TikTok Ads for Affiliate Marketing: Now or Ever?

TikTok app Logo - mobile device

Who doesn’t like a proper goofy video? We all have our guilty pleasures. That’s probably why people are paying crazy money to feature their ads side by side with the most unusual content. And it usually pays off! So what if I told you that today there is a whole hub of the weirdest user-generated content (UGC) with more than 300 million monthly active users (MAUs) and it is still relatively free of ads? Can you smell the opportunity yet?

Sure, investing a fair share of your next quarter’s budget in one type of advertising may seem risky. Especially, if you haven’t had much experience with it before. But hear me out: by 2023, more than 209 million of US video viewers are expected to use smartphones (e-Marketer). That’s why if you’re still contemplating if investing in the mobile video ads is a good move – think no more! 

It is. You can love it, you can hate it, but there’s not much you can do to change that. 

So, it’s time to adapt. 

And this holy grail of mobile weirdness? TikTok!

So take 5 minutes of your time to find out:

    • Why TikTok will be worth your while;
    • How to run marketing campaigns on TikTok;
    • Where TikTok stands on affiliate deals;
    • How TikTok ads work exactly;
    • About using proper campaign tracking to save you time and boost your ROI.

Without further ado, let’s dive in! 

TikTok for Advertising

How do you get the best out of affiliate marketing? You research, plan, and improve each and every one of your campaigns. This process requires a lot of time and dedication on your side, but it definitely pays off in the end. But first, you will have to choose the right platform. And before you close this article and run to Facebook and Instagram for help – hear me out! There’s more fish in the sea. 

If you do decide to stick to Facebook though, make sure to check out this awesome guide for creating divine ad campaigns there. 

But let’s assume you’re brave enough to try something new, shall we? 

What is TikTok

Remember Vine? It rose fast and fell hard some years ago just to be rapidly replaced by Musical.ly – an app adored by teens back in 2017 for finally making their lip-sync dreams come true. Unfortunately, Musical.ly didn’t really last either. Rising from its ashes, Chinese Douyin brings back the era of short funny music-centered videos. 

Now, this story features a lot of legal shortcomings and a far-too-common-these-days clash between Chinese and American lawyers. Spoiler alert: they settled. And TikTok emerged as a Western analog for Douyin. That’s important because we need to evaluate the app performance somehow and it’s perfectly up to you to check TikTok alone or get a bigger picture by measuring the success of the entire enterprise. For the purpose of this post, we’ll just focus on the Western market. 

So, in brief – TikTok gives its users the opportunity to record short (around 15-sec long) videos, edit them, and reach trending posts based on geolocation and other users’ personal preferences. With a little bit from Vine, a little bit from Snapchat, and a lot of Musical.ly it is now the most downloaded Appstore app from the worldwide and has just recently hit the 1.5 billion download mark leaving Instagram behind. 

TikTok - Apple app store download data

TikTok Vs Youtube Vs Snapchat

One of the most common and – to be fair – reasonable concerns about TikTok is that it is still behind other video-centered apps like Youtube and Snapchat. But does it mean that it should be neglected? Let me throw in some more numbers. As of 2018, more than 54% of users preferred video content over other marketing materials. Here, Youtube with its nearly 2 billion MAUs is the king. 

But another piece of statistics suggests that almost ⅔ of users only watch up to 90 seconds of video content thrown at them. That, together with the clear dominance of mobile traffic, makes apps dedicated to short video content the best. That’s where Snapchat (301 million MAUs) comes in. In fact, when it comes to direct competition, TikTok should feel much more threatened by Snapchat as compared to Youtube. And yet, TikTok somehow manages to keep its little head high and proudly rise through the ratings. 

Who uses TikTok

TikTok is in the Top10 Mobile Social Media apps with more than 300 million monthly active users. Celebrity figures like Mark Zuckerberg, Will Smith, and Jimmy Fallon are among them. Together with its Chinese alter-ego Douyin (625 MAUs), the numbers add up to nearly a billion, which is not too far from the industry’s giants like Instagram and Facebook. Not too shabby! Moreover, TikTok is a recently new app, which means new demographics, easier implementation of in-app ads, and less bias from the audience.

Now, it’s almost too good to be true, so there’s gotta be some sort of a catch. Indeed, the main issue most of the marketers have today with TikTok is that it’s mainly popular with users aged between 16 and 24. But the numbers are slowly changing and the audience slowly becomes more mature. But for now, if you happen to target representatives of Gen Z in particular – this is your goldmine. 

