The catchy phrase “I like your Skechers” may be stuck in your head as of late and for good reason. The now viral song created by rapper DripReport has been heard more than 1 billion times — all thanks to TikTok.
The track gained major attention on the popular social media platform in April with help from TikTok stars such as Charli D’Amelio and Lil Huddy, who made videos with the “Skechers” sound clip.
In D’Amelio’s case, she garnered 39.3 million views, 6.3 million likes and nearly 74,000 shares alone, giving the Skechers brand countless organic impressions in return and without spending a dime. At 16, D’Amelio is the most-followed person on TikTok with 62 million and is known for her quick-hit dances.
Though Skechers did not directly attribute a rise in e-commerce sales to the TikTok song, the viral craze certainly created significant exposure and amplified its relevance with Gen Z and millennial consumers.
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Now, Skechers is taking advantage of TikTok’s power.
This month, the brand officially launched a dance challenge called #DanceForMasks with help from the app’s top influencers. For every video submitted featuring the hashtag and dance, Skechers will be donating 10 masks for frontline workers battling COVID-19 with the goal of donating 1 million. The brand has teamed up with Addison Rae, the third-most followed account with 44.7 million, and Loren Gray, who has 44.1 million followers, to take part in the challenge and create sponsored posts to encourage others users to make videos. (#DanceForMasks tagged content has been viewed 34.5 million times so far.)
On the Rise
TikTok, the global short-video app, which is owned by the Chinese tech company ByteDance, has been a breeding ground of content creators since launching in the U.S. in 2018.
Since then, teenagers across the country have generated massive followings for their minute-long dance, lip-syncing and comedy clips that have become so powerful it’s become impossible to ignore.
For numerical evidence, just do a quick search of “sneakers” and “shoes” on TikTok, and you’ll find that a combined five-billion views appear for videos created with those specific hashtags.
It’s clear that the audience is there, so why have companies been so slow on the uptake? “Because the decision makers are older than the demographic that loves this platform,” suggested Mae Karwowski, CEO of influencer marketing agency Obviously. “But now that millennials are on the platform, TikTok offers such a wider audience so you’ll see more brands getting on board.”
Though TikTok had been on the rise, the coronavirus pandemic has certainly been a catalyst for the platform as in-home and mobile data usage has unsurprisingly seen an uptick. Subsequently, TikTok has gained major ground with users outside of its majority Gen Z demographic.
“The time is now to use TikTok,” Karwoski said. “The first movers are the ones reaping the benefits, but if you keep waiting the market is going to be so much more mature. The ‘it’ factor is going to be gone, it’s going to be a lot more expensive, so try it now.”
Under the Influence
Marketing experts agree that the best way to capitalize on the app is through the use of influencers. And similar to other social media platforms, those influencers run the gamut — from ones with small followings to those in the millions. What differentiates TikTok from platforms such as Instagram, however, is its complex algorithm that allows accounts to go viral regardless of follower count. This makes the use of microinfluencers all the more appealing for brands since their reach can be just as effective as those with a large following. Because of this, a small budget goes a long way. Plus, smaller influencers can grow their audience literally overnight on TikTok, in comparison to Instagram and YouTube.
“There’s such an opportunity and a demand on the influencer side to work with brands, too,” said Karwoski. “In terms of pricing, they are going to be very competitive rates compared to Instagram. You have that on your side as it is still in early days for influencer marketing on TikTok.”
In addition, the easiest way to have a presence on the app is to gift TikTok influencers product. While it’s not guaranteed you’ll have set number of impressions compared to a paid campaign, it allows you to dip your toe in the TikTok world with product placement. Many microinfluencers on the platform have never worked with brands before and are more than willing to accept and wear free shoes, too, according to experts.
Timothy Armoo, CEO of influencer marketing agency FanBytes, said success comes from combining both the influencer’s activity and paid ads, which in some cases, resulted in a return on advertising spend 2.5 times that of Instagram. “About 80% of the brands we work with do not have a TikTok profile and it’s not entirely necessary if you’re a product-based brand like a shoe company. Then I advise that you just team up with influencers,” he said. “Let them do it in their own tone and just provide guidelines. If you’re working with them for the audience, it’s obvious that they’ve got an audience for a reason, lean on that.”
In February, for instance, Prada (which has zero posts on its own page) teamed up with D’Amelio during Milan Fashion Week for a series of TikToks taken at the house’s fall ’20 runway show. The videos, featuring trending dances, generated nearly 200 million views.
Creating With Intention
“There’s a shell of what does well on TikTok, but there’s not a perfect formula,” said Shelby Leimgruber at SugarFree influencer marketing agency, noting that jumping on trending hashtags, challenges, dances and songs are keys to success for many brands. By working with agencies, she said, they can work with you to create specific TikTok strategies, such as creating a new dance or hashtag challenge and then pay influencers to do it. In many cases that dance can go viral allowing for a domino effect of impressions that you didn’t directly pay for, case in point: Skechers.
While working with TikTokers is the easiest and most cost-efficient way to garner brand awareness and a wide reach, there’s still opportunity when it comes to launching your own page. There, you can test what resonates directly to your consumer.
However, since few brands are nimble enough to deliver that quality and quantity of videos needed for TikTok, hire influencers to power your own channel.
Crocs, for example, has a strong brand page with 187,000 followers, but what has the most engagement by far on its own channel are videos featuring prominent accounts. The footwear label partnered with Aydon Holley, who is known for flipping into pools, for the page launch in October 2019, which is Crocs best post to date with 1.2 million views.
“The best strategy for TikTok is to make the most of the trends and challenges that create a buzz on the app and tie it into branded content,” a rep at Upfluence explained. “It’s important to have a consistent content production strategy as audience engagement is driven by the frequency of publications.”
The influencer marketing agency suggested that short videos work best, advising brands to aim between nine and 18 seconds. One minute is the max.
And since there are always new trends on TikTok, constantly posting helps with relevancy and adding to the likelihood of going viral. Top influencers post upwards to three times a day.
Another positive for brand marketing? The algorithm provides niche targeting for its users, so the more you watch a video in a specific category, the more videos you’ll see that are similar.
For brands that are weary, marketers also said that TikTok is not a trend that is here today and gone tomorrow. Bytedance continues to see the app’s value as a revenue generator and is focused more than ever on the U.S. market.
Last month, the Chinese tech powerhouse tapped Disney’s top streaming executive Kevin Mayer to become CEO of TikTok with the notion that he will attract more brands and advertisers, which at the moment is relatively low compared to the likes of Facebook. And while many companies spending on TikTok are just in the beginning stages, experts are confident that the conversion power is there. The company’s Chinese counterpart to TikTok, Douyin, for instance, already has partnerships with most of the country’s biggest e-commerce players, including Alibaba’s Taobao and Tmall, JD.com and Kaola.
With the app continuing to evolve its advertising offerings, including a recent test of a shop-now button (at the moment, users can only link in bio), TikTok is on its way to being a leading resource for brands to convert sales and generate awareness.