Once known as an app for viral dances and funny videos, TikTok has skyrocketed into one of the most popular social media platforms. The app surpassed over 1 billion users in September 2021, cementing itself as the most popular domain among other tech giants.

Many of us have fallen victim to hours of scrolling or even purchased a product from #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, thanks to the highly engaging, hyper-personalized algorithm on the app’s For You page. Niche jokes have integrated into everyday conversations. And the app’s sea of subcultures resembles real communities.

TikTok influencers are a major piece of the app’s success. The influencer marketing industry is expected to hit $13.8 billion this year. But how can social media managers and marketers make the most of it?

We’re here to demystify the landscape and show you how TikTok influencer marketing operates, plus how different brands partner with influencers.

Today’s top Tiktok influencers

Let’s start by reviewing a few top TikTok influencers. Our short list features content creators from a range of niches from fashion to food.

1. Charli D’Amelio – @charlidamelio

We can’t write about TikTok without mentioning Charli D’Amelio. This teen is the most followed person on the app and she’s an original member of the Hype House (more on that later). D’Amelio rose to fame for her dance moves, popularizing dances like the Renegade, a viral dance created by @jalaiahharmon, a fellow influencer and choreographer.

@charlidamelio

#duet with @morpheofficial use my code “charli” for 10% off morphe!!! #morphe2xcharlidixie #morphe2foryou

♬ Morphe 2 ft. Charli and Dixie – MorpheOfficial

Outside of her dance content, the teen regularly collaborates with brands that reflect her interests and values. She’s partnered with organizations like UNICEF to create anti-bullying content and beauty brand Morphe to release a fresh makeup collection.

2. Khabane Khaby Lame – @khaby.lame

Khaby Lame is the second most followed person on TikTok—and he’s done it without saying a word. The Senegalese-Italian social media personality is known for humorous videos where he silently mocks life hack videos. Along with a partnership with Xbox, Lame is the new face of Hugo Boss. He recently did a media activation in Dubai with other fellow influencers.

@boss

We can all learn a thing or two from KhabyLame: go backstage at our #BeYourOwnBOSS shoot 📷 @khaby.lame

♬ original sound – BOSS

3. Clare McLaughlin – @clare_mclaughlin_

A self-proclaimed “Martha Stewart Jr.,” Clare McLaughlin is a #BudgetLuxury influencer who shares hacks for interior design and home organization. Her account features tips for viewers to add a bit of luxe to their home without breaking the bank. She’s worked with brands like Walmart, Ulta Beauty and Amazon.

@clare.sullivan_

I was so psyched to revamp this unused area of my apartment thanks to @Walmart !I have a fully functioning desk area instead of working at my dining table 😂 link in bio to shop! #walmartpartner #walmartstyle

♬ original sound – Clare McLaughlin Sullivan

4. Ashley Yi – @ashyizzle

It may seem a bit odd, but TikTokers love to watch Ashley Yi eat. Yi is known for her food challenges, reviews and mukbangs (Korean for “eating broadcast”), but she also merges her love of food with lifestyle content like vlogs. Yi’s bubbly personality and big appetite earned her collaborations with Grubhub, Simple Truth and more.

@ashyizzle

#ad This @Cheez-It snack is ELITE ✨ Share your fav Cheez-It pairing with #GetThatCheddarEntry | Rules: Cheezit.com/GetThatCheddar

♬ Sunroof – Nicky Youre & dazy

5. Wisdom Kaye – @wisdm8

Crowned the “Best Dressed Guy on TikTok” by Vogue, Wisdom Kaye curates fashion looks worthy of the runway and beyond. His outfits are inspired by anime characters, trending sounds and even challenges from his followers in the comments. The 22-year-old was scouted through TikTok by IMG Models last year. He has since worked with top designers including Dior, Fendi and Gucci. However, his impact extends past styling and modeling. He’s also collaborated with Sonic, Sony and Urban Decay Cosmetics.

