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TikTok: To Sponsor, or Not to Sponsor

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

With so much content pumped into TikTok by 800 million users a day, it can be tough to get a read on whether an account’s posts are truly effective. How can we tell if sponsored content is receiving better or worse engagement than regular posts? To put this to the test, we scraped together a variety of 110 TikTok accounts with follower counts anywhere from under a thousand to upwards of 65 million, ten of which are the study’s control group; these are comprised of the app’s top superstar creators. The dataset compares one #sponsored post from a TikTok user's account, along with the average of three non-sponsored posts from the same account. Complete creator insights of the 110 TikTokers were then taken in order to prove differences in engagement. By collecting a wide array of TikTok personalities, we were able to interpret not only the difference between sponsored and non-sponsored posts but compare their effectiveness amongst vastly different account types. What we found was anything but ordinary...

At first glance, sponsored content tended to look only slightly more engaging than non-sponsored content. However, after ordering account followers from smallest to largest (‘Sponsored Filtered’ sheet), we found that 70% of the first half of 110 accounts showed upwards of 100% increase in engagement compared to the same accounts’ non-sponsored counterpart. In fact, the majority of this first half of sponsored content consisted of outliers with drastic success causing the engagement’s average percent change to be 16,360% in favor of #sponsored posts. 

Digging deeper into the dataset, we found that accounts with under 200k followers (highlighted in green) had the greatest rate of return on engagement per sponsored post. By measuring engagement rates, you will see that the sponsored figures highlighted in green far surpass non-sponsored posts in viewer interest; in fact, they receive 31 times more engagement on average.

Moving forward, when we take into account the entire dataset, the average engagement rate change is a whopping 8,111% for sponsored ads. Now, what if we take this same average but disregard engagement rates that are over 100%, (highlighted in red), as these figures may be outlandish, especially in reference to certain extreme outliers. What happens is the average drops from 8,111% to -15%. 

Understanding that 70% of TikTokers with less than 200k followers are over 100% engaged and only 27% of TikTokers with more than 200k followers are over 100% engagement, proves how far a modest following can go. Furthermore, notice how there are only 26/110 TikTokers that are under 200K followers with the ability to dilute the entire deck; the average engagement rate of those 26 is 32,845%, while the rest is only 362%. Looks like nano and micro-influencers aren’t the underdogs after all.

Looking at the final ten TikTokers in the deck, (‘Sponsored’ sheet/cells 103-112), you will notice in bold the control group. These individuals leave the largest impact on the app itself and rake in the coin like nobody else. 

For instance, Charli D’Amelio makes an average of $25k per video, but when she posts a sponsored ad, which she reportedly makes $100k per post, her engagement shrinks, along with close to the rest of the control group. 

How we interpret this is that die-hard followers of these superstars love to see solely the individuals for which they are known. In fact, partnerships with a lack of brand affinity can serve as a distraction to their followers and hurt the star. Although sponsorships are portrayed in favor of smaller-scale TikTok accounts, all nano, micro, and macro TikTokers can and do succeed in partnerships. What is most important is that they are paired with the right brand bearing in mind the target audience. It is good to know that with the right match any and all types of accounts can succeed with a brand. Keep up the good work TikTokers.

Click this link to access all the data from our study:

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