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TikTok is testing a new partner program that will see the platform itself split ad revenue with select influencers when brands buy in for “Shop Now” buttons on the creators’ content, per Digiday. Notably, it’s an expansion on the existing shoppable ad features TikTok has been working on over the past year — and on the “Shop Now” button already available to all advertisers looking to direct users to their websites.
This feature fits in with TikTok’s efforts to capitalize on its growing user base with new features for brands to advertise, and for creators to monetize. The first whispers of brands working with TikTok came last spring, when Hollister partnered with the app to begin testing out the Shop Now button on the platform.
TikTok then began testing other social commerce features last November, when it rolled out the option for users to link shopping sites in their bios. Eventually, the platform launched its Creator Marketplace in late 2019, which helps brands find influencers that align with their campaign goals. And, most recently, TikTok opened up its ad API for the first time for a partnership with ad tech company Sprinklr.
These moves are of course meant to allow TikTok itself to drum up revenue from its users — which in the US totaled 37.5 million at the end of 2019, per eMarketer — but also to help attract and retain the driving force behind its popularity, its creators. There’s fierce competition for creators, and monetization is a key path to retaining them: IGTV, for instance, has also been stepping up its game when it comes to creator incentives, and of course YouTube already offers an established path to monetization.
Whether or not this feature appeals to creators will depend on how TikTok implements it — and for now, those plans remain murky. As of now, creators can already work directly with brands to create ads with Shop Now buttons. For example, Digiday noted that Levi’s ran a successful campaign on TikTok that featured a Shop Now button, and also featured TikTok stars. However, the ads were run not in the influencers’ feeds, as the new feature will do, but rather as general in-feed advertisements.
And while details about revenue-sharing for preexisting, in-feed “Shop Now” buttons haven’t been disclosed, the newer iteration will have an 80/20 revenue split, with TikTok taking the lion’s share. Until now, TikTok creators have been working on more Instagram-like terms, wherein they collaborate directly with a brand, but this move suggests that TikTok could view YouTube as a more appealing model. And given that TikTok influencers are used to working directly with brands, it’s unclear if they — the major influencers especially — will be keen to cut the platform in on many deals.
On the other hand, it could benefit smaller creators who lack the resources to broker their own partnerships. Ultimately, how creators receive this feature will come down to whether TikTok gives them a choice to adopt tools like this — which then become just another way for them to monetize — or if it imposes that adoption on them.
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