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How to Pivot Your TikTok Influencer Strategy

November 16, 2020
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TikTok is a short-form video app which allows users to shoot, edit and share short videos to set music or sound bites. Launching only a few short years ago, it has quickly become one of the most popular social platforms in the world. According to Business Insider, it has more than 2.3 billion all-time downloads, and 100 million users in the US alone.

However, recent controversy involving potential security issues with the app’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, has created confusion and uncertainty about the fate of TikTok’s presence in America. Read more to learn what exactly this means and how we recommend pivoting your TikTok influencer marketing strategy should the app become banned in the US.

What is TikTok and why has it become so popular?

To provide some background on its history, TikTok initially came to be in August 2018, through the merging of two apps: Musical.ly and Douyin. Musical.ly was a popular lip-syncing app in the United States, which was quickly acquired by massive Chinese tech company Bytedance. Soon after, Bytedance consolidated Musical.ly with its already popular short-video app, Douyin, because of their shared mission “to create a community where everyone could be a creator.”  Fast forward two years later to 2020, and the platform’s popularity has taken off. TikTok’s audience now includes more than 800 million active users worldwide.

In its early stages, TikTok video content primarily involved singing and dancing, but it has since evolved with content ranging widely from beauty, to cooking, life hacks, comedy acts, viral challenges and more. The app is similar to its social media competitors Facebook and Instagram in the way users can interact with content and users through following, “liking” and commenting. However, it is also very different because users open the TikTok app to be entertained by strangers, rather than their friends and family members. TikTok content is organic, fun and not as staged as other platforms, and its algorithm allows normal users to quickly become viral sensations and micro influencers.

As stay-at-home orders swept across the world in early 2020, online behavior began to shift to embrace the “new normal.” With this, the TikTok app’s popularity quickly surged, especially among a younger audience. In March 2020, TikTok crossed 2 billion total global downloads with 315 million downloads in Q1 alone, breaking a record for any app in one single quarter.

So, what’s all this controversy?

Putting its wild popularity aside, TikTok is facing turmoil in the United States today, as its Chinese-owned parent company Bytedance is under scrutiny for potential user privacy violations. On August 6, 2020, President Trump issued an executive order that TikTok must sell to a US-based company by November 12, 2020, or the platform will be banned in the US. There are several contenders for the purchase including Microsoft, Twitter, Oracle and Google, but the social media platform’s fate is still unknown.

New and Emerging Platforms Similar to TikTok

Since the announcement of TikTok’s potential ban, there are a number of competitors that have risen into the spotlight and seen a substantial surge in users including Triller, Likee, and Instagram Reels.

  • Triller, a 5-year-old entertainment platform, is a prime example of an app that has quickly gained popularity through the current TikTok controversy. Since the announcement of the executive order, Triller has seen a 50 percent increase in installs, bringing the platform’s user base to 120 million users.

As a video sharing service, Triller is similar to TikTok, but it is primarily focused on the music industry, which limits its target audience. Additionally, its algorithm favors established musical artist accounts when showing its users new videos, while TikTok provides a balance of both relevant TikTok influencers’ and regular users’ videos.

  • Likee is another video-sharing app and TikTok rival seeing an increase in popularity since talk of the ban. According to a recent earning’s report, Likee’s worldwide user base is now 150 million, an 88 percent increase since Q2 of 2019.

Likee is a free-form platform, and like TikTok, is not focused on any particular vertical. The app is known for cutting-edge tools and an Artificial Intelligence engine considered to be better than TikTok’s. A key differentiator that sets it apart is its virtual gifts feature, which allows TikTok influencers to make money from these “gifts” they receive from fans.

  • In an effort to keep users away from TikTok, Instagram has rolled out its newest feature, Reels. Similar to TikTok, Reels allows users to create 15-second multi-clip videos using audio, effects and creative tools.

All Instagram users can share Reels with their followers on their Feed, and users with public accounts can also make them available in a new space in the “Explore” tab, with the goal of reaching a wider target audience. When comparing its algorithm and virality to TikTok’s, the “Explore” tab consists of curated videos based solely on similar pages you follow. Alternatively, TikTok uses more factors such as percent of videos viewed, and also aims not to show back-to-back videos that are “too similar.”

