TikTok is a little-known “beast” in the world of affiliate marketing, however, we already have the first successful cases of work with it. Today we will tell you what kind of social network it is, why users like it so much, what audience there is, how one can interact with it…  And, of course, how one can make money in TikTok: what tools you can use and how they work.


So, let us figure it out piece by piece:

We will start with the basic definitions.


What is TikTok?


TikTok is a platform based exclusively on the fast consumption of video content. The length of the video is 15 or 60 seconds, the videos are easily scrolled with a “swipe” from bottom to top. The main content is the so-called “lip syncs”: users select a song / sound track and imitate singing / talking to it. Still users can add regular videos with original sound without music. Content trends also develop quite spontaneously and chaotically: the authors supply topics, organize challenges by challenging other users, shoot their own short videos to popular songs.

It is not hard to explain the TikTok popularity phenomenon: this product is easy to consume and does not claim to generate meaningful content. The primary objective is to entertain the audience, to give it an opportunity to “kill time” without benefit, but with pleasure. Another distinctive feature is the young audience (nearly half of the users are under 18): being visual learners, they became the first and most devoted fans of this format.

Shirt Train Challenge (by @tiktok)

The primary advantage of this platform for publishers is a chance to collect the viewings and feedback quickly through a system of recommendations. When visiting the page of any tiktoker we will see that some posts get hundreds of viewings, while others get tens of thousands (all in the same account). At the same time, even those who uploaded their first video and do not have any other content nor subscribers have a chance to get thousands of viewings (currently).


TikTok overview: recommendations,
subscriptions and trends


The service is as native as possible: you do not even need to register to peruse the content. All you need is to find TikTok in the app store, install it on a smartphone and select a couple of interests so that the primary recommendations could follow them. First we download and install the application, then select our interests and go directly to the recommendations feed (trending videos). 

TikTok has two feeds: “Following” (the ones you follow) and “For you” (recommendations). The subscription feed is built in chronological sequence, that is, it shows videos as they come out (starting with the new ones). The recommendations feed is based on the user’s behavior and preferences: the algorithms collect the information about the viewer, his language, interests, location, and begin to recommend videos that may be of most interest for him.

In addition, there is an “Discover” section, where you can see all the hashtag trends, as well as search for the required trend or user. This is where you track what kind of content is the most popular at the moment.

After downloading Tiktok app you’ll see recomendations in the “For you” section

Tags are tied to the user location, so for example users from Russia and the CIS countries will mostly see tags in Russian and, accordingly, the content will also be in Russian.


Creating a video in TikTok


The service has many ready templates, filters and sound tracks quite sufficient for most users in general.

When you open your camera in the app you see full range of options for shooting and editing Tiktok videos

The main emphasis, of course, is on audio: here you can either select music and sounds from the available library, or download your own audio from the device. Songs, clippings from popular shows, TV programs, movies, and even voice-over for taxi services — in general, any background goes for producing a creative video.

All audio tracks are cut into 1-minute or 15-second pieces. There are ready-made playlists: the popular pieces end up in TickTok Top and #challenge, so when creating content, one can build on trends. Optionally, you can upload your audio track in the “My sound” section (after that it will be released with your name under a video).

Music is played during the recording of the video if you use the app camera, or it is added to the video (if you upload a prepared edited video).

The possibilities for recording and editing videos are also quite extensive: changing the speed, adding filters, masks, augmented reality, overlaying text and stickers with the ability to attach them to certain moments of the video (meaning that the text or sticker appears and disappears at the required time in the required place of the frame).

In order to create a video, you need to click on the plus sign at the bottom of the screen and go to the section to add a post. Here you need to select the audio track (the “Sounds” button at the top of the screen, the length of the video and recording speed (at the bottom), effects and filters. You can also upload a prepared video from the phone memory, crop it, change the voice, add music, text, stickers. When the video is ready, you can add a description, cover art (for example, a still image from the video), hashtags and tag your friends in it.


What kind of videos are there at TikTok?


It is quite complicated to arrange some sort of classification of all the videos at TikTok, but we will give it a go. For starters, let us divide all content into viral (the kind that gets repeated by users in different interpretations) and original.

Viral content

  • Challenges. Most videos are associated with the so-called challenges — tasks to make a video on a given topic or repeat something another blogger has done. Once a popular tiktoker launches a challenge, the next day you will witness the entire feed repeating after him. Singers and groups often serve as catalysts to ensure viral coverage of their new songs (for example, a popular singer acts out a scene to the words of her song, and the fans begin to repeat after her). Both general and topic-based trends are launched (for example, for athletes “put on a T-shirt in a handstand”). The general belief is that it is easier to get into the “For you” section if you follow such viral topics.
  • «Affectations». This is a conventional name for those very lip-syncs: the users make faces, strike poses, role-play dialogues to music or a soundtrack from a popular video/show, thus articulating their actions. Despite the seemingly partial or completely absent meaning, such videos get great coverage, lots of likes and subscriptions. It is also believed that any user with an attractive appearance and minimal acting skills can rise to the top with such videos.
Fake dj Challenge (by @tiktok)
  • Dancing. This is simple: the users demonstrate dance routines and urge their subscribers to repeat them in their videos (or they follow the more popular bloggers and repeat their moves). In addition to dancing any other moves that can delight the audience reach the top (for example, in the period of self-isolation and carantine the users started improvising original greetings avoiding the handshake).

