Creator Control: Ella Watkins’ top tips for successfully working with TikTok creators to elevate your brand and reach new audiences.

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TikTok has quickly become an essential part of any social media marketing strategy, whether organically for a brand or a performance marketing campaign. With TikTok now ranking as the 6th most-used social platform globally, with over 3 billion downloads as of July 2021, it’s impossible to ignore the platform’s significance. 

The exponential uptake and attention on TikTok should have all marketers and brands asking themselves, ‘how can we use this platform to connect with our audience?’ The answer: utilise TikTok content creators on the platform to communicate your brand and key message to your audience.

We chatted with Ella Watkins (@ella.whatkins), a creator who has amassed a following of 2.3 million fans since her debut on the platform in 2021, about TikTok and her unique perspective on how brands and marketers can best work with creators, her biggest pet peeves plus her top 5 takeaways for brands.

How did you get started with TikTok?

I first started with TikTok about nine months ago. After being stuck at home during the pandemic, I thought this would be a great platform to use. I first started as a creator on Instagram and Youtube, but I had friends and family telling me ever since TikTok was created that ‘this is the platform for you.’ At first, I was hesitant to join. But once I did, I really found that TikTok was an excellent platform for small creators, and it gives small creators so much opportunity. Its algorithm felt more ‘fair’ than Instagram, and it helped to slingshot my career on the platform – it’s insane how quickly I amassed my first million followers. 

Why do you enjoy creating content on the platform versus other platforms? 

Firstly, I just love creating content. One of the things I love about TikTok (which I found really challenging initially) was how quickly content turns over on the platform. So, when I first started posting on TikTok I had this fear that if I were to blow up, would I be able to upkeep creative content? Because I was thinking, “You have to post every day, the turnaround is so fast” and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep up with content daily. So, I had this idea in my mind that my creativity was a finite source, and that I would run out of ideas. However, I soon found that creativity is like a muscle that you’re working. Pushing myself to create content every day has pushed me to train this ‘muscle’ and I now almost can’t keep up with how many ideas I have.  

TikTok allows me to play with different themes, scripts, and trends to challenge myself creatively. 

The other thing I love about TikTok is that you get instant feedback. The TikTok algorithm is very organic and very fair. It differentiates from Instagram and Facebook because anyone can go viral. You don’t need millions of followers to have success on the platform. Content is pushed out based on engagement, and the instant feedback is brilliant for helping me craft content. The feedback I gained in the first three months on the platform was invaluable. If a video I posted didn’t do so well, I had an opportunity to see why it didn’t do well immediately. Was the pacing off? Did the jokes not land? Was my performance a bit off? 

Now, I’m never surprised if a video doesn’t do well. I can look at a video and know whether it will perform or not before it’s published. And, when it is published, my thoughts will be confirmed. Plus this instant feedback allows me to learn and improve constantly. 

Given the instant feedback you receive, what do you wish Brands knew about working with creators on the platform? 

Most of the creators that brands will be working with know their audience best. Because we get feedback every single day, as creators, we know what works on the platform, what our audience likes, and I know what sort of video is going to do well. As a result, if brands can trust creators to provide what kind of videos will perform well for them, they will likely have a better result. 

It’s a relatively new thing for brands to work with creators, and as such, they tend to be wary of giving trust and creative control to the content creators they want to collaborate with. But, I’d encourage brands to have trust in the creator they’re engaging with. When you work with a creator on TikTok, I’d make sure that you provide a clear brief, including the points you’d like to make, some background information about the brand, and any notes on the vibe of the video you’d like to hit. Typically, I would then craft and supply a script for approval, where any changes the brand wants can be voiced. It’s interesting to note that many brands will say “We want you to mention the product in the first five seconds of the video.” However, I’ll always note, that this doesn’t work. As users swipe through videos on TikTok, the second that they clock that a video is an ad, they’ll swipe away from it. Whereas, if you put the brand a little later into the video, you’ll create an engaging video that users will keep watching even once they realise it’s an ad, because they’re invested. They’ve already gotten something out of the video.

For me as a creator, it’s just as important to make sure that branded videos are as funny and engaging, or even more engaging than my organic content. That way I’m always giving to my audience. The later delivery always has a better payoff. It’s a very different approach to Youtube, TV and other types of video advertising. 

What’s your pet peeve as a creator? 

When working with a brand, I’ll send off a script, video and cover for any revisions. Alongside this, brands will also receive the caption for the video. A lot of brands will go really wrong when it comes to the caption, as they want it to be very brand heavy and not personal at all. Unfortunately, even if the video is great, if you have a very brand heavy caption it will undo all of the great work from the video. I also think it’s totally unnecessary as well. I think people like to watch the video, and feel like they’re watching a video from their favourite creators. They want it to be authentic. A brand heavy caption instantly makes the content feel inauthentic. 

Now, we always advise any brands we work with to make sure that the caption still reflects my voice and tone, so it’s as authentic as possible. 

How can a brand most effectively work with you on TikTok?

A brand can work most effectively with me by giving me a good amount of creative control. It’s important for brands to recognise that we want to collaborate with them. It’s just as important to us that the video goes as viral as possible, as it is to them. 

How do you think brands should approach TikTok Creator rates?

I would always make sure that brands are fairly compensating creators. Let us know how many deliverables you need, the usage rights, what links in the bio you’ll need, and whatever else adds value. 

Myself and my manager will then always look at standard rates and will negotiate the rates once deliverables have been agreed. Please be aware that for creators, this is our career, and it does require remuneration. 

By working with a creator, we are able to help you reach a large audience, create authentic content, and can be far less expensive to work with than traditional video boosting, for the same equivalent reach. 

Please also feel free to reach out to Creators via Spark Ads. It’s a great way to connect with the creator directly, instead of emailing. 

What’s the most exciting development you’ve seen on TikTok in the last few months? 

In Australia, it’s been such an exciting thing to see the film industry taking TikTok quite seriously. I’d had the opportunity to work with Screen Australia, Sundance and other industry funding bodies. It’s amazing to see. Cannes film festival even has a worldwide competition running via TikTok right now! 

What are your top 5 takeaways?

  • Creators like to be very involved in the creative process. Please be open to our ideas. Creating is fun, and while we want to be professional, the best ideas always come from fun conversations. We want to hear your fun ideas too!
  • Provide a clear and concise brief. Include key brand information, the tone of the video, and what points you’d like to be communicated.
  • An audience shouldn’t feel like they’re watching an ad. Hook them in with storytelling first. 
  • Make sure the caption of your video isn’t too brand heavy, so it remains as authentic as possible. 
  • Remember, all creators want the video to perform just as much as you do. It’s in our interest to make this video go as viral as possible too. Trust in us as creators. 

Need a hand with your influencer marketing? 

Here at Compass Studio, we specialise in servicing ethically mindful, environmentally sustainable, nature-loving and purpose-led brands. Call us on +61 412 356 727, or email hello@compass-studio.com if you would like to find out more about us.

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