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Back in 2020, TikTok user @420doggface208 posted himself skating down the road in the early morning while holding a bottle of Ocean Spray’s Cran-Raspberry juice. Within the hour, over 100,000 TikTok users saw the video. And weeks later, that number increased to 35 million.

Buying even a single bottle of Ocean Spray’s juice became really difficult for a few days.

But why was the video booming? The TikTok community is sensitive to vibes. Doggface successfully passed on his positive vibe and inspired users to do the same with a (creative) combination of skateboard, juice and “dreams.”

That is just one example that accurately reflects the platform’s advantageous features for brands.

TikTok algorithms value authenticity and creativity and a surge of related user-generated content follows trending videos, so working with the right influencer makes it easy to go viral.

That explains why in 2023, TikTok is the most popular social media platform for influencer marketing according to the 2023 Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report. Not only do 55.5% of influencer collaborations occur on the platform, but TikTok influencers have the highest engagement rates and the best ROI for short-form videos.

If you want to take advantage of the platform to grow your eCommerce business, now’s the time. Let’s walk through the key points of how TikTok influencer marketing works and how to get the most out of it.

What is TikTok influencer marketing?

TikTok influencer marketing is a form of word-of-mouth marketing where companies work with TikTok content creators to generate buzz around their products. In return for promoting their products, companies offer content creators different rewards — not necessarily money.

For instance, let’s say you own a small jewelry boutique with a limited marketing budget, so you partner with fashion nano-influencers (influencers with <10k followers). They’ll showcase your handmade jewelry using trending content, music and storytelling.

As a result, followers will engage with your product, inquire about purchasing and share your product with others, resulting in increased website traffic and sales.

An inevitable part of TikTok influencer marketing is trends and challenges. You should either try to catch up on existing popular trends or create your own trends to boost product virality.

Note: Influencer marketing is just a part of TikTok marketing. Make sure to distinguish the tactic from purchasing TikTok advertisements and growing your business TikTok account.

TikTok influencer marketing process scheme.

How much does TikTok influencer marketing cost?

Getting influencers to talk about your products by sending them free samples or products has been a common practice for a long time. But now, paying cash is the standard.

The reason is that even nano and micro (less than 50k followers) recognize their value as brand advocates. So they usually charge via fixed fees per post or views and commission-based partnerships (e.g., 10% of all sales from their posts).

That said, it’s still worth the investment, especially because the cost of an influencer campaign isn’t as high as you may think.

In 2022, TikTok nano-influencers’ rates were $5–25 per post on average. That isn’t much when you consider they have up to 10,000 followers — which might be more than enough if the influencer aligns well with your brand (but more on that later).

How much TikTok influencers earn.

If you find an influencer you want to work with, you can use the TikTok money calculator to get a rough idea of how much you can expect to pay. Influencer marketing campaigns usually include up to 15+ posts, so you can factor that into your budget.

Benefits and pitfalls of TikTok influencer marketing

Although it can be very rewarding, using TikTok as a part of a digital marketing campaign isn’t for everyone. Let’s weigh the pros and cons of TikTok influencer marketing.

Advantages for small businesses

  • Virality. TikTok is known for its great discoverability. The social media app can show your post to hundreds of thousands of users, whether you collaborate with nano- and micro-influencers or those with millions of followers.

Also, TikTok loves trends. Viral trends and challenges are a core part of TikTok. Influencers and users alike engage with these trends, bringing attention to anything that might be attached to them.

That increases the odds of having your product featured in viral content — that type of coverage doesn’t sound so bad if it comes with a price tag of $25, does it?

  • Production costs. TikTok emphasizes content quantity and quality less than other social media channels. TikTok and its users praise creative, authentic content, so the content creation process doesn’t have to result in polished videos.
  • Higher engagement. TikTok’s average engagement rate is much higher compared to other social media — the average engagement rate by followers is 4.25%, and the average by views is 5.10%.

Moreover, TikTok’s largest accounts have an average engagement rate of 10.53%, while small accounts have an impressive 15.04%. That’s nothing to scoff at when compared to Instagram.

TikTok vs. Instagram’s engagement rate.

