TikTok videos are taking the lead as one of the most prominent and expansive go-to social media outlets on the planet. The platform has even edged out Google as the world’s most popular web domain. For marketers, these addictive short-form videos provide easy, rapid-fire access to millions of users with a phone in their pocket who continually post, scroll, and engage as a commonplace part of their everyday routine.
But even as the affiliate marketing opportunities seem limitless, wading into the world of TikTok can seem daunting. The platform comes with its own set of rules, protocols, practices, and considerations unique from Instagram, Facebook, or any other advertising hub within the social media landscape. You don’t want your brand stumbling in blindly without learning the rules of the game.
With an assortment of unobtrusive but omnipresent affiliate marketing on TikTok, its users are hyperconscious of how brands and businesses position themselves to compete for user attention. As you work to communicate with this massive audience base, the wrong approach can easily work against you — causing users to dismiss your products or, worse, even view your brand as a joke. Let’s give you a sense of the lay of the land. You want to optimize your influencer affiliate marketing on TikTok so you’re rising above the competition — not buried by the algorithm or swallowed in the scrolling.
Here's How TikTok Works:
For the uninitiated, let’s start with the basics. Of the prominent social media platforms, TikTok is the most rapidly growing one that uses short-form videos, often as short as 15 seconds, that function almost like hyper-speed digital vaudeville acts.
Creators post self-made videos of themselves lip-syncing, dancing, sharing funny anecdotes — but also imparting tips and tricks, product recommendations by way of paid advertising and brand takeovers, or general advice related to the creator’s area of expertise. TikTok users layer in audio and visual effects, along with songs, filters, on-screen text, and other elements meant to attract and engage a following of repeat viewers.
The platform encourages creativity and spontaneity and allows for a kind of democratization of content. Anyone can become a TikTok app user and offer their two cents on whatever topics or interests appeal to them. Using an open-access format, free of gatekeeping, the social platform has also created a space where many users tend to niche down in a particular subject area that sets them apart and speaks to a very particular following. This specialization provides a ready-made entrance point for TikTok affiliate marketers, where partner brands and businesses introduce products and services that relate to the interest at hand.
The TikTok Audience by the Numbers
To give you an idea of the breadth of TikTok traffic, 2021 saw the app downloaded over 656 million times. The pandemic spurred its growth as more and more people found themselves stuck at home during lockdowns with nothing to do but create content and connect with others remotely. The social platform now boasts a billion active users. TikTok app users average 52 minutes a day on the app, and 90 percent open the app more than once a day — the average session clocking in at 9.7
As an example of potential brand growth, Vessi is a Canadian footwear brand that began its TikTok initiatives in early 2020 and, by March of 2022, was closing in on 200,000 followers. By using TikTok’s duet feature, they orchestrated a number of strategic giveaways to reward user-generated content, gain followers, and increase their revenue.
An Innovation Inviting Imitators
TikTok sets itself apart by often offering an unfiltered, unscripted view of a creator’s daily life, almost like you’ve stepped into the room with them for a quick, extemporized exchange. This marks a sharp contrast from the “highlights reel” of Instagram, which has become known for static posts — often displaying aspirational visuals that depict individuals and influencers at their poised and polished best.
The average TikTok video, by contrast, trades on a more raw vibe, embracing the flaws and imperfections inherent to normal life, and favoring the scrappy make-shift nature of producing one’s own video content. Nevertheless, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram have all worked to roll out their own imitation version of TikTok’s short-form video format to mixed success — a credit to the power of the platform.
TikTok Advertising On The Rise
Beyond TikTok influencers marketing their own wares or those of affiliate businesses, TikTok ads provide several options for reaching the eyes and ears of its users. Similar to other social platforms, paid ads on TikTok will direct your advertising to users based on age, gender, or location and allow you to further customize your target audience by specifying the type of profiles you want to address. These in-app ads run on a cost per click, cost per impression, or cost per view basis where six seconds counts as a view.
An in-feed video ad is slotted into the scrolling feed alongside other short videos. These ads should ideally be designed to work as their own amusing or startling short video while slipping in some intel about a particular product or service, along with a weblink. These ads are often shot in the trademark TikTok style with an onscreen creator speaking directly to the camera for their audience’s amusement and connection. In matching the flow of a user’s feed, marketers should work to create a video that does not actually appear to be an ad at all, but rather another engaging short within the stream of videos.
As an alternative to in-feed ads, a brand takeover ad consists of a large-scale featured ad that gets standout attention by appearing the moment a user first opens the app. Your product or service will be the first thing a user encounters. These ads fit into a brand category like fitness, fashion, or food. TikTok gives brands an advantage by releasing only one brand takeover ad per category per day. The ad will direct users to your landing page the moment they tap on your CTA.