TikTok Ads 101

All of the above adds up to several conclusions:

First, nowadays TikTok is the app gen-z-ers turn to whenever they’ve got a phone in their hands (which is a lot). Given the effectiveness of mobile advertising – this may be your time to shine! 

Secondly, they are gen-z-ers. It brings its own limitations, but in general, it suggests that TikTok has very well-defined demographics, you just need to decide whether or not it fits your needs. 

TikTok’s algorithms depend on proper tracking. Given that the app recommends videos based on location and behavioral patterns (yeah, there are a lot of privacy settings you gotta agree to prior to enjoying some of our age’s weirdest content) its database is heaven for every affiliate fishing for insights regarding their TA. In fact, TikTok’s database happens to be so explicit that it even raises concerns in the U.S. government. And if they think there’s a lot to learn about the gullible Americans scrolling for some memes brought to life  – why shouldn’t you? 

Lastly, video is a preferred type of content for successful content marketers worldwide and the main (the only, to be fair) type of content on the platform. It means that instead of torturing yourself with the never-ending dilemma of what kind of ad fits best what channel – it’s done for you! 

So let’s have a look at how advertising on TikTok actually looks like. 

Types of TikTok Ads

A lot of people view TikTok as a perfect platform for the new generation of influencers to build up their network and migrate it for other more developed channels. While it’s true, the app’s power is not limited to follower mining. 

Generally, advertising on TikTok falls into the category of “Advertainment”, as it becomes the product owner’s priority to match the ad to the general feed of the target audience. Fortunately, extensive tracking makes that not only possible but also fairly easy. 

The main issue here is to choose the type of ad you need to invest in. Currently, there are 5 major ad types available for TikTok users: 

  • In-feed videos come as a form of native advertising. Each ad pretends to integrally fit the general feed. Easily scrollable, not that annoying, and pretty simple to track performance.
  • Brand takeover is presented as a full-screen immersive ad and is arguably the most disruptive type of ads on TikTok. It is usually shown within the first few seconds that a user is interacting with the app and unlike the rest of the ads may be a simple image or an animated gif as well as the video. An important thing to mention is that the amount of advertisers per day in each country is limited.
  • TopView can be treated as a hybrid between the brand takeover and in-feed video. These ads open as soon as the app is launched but they easily fit into the users’ feed. The key difference from in-feed videos is that TopViews take the whole screen so that the promoted content is the only thing for the user to focus on. No distractions.
  • Branded lenses and effects come as yet another way to raise brand awareness for the product. Bigger brands invest in the development of custom brand-related lenses and effects that will be used by users to create their own creative content.
  • Hashtag challenge is basically the UGC at its best. The brand needs to create a video with a distinct element (e.g. dance or audio), tag it with a branded hashtag, pay to sponsor it directly to TikTok marketing team, and watch people go crazy creating variations of the original. The success of the ad performance is basically judged by how well it will be received by the users, whether it will catch on or fade into oblivion together with the round sum of money you forked out.   

TikTok types of video ads


I guess it’s safe to assume that not all of these ads will make sense to an affiliate marketer as yourself. 

TikTok Advertising Campaign Cost

I know, I know, all this info is priceless and very valuable, but how about the big question: how much? Well, here we go. 

With different types of ads naturally come different types of pricing. We live in the age of “send DM to learn the price”, which is why finding information about the average cost of a TikTok ads campaign may be challenging. I ran a quick search myself and here’s the gist of what you can expect (note that your own experience with TikTok Ads may be slightly different): 

TikTok advertisement pricing

On top of that, an average CPM is $10 and the platform requires the minimum investment of $500

Well, that ain’t cheap. But at the same time, you will be granted access to the multi-million user platform which is not yet swarmed with ads preying on you from every corner. It’s the good-old “quality vs quantity” choice, my friends, and it’s time for you to choose wisely! 

TikTok for Affiliate Marketing

I guess it’s time we address the elephant in the room: can you actually live your the-best-of-both-worlds fantasy and run affiliate ad campaigns through Gen Z-ers favorite app? Well, the short answer is: not yet. 

Stay with me, though. 

And let me quickly explain what exactly is happening to TikTok right now. 

How TikTok Business Works

We all know that to run ads on social media you need to have a business account. You have to choose the name, add a link (or not), sometimes choose a plan – and go ahead, advertise all you want. 

Well, TikTok is different. The platform is running Preferred Promoters system, meaning that before they activate your account they will actually run a full background check on you, your offer, and your business activity. Which means that if something’s fishy – no golden mountains of TikTok-ado for you. 

Road to El Dorado reference

The main rule (as of today) is that only product owners are allowed to run ads on TikTok. That means no affiliates. And I see how that poses a problem for both of us here. But don’t panic just yet. 