Disadvantages for small businesses

  • Dealing with nano- and micro-influencers. This influencer category is now growing in popularity among brands. By collaborating with them, you can reach a very targeted audience, get higher engagement and better ROI.

    However, they are also sometimes harder to manage, need more guidance in promoting your products and are harder to locate.
  • Constant changes. TikTok trends and algorithms change even faster than on other social media platforms. You need to constantly adapt your influencer and content strategy to continue getting great numbers.

For example, the “deinfluencing” trend is growing in response to the economic downturn. That’s when influencers tell their followers why they shouldn’t get products, even suggesting cheaper or better alternatives for the price. You can also capitalize on this trend, but you’ll need to adapt your strategy.

  • Analytics collection. TikTok analytics aren’t as detailed as those of other social platforms, making it more difficult to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. It focuses on engagement only — likes, comments, watch time, shares and audience demographics.

That’s why more often than not, businesses have to turn to third-party solutions to get a clear picture of what works and what doesn’t.

Points to consider before launching a campaign

Before we tell you how to get your TikTok influencer marketing campaign started, consider the following points.

Confirm whether your website is reliable

Boosting website traffic is one of the primary reasons why brands use influencer marketing. Ultimately, you don’t know whether the videos you paid for will go viral, so your website has to be ready for anything that comes its way — including thousands, if not millions, of potential customers.

Get reliable web hosting with Bluehost and access timely customer support that’ll be there for you if a growth spurt comes your way.

Understand the legal side of influencer partnerships

That doesn’t mean you have to go into influencer partnerships expecting legal issues. But as with anything else, prevention is the best safety method.

Here are the things you should keep in mind:

  • Intellectual property. If you collaborate with influencers on creating content, your influencer agreement should define the ownership and usage rights of the content created during these collaborations.
  • Disclosure. Whenever influencers promote products or services on TikTok, they must disclose their partnership with the brand. That’s why hashtags such as #ad and #sponsored exist. Each country has its relevant local laws. So make sure you know the local requirements.
  • Other legal issues worth accounting for like copyright licenses, securities laws and defamation.

How to start a TikTok influencer marketing campaign

If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided that a TikTok influencer strategy is right for your business, keep reading to learn how to get started.

Set your campaign goals and budget

Clear goals will help you choose suitable influencers, communicate your content needs and measure campaign results. To identify your goals, consider your audience, business objectives, marketing plan and other channels you use.

For example, companies tend to use TikTok influencer marketing to:

  • Create brand awareness
  • Generate website traffic
  • Grow the number of followers on the company TikTok profile
  • Get more sales

From there, you should set a budget for your campaign efforts. That’ll help determine the scope of the campaign (e.g., the number of posts) and set a clear limit to the pool of influencers you can work with.

Look for creators: how to find TikTok influencers

With your goals and budget in mind, you can start looking for influencers to create a preliminary list of those who might be a fit.

Some ways to find TikTok influencers include:

  • TikTok Creator Marketplace. You can search its extensive influencer database with filters by region, audience region, topic and average video views. The platform also helps organize and measure campaigns. However, note creators apply to join the platform, so you might be missing out on potential candidates who aren’t there.
  • Influencer marketing platforms. Similar to the TikTok Creator Marketplace, these platforms let you explore large influencer databases and filter by different criteria. Some examples are Buzzguru, Grin, UpFluence and the Influencer Marketing Hub.
  • TikTok hashtags. Searching on TikTok can be difficult, but you’ll have access to more influencers. A good way to start is by looking up a hashtag relevant to your brand along with the hashtags #ad or #sponsored to locate promoting posts.

While browsing influencer marketplaces or TikTok, pay attention to these elements to ensure they’re the right influencers for you:

  • Theme — what their videos are about.
  • Brand fit — do an influencer’s tone, style, and values align with your brand?
  • Followers — Bigger doesn’t always mean better when it comes to a popular influencer’s follower count (more on that below). But you still want to make sure the follower counts fall within your budget.  

Assess your list of influencers

Once you have a list of great influencers for the TikTok influencer marketing campaign, shortlist those you will contact with an offer.

The best way to weed out ill-fitting candidates is by assessing the following:

  • Demographics — how well does the influencer match with your target audience?
  • Reach — How many users will come in contact with your product through the influencer’s content?
  • Engagement rate — what percentage of their followers engage through likes, comments, shares and views? Influencer platforms will paint a clear picture of these on the influencer’s profiles, and you can roughly estimate these metrics when browsing TikTok profiles.