@wisdm8

#ad Link your worlds with @SonyElectronics #LinkBudsNeverOff #ad #techtok sonyheadphones”https://bit.ly/3rKUoxW

♬ original sound – Wisdom Kaye

6. Denise Mercedes – @denisemmercedes

Denise Mercedes is another influencer making moves in fashion. This plus-size model founded #StyleNotSize, a collaboration series with influencer bestie Maria Castellanos. The duo wears matching outfits to show that beauty isn’t one-size-fits-all. The series’ success led to the creation of the Style Not Size Collection at Macy’s. A few of her brand partnerships include Target, Forever 21, Asos and Madewell.

@denisemmercedes

ADressForEvery… Style Not Size 🌸Obsessed with these gorgeous dresses from @Anthropologie for Spring #anthropartner #fashiontiktok

♬ fashion show(256764) – TimTaj

7. Tabitha Brown – @iamtabithabrown

Known as the World’s Favorite Mom, Tabitha Brown’s vegan food content, warm Southern drawl and signature catchphrases make viewers feel right at home (and that’s her business). It’s like a loved one is hugging you through the screen.

@iamtabithabrown

Let’s get into my favorite bagel pizzas for the win! @instacart #CartIt #tabithabrown

♬ original sound – Tabitha Brown

Tabitha Brown is an excellent example of pandemic boredom turned breakthrough success. Tabitha began her journey on TikTok when her teenage daughter encouraged her to make an account during the pandemic. Today, she’s amassed a plethora of brand deals, along with her own hair care line, children’s show, memoir and restaurant. She’s definitely a working mom, right?

8. Mikayla Nogueira – @mikaylanogueira

Mikayla Noguiera is a 23-year-old makeup artist endeared for her down-to-earth personality and Boston accent. Her claim to TikTok fame started with her Catfish Challenge video, along with another viral video where she concealed her acne flawlessly.

Mikayla’s authenticity shines through her honest product reviews, beauty tips and awe-inspiring makeup looks. She’s collaborated with beauty giants like Fenty Beauty and recently did a giveaway for the e.l.f. Runs on Dunkin’ Collection.

@mikaylanogueira

Enter to WIN the entire E.L.F RUNS ON DUNKIN COLLECTION! Five winners! All you have to do is follow ME & @elfyeah !!! #elfxdunkin #elfpartner #elf

♬ original sound – Mikayla Nogueira

9. Letícia Gomes – @leticiafgomes

Letícia Gomes takes her followers into another world with her jaw-dropping makeovers. Gomes transforms herself into fictional characters and celebrities. She is a top creator in Brazil and her talents have grabbed the attention of Warner Bros., Starz and Netflix.

@leticiafgomes

#publicidade Agora o universo Star Treck está disponível no @Paramount+ Brasil. Lá já podemos assistir, não só os oito filmes já existentes, como também as novas temporadas das séries Discovery e Prodigy. E pra celebrar esse momento, o ParamountPlus me convidou para me transformar no Spock, que é um personagem icônico de Star Treck. Gostaram do resultado? Eu achei fascinante! RsAh, e se você ainda não é assinante, corre lá e aproveite os 7 dias grátis 🖖🏻🚀✨ #StarTreknoPPlus

♬ som original – Letícia Gomes

10. Vivian Tu@yourrichbff

Vivian Tu is a former Wall Street trader turned “finfluencer” and she’s also your virtual best friend who happens to be a millionaire. Tu started making videos on TikTok in January 2021 to help Gen Z and Millennials become more financially literate by breaking down topics in a digestible way. Her content covers everything from investing to salary negotiation. She has partnered with several financial companies including Nasdaq, Wealthfront and Credit Karma.

Innovative ways brands use top TikTok influencers

Since TikTok content creators inspire audiences to try a new product or service, they play a major role in generating brand awareness and future customer loyalty. Of course, sponsored TikTok clips like those shown above are popular, but brands are getting creative far beyond the phone screen. Here are a few examples:

The Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience

In celebration of the season two premiere of “Bridgerton,” Shondaland, Netflix and Fever co-produced the Queen’s Ball: A Bridgerton Experience. Also known as the “Bridgerton Ball” online, this immersive experience allows visitors to place themselves inside the hit show with an evening of activities while adorning Regency-era attire.