Original content

  • Humor. The format of the so-called «vines» leaked into TikTok: short videos with sketches of everyday life are popular with the users. A bit of historical background: the format itself originated from the Vine application, presented in the form of 6-second videos, then it moved to Instagram (at that time the video duration increased to 1 minute), now it has moved to TikTok and decreased again (from 15 seconds to 1 minute). The pieces primarily cover life situations and people personalities. It is less viral than lip-syncs, since jokes repeated ten times are no longer funny and there is no sense in repeating them over and over. The primary advantage here is that the users will be eager to subscribe to an original author, rather than a copycat.
  • DIY. «Do it yourself» format: this is where the users share recipes, draw, do needlework and share all kinds of hobbies. This category also includes all kinds of life hacks, where tiktokers show how you can make your life easier using their DIY inventions.
  • Makeup, hairstyles, sports. Everything that is popular on Instagram and YouTube, «takes off» here as well, only in this case you will see brief sketches on “here is one more way to do it” or fast review rather than detailed tutorials «how to do it at home».


TikTok popularity is measured by the reach of the video, the number of likes and subscribers. Accordingly, our task is to increase them, that is, to increase the traffic flow that will go to our content and (if everything goes according to plan) stick around. The main advice is to work on the quality of the videos, their form and content (get rid of the tedious details, leave only the most interesting stuff, make it into the trends or better yet— start them). If we consider the tools and opportunities to collect viewings, likes and subscriptions, here is an approximate list:

  1. Bring your first subscribers from other social networks. Instagram is best fitted for this, since its format is the closest to that of TikTok. Many bloggers duplicate videos in two social networks at once and put a link to TikTok in the description of their Instagram account in order to reroute the audience and attract the attention of subscribers. If the old audience becomes active it gives you a chance to catch the attention TikTok algorithms and get into recommendations  the main source of coverage.
  2. TikTok recommendations (“For you” section) is a feed of videos that allows users to find new interesting characters, and gives bloggers a way to have a good reach for their post literally from the get-go. Everyone can get into recommendations, however one should keep in mind that there is a lot of competition and it grows every day. The key to getting into recommendations is quality content. There is no way to fool the system and no point in doing that: if you have few viewings, it means no one is interested in your content. The operating principle of the algorithms is approximately the following: you post the video, TikTok starts recommending it to a narrow group of “test” users and gauges their reaction. If the users quickly thumb through it, do not watch it to the end, do not go to your account, neither like nor comment on it, TikTok realizes that this post is unlikely to get the interest of a wider audience.
  3. Use hashtags. You can find out what is currently trending in the application on the TikTok website or in the section «Discover» of the app. The trends are changing rapidly, so you cannot afford not following them. Hashtags need to be set for the algorithms to understand instantly what your video is about and to recommend it to those who really may be interested in it. This way you can get into the section “Discover”, as well as in the “For you”.
  4. Cheating services. They exist and offer live motivated traffic in the form of subscribers, viewings, likes and comments. We cannot avoid saying that this way of getting traffic exists, but we do not recommend using it: first of all, the cheat viewings and subscribers will be fairly obvious, secondly, TikTok itself can deduct the likes for the cheat, and thirdly… Why would you need those «ghost viewers», if they give you zero involvement and cannot be converted into sales nor loyal audience anyway?

Here are a few factors that potentially can promote your video to the top and allow you to get into the recommendations section. Potentially, because any program with organic results does not divulge its algorithms in order to avoid user-generated cheats.

  • High resolution video. The better the camera of your gadget, the higher the chance that the video will be viewed. Naturally, the videos made with the top-end smartphones (for example, the latest iPhone models) will show up in the recommendations more often. Therefore we enhance the quality as best we can: ensure some bright daylight, select homogeneous background, so that you would stand out better, attend courses for mobile shooting and work for the picture. The same applies to sound: if you use the sound of the camera, make sure that you are in a room without echo and shut off any background noise as much as possible.
  • Selection of original soundtracks. Participating in a challenge is good, but the algorithms can give you a couple of points extra for the music and the sounds uploaded from your device rather than from the TikTok sounds library. Use an original sound from your video or take a fragment of a TV show, take the sound from it and overlay it on your video — this will increase your chances of getting into recommendations. However, there are also disadvantages: if you use original music the users will not be able to find you by the soundtrack, there goes your search engine traffic.
  • Interaction with the video. First, it means the video should be watched from beginning to end, or even several times. Some tiktokers engage the principle of teaser advertising, seducing the users with phrases like «wait till you see how it ends…» and storylines that draw people in, but do not show anything worthy of interest in the end. This raises discussions («why did I watch this, there is nothing there»), which is also a ranking factor. However, at the end of the day, it does not bring the user any subscriptions or a loyal audience  only the negative attitude of users. We recommend adding a storyline (albeit a short one) to the video, as well as interacting with the audience (for example, asking questions): this way you will not only promote watching your videos to the end and leaving comments, but also get subscribers.
  • Likes and bookmarking. Perhaps, this is the most obvious parameter. They hardly carry most of the weight because they are most liable to cheating, but presumably they also affect the results in the «For you».

