TikTok influencer marketing - the what, the why, and the how

date Mar 9 2023

author Jon Strutt

75% of all apps are downloaded once and deleted shortly after. But TikTok’s cracked the code - 90% of TikTok users access the app daily.

TikTok is a social media platform that is entirely focused on short-form video content. Think Vine, but bigger (like, much bigger). It started in 2014 as, a platform where you could create funny and amusing videos of you lip-syncing to your favourite song. ByteDance Ltd. bought them in 2017, and TikTok was born.

While Vine had a 7 second constraint to work with, TikTok allows users to create videos up to 10 minutes long now, although the average length is around 21 to 34 seconds. On TikTok, shorter generally means better.

Funny dances and memes may come to mind when you think of TikTok, but there is so much more on the platform. There are huge creator communities around nearly everything and anything you could think of. People use TikTok to learn new skills, get inspiration for their next project, or just to entertain themselves on a work commute. And naturally, influencers flocked to this new platform.

But how did TikTok get so big? How do influencer marketing campaigns work on the platform? Is it worth considering it in your social media mix? And if so, how can you succeed with it?

Don’t worry. In this mega guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about running influencer marketing campaigns on TikTok. So grab some coffee and settle in, or bookmark this page and come back when you have more time. We have an easy table of contents so you can find the point where you left off, or then hop right to what you need to know!

Table of contents

  1. What is TikTok?
  2. Being a brand on TikTok
  3. How to find the best influencers on TikTok
  4. How to use sound on TikTok
  5. How to go viral on TikTok
  6. Advertising on TikTok
  7. Final thoughts


@boksiapp Filming quality tiktoks on your back camera by yourself can be tricky…so here is a trick how to do it & make all your videos crystal clear 💎 #boksiapp #boksi #tiktoktips #videotipsfortiktok #vaikuttajamedia #influencermarketing #ugcsuomi ♬ original sound - Boksi | UGC | influencers

So, what is TikTok?

Let's start with how TikTok became the entertainment juggernaut it is today.

Short-form video is THE format nowadays, a trend TikTok popularized. In fact, 73% of consumers prefer to watch short-form video when learning about a product or service. The younger generation absolutely adores TikTok, and when you compare it to Instagram, for example, you see a lot more casual, honest content with less polish. That’s not to say that polished content can’t succeed, but TikTokers love honesty, reality, and authenticity.

TikTok also focuses heavily on providing content via an algorithm, instead of according to who we follow. The first thing you see when you open the app is your For You page - new videos, served by the algorithm, just for you. And if you've used TikTok for any amount of time, you'll know it's scarily good at figuring out what you like.

Because of this algorithm-first approach, what you like plays a bigger role in what you see next instead of who you follow.

TikTok's algorithm, demystified

Understanding the algorithm is key to your success on TikTok. After all, it's what determines whether or not your content goes viral or falls flat.

You can read TikTok's own blog post on the matter, but here are the main factors that the algorithm takes into account for each user:

  • The videos they interact with

  • Comments

  • Videos they’ve completed watching

  • Videos they’ve liked and favourited

  • Reports

  • Videos shared

  • Accounts followed

  • Content created

  • Creators hid

  • Videos flagged as “not interested”

As well, it looks at the content within the videos you interact with:

  • Captions in the video
  • Sounds
  • Hashtags
  • Trending topics
  • Effects

As an example, if you like videos with certain sounds or effects, TikTok will serve you more videos with those same effects and sounds. A savvy tactic can be to include those trending effects and sounds in your own videos to ride the trend wave.

TikTok also uses your device and location to serve geotargeted content, which can help when you have region-specific content.

What TikTok does NOT take into account when deciding to serve up a video is:

  • How many followers the video creator has, and
  • How the creator’s previous videos performed.

This means every TikTok you post is a new chance to go viral - another huge draw of TikTok. While having lots of followers will help more people see your content, due to the possibility to view follower-only content, it’s not a guarantee. What TikTok rewards most is the quality of your content.

Most commonly, successful TikTok content does one (or more) of three things:

  1. It entertains,
  2. It inspires, or
  3. It educates.

And according to Data Reportal, 78.9% of TikTok users use the platform primarily to find funny or entertaining content.

