The post-COVID advertising and marketing landscape has many brands taking a step back to reevaluate their strategies. After a period of more restrained (and sensitive) messaging during the height of the pandemic, brands must find a way to reach old and new audiences with more traditional promotional content.

With more brands ramping up their messaging, it’s important to keep in mind that customers could start to become wary of inauthentic and performative sponsored content. It’s time for brands to talk with customers rather than at them.

TikTok is one of the most effective places to achieve this goal right now as influencers and everyday users are known for authentic content that inspires dialogue and action. Here’s what you need to know to adapt your existing TikTok marketing strategy.

Blend in to stand out

If sparking authentic conversations and driving engagements that amplify your brand message is your goal, don’t look to in-feed ads or brand takeovers on TikTok. While these are great offerings, they scream advertisements. If they come from your brand’s account, they’ll be overlooked by users who are on TikTok for the dances, challenges and memes–not for ads. Instead, look to influencers to disseminate the same message in a creative and subtle way. Yes, all sponsored posts on TikTok still have to be disclosed in order to comply with FTC guidelines, but influencers on the app are great at spotting trends and weaving their messages into what’s hot among users that day while still maintaining sponsorship disclosures.

Don’t forget that any influencer you engage with–regardless of size–should be well-aligned with the culture of your brand. Followers know their favourite influencers’ habits and interests and will spot a post that seems out of character for them, particularly if it’s conspicuously promotional. If you’ve already engaged with influencers on TikTok who use your product, look to continue that relationship. If you’re just starting out, vet all influencers thoroughly. When revamping your influencer program on TikTok, take the time to teach each influencer about your products and objectives.

Allow them the opportunity to provide honest feedback on their experiences with your brand and their ideas for promoting it. These early conversations will not only set you up for long-term success with influencers on TikTok but will also help you identify authentic messaging that can be incorporated into sponsored campaigns.

Be open to anything

TikTok’s editing capabilities are unparalleled, making it easy for any user to adopt the latest trend in their own videos, using the same song, backdrop or text as their favourite videos. The most effective influencers know these features like the back of their hand and will have no trouble incorporating them into branded campaigns and partnerships. When you’re looking to adapt your influencer strategy on the app for more authentic engagement, listen to your creator’s ideas, even if they seem outlandish or too out of the box.

For instance, a duet video where two users collaborate side by side can be used in a lot of creative ways for branded messaging. If you have multiple influencers with diverse followings, bringing them together for a duet video featuring a song or dance tied back to your campaign is an easy way to reach twice as many users while also encouraging their followers to participate in the fun.

While the idea of tweaking a message at the last minute to capitalize on a new meme might seem scary for brands that are used to creating a plan and sticking with it, the alternative is having your campaign seem flat and outdated. Keep your strategy flexible and make room for the latest trends. This will ensure that your influencer efforts fit into the app’s broader culture and conversation, which will, in turn, lead to organic engagements.

Participation required

To take your influencer campaign on TikTok to the next level, you’ll need to enlist the help of everyday users. Don’t worry, this is a lot easier than it sounds! Any user of the app can become an influencer in their own right when a video they create is algorithmically shared on the For You page. The most viral trends on TikTok are those that have a participatory element woven in.

For example, Aldo recently launched its #StepIntoLove challenge on the app, which asks users to submit dance videos and tag the brand for a chance to win $5,000. The challenge was kicked off with the help of nine influencers and, in its first two days, #StepintoLove videos garnered 244 million views.

Any influencer video featuring a product, branded hashtag or call-out will encourage that user’s followers to create their own version of the video. As everyday users jump on the bandwagon, any resulting posts are free exposure for your brand and will likely be shared and acted on by thousands of other users with similar interests.

TikTok is a place for creativity and loyal users love the genuine nature of the videos they find there. Brands looking to establish a presence on the app or adapt their existing efforts can rely on influencers to lead the way on campaigns that merge sponsored messaging and trends to spark authentic conversations while boosting awareness among users and potential customers.

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