In the second of a series investigating the frontiers of influencer marketing, Ben Jeffries of agency Influencer and TikTok’s Kris Boger explore how creator content is reshaping how brands connect with audiences.
A recent piece in The Drum asked, ‘Why the fuck are people watching TV on TikTok?’ It’s interesting to see major networks putting their series onto the app, but it’s also worth situating this in a broader trend: recent growth of the creator economy has been astronomical, leading to momentous changes in consumer behavior, in media our media diets and beyond.
Digital media consumption has increased, while platforms like TikTok have significantly reduced barriers to entry for creators, allowing creators to emerge from all walks of life. The result is an immense pool of cutting-edge, creative content that brands from across the board can collaborate on to harness bespoke, targeted content.
I sat down with Kris Boger, TikTok UK’s general manager for global business solutions, to delve further into the power of creator content and the role creators play in forming communities. For Boger, we’ve entered a new world; a place “where authenticity is key and pushy marketing tactics won’t cut it… Brands have the opportunity to work with creators in a way that showcases their creativity, reaches new audiences and attracts potential customers within creators’ communities.”
Creators and community on TikTok
TikTok’s ability to tap into and resonate with close-knit communities has driven the platform’s stratospheric growth. A recent report we collaborated on with TikTok found that, after watching creator content on TikTok, over 2 in 5 users said that it made them feel like a part of the brand’s community.
Creators’ involvement in marketing strategies is reshaping traditional media channels, putting community and connection at the forefront and evolving how brands reach consumers. Boger explains that “brands are using ‘real people’ rather than celebrities and models as a great way of connecting with their audience, and conveying authenticity”. One benefit, in Boger’s eyes, is that brands “can forge more meaningful connections with their audiences, using creators who can tell their brand story authentically.”
People trust people. They don’t want to know what a brand is saying about itself; they want to know what relatable people are saying about it. It’s so much more interesting to watch a ‘how to’ video on TikTok by a creator than to read an instruction manual by a brand.
Brands can sometimes miss this creator opportunity, since creators are both the currency and the experts of the creator economy. Boger notes that “having built loyal communities from the ground up, creators have an incredible level of insight and understanding and they know what works for their audiences… Not only do creators know what works for their audience, but they understand how the TikTok community creates and how to engage with them. They know the rhythms and trends of the community best, something that brands should lean into and use to help them think outside the box.’
Not every brand can join a trend from its own page (the risk is cringe), but there’s always another creator who can join that trend and ensure that the brand is well positioned within their content.
Content that converts
Creators’ efforts are proven to convert. Boger highlights research from TikTok Business that found that “brands who partnered with creators on TikTok saw a 26% increase in brand favorability, as well as a 22% increase in brand recommendations. Meanwhile 69% of people on TikTok also said they researched a new product after seeing a creator video.”
As audiences increasingly search for authentic content, influencer marketing becomes the closest and most scalable option for brands looking to replicate word-of-mouth marketing. Our research corroborates this: 81% of TikTok users replicate content recommended or shown by content creators and 84% are likely to create content of their own after purchasing from a TikTok creator’s recommendation. Boger says that creators’ hyper-engaged communities “amplify brand perceptions, reinforce authenticity and ultimately influence real-world behavior, driving performance and trust”.
As the creator economy continues to mature, platforms like TikTok are leading a shift in the rules of engagement for brands. Boger highlights that “relationships between creators and brands are increasingly much less transactional and more collaborative.” With the onus now on authenticity and creativity that resounds with specific audiences in specific contexts, the use of creators to achieve this is spreading beyond virtual feeds and emerging among traditional ad formats and media.
Here’s Boger again: “brands and media professionals can get ahead of the game by seeing creators as a central part of their media strategy, bringing them in early on to collaborate on creative thinking. We’ve already seen the likes of Gravity Road appoint a TikTok creator as a creative director – I think that’s just the beginning. We should remain open-minded and adaptable to a creator economy that is only going to get bigger.” Perhaps we’ll see more creator co-founders like Influencer’s very own Caspar Lee.
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