Before launching the luxurious balls in various cities across the globe, Netflix hosted a preview event in Los Angeles. Along with celebrities and actors, influencers were invited to give a sneak peek of the experience and encourage fans to purchase tickets.

@ashyizzle

But like where my prince at?! @JEENIE @foodwithsoy @Janette Ok #bridgerton

♬ Wildest Dreams – Duomo

@ashyizzle’s recap video received over 1.8 million views and 416,500 likes. Although Bridgerton is a fan favorite, getting as many eyes as possible on their fairy-tale dream is the goal. With the influencer hype, tickets are typically in high demand and nearly sold out in every participating city.

Sage embraces hashtag challenges

Sage is an excellent example of a brand effectively engaging with their customer base through TikTok challenges. The company held several successful challenges on the app including the #BossIt2021 and #SageTellMe campaigns. Both campaigns invited small and mid-sized businesses to use an official hashtag and audio to highlight their experiences using Sage’s software.

Winners received over £10,000 worth of prizes and some videos were even featured on Sage’s profile page.  Several influencers posted to help boost the campaign as well. The #BossIt2021 hashtag received over 8.8 billion views while #SageTellMe earned over 4.6 billion views.

@sageuki

Just the @thefoldinglady showing everyone how to #BossIt2021 💚💪 #foldingclothes

♬ original sound – Sage

The best of the best: TikTok content houses

Social media would be nothing without collaboration. Last year, the Hype House made headlines when TikTok’s biggest creators came together to create content out of one Los Angeles mansion. A myriad of other house accounts soon followed from Sway House to Clubhouse.

Teens living in opulent L.A. mansions isn’t a new content concept. We’ve seen the development of “houses” on other platforms, like YouTube’s Team 10 or The Vlog Squad. The difference with TikTok is each creator is already very popular in their own right. They were brought together by proximity and massive follower counts.

As a result, brands work with the individual creators more than the houses as a whole. But brands can still benefit from their shared audience power.

The Crib Around the Corner is a great example. The Crib Around the Corner is a content house launched under the sponsorship of AT&T TV in February 2021. Their goal was to create unconventional ads for the streaming service. Later in the year, the group was named Creator House of the Year by Adweek, followed by several brand partnerships

A few of the Crib’s top TikTok influencers partnered with Mac Cosmetics for their Love Me Liquid Lipcolor collection. The #LoveMeMode campaign amassed over 11.6 billion views.

@layloqasim

AHHHH I love these colors so much!! @maccosmetics #lovememode #ad

♬ #lovememode – MAC Cosmetics ft. Cael D.

Fenty Beauty is another major beauty brand that uses creators, but they approached TikTok houses a little differently. They curated a group of influencers and sent them to live in a L.A. house with a hyper focus on beauty content. Rihanna’s official makeup artist would even occasionally drop in, amping up the feeling of one, big fun house.

How to find TikTok influencers for your brand

Do you know what side of TikTok you’re on?

Perhaps more important than understanding TikTok houses, is understanding the many pockets of TikTok subcultures you’ll find yourself in. While the For You Page algorithm is largely democratic—serving up everything from big content creators to virtually non-existent ones, videos that have already gone viral to videos where you’re the first potential like—it’s still a learning algorithm. It studies user interests through the content they engage with and curates the FYP feed to reflect that.

Your own engagement patterns may lead you to an excess of videos from dreamy #CottageCore TikTok, #woke TikTok if you’re political, or even #frog TikTok. You’d be surprised at how specific the algorithm gets.

But the takeaway to keep in mind is that these trends transcend the houses, sides and generations of TikTok. Music, dances, jokes, news, brand deals—if it’s popularized by the users, it’ll end up on practically every demographic’s FYP, subsequently used by every type of influencer.

Try to understand which side of TikTok aligns with your brand and then find influencers within that niche. And they don’t have to have a huge following either. Consider micro-influencers who have loyal followers and high engagement. You can also connect with influencer marketing agencies that specialize in helping brands source the right content creators.

Are you curious about other inventive ways to use TikTok and social media? Use our worksheet to find content inspiration and help your brand stand out on the platform.