Creating a TikTok Creator Brief (Jenn Wang)

Jenn Wang

This piece is transcribed from a COHLEY webinar on creators, which can be viewed here.

One of the overarching challenges we hear about that have historically prevented brands from just diving into TikTok head first is generating the actual creative. Yet according to TikTok, 70% of ad success relies on your creative.

These challenges and solutions apply to both organic and paid strategies. For example, you might want to test organically to find learnings before you go all in on paid.

The way I’d recommend you work with creators is via what I like to call “controlled UGC.” So that means you’re giving them a creative brief of messaging guidelines, requirements, and dos and don’ts, while also allowing them to bring in their own creativity and authenticity to the content.

This allows you to get the perfect mix of controlled UGC with usage rights. And when you work with creators, you’re able to capture diversity in faces and locations where they shoot, and you get to outsource these creative concepts.

This is going to save your team time and bandwidth of having to conceptualize and execute creative, but it also saves your content from feeling fatigued. I can’t tell you how many brands have told us before they started working with COHLEY that they were just relying on their two Gen Z employees in their office to create and post their TikTok content.

Let’s talk about the two ways you can think about working with creators:

The first is influencer partnerships, and this is probably what most people automatically think of when we start thinking about partnering with creators is where you work with an influencer with a certain amount of followers and get them to post about your brand, to capitalize on their reach.

The lesser known way, and what we would actually argue can often be more valuable, is working with creators for content generation. A social post might not even be required, you can make it optional, but the main goal here is to generate the video assets for your brand to leverage in marketing channels.

The creator’s value here is their creativity, their experience with the app, and their ability to create native, entertaining, authentic content. We’re not looking at follower count or engagement rate because their value is coming from their creative abilities and the content rather than their reach. So I want to challenge you to rethink influencer marketing as a whole here and shift to this idea of creator marketing.

I rarely say “influencer”—I focus on the term “creator.” The concept of influencer marketing is still very hot and prevalent since its emergence for mommy bloggers in the early 2000s, and that’s why influencer rates for organic posts have gone up 44% year over year. But what we’re seeing is organic reach has gone down 43% as platforms are prioritizing paid reach. So when you’re spending money on pure organic reach, you’re paying more for less reach these days.

Pair that with this stat: TikTok Spark ads have 134% higher completion rate and 157% higher six-second view-through rate than standard TikTok in-feed ads.

For those of you that don’t know what Spark ads are, this is an ad feature where you can boost an organic post on TikTok. As a brand, you can boost your own organic post or a creator’s post through a Spark ad.

A Spark ad is promoted from the creator’s page and displays their handle instead of yours. This makes it look less obvious that the video is an ad. And even when the viewers do realize that it’s an ad, they feel the content is more reliable because it’s coming from the viewpoint of a real person instead of the brand. That’s why you see their 134% higher completion rate and 157% higher six-second view-through.

If you are working on influencer partnerships and requiring a post, this is where I would prioritize your spend: instead of wasting your budget, paying for followers and that organic reach where you don’t get the transparency and control as to who’s actually viewing your content, leverage creators for their authenticity they can bring to your ad, their content creation abilities—use the budget you would’ve spent on followers to target the right customer demographics and get granular data on your impressions, click-through rates, conversions, all of the data that comes with paid media.

This doesn’t mean you should stop your organic influencer efforts if you have found a successful strategy. Rather, I would challenge you to think about how you can spend your dollar to get the most value of your creator partnerships and what. You’re using them for that one-time social post.

So here are my pro tips for you.

Think of influencers as an activation channel for your content, the same way you would activate content in a display or social ad. The creator account is another activation channel for you rather than relying on their organic reach to achieve your goals.

If you are having creators post organically, amplify the top organic performers in your Spark ads. You can wait to see which have the highest organic reach, or which content pieces you like the best, and then negotiate those rights to leverage their accounts and content in Spark ads. And get usage rights to the assets, because that’s where you can get limitless ROI in optimizing your ad performance, email performance, wherever you’re activating that content, versus limiting your ROI to just the reach you get from that one-time social post.

Creators are a crucial part of TikTok creative. That’s not to say that you should only post creator content; rather, leveraging creator content can supplement your in-house content, and it’s important that you’re at least testing creator content and measuring performance to pay attention to how your customers are interacting with it.

If you’re sold on working with creators, the very first important step is putting together a creative brief.

This brief should act as a job application and a contract for creators. It should detail all of your content requirements, messaging requirements, and what will hold the creators accountable for generating the type of content you actually want instead of giving them a hundred percent freedom. This is the important part of what I called controlled UGC before.

