During an earlier era of social media, making it big as an influencer was a glamorous one-way ticket out of a corporate day job. But for TikTok influencers, it’s now a way into one.
When searching for marketing employees with a knack for making viral TikTok videos, brands are going straight to the source: influencers. Joining companies across categories such as Nerf and Olipop, beauty labels are now recruiting TikTok influencers to manage their accounts.
This summer, skin-care brand Wldkat hired TikTok influencer Michael Dion (@michaeldoesmakeup, 37,600 followers) to handle its brand account after his review of the brand came across founder Amy Zuzunegui’s For You Page earlier in the year.
“I flew into his DMs and just said, ‘I have to thank you so much as the founder of Wldkat,’” said Zuzunegui. Both based in L.A., they started chatting and eventually met up for drinks. Zuzunegui was impressed with his depth of knowledge around TikTok strategies and trends.
“We know the tricks,” said Dion, of TikTok influencers. “We are always watching the trends because we need our page to go off.”
He now works for the brand part-time managing its TikTok account, where he comes up with content ideas and films them, featuring videos both with and without him speaking onscreen.
For brands looking to hire TikTok talent, the draw is obvious: Influencers have a proven track record in knowing how to create virality on the platform, a goal many brands have struggled to achieve.
“A big benefit of a brand hiring an employee with a following online is that usually these people know much more about social media, content creation and connecting with users than certain corporate social media managers,” said Alessandro Bogliari, CEO and co-founder of influencer agency The Influencer Marketing Factory.
“Companies are looking to employ people who are already creators because they know how to do it,” said Andreea Öztürk, pr manager at creator marketing agency TikTal. “If you employ a creator, they know how to do everything,” including editing and speaking on camera.
In addition, their friendships with other influencers can help brands build relationships with a range of popular personalities. For example, Dion introduces potential TikTok brand partners to Zuzunegui.
“He’s like, ‘You have a Zoom at 1:00 and you’re talking to this person, and they have 960,000 followers,’” said Zuzunegui.
The rise of recruiting through TikTok has also attracted influencers to brands’ corporate offices. When CeraVe recruited for its TikTok creator/video producer position by asking applicants to submit a TikTok video about the brand using the hashtag #CeraVeCareer, it received 50 videos; the hashtag earned 6.6 million views. TikToker Alyssa Kimber, who has 503,000 TikTok followers, posted a product review with the hashtag, while specific job application video creators included a skinfluencer (@d1na_th, 31,000 followers), a Roblox cartoon maker (@buildsbymike, 23,000 followers) and a fitness influencer (@levinarobin, 7,000 followers).
“There were quite a [few applicants] that had 1,000-10,000 followers,” said Adam Kornblum, vp and head of global digital marketing at CeraVe. But he emphasized that creative talent rather than follower count is the brand’s priority for hiring.
“We’re looking for someone who is a pro at TikTok. That doesn’t mean they need to be an influencer, per se,” he said. For the position, he said the brand is evaluating for storytelling, creativity and trendspotting.
While top-echelon influencers like Addison Rae and the D’Amelios make millions, the income to be made from micro-influencing is generally a side hustle rather than a quit-your-day-job amount of money. According to a 2022 report by Izea, nano influencers — those with over 1,000 but under 10,000 followers — make $901 per sponsored post, on average, across platforms. Meanwhile, micro-influencers — those with over 10,000 but under 50,000 followers — make $1,516. But rates can vary wildly; Dion recalled a brand recently offering him $164 for four videos. Corporate social media management jobs can provide a more stable source of income for their skills.
For influencers joining brands full-time or part-time, the question remains whether they will have any agreements on what other brands they are allowed to promote on their own channel. As a part-time staff member, Dion hasn’t been given posting parameters from Wldkat. For CeraVe, “That’s something we really need to go through,” said Kornblum. “It is a bit of an interesting dilemma.”
TikTok is proving to be a nontraditional entry point into the corporate world. Bogliari said that his agency has worked with retail store employees-turned-TikTokers who were hired into their employers’ corporate offices after getting noticed for viral content.
Working with recruiters, “I’m seeing more people come through for social media positions that either have a large following themselves or have had a different sort of experience than just managing a corporate brand’s social media account,” said Zuzunegui. In her view, “It doesn’t matter that [Dion has] not had a corporate job.”