As brands bet on whitelisting creator content for their advertising strategies on TikTok and Instagram, creator commerce platform LTK (formerly Rewardstyle and Liketoknow.it) is doing ad buys for the first time.
On Friday, the platform announced LTK Boost, a service in which it selects and puts paid spend behind content from its roster of influencers via TikTok’s, Instagram’s and Facebook’s boosting tools.
“Paid media has existed for a while, but we believe that when it’s coming from the creator’s handle, it’s in their authentic voice. It’s going to resonate that much more than coming from a brand handle,” said Stephanie Sandbo, vp of brand partnerships at LTK.
The move is aimed at streamlining the paid media process for brands and creators. In 2022, the company reported that $3.6 billion worth of goods were sold through its influencer affiliate links in 2022. In addition to affiliate links, the company facilitates influencer campaigns. Prior to the introduction of LTK Boost, brands wishing to put paid spend behind LTK influencers’ posts had to do so independently or through other third-party agencies.
The feature has been rolled out in beta to a test group of 10 brands, including Ulta Beauty, Adidas and HSN — the latter used it for a multi-brand beauty campaign. The test run delivered “up to 4X sales growth,” said Sandbo.
“Whitelisting” creator ads has become especially popular among brands in the TikTok era as they amplify viral organic posts about their products through the TikTok Spark feature. This strategy proved successful for Glossier, which boosted a viral post about its Glossier You fragrance that drove a major sales spike.
Instagram’s main source of revenue directly from creator posts comes from boosted ads. The company created a short-lived LTK competitor affiliate platform for influencers in June 2021, but shut it down in August 2022.
Focused exclusively on influencers that are a part of the LTK platform, their ads bought via LTK will direct to the influencer’s LTK shopping page that includes a curation of multiple products. Sandbo emphasized that partner brands will have access to more data through LTK by using this method, while influencers can receive two sources of income via both the platform’s boost program and LTK affiliate links.
Sandbo noted that brands take a variety of approaches with this feature, ranging from automatically boosting all commissioned content at the start of a specific campaign to evaluating influencers’ posts for virality potential. In the case of TikTok, 100% of campaign posts have been boosted by the brands, while Instagram posts have undergone more evaluation on whether they are driving sales.
The feature also comes as social media is becoming more “pay to play” for brands than ever, said Sandbo.
“Really starting last year, brands would come to LTK and they were recognizing that social media algorithms were changing. Also, what was working at one point wasn’t working the next day,” she said. “The constant is that it’s ever-changing. Once you feel like you figured out the secret sauce — maybe Reels today is performing really well on Instagram, and the static posts are no longer working — that could absolutely change.”