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From granfluencers to the hottest TikTok trends, here’s why you should launch KOL marketing on TikTok

Influence marketers of all stripes are fascinated by TikTok. Whether already running campaigns on the platform or simply scratching their heads about where to start, it’s the topic on everyone’s lips.

Elderly person adjusts their glasses in front of a computer screen
Elderly person adjusts their glasses in front of a computer screen

That’s because TikTok success stories are everywhere. From Khaby Lame’s meteoric rise from factory worker to the darling of major international brands, dance challenges and music trends, TikTok has birthed a new generation of social media stars and new opportunities for brands to capitalize on the action.

We see that our videos — even we are surprised because the algorithm is not always easy to understand — get millions of views in 24 hours, which is not at all possible on the other platforms,” comments D2C roller skates brand Flaneurz Communications Officer Tracy Pakoua.

Flaneurz launched a TikTok account for its entry level sister brand Slades in 2020. To date, it has amassed more than 200,000 followers and made over a dozen videos that have gained more than 1 million views. Some brand videos have been viewed more than 6 million times, while an influencer video for Slades booked a whopping 30 million views and 8 million likes.

TikTok is less and less a platform that can be neglected, especially with the launch of TikTok Shop,” comments Pakoua. “People on TikTok act a lot on impulse. It can feed desire very quickly, especially for a young clientele which has a need to fit in. To see that there are influencers who have the product, it makes them want to have it too.”

Key takeaways

  • TikTok has upended conventional wisdom about what makes successful KOL marketing campaigns
  • Consistent viewer numbers is a more reliable metric than followers for evaluating KOL performance on TikTok
  • Successful TikTok awareness campaigns drive traffic to websites and conversions on affiliate promo codes on other social networks
  • TikTok Spark Ads are a powerful tool for maximizing value of sponsored KOL content

TikTok vs Instagram: unlearn everything you know about KOL marketing

Success stories there may be, but for brands stuck in the Instagram mind-set of influencer marketing, launching on TikTok represents a major challenge. What kind of content works best? How to contact and recruit KOLs relevant to my brand? Do TikTok KOL campaigns adapt to affiliation and conversion objectives?

Of brands who have already tried TikTok, some are pleased, some less so,” comments Kolsquare head of revenue Julien Schaff. “Most of them say it’s very hard to convert but it’s good for awareness. Those who want to try it hesitate because they still feel it’s not for them; that the audience is too young, they don’t know how to do content and how to make it relevant for their brand.”

TikTok has upended the conventional wisdom about what people want from social media. The short video format combined with the sheer silliness of much of the content on the platform has revolutionized the social media landscape. The previously accepted wisdom of what makes a successful KOL marketing campaign does not transfer easily to TikToK.

The biggest barrier to entry for brands is leaving their marketing hats at the door. TikTok has totally ripped up the rule book,” comments UK-based TikTok marketing agency Nonsensical CEO Oli Hills. Nonsensical runs its own local community accounts on TikTok for which it partners with local businesses, and also creates and operates TikTok influencer campaigns on behalf of brands.

If you think about how you create content for TikTok, it’s trend based. It’s very quick. It’s rough, ready, authentic. Nobody wants to hear about your brand. They want you to join the conversations. They want you to be entertaining and relatable. That’s very hard for most brands.”

Hills says a successful strategy on TikTok involves creating and investing in the brand account, but without “putting your logo over everything”. Recent negative trends on TikTok like #mascaratok or de-influencing have arisen because too much branded content was inauthentic.

The reason TikTok exploded is because everyone was bored of Instagram and the perfect life that didn’t exist. TikTok said ‘just be yourself’, so if brands and influencers are going to tie up, they have to be themselves,” says Hills.  

Slades runs its official TikTok account to fill the gaps that creator content leaves behind, such as a linktree link to the brand page providing comprehensive product information, says Pakoua.

We also create parallel content which is a bit more product focused [than KOL content] so that if they need more information, everything is there and we’re 100% sure it’s on our page,” she comments. “It’s a bit like we’ve become our own influencer. That’s why it’s nice when it’s us [that goes viral. Our content] has to be fun while putting the product at the forefront. It’s a line that needs to be balanced.

How to measure success on TikTok

The massive viewer and follower numbers that TikTok generates confounds brands on two fronts: how to be sure a TikTok creator is relevant to partner with and how to evaluate the true value of views and engagement.

Unlike Instagram, which counts a video as viewed after three seconds, TikTok counts a video as viewed as soon as it appears in the For You feed, regardless of whether the user scrolls straight past it.

