Let's say you're growing a business that wants to engage more with creators but you don't know where to start. Creator agencies exist, but what do they do? And is it worth the cost to partner with them? To get some answers, we spoke to Liz Stone, co-founder and creative director at OK COOL – a creative studio in London and New York. It specializes in social media, with a client list that includes sports giant Nike, designer label Gucci and dating app Bumble. In lockdown, TikTok even asked for help on how it could change the app's perception from being the home of lip-sync videos to a place where brands could do business. A year later, OK COOL opened an agency dedicated to helping brands grow on TikTok. 

So, how do you work with brands?

‘We set the social media strategy for brands like Nike, Gucci, [fashion brands] Diesel and Cos, Disney, Bumble, Universal Records and [luxury watchmaker] TAG Heuer. We spend an enormous amount of time on creative development. And then we produce the content in-house, in collaboration with creators. We do top-of-the-funnel, sexy, brand-building content that drives awareness. And then we amplify it with paid advertising.’

What about creators?

‘It's never just: here's some money and here's some product. Can you post about it? We work very collaboratively with the creators and treat them as if they were freelance creatives within the agency. So, we will get on an initial call with them, discuss the brief together and come up with a creative way to deliver this message. We call our briefs love letters. They're very beautiful design decks that are meant to get the creative excited about a potential collaboration. And then once they've come to us with their ideas, we iterate on it, build on it together and then they go ahead and produce the content.’ 

How much do you pay creators?

‘We'll agree to a fee beforehand. And, honestly, there's no regulation around this kind of stuff – some creators will charge you $5,000 for a post, others will charge $500. Typically, the smaller creators have less engagement, and have been around for a shorter amount of time. They're just new, so they'll charge less, but you'll find some creators [who] know that they're TikTok stars, so they'll charge way more.’ 

How can small brands succeed on TikTok?

‘Work with creators in a niche community that's relevant to your brand. Find out who the lead creators are. Then, find out how popular they are. That's measured by the virality of their content, their views and engagement on their posts. TikTok works on an interest graph where you could have zero followers, but your content could still go viral.’

What should be avoided?

‘When brands get wrapped up in promoting their product or their service or themselves and not making it about the community – that's where they go completely wrong. There are exceptions, like with the brand RXBAR, the protein bar that has a cult following, where if you post anything other than pictures of the product, people don't want to know about it. But, generally, on a platform like TikTok, there's a zero tolerance [of] brands coming on and flashing their product.’

And, finally (it's worth a shot), how can a brand go viral?

‘That's the age-old question. There isn't really a rhyme or reason to it, but there are certain things you can do to push it further. The first is to understand what the hottest trending sound or challenge is – and attaching it to your video. You could also invent your own – manufacturing what could be the next trending sound is what we're trying to do with our clients.’

This article was first published in Courier issue 48, August/September 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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