In that sense, TikTok is less a social media platform and more of an entertainment platform, like YouTube. And with short form video being crazily popular, plus the added benefit that any video could go viral in an instant, it's a recipe for popularity.

Speaking of virality, TikTok's magic happens in one special place: the For You page. The vast majority of the time, users will discover your content here.

The For You page is similar to Facebook’s feed or Instagram’s Explore - it’s a place to find new content from other users. The difference is that instead of seeing what your friends are up to the moment to join, you're exposed to new content instead.

@boksiapp sometimes all you need is a📱 #boksiapp #influencermarketing #contentcreator #collabs #some #fyp ♬ original sound - Credit Repair & Biz Mentor

There are alleged hacks that will get you on the For You page, but in reality, there is no One True Method to get on every #fyp ever. After all, each For You page is entirely unique to each user!

The best way to get your content in front of everyone? Create content that is high-quality, timely, trendy, and catchy. Like Google continuously improves their search engine algorithm, TikTok has done a great job of ensuring that you can’t just cheese your way to virality with some hacks.

In essence, it's simple: TikTok rewards videos that real people like to watch. Creating those videos? Well, easier said than done - but this guide will help you.

So that’s TikTok in a nutshell. Next, let’s discuss how to be a brand on TikTok, and the benefits a brand account offers you.

Being a brand on TikTok

TikTok has one billion users, but most brands are still figuring out how to thrive on TikTok. It's worth trying to crack the code, though, as it's the most popular social media app in 2023. Android users use TikTok for 23.5 hours per month, or 47 minutes per day.

The platform can be intimidating for brands - hyper-polished content just doesn't resonate with the average TikToker. Videos are best when they're casual and unpolished, which many brands associate with unprofessional.

But your content can be casual AND professional, while still achieving your business goals. You just need a plan and understand what you want to achieve on TikTok.

So let's cover how to be a successful brand on TikTok!

As we mentioned earlier, the three essential pillars of viral TikTok content are:

  • Inspiration
  • Education
  • Entertainment

While there are opportunities for commercial goals, going right for the sale won't fly on TikTok. Remember that TikTokers love honesty and authenticity (which is why influencer marketing is so huge on TikTok).

Most likely, for your own business page, the biggest benefit will be brand building and awareness. Since every post you make has the potential to go viral, it’s much easier to get broad brand awareness there than on Instagram, for example.

However, you can also build a community on TikTok. Think back to those TV shows or VIP shows that gave us behind the scenes exclusive looks at celebrities or more. You can do that too - skip polished content, and instead provide them with less-serious content that shows what life is really like at your brand.

Finally, there is potential to boost sales too! TikTok offers a wide range of advertising opportunities that you can use to drive traffic to your eCommerce page, for example. Especially if you’re catering to the younger generation, TikTok is an excellent place to advertise.

If you want to do any commercial dealings on TikTok, you're going to need a Business account. This gives you a lot of extra features, like:

  • Post analytics - While you can use third-party analytics to see your post performance, why not get the info straight from the source?
  • Add a link to your website directly to your TikTok profile
  • Include an email as main point of contact
  • Schedule posts in advance
  • Commercial Music Library - access over 500,000 royalty-free tracks
  • Business Creative Hub - tips and tricks to boost your TikTok performance

What can you see in the analytics tab?

  • Overview: Video views, Profile views, follower count, likes, comments, shares, hashtag views
  • Content: Trending videos, video views, comments and shares, total watch time
  • Followers: Gender and location breakdown, follower activity, similar videos and sounds popular with your audience
  • Livestream: Livestream viewers, livestream uptime, new followers gained

All of these stats help prove the impact that TikTok has on your brand.

Plus, you can also identify trends and stay ahead of the curve with your Business account. Since you can see what other videos, sounds, and effects your audience enjoys, you can work those into your content and stay relevant.

So who’s who on TikTok, anyway?

NBA. The NBA is the poster child for successful brands on TikTok. They keep it simple with behind-the-scenes looks and easy-going content that engages with their fanbase. It’s lighthearted and fun, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable to engage with.