Hills says that on TikTok, ensuring that a KOL’s video views are consistent is a more valuable metric than how many followers they have or whether they’ve had one video go viral.

If I’ve got 10,000 followers on TikTok, that’s irrelevant if I’m only getting 500 views per video, but if I’ve got 5,000 followers and every single video is getting 10,000 views, then my engagement is insane. That’s what you should look at,” says Hills. “On engagement, we always look for anything between about six, eight, 10%. Anything less than that, we don’t consider it.

Operating in a niche sector, Slades has a smaller pool of KOLs to choose from than other product segments. Nonetheless, most KOLs it partners with have engagement rates of at least 5%, comments Pakoua. She notes that some creators with lower engagement rates can be advantageous for the brand thanks to the reputation they have built across multiple platforms.

Indy Jamma Jones is in the top two for affiliate sales. She doesn’t have a good engagement rate on Instagram, but because she’s on YouTube and TikTok, it compensates,” comments Pakoua. “She is a roller skating reference, so there is also the prescriptive side which is difficult to quantify.”

What you need to know about TikTok conversion rates

For young DTC brands like Flaneurz and Slades, conversion is as much an objective of influencer marketing campaigns as is awareness. But TikTok does not yet offer brands anywhere near the level of opportunities to convert views into sales as other, more established platforms.

For Slades, which operates most of its KOL marketing with affiliates, most conversions via KOL promo codes continue to happen via Instagram, despite the code being published on TikTok content.

I would say Instagram still generates the most [conversions]. On TikTok, people scroll a lot and don’t necessarily look at the bios where [the promo code] is written. [It’s difficult] to see if they are really captivated,” comments Pakoua.

That said, a partnered KOL video that amassed 1 million views on TikTok boosted visits to the brand’s website from around 600 in a day, to 9,000 overnight, comments Pakoua.

It was instantaneous without it having really been pushed by a link or anything. There were comments about the brand name, but it wasn’t specified in the description. People did a little digging and went straight to the site,” she comments.

TikTok’s advertising platform and analytics remain sorely underdeveloped compared to its competitors. A reflection of the rapid development of the platform, solving these issues, both for brands and its own bottom line, is of strategic importance to TikTok in 2023.

To that end, TikTok is rolling out TikTok Shop to facilitate links between sellers and creators. Brands connected to TikTok Shop can sell directly through the platform, and connect with creators to recruit them as affiliates. Equally, KOLs can search TikTok Shop for relevant products listed by brands for affiliation and begin to promote them autonomously.

(To date, TikTok Shop is available in the US, UK and Southeast Asia. A live shopping version was scrapped in Europe in 2022.)

TikTok Shop will be big for this year because you can get an element of affiliate that is completely trackable,” comments Hills. “Having the whole purchase journey based on links within videos directly within TikTok will be hugely powerful.”

Brands can also leverage TikTok Spark Ads, which enable brands to combine paid creator content with in-feed or TopView Ads. TikTok says Spark Ads have a 134% higher completion rate and a 157% higher 6-second view through rate than standard in-feed ads.

The fact that you can turn that creative video into a very targeted ad with a view for conversion is the best innovation TikTok has done. And it still looks like an influencer post,” comments Hills.

TikTok Granfluencers: an untapped resource?

The fast, frenetic pace of content and trends on TikTok is the platform’s key differentiator from its competitors. As is its rough and ready style, and overwhelmingly young audience: 71.3%, or 749.4 million users, are aged 18 – 34.

But if TikTok is the playground of the youth right now, that is clearly set to change. 13.1% of the TikTok’s audience is aged 45+, some 137.5 million people.

Granfluencers are a thing, and while the majority of older TikTok users may not have yet crossed the barrier of actually creating content, there are plenty of them lurking and searching the site for information and tips.

A recent study revealed that 1,382 videos posted by TikTok users over the age of 60 in which they explicitly discussed their age had been viewed more than 3.5bn times. Older TikTok users also spend more time on the app than they do on other social media networks like Facebook or Instagram.

The fastest growing age demographic is the over 65s, which makes sense because they’ve got such a low base,” Hills notes. He says the preconception that young people are the creators on TikTok, while the over 30s are just lurking, is a problem brands need to overcome.

You never really know [the audience]. We ran an ad for a car insurance app and the highest number of people seeing a cold ad to downloading the app were over 65.”

The expanding age demographics on TikTok and the amount of time people of all ages are spending on the app are clear signs that the platform’s growth has a long way to go yet.

No-one’s saying it’s an easy play, but KOL marketing on TikTok has a lot to offer those game enough to give it a try.

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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