Let’s say, for instance, that you are jumping on the TikTok train and searching for the ideal influencer who can show themselves enjoying your sportswear. You must identify the goal of your campaign (engagement rate, increased sales, or another metric entirely) and how that goal may come to fruition. To accomplish this, adhere to the following guide: 

1. Determine SMART Objectives

Like anything else in social media marketing, you need to start with goals, and they should be measurable. Below is a good starting point for any brand regardless of which social media app or types of influencers you are targeting:

  • Brand Awareness: Awareness is knowing about your brand and what products and services you provide.
  • Build a Following: Increase the number of people who keep track of your brand. 
  • Generate Engagement for Your Content: Remember, engagement improves your position in most social media algorithms. It is also frequently seen on that person’s feed for even better distribution.
  • Content Creation: User generated content is powerful, whether it’s from influencers themselves or the result of their fans creating from their prompts.
  • Increase Sales: Contests and discount codes are great for this.

2. Find Relevant Influencers 

As with any platform, the first step in TikTok influencer marketing is finding the right influencers. After all, you need someone with the right kind of audience if your campaign is going to succeed. Fortunately, since TikTok is a relatively small platform, it is easy to find the right people if you know where to look.

Discover Page

The “discover” page of TikTok is not unlike the search page of most social media platforms, in that it allows you to browse different people and videos according to trends, hashtags, popular users and videos, and more. The discover page is a useful tool to find popular influencers who might fit well with your brand or your product, because it allows you to see popular people (at least people who are popular right that moment), and allows you to see how they might create content for you. Although this is not a technical tool, or one specifically tailored to suit the needs of brands or companies looking for potential influencers, being able to organically search through individual videos and different types of videos can help you narrow down your search by identifying the style and delivery of videos you prefer, even if you do not find your perfect match immediately. 

Creator Marketplace

One of the unique features of TikTok is its Creator Marketplace. This is a place where businesses can ask for access to information about TikTok members. Here, TikTok vets brands to be sure that they are real businesses, rather than turning over potentially sensitive information to just anyone. Once access has been granted, you can search creators by a wide variety of criteria. These include the size of their reach, location, topic, video views, and level of commercialization. From here, you can check out their profile to identify the best fits.

Traditional Influencer Search Methods

Besides the Creator Marketplace, more traditional influencer search methods are available. For instance, looking for influencers who already have an affinity with your brand is never a bad idea. Google searches can sometimes work, as well. Lastly, TikTok influencer marketing platforms have also developed in recent years, with many extending their influencer reach from Instagram. They can also help with influencer management, among other routine tasks.

3. Reach Out to Suitable Influencers and Collab!

Simple though it may be, simply reaching out to develop influencer relationships is a perfectly respectable route to take! Reaching out directly can save you money, by cutting out the middleman, and it can help you determine how much you like the influencer with whom you are speaking. When you interact directly with an influencer and collaborate, you can make sure that you are communicating everything you want, need, and expect clearly and without issue up front. This approach may require a bit more legwork, as you will have to identify influencers on your own and develop your own introductory and collaboration messages. The legwork may pay off, though, as you may be able to create a piece of content together that garners views and engagements for months to come. 

Types of TikTok Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Once you think that you have found the right influencer, it is time to talk with them about designing a campaign. TikTok influencer marketing has a slightly different feel from other platforms, because of its young audience and offbeat format. Nonetheless, there are some common types of campaigns that are often a hit with users.

Branded Challenges

Challenges are an important part of TikTok culture. To start a branded challenge, have your influencer create a branded hashtag. Then, he or she will make a video that introduces a challenge to make a specific kind of video. As creators make new videos, the hashtag is used to encourage others. These campaigns are primarily focused on brand awareness.

Branded Dances

Dances are when an influencer demonstrates a new dance along a theme and encourages users to make a similar video. Duets involve two videos side by side. To brand a dance, you might use the company theme song or ad jingle. For duets, a TikTok video produced by the company can be used on one side, and the influencer’s work on the other. Both are creative ways to highlight your brand.

Product Reviews

Although a short video format may not seem to be a great medium for product reviews, this short period of time can actually make TikTok creators use their time as succinctly and clearly as possible, and can help pique other users’ curiosity. You will not be able to have your influencer partner construct a long, detailed, or comprehensive review of a product, but you may be able to have them show a video of themselves using your product and expressing joy or excitement as they do so. These short reviews will often be quippy and straightforward, and are usually most effective when they highlight a single part or aspect of a product or service, rather than trying to delve into all available points. 

