• Petra O'Brien

TikTok: The Social Engagement Gold Mine

Key Points

  • TikTok is rapidly climbing the social ladder, with over one billion monthly active users and the highest average session length amongst all social platforms.

  • Influencer identification, informed by the three R’s - Reach, Relevance, and Resonance, ensures that partnerships align with company and campaign objectives

  • Tracking metrics is imperative for measuring success and optimizing future content to stay relevant and at the forefront of TikTok.


The Success of TikTok’s Highly Personalized ‘For You’ Feed

What started as an app to share 15-second lip-syncing videos, quickly evolved into a creative outlet for individuals to share dance trends, humor, cooking recipes, micro-vlog content, and more. As of September 2021, TikTok has one billion monthly active users across the globe, and its fast growing momentum suggests that the platform will reach 1.5 billion users this year. In 2021, TikTok was the top downloaded mobile app globally and currently sits as the 4th most popular social media platform in terms of monthly users, behind only Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.


Often attributed to the fast growth of the platform is TikTok’s ‘For You’ feed, a highly personalized algorithm that provides an endless stream of curated content. According to TikTok, the ‘For You’ feed is powered by a recommendation system based on different factors such as videos you like, accounts you follow, and content you create. TikTok weighs factors differently, for example, a strong indicator of interest would be video completion or repeat watches. Whereas a weak indicator would be the location of the video viewer and creator. With every swipe, like, and comment, the app learns your interests and improves relevant recommendations.


While some critics are apprehensive about how well TikTok understands their interests, others invite these personalized recommendations and even pride themselves on being a part of specific communities, such as “#DogTikTok” or “#HarryPotterTikTok” (personally, I have found my way to #ExcelTikTok, and my spreadsheets have never been better). These tight-knit micro-communities engage and maintain the attention of niche audiences, which marketers can tap into through influencer partnerships. Creators on TikTok have an enormous social and cultural impact, with their ability to sell out a product with a single viral video. In TikTok communities, like the fashion and cosmetic communities, creators have the ability to dictate trends and influence users to purchase products they showcase on their profile. TikTok users even highlight their favorite products without paid incentives, such as through the hashtag, #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. With nearly 12 billion views, this hashtag emphasizes the influence that TikTok has on driving traffic and sales.


Along with driving conversions, TikTok has a significant lead on user engagement. At an average session length of 10.85 minutes, TikTok is the most engaging social media app, followed by Pinterest. Given the high organic engagement rates, personalized algorithm, and niche communities, TikTok influencer partnerships can increase a brand’s visibility and be an effective way to connect with a youthful demographic online. The key is to work with creators who align with the brand and the target audience. At Ringer Sciences, we leverage TikTok data to connect clients with personalized content creators and monitor campaign performance.


Finding the Perfect Influencer is Critical to Growing Your Brand

Before reaching out to TikTok influencers with the highest followership, it is important to take a step back and identify influencers that align with campaign goals and the brand itself. A recent healthcare client asked Ringer Sciences to identify a list of celebrity, macro, and micro influencers based on their reach within a niche patient disease space. We analyzed over 20,000 total disease-related posts across TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to discover notable voices that share specific disease-related content, engage with patient and caregiver communities, and share personal experiences online. From there, we scored and ranked influencers based on the three R’s - reach, relevance, and resonance. This took into account the influencers’ followership across social channels, engagement on owned posts, as well as volume and quality of mentions, among other qualitative factors. Informed by quantitative and qualitative analysis, we provided our client with segmented influencer lists and prescriptive recommendations for content strategy to more authentically resonate with their niche audience. Our client leveraged these results to create meaningful partnerships that delivered on campaign objectives.


Optimize Future Partnerships by Tracking Benchmarks and Metrics

What happens after influencers are selected and campaigns are completed? The answer: measurement. Influencer measurement is vital for tracking success and optimizing future partnerships. A retail client of Ringer Sciences wanted to understand how their influencer partnerships were performing on TikTok. More specifically, they wanted to understand which influencers received the highest engagement, what type of content performed best, and how to inform future TikTok partnerships. To address these questions, we measured engagement rate against historical benchmarks to evaluate partnership performance. By comparing the engagement on influencers’ regular posts to their brand sponsored post, we were able to determine whether the sponsored post performed above or below set benchmarks. From here, we ranked influencers based on various metrics such as benchmark percent difference, engagement rate, and followership.

We discovered that “off-theme” influencer content drove down performance on TikTok and largely fell below influencers’ average engagement (posts are considered “off-theme” when the sponsored content does not align with the influencers’ normal context of content). This key finding, along with trends discovered in the data, led to strong content and partner segmentation recommendations for our client.


The Takeaway

With rising app downloads and monthly users, high average sessions, and tight-knit communities, TikTok serves as a vital platform for connecting with younger consumers. While partnering with creators on TikTok offers a unique position for brands to engage with these audiences in an authentic and meaningful way, it is crucial to select creators that align with campaign objectives and reach the appropriate audience. Moreover, it is important to measure the success of these relationships through set benchmarks and metrics, allowing for continued campaign optimization. Social media platforms are constantly evolving, making data analytics vital for reaching your audience through content, platforms, and partnerships that matter.

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