After getting the attention, the task of the tiktoker is to keep the audience. Just a couple of tips here: set an easy-to-see picture as your account photo (for example, a close-up photo of your face ), prepare a brief profile description (who you are, what you do and what the other users can find in your account) and adhere to one style. If today you sing karaoke, tomorrow you show a recipe for a sandwich, the day after tomorrow you participate in a clothes changing challenge, people will subscribe to you only if you have unsurpassed charisma.


TikTok account monetization


The principles of monetizing a TikTok account are most similar to the ways to make money on Instagram: there are just as few opportunities for accommodating affiliate links, there is an arbitrage option and a lot of scope for experimenting with native brand advertising.

Traffic arbitrage

As for traffic arbitrage, let us tell you right away  it is not that simple. YFirst of all you need to apply for access to a TikTokAds advertising account. You can find out more about how the advertising account works in the TikTokAds Help Center itself. Actually TikTokAds tool is pretty similar to Facebook Ads and has almost the same targeting settings. But there are some problems and issues here. 

Generally speaking, the situation is as follows: simply put you can get the advertising account at TikTok if you intend to work with a GEO other than the CIS countries (at least that is the information as of March’2020). The main problem is that the minimum budget at the campaign level is $500 and the minimum budget at the ad group level is $50. That can be too expencive and unsuitable for some publishers since that kind of traffic source is new and part of their money will be spent on tests. But if you are working with really hot products or generous advertisers it could be worth it. 

At the moment it is pretty expencive to work with audience in the format of advertising at TikTok, unless we are talking about commercial brands with budgets to match. Big advertisers can gain access to such options as promoting a brand hashtag to the top and advertising banners in the “Discover” section, but if we are talking about advertising opportunities for “mere mortals”, they are not very big (some users probably already noticed that advertising is just not demonstrated in the TikTok feed in several countries).


Promotional codes


If arbitrage is not yet available or not suitable for us, we will follow the content model, because tiktokers are gradually becoming bloggers, which means that the principles of cooperation with them will be similar to the mechanisms for cooperation with Instagram and YouTube bloggers. We have figured out the content requirements at TikTok. It is time to find out how one can make money with TikTok videos.

The limitations on working with CPA marketing here are the same as on Instagram: at TikTok, there is simply no space for affiliate links (the best you can do is to put one active link in the profile description). However, there is a trick that allows you to do brand promotions — unique promotional codes. The idea is simple: the tiktoker mentions the name of the store and the promotional code in the video, the user finds the store on his own, makes the purchase with the use of the promotional code, and the tiktoker receives the reward for it. In this case the attribution goes only via the promotional code (because it is unique) — no matter which link anybody uses to place an order , only the owner of the promotional code will get the reward. You can read more about this tool in the article New tool for publishers “Unique promo code”.

The task of the tiktoker is to convey the information about things you can buy in 15 seconds, including where you can buy them and which promotional code will provide a good discount. Here are some operational tips:

  • Unpacking, tests and reviews work here as well  if you have the opportunity, show the product live, if not  use the images provided by the store (i.e., the advertiser).
  • It is better to take a well-known brand of a popular store to work with, so that the users could easily find it in the search (because you cannot attach an active link to it).
  • Ideally, ask different stores for the same promotional code (preferably a personalized one): this way you can promote several brands in the video at once. Naturally, they should not be in direct competition with each other.
  • The golden rule of advertising is 70/30, that is, 70% of high-quality interesting content should accommodate the maximum of 30% of advertising (that should be just as high-quality and interesting). Otherwise, you will receive nothing but bad attitude and cancelation of subscriptions.
  • Choose products and stores that match your theme: if you are talking about savings — give links to inexpensive goods in Chinese stores, if you are promoting a healthy lifestyle — choose sneakers and sporting goods, if you are showing off makeup — show where one can buy it.
  • Think of unusual ways to present promotional codes: signs, posters, fake tattoos, you can even write it on your forehead — making sure that it does not go unnoticed is in your best interest. You can also add it to hashtags.

We picked an example of an Arab tiktoker @su3ad, who managed to start receiving revenue from including promotional codes in videos. You do not need to know the language to understand: 1) the blogger shows the product in the video (she unpacks the purchase), 2) the description indicates the name of the store, the size of the discount and the promotional code, 3) an original presentation of the promotional code is used to attract the attention (written with lipstick on the mirror), 4) the promotional code is effective for many brands at once.

You can get a unique promotional code after registering on the Admitad website as a publisher — you can read about obtaining it at the help center. The same tool can be used on Instagram and on YouTube.


We will follow the development of this platform and the update of tools that would help publishers work with traffic from TikTok. Subscribe to our updates to be the first to know about the platform features, and leave your questions in the comments section to the article  we will try to find the answers and tell about them in our next articles.

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