Leverage UGC

User-generated content can be leveraged by influencers in several different ways. Some of the most common ways include jumping on the bandwagon (highlighting existing user content and discussing how it intrigued the influencer), posting content side by side or congruently, and even contradicting or counteracting less positive UGC. All of these approaches can help widen the audience you are reaching, as UGC from other TikTokers can help bring in a larger audience for your influencer. Leveraging UGC can get tricky when you are working with influencers to create a marketing campaign, because the influencer in question might have a different approach to leveraging UGC. Nevertheless, utilizing existing content can be a wise and simple way to improve your reach and widen your audience. 

 Examples of TikTok Influencer Marketing Campaigns

Now that TikTok influencer marketing has become more common, there are several great examples for us to look at. Each of these either adapts a more traditional type of influencer collaboration or harnesses a TikTok phenomenon.



Share how you’re staying positive by tagging @aerie and joining in the #aerierealpositivity challenge ????#ad

♬ 100% Real Love – PopUpGirl

Aerie is an excellent example of brands leveraging TikTok users to improve their brand’s reach. In one campaign, utilizing the hashtag “#aeriereal,” Aerie used partnerships with large TikTok users to increase digital sales by 75% in a single quarter. By partnering with popular TikTokers with large numbers of followers, Aerie effectively created an entirely new trend and encouraged TikTok users to engage by using the hashtag and identifying themselves as part of the community. Even if you do not have the budget for a user with millions of followers, hashtag campaigns like Aerie’s can be extremely useful in increasing your brand reach, driving sales, and creating a community around your brand. 



OMG Michael Jackson?????????Cr:@Viviane Campos a really cool coser????????????????contact name: Demon Slayer – Muzan????????#muzan #demonslayer #ttdeye #ttdeyecontact #cosplaycontacts#lenses

♬ Level Up – Kwe the Artist

TTDEYE is a colored contact lens company that has enjoyed success on TikTok. TTDEYE’s strategy focuses almost entirely on user generated content and influencer partnership. Because their product is beauty-related, they have recognized the immense value of the short-form video on TikTok and the highly aesthetic focus of the platform, and have created a marketing campaign that has garnered a great deal of acclaim and fame amongst TikTok users. 


The UK brand Gymshark is no stranger to influencer marketing, and has one of the most consistently heralded approaches to influencer marketing. Gymshark is incredibly adaptable in their approach to marketing and managed to continue doing well during the COVID-19 pandemic. They have continually been on top of their game with regard to TikTok marketing, and they are not afraid to wield new approaches to getting their brand and products into the hands of new and existing customers.

One of Gymshark’s most effective campaigns was their 2019 “66 Days: Change Your Life,” wherein the brand encouraged users to set a goal to achieve at the end of 66 days. When the 66 days concluded, a winner was selected and they received one years’ worth of Gymshark products. Gymshark reached out to 6 TikTokers to utilize their chosen hashtag (“gymshark66”), which eventually garnered over 45 million views. 


Kroger is one brand that is not afraid to jump on new trends and keep up with the latest in marketing habits and practices. Also in 2019, Kroger leapt onto the TikTok train and joined in on TikTok’s Hashtag Challenge Plus, which allowed them to develop their own hashtag and sell products directly through the platform. Kroger was actually the first company to take advantage of this offering, and utilized only 4 users to run their campaign. Their campaign, operating with the hashtag “#TransformUrDorm,” Kroger encouraged TikTok users to display their dorm room before and afters. During its run, the hashtag reached over 850 million views–a staggering number for any company. 


As most of us know, Walmart is known for having a little bit of everything at a low price. However, they also put things on sale from time to time. Walmart sponsored a dance challenge, called the #SavingsShuffle, asking customers to show how saving money at Walmart made them feel by posting videos of their dance moves. 6 TikTok influencers were recruited who helped spark close to 2 billion hashtag impressions for the hashtag.

Ready to Leverage TikTok as Part of Your Next Influencer Marketing Campaign?

TikTok influencer marketing is still an emerging area of advertising. Fortunately, we already know a lot about how to effectively create and execute a program. With careful planning, influencers can raise your brand awareness significantly. Better yet, they encourage interaction with your brand through challenges and dances and can catapult your brand higher than you might initially imagine.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

Articles: 399


  1. Hello there Neal Schaffer,
    I want to give some feedback.
    I really like the FAQ Section and that you answer more questions there.
    But maybe you can create a table of content, which would give it a better overall view.

    • Hey, thanks for the feedback! Actually been thinking the same thing because my articles are longish. Will try to implement sooner rather than later!!!

  2. Well, I have to leave that to you that this is a really good guide, thank you.
    I also like the FAQ section that is very helpful.

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