    But be careful — a low engagement rate with a big following might indicate a fake influencer. To understand what a good engagement rate looks like for TikTok influencers, check the TikTok average engagement rate in the image below.
TikTok influencers' average engagement rate.

You can also check their followers ー if there are many shady-looking profiles with no activity and no profile pictures, you’re better off avoiding them. The same applies to post comments.

Contact your chosen influencers

Now that you have a list, you can reach out via:

  • Direct messages on TikTok
  • An influencer platform
  • Email (most TikTok influencers put their contact information on their bio)
  • Other social profiles they might have (e.g., Instagram)

Make sure the message you send them is compelling. The offer should be attractive, explain why your product is great and worth trying, and communicate your expectations and how you plan to compensate them.

Discuss the collaboration terms

If an influencer reaches back to you, start discussing the collaboration terms. You should create a contract that addresses the following:

  • Whether you will collaborate with the content creation efforts or the influencer partner will do everything themselves.
  • Your goals and brand requirements.
  • Deliverables and timelines: define the pay, number of videos, deadlines and content types.
  • Communication channels.
  • How you’ll track their performance.

TikTok influencer marketing campaign examples

Let’s see what TikTok influencer marketing looks like in practice. We picked several eCommerce brands from different niches.

Sparkling Ice — zero sugar carbonated beverages

Sparkling Ice’s goal was to increase brand awareness and engagement among college sport fans. The brand reached out to athletes with established TikTok audiences to promote their products.

The Sparkling Ice team sent them packages with drinks and branded swag. Influencers filmed themselves drinking the beverages or reviewing the packages.

TikTok influencer marketing campaign example — Sparkling Ice.

Nerdy Nuts — a small peanut butter company

Nerdy Nuts contacted two influencers with a ~500,000 follower count and offered them free products along with a 10% cut of every sale that came through them.

Within weeks, the influencers posted content demonstrating, explaining, and advertising the product, which led to a million views and 5,947 sales.

TikTok influencer marketing campaign example — Nerdy Nuts.

COSRX — a growing skincare company

COSRX had minimal influencer spend and moderately benefited from influencers recommending its products. At some point, its product went viral on TikTok.

After that, other influencers started sharing tutorials, reviews and showing how the product benefited their skin. The #COSRXSnailMucin hashtag has over 32 million views.

Now the company posts educational content on TikTok for fans of the brand. COSRX’s company profile has 165,000+ followers.

TikTok influencer marketing campaign example — COSRX.

Final thoughts: Is TikTok influencer marketing right for your business?

According to the Top 2023 TikTok Campaigns report, the food & drinks, beauty, fashion and entertainment industries dominated the platform in 2022. They sponsor 75% of analyzed videos. Gaming and tech were on the rise.

If your company is in these niches, you should definitely consider trying TikTok influencer marketing. You should otherwise be more careful in your approach — check whether there’s alignment between your target audience and the platform.

Beyond that, remember to partner with a reliable web hosting provider like Bluehost to ensure your website can handle the incoming, and sometimes exploding, traffic stemming from your campaign efforts.

FAQs about TikTok influencer marketing

Are there free or cheap options for TikTok influencer marketing?

Yes. You can deal with nano-influencers who may be cheap yet influential in your niche. Besides that, you work out different arrangements with them in exchange for promoting your products (e.g., sale commissions as opposed to paying per post).

Is it cheaper to promote on TikTok or Instagram?

For video content, TikTok and Instagram are similarly priced. But generally speaking, Instagram photo posts are the cheapest option.

Is TikTok for entertainment content only?

Entertainment is at the platform’s core. In 2022, a TikTok executive declared that TikTok is an entertainment app, not social media. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t educate people about your product through entertaining content.

  • Tiffani Anderson

    Tiffani is a Content and SEO Manager for the Bluehost brand. With over 10 years experience across all facets of content and brand marketing, she strives to combine concepts from brand marketing with engaging content through the lens of SEO.

    University of North Texas
    Previous Experience
    Content Marketing, SEO, Social Media
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