This is a creative brief template and guide for those of you that have never had to put together a TikTok brief before. I’m going to show you how we use the brief. And you can copy this exact template in a Word doc or in a Google doc for your own purposes.

> DOWNLOAD: COHLEY Creative Brief Template

The brief deliverables, at its core, is what these creators are going to look at when they’re deciding whether they want to work with you. They want to know what is required.

Start by giving the creators an idea of what your brand is about, if they’ve never heard about you or your product. Let the creators know what product they’re going to be receiving. Include a link if you can; include the quantity. Are you going to ship it to them? Do they have to go buy it themselves and you’ll reimburse them? Will you give them a promo code? These are important things to include when you’re working with creators.

And then, compensation. What is important for you is that you’re establishing what your budgets are, and you’re paying according to what the campaign is asking for.

For this project, we paid creators a flat rate across the board—it didn’t matter how many followers they had, because the assets they were producing was just one TikTok video and was the same across the board. Oftentimes when you’re working with influencers for organic posts, there’s a tiered approach where you’re paying creators more with more followers for with more compensation. You don’t have to do that, though, if your goal is really to generate content and or boost the content from their page. You’ll likely have to ask for a rate card or you can just tell the creator what your budget is and they can tell you if they want to participate.

Having sample content is always really helpful for the creators to see what you are looking for. Bad content samples are also helpful for them to see if there are content types you don’t like or you don’t want them to copy.

The bulk of the brief and the information here is going to be in the brief specification.

What really helps is if you give your creators the objective of your campaign; give them context. Tell them that they’re going to be using ads. Tell them what you’re looking for in creators. Are you only working with a certain demographic? Do they require having children because it’s a product for parents? These are things that you need to detail so that the creators know when they’re applying whether they are a good fit or not.

The campaign deliverables we already chatted about, but there’s more detail here in terms of how many seconds you need it for; I would recommend for ads that it stays under 30.

The other thing that is really important for ad content, specifically for TikTok, is that any music that creators use needs to be royalty free. It needs to be found in the TikTok Audio Music Library. One thing that we brief creators on at COHLEY is if you’re going to add music, you need to find the file here. You can play it on your computer or in the app just to figure out which files you want, and then when you are creating the video—within TikTok or in a different video ad editing app–you need to make sure it’s the same track. Otherwise, TikTok will flag it. And that’s the same with trending sounds. Unfortunately, if you are going to use the content for paid media, you can’t use trending sounds that you don’t own as a brand. There are ways that you can purchase the rights to these, but without having to worry about that, they do need to come from the TikTok audio music library, or it needs to be an original sound voiceover from the creator.

The other thing that is specific to ads is this TikTok ad safety zone. This is not an issue when posting organically, but it is if you’re boosting the content or leveraging paid TikTok ads. So this green zone here is what we call the ad safety zone. And what we do is we brief creators on making sure any text overlays or stickers stay within this green safety zone, otherwise they’ll likely get cut off by the CTA button in the ad or the caption. This is different because for organic posts, there is no call to action button and the caption gets nested. So this is something specific to TikTok Ad assets.

In your creative brief, you should definitely include dos and don’ts for both content and for required talking points and messaging. You can also include product benefits: you could include 10 different product benefits and require creators talk about the two or three that resonate best with them.

This creative brief is what holds the creators accountable to generating the content that you are looking for; you should not skim on details here. It should be as straightforward and direct as you can make it.

Once you have that finalized, your next step is setting creator deadlines and due dates. Think about what the timeline is that you’re giving creators. At COHLEY, it’s already preset here for all of the creators, so they can see when they apply to work with you what their due dates are for you. You should figure that out before you reach out to creators that you’re giving them a deadline and they know what to expect.

The next step would be selecting and contracting your creator. It depends on whatever method you’re using to recruit them, whether you’re using TikTok Creator Marketplace, or you’re just doing cold outreach on TikTok. The way that we do it in COHLEY is you actually don’t need to do any recruitment. The creators all apply to work with you directly in the platform. So anybody that you vet through has already decided they do want to work with you. In your vetting process, you should make sure to ask for sample content that’s related to the project, their best work that shows that they can do the project.

You should also just look through their TikTok profile–not to look at their engagement, not to look at their followers, but just to see the type of videos they generate, whether they have the editing and video capabilities and the type of videos that you want to see. So on the COHLEY platform, you can see for every applicant, they send an application message indicating why they wanna work with you, why they think they’re a good fit.

Jenn Wang
Director of Managed Services at COHLEY

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Wonderful tips - totally appreciate the brief, going to save me a ton of time!