@nba @jmorant12 with the 360 at #NBAAllStar 🌪️💥 #NBA #JaMorant #Ja #360 #dunk #basketball ♬ original sound - nglthisforthegang

Del Monte. Del Monte is a household name for canned fruits, but their TikTok is full of great and creative recipes that are easy to make and use, naturally, Del Monte products.

@delmontefoods Enhance your morning breakfast with this super sweet Fruit & Yogurt Breakfast Parfait! Reach for Del Monte Mandarin Oranges, Diced Mangoes, and Apricot Halves to recreate this dish. 🥭🍊 Get the recipe at today! #Delmonte #growersofgood #cannedfruit #cannedgoods #breakfastparfait #parfaitrecipe #fruitparfait #yogurtparfait #breakfastideas #breakfastrecipe ♬ So Much Happiness - Lux-Inspira

Tise. Tise is an excellent example of how to use original sound successfully, as shown by their Outfit Repeater song. If you want to learn more about Tise and their success, I strongly recommend watching our webinar with them on TikTok (webinar in Finnish).

@tise Are you an outfit repeater too? 💖 Song and video credits: @longlivenewro ♬ original sound - Tise

Lumene. Lumene is all about sustainable beauty through natural ingredients, and they gather content from a wide variety of creators to show how their products work on all types of skin.

@lumenebeauty The sound of glow ✨ can you spot the newness? 🧡 #LUMENE #skincare #glowyskin #skincareasmr #asmr ♬ original sound - LUMENE

These brands create their own content, but they also partner with other creators to spread their brand name. That’s the power of influencer marketing - let’s talk about that next!

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Watch our webinar on-demand and learn the basics of TikTok! (Webinar in Finnish)

How to find the best influencers on TikTok

TikTok is home to tons of creators and influencers who can help you promote your brand to new audiences. And one of the best things about TikTok when compared to Instagram, for example, is that average engagement rates are far higher on the music-focused platform - around 18% higher, in fact.

So how should you get started with influencer marketing on TikTok?

Well, before you go and start looking for creators, it’s super important to think of the goals you want to achieve, and do some research on your audience. TikTok’s audience is heavily skewed towards the younger generation, which means that TikTok may not be the best channel for you yet.

So make sure you find out what people are saying about you on TikTok before you begin. How? Well, it's as simple as using TikTok yourself! Search for your brand name as a hashtag or in the search bar, and see if creators are creating content about you already. Once you find content, read the comments and see how it performed by looking at the engagement. You can also search for creators who operate within your niche or use competitor products to see if there is a large demand for brands in your space.

Once you’re sure that TikTok is something you want to try, start with your campaign brief. Creating a plan before you begin is essential to a great campaign!

Running a campaign on TikTok is similar to running a campaign on any other social media channel. However, there are a few quirks that you should make note of at the start.

For example, the most obvious one is that only video is allowed. While you can have stills within the video, you need to think video-first (and preferably short-form video-first).

The second: sound is a vital part of TikTok, and is worth considering before you write your brief. Sometimes entire campaigns revolve around a certain sound - that’s how important it is.

And always keep in mind why people use TikTok - they want to be entertained, they want to find inspiration, or they want to learn something new. Make sure you keep that in mind and consider how your content can achieve one or two of those goals.

Next, consider what you want to achieve with your campaign, and how many influencers you'll need. Long-term partnerships can be useful on TikTok, but since the For You page is the main form of content discovery, it’s more powerful to have multiple influencers promote your product. When users like or comment on a video showcasing your product, they’ll be more likely to see similar videos in the future, thus increasing their exposure. Plus, because TikTok is so immersive, engagement rates are typically far higher when compared to other channels like Instagram.

Once you’ve got a campaign in mind, it’s time to find the best influencers for the job.

Remember when you were looking for what people were saying about you on TikTok? That can be a great way to find potential influencers, especially if you have a specific niche.

Even though the algorithm doesn’t reward creators who have multiple trendy videos, an influencer with multiple trendy videos has proven they have the skills to do it again! So keep an eye out for faces you see often.