Aside from potentially pivoting to the newest, shiniest, brightest social platform, this potential ban also sheds light on how important it is for both marketers and influencers to continue to diversify their campaigns amongst multiple platforms.

Furthermore, we see this potential ban as an opportunity to leverage current existing social media platforms in a more unique way. 

See below for some of our ideas to shake up your social influencer marketing campaigns just like how this ban has shaken up our TikTok clients.

How to Creatively Leverage Existing Platforms 

  • Facebook – Ah yes, the OG of social media marketing. We tend to find that Facebook is a forgotten audience, especially in comparison to it’s cooler brother, Instagram. Facebook offers multiple ways to engage with influencers and reach different audiences through different mediums including Facebook Live and Facebook Groups.

Prior to IG Live, there was the launch of Facebook Live. Facebook Live allows users to view videos in live time from brand pages, as well as influencers. At its inception, tons of beauty brands flocked to FB live as an opportunity to work with influencers on tutorials. Since then, brands, including powerhouses such as Sephora, have continued to leverage the Facebook feature and do FB lives for their very dedicated Facebook groups. We definitely feel there is a huge opportunity for brands to cater to their dedicated followers and bring onboard influencers to spice up their Facebook lives. Influencers can also cross-promote on their personal Instagram and Facebook to tease the Facebook Lives. 

To further the cross channel strategy here, unlike the more glitchy IG live, Facebook Live gives the option to immediately save, making it easier to whitelist (if on an influencer’s Facebook group) or further promote the content.

Another unique opportunity Facebook presents is the chance to collaborate with specific Facebook groups that have extremely targeted demographics. For example, say your client sells gluten-free flours — you can try to partner with a gluten-free baking Facebook group and offer an influencer hosted recipe tutorial on the behalf of your client. Fun right?!

  • Pinterest – Pinterest is certainly a beloved social platform for a variety of users. Why? Well, primarily because it lets you search for exactly what you are looking for and formulates the results in an aesthetically pleasing way. Both influencers, brands, and consumers alike love this very easy-to-use platform, but as of lately, the platform is offering more opportunities for Influencers to gain popularity. 

As of 2019, Pinterest started launching the beta of Story Pins — Story pins are basically the new way to share creative content on Pinterest, allowing select users and influencers to share up to 20 pages of content, including videos, images, text, etc., according to Medium.Com. You are also able to add custom links to each slide of the pin, so multiple opportunities to receive impressions, conversions, etc. Since Pinterest is a viral platform, influencers have been seeing incredible results here if their pin goes viral.

Consider TikTok influencer marketing campaign to offer customers awesome tutorial pins or ideas for gift giving as we move into the holiday season.

  • LinkedIn Stories – Hear us out here. We know this is not exactly the social mediaplatform you think of when it comes to influencer marketing; however, with the development of LinkedIn Stories, there is certainly an opportunity for influencers to take a larger stance in thought leadership. According to Later.Com, similarly to Instagram, the platform feels this new feature gives users the opportunity to create creative content that is more in the moment vs. committing to an in-feed post.

Pending the client, utilizing LinkedIn Stories could be a huge opportunity to connect with future customers, especially in the B2B space. The feature is still in testing at this time, but we definitely feel this is a huge future opportunity to take advantage of.

  • YouTube-  As we all may know, YouTube is a mecca for influencers and for a good reason. YouTube provides brands the opportunity to receive quality video assets, but more importantly, it is evergreen content that can increase brand awareness by consistently introducing your client to more and more users over time. 

Aside from the actual video aspect, there are now YouTube stories that its app viewers receive. If you have a client who has a strong YouTube presence, you can utilize stories to drive traffic to a YouTube influencer campaign or request these types of usage rights on your next collaboration!

Although the above platforms and current platforms may not be TikTok itself, they offer great opportunities to further your influencer marketing strategy for your digital marketing agency and consciously pivot away from TikTok, despite what its future may be.

One thing that us marketers can take away from this potential ban is how important it is to leverage different platforms for campaigns, because we truly never know what will happen!  



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