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The TikTok generation: build brand loyalty by offering creators freedom

As audiences and platforms change, so do the best ways to reach them. Jonathan Lemze, head of social strategy at RAPP, digs into what generation Z wants from content — and what that means for brands competing for a share of their attention.

TikTok has cemented itself as one of the most popular audience engagement channels on earth, offering brands a direct means of communication with millions of potential customers.

Don’t just take our word for it. In 2021, TikTok was the most downloaded app, with 656m downloads across the world and more than 1bn monthly active users. But it’s not just the quantity of users that makes the platform so attractive for brands. It’s also the quality of engagement. Recent data shows that TikTok has a significantly higher engagement rate (18%) than Instagram (4%) or YouTube (2%). 40% of generation Z is even using it for search (according to Google’s own research).

/ Patrick Tomasso via Unsplash

This makes TikTok one of the best places to create a community of engaged customers and to build a loyal audience around your brand.

But there’s a slight catch. The data above refers to influencers, so it should come as no surprise that creators outperform brands in engagement metrics on social media.

Brands must ask themselves an honest question: how can we tap into social communities, build loyal audiences, and use creators to resonate with a new generation of consumers?

The answer isn’t as simple as throwing money at a trending influencer. It requires a solid social strategy, a high degree of trust, and the flexibility to allow creators to do what they do best: create social-first content.

Here’s how you can build loyalty on TikTok, stay true (and consistent) to your brand identity, and get the most out of your influencer partnerships.

The creator economy is here to stay

The rules of engagement in today’s world are evolving. Gone are the days when brands alone could command attention and drive engagement solely through their own voice. To thrive in this new landscape, brands must recognize that creators offer certain qualities that brands can’t replicate.

Creators typically gain popularity thanks to their ability to build a strong connection with their audience by tapping into human emotion — through humor, honesty, motivation, or being relatable.

These characteristics and values are essential for building trust, which is something that many brands struggle with. It makes sense: it’s easier to trust a single person (who many people would claim to ‘know’ quite well through their content) than it is to trust a large, faceless company.

We’re making broad generalizations here, but the message becomes more self-evident when we look at the data. 46% of consumers would pay more for brands they trust; yet only 1 in 3 (34%) trust the brands they use.

Now, let’s take a more direct comparison. 61% of consumers trust the product recommendations they get from creators. Only 38% say they trust branded social media content.

This means there’s a massive opportunity for brands to boost sales, drive loyalty and build trust by leveraging the power of creators on TikTok. Brands can no longer afford to stay reticent.

Finding the balance between consistency and flexibility

Most brands will have a clearly defined strategy on social media, which includes a framework for what messages should be pushed and how these comms should be created, communicated and shared.

We might think that the tighter the guidelines, the more consistent the creative output will be. This is true to an extent, but when working with creators, tight guidelines can massively impact the authenticity of the partnership and the outcome of the campaign.

Think about it: creators have amassed large audiences because they possess qualities that people find interesting, exciting, or compelling. If brands are looking to resonate with their audiences by leveraging the creator, then it’s important to allow the creator to produce content in a way that works for them and their audience.

Jonathan Lemze is Head of Social Strategy at RAPP UK

This Article originally ran in The Drum in July 2022

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