Honestly, one of the best ways to find influencers is just to use TikTok yourself and follow content that relates to your brand. You’ll most likely stumble upon potential influencers as you scroll through your For You page.

However, if you really need to find a lot of influencers, there is the TikTok Creator Marketplace (TTCM). The TTCM has creators vetted by TikTok that you can find and see their stats, as well as their rates. However, lately there have been some pricing discrepancies from what is listed and the actual, so be mindful of that. (This may be fixed at time of writing.)

The TTCM has its own set of pros and cons too.

TikTok Creator Marketplace pros

  • Easy search options - you can narrow down your search to find the best potential creators
  • Accurate data - obviously TikTok itself would provide accurate data on their own creators!
  • Creators are vetted - TikTok only provides creators with a proven track record on TikTok

TikTok Creator Marketplace cons

  • Pricing is simply the starting price, which can be a poor benchmark
  • Communication is limited - you can’t message creators directly, and you need to negotiate the contract process yourself
  • No creator matching - the search is good, but you still need to dig to find the gems

Essentially, it’s a self-service influencer marketing platform. The main benefit is that it can provide data straight from TikTok, but in terms of finding the right influencers and running the campaign, the workload falls squarely on your shoulders.

Compare this to a managed service influencer marketing platform like Boksi:

Influencer marketing platform pros

  • Pitch your campaign to potential creators - you can attract the right creators and choose the best ones by pitching your campaign to a marketplace instead of searching for creators yourself
  • Manage your entire campaign in one place - contracts, messaging, payments and more are all managed within one place (no more cold emails!)
  • Evaluate your campaign data and report on your results - see your campaign reach, engagement, CPE and more

Influencer marketing platform cons

  • Lack of reporting compared to TikTok - the data and reporting isn’t as robust, unfortunately, because TikTok is not as generous with their APIs as Meta is.

So the choice to use the TTCM or a managed platform like Boksi comes down to what data you actually need (you can always get data from the influencers after the campaign and see impact on your own channels) and how much time you have to manage contacting, contracting, the campaign itself, and payments. Not to say that managed platforms lack data - but TikTok is not as open with their APIs as Meta, and this makes it difficult to get the same level of data from third parties.

So once your campaign is over, how can you measure your ROI?

Well, that depends on the goals of your campaign. Here are some of the most common goals you can achieve on TikTok:

Awareness. Whether about your brand or your product, an increase in followers or profile views is a sure sign that people came to see what you’re all about. You can also measure website traffic levels.

Engagement. What happens after the campaign? Increases in social chatter, likes, comments, or other factors can show that your campaign impacted people on some level.

Conversions. Whether signups or sales, your influencers can push their audience to do your preferred action. So how can you measure direct conversions?

Well, one way is through discount codes. You provide a personal discount code to each influencer, and then measure the amount of sales that came in through each code.

You can also use UTM links to measure traffic and actions taken on your website by visitors from your influencer campaign. (By the way, we have a great guide on using UTMs for influencer marketing for you.)

Whew! That was a lot. But as you can see, a great influencer campaign takes a lot of planning. But managed influencer marketing platforms can make that easy, and we’d love to give you a taste of our platform!

@boksiapp would you try this out with a friend? 🤪 #boksiapp #boksi #ugccreator #ugc #ugcsuomi #phototips101 #phototip ♬ Ac r7sheed - rhy 🎸🍃 🕸️

How to use sound on TikTok

Is sound important on TikTok?


Why else would we dedicate an entire section to it (and also write a blog post about it too)?

Sound is essential on TikTok. So much so that 88% of users say sound is key to the TikTok experience.

Again, this goes back to TikTok being less a social media platform and more an entertainment platform. Whether you’re creating content or planning an influencer campaign, thinking sound-first is a requirement.

We expand on the different ways to use sound in TikTok in our blog post, but we'll cover the essentials here!

Now, before you go off and start cooking up an amazing campaign based on TikTok’s latest trending tune, you should know that if you don’t have the licenses, you can’t use the music. On your personal TikTok account, you’re free to use the latest chart-topper or trending beat. But the moment you want to create branded content, you limit your options.

