Real ‘Tok’: Welcome to a New Age of Influence

Author: Sally Ballout

Editor: Mehr Hussain

Its been the same old game: Name and Fame

But if you think about it, throughout all those years, there has been a common thread; the type of influence deployed was always associated with 'popularity' and status.
It was always about the name and fame you brought to the table. Which celebrity will endorse our brand? Which face do we want our brand to be associated with?
Social media played a huge role in developing modern influencer culture and accelerated our use of the word 'influencer'. It levelled the playing field and created new possibilities for who can be influential.

Social Influence: Caught in the One-to-Many Model

So it was no longer just about the athletes, celebrities, musicians, actors or fashion designers – we saw the rise of bloggers, home cooks and full-time vacationers. But, we were still playing the 'popularity' game because who are we kidding… we love mom and her 39 followers love her too, but a fashionista with 10,000 followers is gonna rack up numbers even mom's secret recipe can't.
Your social capital came from connections. The larger your network of followers, the more people you reach, the more popular you become and the more likely it was that you would become the future face of a brand.

Is it fair to say the influence game has not drastically changed over the last 100 years? Probably not. But let's say this (and to keep with the playing field talk) we are living in the age of an entirely new ball game. It's no longer about how well you network, how many followers you reach and the status you are rewarded. Popularity is no longer a driver of influence. Expertise is.

The New Age of Influence: Bring your expertise to the table

Firstly, let's just agree that expertise is a term that lives within a universe of related words which include: skill, talent, knowledge, information, speciality and passion. And there is no better place for expertise to have real influence than on a platform based on interest.
TikTok brought with it an entirely different digital ecosystem. Content is disseminated based on your interest – not on an influencer's status and reach. It's within this digital ecosystem that Creators were born. It's within this inclusive culture of influence that Creators asked – what expertise could I disseminate and bring to the table?

That question paved the way for 5 essential learnings that brands can leverage.

1. Creator’s are credible because you trust expertise, not popularity

TikTok Marketing Science, 'Creators Like Me Study', (2021), conducted by Hotspex and 'Power of TikTok Creators'  by IPSOS (MENAT, 2022) confirmed that expertise is on the rise.

For brands, that trust that users have in the creator's opinions accelerates the path to purchase.


2. TikTok Creators Cultivate Communities, Not Followers

And communities behave differently, because 
a) they gather around a shared interest 
b) they interact with the creator and with one another. 
Sara Wilson, digital industry expert and publisher, in the Harvard Business Review (2021) explains it best: If social media can feel like a crowded airport terminal where everyone is allowed, but no one feels particularly excited to be there… Digital campfires offer a more intimate oasis where groups of people are excited to gather around shared interests. 

“ And there's a community or 'Tok' for everyone on TikTok – #EduTok, #PetTok, #SportsTok, #MomTok … Even mechanical keyboard junkies will find their community.”

As a result, TikTok's engagement rate is 5x higher than other platforms. 
(Source: Influencer Marketing Hub, The State of Influencer Marketing 2020: Benchmark Report, 2020).

For brands, leveraging creators and meeting communities of interest opens a whole new level of engagement, personalization and diversity. Let the creators use their expertise to help your brand be more relevant, where it matters. 

3. TikTok Creators are Recognized for their Content, Not Status  

According to the Power of TikTok Creators – IPSOS – MENAT we're seeing a shift!

For brands leveraging on creators' content positively impacts Ad Recall & Memorability. And that impact is 2.8x above the regional IPSOS norms when brands and creators collaborate.

4. With creators, it's Less Autobiography, More Conversation

With influencers – and by the nature of the design of social networks – monologue is heavily relied on. TikTok being an entertainment platform allows creators, on the other hand, to build dialogue and encourage participation. It’s an interactive, two-way approach to telling stories.

For brands, users showcase their products in their content after being inspired by creators. Conversation leads to user-generated content at scale and UGC spreads like wildfire on TikTok where 80% say UGC has a high impact on their purchasing decisions.

5. Creators Are Upending Aspiration for Authenticity & Relatability

Borrowing from The Guardian's Headline (August 2021):

Brands and marketers, take note: being too aspirational is repellant now. Realness is the new cultural currency.