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TikTok influencer marketing 101

Launching influencer marketing on TikTok is a challenge many brands have set themselves for 2023. But as the platform continues to grow in relevance, the ‘wild west’ nature of TikTok makes harnessing its power a difficult prospect for brands used to the relatively safe space of Instagram. Leading UK TikTok marketing agency Nonsensical runs its own local communities on TikTok for which it partners with local businesses, and creates and operates TikTok influencer campaigns on behalf of brands. In this interview with Kolsquare, Nonsensical CEO Oli Hills reveals how brands can unlock the opportunities of influencer marketing on TikTok.

picture of Nonsensical CEO Oli Hills
picture of Nonsensical CEO Oli Hills

What’s your advice to brands starting out in influence on TikTok?

The biggest barrier to entry for brands is leaving their marketing hat at the door. TikTok has totally ripped up the rulebook. Creating content for TikTok is trend based. It’s very quick, it’s rough, ready, authentic. Nobody wants to hear about your brand. They want you to join conversations. They want you to be entertaining, they want you to be relatable. That’s very hard for most brands. Forget about putting your logos over everything and operate correctly on the platform.

Investing in your own channel is definitely a way to go. Let influencers create. MascaraTok and the de-influencing trend happened because [the content] was so inauthentic. TikTok exploded because everyone was bored of Instagram and the idea of the perfect life that doesn’t exist. TikTok came along and said, ‘just be yourself’. If influencers and brands are going to tie up, they have to be themselves.

What’s changed recently is there is more long-term brand affiliation. The one-and-done style of influencer marketing has had its day. It feels more inauthentic because it’s an ad rather than the creator saying to their community ‘Guys, I’ve just partnered with this amazing brand. I love it. I use it every day. It really helps. So over the next 12 months, you’re going to see a lot more content because I really believe it’.

When choosing KOLs for a TikTok influencer campaign, how do you know if they've got true influence?

Comments are the biggest giveaway. If you’ve got a TikTok beauty influencer and everyone is saying ‘OMG. I tried this. I love it’, or asking questions about the product, that shows the community listens, that they’re interested. If they put on an event that sells out within 10 minutes, that means their community is really engaged in what they’re doing.

The other thing to consider is that 100,000 followers on TikTok is irrelevant. If I’ve got 5,000 followers but every one of my videos is getting 10k+ views, my engagement is insane. A consistent level of video views is a better metric than the followers number. We always look for engagement rates between six, eight, 10%. Anything less than that, we don’t even consider it.

The extra bit on what makes a good TikTok content creator is how open they are to speaking with you. Will they share their data or give access to their analytics? A genuine relationship between creator and brand makes [the collaboration] better.

Is it common to include analytics sharing and performance metrics in contracts?

I can’t say whether it’s common or not. It’s what we do. When we’re working with brands, we work with you over the next three months and our commitment is to get a minimum of 100,000 views per month. If not, we will put some spend behind it or repost it in a slightly different way. When we work with influencers on behalf of brands, we make sure we have those metrics within the contracts.

Is it a problem that every kid with a cell phone thinks they can start a TikTok account and become an influencer?

The problem with TikTok is you can get excited because your video can get 300,000 views and all of a sudden I’m an influencer. The question is are you consistently achieving those numbers? Are you turning that consistently into people recognizing you in their feed?

There’s very different types of influencers or creators. There’s the one that understands the business side of it. They understand the value they can provide to brands. And then there’s those chancers. There’s no consistency in fee setting.

How difficult is it to select content creators for TikTok campaigns?

Getting in touch with creators is a lot more difficult on TikTok. I’m sure that’s where Kolsquare comes in and makes that easier. Instagram is easier [in the sense that] the average views is more aligned to the following. With TikTok, you may have a rough diamond that’s got 6,000 followers, but every video is getting 30,000 views. You wouldn’t normally consider that on Instagram. It’s a very different type of research on TikTok. You need to spend longer not necessarily to see if they’re the right ones, but actually finding relevant creators is more difficult.

What’s happening with influencer prices on TikTok?

There’s zero consistency. Everyone has their own value, but there’s no benchmarking. The issue is you spend all that time researching, making sure they’re the right creator and then they come back to you asking five times as much as you’re willing to spend based on benchmarked experience. That works two ways because there are creators that massively undercharge or are happy to do it for free, which totally devalues the value that a good creator can bring to a brand.

There isn’t any consistency around whether I can use the videos for six months, 12 months, whether I can use it on my own channels, on Facebook and Instagram, as Spark Ads? The savvy creators understand and that’s where they prove their value compared to the ones that are very new to TikTok and perhaps quite young. Those conversations can be quite difficult.

Where do you start when negotiating a deal with TikTok content creators?

We go in with a win list, the absolute ideal situation. There are our non-negotiables and some stuff that we’re happy to let slide if it’s not right. We always look for 12 months. We always look for creators to include content creation in their fee. We always look to run Spark Ads. The nice-to-have is using the video as an ad on Facebook and Instagram. We’re very upfront. It makes life easier if you’re just very honest.

What are TikTok Spark Ads?

TikTok Spark Ads [allow you to] turn creative video into a targeted ad with a view to  conversion. It is the best innovation TikTok has done, and it still looks like an influencer post. [It allows you to] overlay targeting, include links and interactive add-ons within the video.

TikTok’s advertising platform is still in its infancy and therefore the targeting isn’t necessarily as strong as the other platforms currently. That said, when you work with creators and leverage TikTok Spark Ads to put spend behind that, it’s unbelievably powerful to turn what is generally an awareness campaign into a conversion campaign. The more TikTok can invest in interests and location targeting is only going to make Spark Ads more powerful.

What other challenges does TikTok face if it’s to maintain its rapid growth this year?

TikTok won because it totally transformed the way algorithms work. They built a platform based on recommendation, on showing content that it thinks you will like based on how you interact on the platform. It’s ridiculously addictive. As long as they continue to invest in that, their USP of short form recommended content, I can’t see how they will fail. The algorithms are only going to get stronger. The more they can hone in on what they’ve achieved, that will be the catalyst for success.

TikTok Shop and monetization for creators is something they need to solve. There’s a lack of innovation on the other platforms, they’ve just made it easier for creators to create content that can work across platforms. TikTok needs to get better at monetization. TikTok Shop is a big one for this year. They’re putting a lot of investment in that for affiliate revenue. Having the whole purchase journey based on links within videos directly within TikTok will be hugely powerful.

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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