TikTok used to be pretty lenient with brands and music, but they changed their tune a few years ago. Now, brand music usage is limited to their Commercial Music Library, which contains a wide range of royalty-free music - unfortunately, this music rarely, if ever, contains the latest song stoking TikTokers into a frenzy.

Note that branded content also includes influencers promoting your brand or service! So any influencers producing content for you need to use the Commercial Music Library too.

If the Commercial Music Library doesn’t strike a chord with you, well, how about creating a sound of your own?

Creating your own sound can be tough, but a great sound can go take your brand to new viral heights. Because sound is so vital to TikTok, they have been very careful to ensure the original creator will be properly attributed. When you select the song, you’ll be taken to a page that shows all of the other TikToks made using that sound, with the original (yours) at the very top.

Not only that, you can choose a name and describe the sound, so yeah, you can add your brand name there.

Finally, you can also ask your fans to create a sound for you! However, you’ll have to be wary of any legal repercussions if you decide to use sounds in your content. Make sure you have all the proper permissions necessary before posting that TikTok with someone else’s sound!

Read our blog post on using sound on TikTok - we cover all this in much more detail.

Now, you’ve been patient - let’s put all of this together and make a checklist for going viral on TikTok!

New call-to-action

Go sound-first on TikTok with help from our guide.

How to go viral on TikTok

Going viral on TikTok - easy, right?

Yeah... unfortunately that's easier said than done. But this guide is a great start!

By now, you should know that TikTok’s algorithm rewards one thing - interesting content. It’s a simple premise, but what exactly makes content interesting? After all, today's trend is tomorrow's snoozefest.

However, there is one way you can increase your chances of going viral, and that's by understanding the algorithm. So let’s recap the algorithm a bit.

Compared to other platforms like Facebook or Instagram, TikTok thrives on casual, less polished content that exudes authenticity. It also heavily rewards interactions and metrics like video completions more than how many followers you have, or how many videos you've posted.

So it's important that viewers enjoy watching your content. People use TikTok primarily for three reasons: entertainment, education, or inspiration. So think of ways to make your video entertaining, educational, or inspirational (or a combination of all three).

And a note about educational - saying that your product exists is not educational! While commercial content can work on TikTok, you'll have far better results if you promote your product in a unique way, instead of just telling us what it is.

And if you just can't get into the creative mindset, ask yourself this: what are people watching on TikTok right now? Trending sounds may or may not be available to your account, but what about ways of filming, or effects, or hashtags? Getting your brand involved with what's trending can show other TikTok users that you know your stuff.

So let's cover a variety of tips you can use to go viral on TikTok!

Focus on a niche. Instead of being everything to everyone, focus on content that resonates within your niche. You may not go viral globally, but you may go viral within that sphere!

Use hashtags. Make sure you know which hashtags your target market follows and uses in their own TikToks.

Make the first few seconds count. TikTok heavily rewards video completions, so hook your viewers and encourage them to watch the full video.

Have a strong CTA. Once you catch their attention, make the most of it! A clear and strong CTA at the end can be the difference between a good video and a great one.

Pay attention to trends. While you can’t use trending sounds, remember that TikTok's algorithm will show videos containing effects that users have already liked. This can be a great way to hop on what's trending.

Be active on TikTok! By liking other videos and commenting, both on other and your own videos, you show people (and TikTok) that you're active and willing to interact. That turns your brand account from commercial to authentic.

Post at the right time. TikTok tells you when the majority of your audience is active, so use that information to get your TikToks in front of as many eyeballs as possible.

Create content that is rewatchable. While it may seem strange, having your video end just when things are getting good can help a lot with engagement. If you have a lot of text, for example, don't stress too much about letting them read it all - if they want to read it, they'll pause or go back. And if they don't, well, maybe they aren't the right audience for you! The algorithm takes note when viewers finish or rewatch videos, and rewards those videos accordingly.

While going viral on TikTok is never a sure thing, following these tips and best practices will give you the best possible chance!