Silver Linings

First of all, let’s focus on the bright side and mention right away that TikTok is still quite a new toy in the store. It means that they constantly introduce new updates and changes to their monetization techniques. So fast, in fact, that our tech writers can’t always keep up. 

So, there’s a really good chance that the platform will conform to the capitalist pressure of the West and change their advertising compliance restrictions in the nearest future.

Secondly, the app works perfectly well and brings great results for the product owners who chose TikTok as a traffic source for their ads. So if you already have a product you would like to advertise and a legit basis for it to be accepted – TikTok ads is the right choice for you.

Tracking ads on TikTok: Best practices & Useful Tips

So, let’s assume you’ve weighed all the pros and cons and decided to fork up the money needed to sponsor your next ad campaign. How can you be sure that it reaches just the right people and your traffic isn’t wasted on bots and middle schoolers? 

Enter tracking! 

Why ad tracking is important

Here’s a moment of the ugly truth: if you’re not tracking your campaigns, you’re losing time and money.

Knowledge from the Web, insights gathered on affiliate forums and an unerring gut feeling are all great, but they won’t be enough to make a living as an affiliate. Unfortunately, nothing will help you if you lack data. If you want to succeed, you need to track every parameter of your campaign: offers, creatives, referrer links, carriers, browser versions, device models and so on.

This is why you need an ad tracker.

Not only will it provide you with more information about your target audience, but it will also make research so much easier for you in your future affiliate endeavors. I’m talking automation, multitasking, A/B testing, and many more fascinating solutions one button away from you.

Nowadays, ad trackers come in all shapes and sizes and it’s up to you to choose the one that resonates with you the most. Just make sure it supports all the traffic sources and affiliate networks you will need in the future. For example, Voluum has a well-developed and constantly growing partner network. This way, all of its subscribers can:

  • Get extensive data analytics from various organic and paid traffic sources – so not only TikTok but also Facebook, Google and more! 
  • Direct their ads towards relevant audiences using advanced targeting and rules; 
  • Optimize ad performance for conversions via automatic A/B testing
  • Protect their campaigns from bots and get firm evidence for chargeback procedures;
  • Track their spending and revenue in multiple currencies simultaneously. 

You can get to know all of Voluum features here and if you find what you’re looking for – don’t hesitate to sign up for your first Voluum plan right away!   

And if you feel that your TikTok campaigns stand a better chance with another third-party tracking platform – worry not! As of today, TikTok is integrated with AppsFlyer, Adjust, Tune, Kochava, FOX, Singular, Party and Tenjin. At the same time, they maintain the measurement partnerships with Moat and IAS. 

On top of that, TikTok offers a pixel solution for the advertisers to track what users tend to do after clicking on the ad. This bit is particularly important in terms of what we’re about to cover next. In general, the app is able to provide all the necessary KPIs of engagement, click-through rate, and even more. So it looks like you’ve got some thinking to do! 

TikTok ads tracking with Voluum

How to track TikTok ads with Voluum

It’s time we leave the theory aside and move on to some practical tips. We have developed a detailed guide with step-by-step instructions for setting up the campaigns both on TikTok and in Voluum. But if you think you’ve got it covered all by yourself, here’s a brief cheat-sheet for you to feel a tiny bit more secure. 

Start with creating a new campaign in Voluum. Nothing new here, just make sure you’ve got an offer, a lander, and a traffic source (TikTok) up and running. Copy the campaign URL once it’s generated and… That’s it for the Voluum setup bit. So it’s time to work with TikTok itself. 

Create a new campaign through TikTok Ads and select conversions as the advertising objective (for this guide’s sake). Moving on to the Ad Group add that strategically copied from Voluum URL to the “Ad Details” sections and set off to create new conversion. 

As friendly as it is, TikTok will offer you to create Pixel in the new tab – kindly do so and task Google Tag Manager to install the pixel manually on your “Thank you” page (or do it yourself, no one will judge you for trying). 

An important thing to keep in mind: don’t forget to confirm tracking the element of the page that you’re interested in. 

Return to the Ad Details tab, refresh it to make sure that all your changes are saved and set up all the important details of your campaign that a considerate TikTok will ask you for. With that, all that’s left is to upload the creative to the “Ad” section and top up your account in “Payments”. 

Pretty easy, isn’t it? 

Plus, now it’s not just TikTok that’s keeping track of all the important user-related data, but also Voluum. As such, you will be able to learn more about the trends in your industry and set up your future campaign accordingly. And none of that expensive advertising traffic will go in vain. 

Use Voluum and untangle TikTok ads together! 

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