Finally, in a singular innovation unique to the TikTok platform, a hashtag challenge ad will promote a branded hashtag that pushes creators to make their own content that shares the hashtag and showcases their participation in the challenge. Content creators are incentivized to re-share the hashtag as a way to leverage free organic traffic and get their video promoted to increase their own visibility on the platform.
A more advanced form of the hashtag challenge ad incorporates an in-app shopping component where brands can sponsor hashtags and take users directly to additional video content and a selection of their products. This ad form is known as the Hashtag Challenge Plus. Once a user navigates to the hashtag challenge page, they will select from two tabs: the videos tab, where they can see a range of other videos related to the sponsored hashtag, or the explore tab, which effectively acts as an in-app store page for your brand’s products.
Partnering With a TikTok Influencer
An influencer marketing hub, TikTok is filled with individuals passionate about products and services that fit their array of interests. This includes TikTok micro-influencers who lead smaller but fervent followings of users committed to their specialization. Influencer marketing has now evolved into one of the best ways for companies to cultivate a committed audience of consumers. These consumers become repeat buyers who often spread the word about a company’s offerings and embrace the culture of their brand.
By locating and partnering with the right TikTok creator, you’ll invest in a brand partner who gives you a return on investment far beyond the scope of traditional advertising methods. When creators share sponsored content to their followers on their TikTok profile, you’re essentially speaking through a brand rep to an entire body of buyers who sees this person as a trusted friend and staunch advocate for their interests. It is a literal digital gold rush.
The response from the follower base of a well-regarded influencer or content creator is sometimes staggering. Brands in every industry have found that working with TikTok influencers will dramatically up their sales, provided they find individuals who are the right fit for the offerings. Authenticity is at the heart of every successful influencer marketing campaign.
You want to allow your brand messaging to intersect with that of your creator. They will be using their own reputation and expertise to forward your brand goals on your behalf by way of TikTok video. In every case, they will be forthright about the sponsorship and will typically speak directly on the ways your products or services have made a difference in their own work or personal lives.
Be sure to carefully research a range of influencers before you decide to partner. You have an opportunity to informally 'audition' them against one another simply by viewing the content and output you observe on their TikTok profile. Often you will want to make the selection based on more than their follower count.
You might consider hiring a TikTok marketing agency or TikTok influencer marketing agency like Mediakix to connect you with influencers whose content reflects the tone and feel you want to associate with your brand — along with the qualities and characteristics that align with your target demographic.
When working with your partner influencer, you will want to carefully consider all of the following:
Brand Messaging – Be very clear with TikTok creators about what your brand message is and how you want it conveyed across the platform. These objectives will guide the material they make and will avoid the pitfalls that come when an influencer misses the mark or fails to accurately represent who and what your brand is.
Deliverables – You want to be explicit in what you want your influencer to provide you with. This includes everything from the audio and visual aspects of the video to the talking points covered and what you are hoping audiences to take away from the content produced.
Deadlines – As with any marketing campaign, deadlines will keep everyone on track to deliver the results as planned, according to a specified timeline. You can dictate the dates and times you expect the influencer to share the content you’re paying them for.
Exclusivity Clause – You don’t want your influencers moving off to partner with competitor brands. You must indicate how long they are partnering with you before working with a direct competitor. This will help the brand content they provide create the most impact without any other brands or companies interfering.
FTC Disclosure – TikTok influencers are required to disclose their sponsorships according to FTC guidelines, and you can help them see to this by providing the exact verbiage they may be required to use in order to stay compliant.
Reuse Policy – If you intend to share or reuse your influencer’s marketing content in any way, you must define the terms of this agreement from the beginning. This includes contractually specifying how long you have ownership of the content.
Measuring The Results of Your TikTok Affiliate Marketing
You’ll want to try a variety of methods for communicating with your audience and developing strong relationships with the creators who represent you. As you commence your campaign, it’s worth reiterating that you want to be hyper clear on your end goal.
You should ensure your brand influencer’s sponsored content ends with an actionable invitation to their followers. You want the audience to like, comment, reshare, or even submit their own user-generated content to contribute to the conversation sparked by the influencer.
From the start, you should know the key indicators you’re looking at and how you want to measure your return on investment. You can observe engagement as measured in likes and comments, brand sentiment as measured in mentions, and most importantly, conversions as measured by purchases, downloads, or signups.
As TikTok continues to grow and hone its capacity to track and analyze performance metrics, you will have a greater ability to optimize and perfect all your influencer marketing campaigns.
While these kinds of partnerships have existed on Instagram for the last decade, the rawness and snappy, short-form dynamic of a TikTok video present unexplored avenues and exciting opportunities we’re just beginning to understand.