@boksiapp Feelings when we are working mainly remotely 🥲🥤#boksiapp #suomitiktok #fyp #fy #influencermarketing ♬ alkuperäinen ääni - aaro_kivenjuuri

Advertising on TikTok

Finally, you don’t need to rely on your own organic content - you can also advertise on TikTok. With one billion active users, there’s a lot of people to reach! (Of course, we recommend checking if your target market is on there - TikTok isn't quite as popular as Facebook or Instagram is with the older generations.)

So what kind of ads can you run on TikTok, anyway? Well, you can run different types of ads yourself, or then work with TikTok for more powerful ads.

Let’s cover the feed ads, which are the ads you run and manage yourself.

Image ads. These ads don’t run on TikTok, but on their News Feed apps instead. They’re as vanilla as advertising gets - an image, your brand or app name, and then your ad text.

Video ads. These run both on TikTok and their News Feed apps. These appear in the user’s For You page, and can include a video, display image, brand name, and text.

Spark Ads. This unique ad format enables you to boost existing content, either from your own account or from other creators. It's organic content shown as an ad, and that leads to higher performance - TikTok’s own data shows that Spark Ads have 24% more completions and 142% greater engagement than other ads in their repertoire.

Pangle ads. These are photo or video ads shown through TikTok’s Audience Network, meaning they’re shown on other apps and locations around the web.

Carousel ads. These are photo-only, so they run on TikTok’s News Feed apps exclusively. You can include up to 10 images with unique captions on each.

So as you can see, TikTok offers a great variety of options for the savvy advertiser.

There are also other formats that require contacting TikTok themselves:

TopView ads. These powerful format takes over the front page as soon as a user opens TikTok, meaning it's a full-screen ad, and the first thing they see in the app.

Branded Hashtag Challenge. This is just what it sounds like - you invite the TikTok community to participate in a challenge crafted specifically for your brand.

Branded effects. You can create your own effect that TikTokers can use in their content.

However, since these formats require contacting TikTok directly, we won't cover these in any more detail. But it's good to know they exist!

If you're really convinced that TikTok advertising is for you, then there's one format you should consider: Spark Ads.

Spark Ads are actually genius, when you think about it: they're created using existing TikTok content that's then shown as an ad. They're as native as advertising can get. You can create your own content to use in the ad, use videos you've posted already, or (and this is the best part) reuse content created by another account!

Yep, that means you can run an influencer campaign with a creator, and then repurpose that content as an ad, all under their account name. This gives you the best of both worlds - you get amazing visibility from your influencer campaign, and once you find out which content resonated most with your audience, you can put money behind those videos and get even more visibility and engagement.

It's worth it, too - as we mentioned, Spark Ads are the best performers in TikTok's own portfolio, with 24% more completions and 142% greater engagement when compared to other ad formats.

Take a look at our Spark Ad guide to learn more, and even set up your first one!

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Wow, that was a long one. Props for making it all the way through!

TikTok has changed the way that we consume content, especially in the younger generations. It's the poster child for short-form video, a content format that continues to grow. Even if you don't plan to be on TikTok, it's worth following, as trends that start on TikTok can quickly find their way over to other social media platforms. 

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of how TikTok can be used in your own social media strategy, who’s on TikTok, and how to start an influencer marketing campaign on the platform.

Here’s a recap of what we covered:

  1. What is TikTok?
  2. Being a brand on TikTok
  3. How to find the best influencers on TikTok
  4. How to use sound on TikTok
  5. How to go viral on TikTok
  6. Advertising on TikTok

The only question left is: Are you ready to start using TikTok?

As you've probably noticed, you can succeed with both influencer campaigns and organic content. And after finding what works in both, you can put some money behind it and promote it with Spark Ads.

At Boksi, we offer a wide network of talented, professional TikTok creators who can help you with your next influencer campaign, produce studio-quality content for your channel, or do both!

Take a look at our TikTok product here - I'm confident it's the perfect addition to your social media marketing mix.

Take your brand to TikTok

Jon Strutt

About author

Jon Strutt

Jon is Boksi's Content Marketing Manager. When he's not writing blog posts or guides, he's thinking of the next way to punnify 'Boksi'.