What makes an appealing influencer?

DataRes at UCLA
9 min readJul 21, 2023

Authors: Sumedha Goyal (Project Lead), Briana Ngyuen, Taylor Prince, Garren Lee, Sujay Syal, Sue Tang

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In recent years, the use of social media has grown exponentially, with everyone trying to promote their products/services and even themselves on various platforms. More and more people are quitting their full time jobs or dropping out of school to become content creators, especially on platforms such as Youtube, Instagram and TikTok. Businesses have also taken advantage of social media, advertising their products using current trends to reach their target audience, hoping to increase revenue.

However, not everyone is able to strike it big in social media, with only a handful of people making enough money to sustain themselves. We wanted to explore why the public is obsessed with top creators, or why they are getting hundreds of free packages loaded with free goodies. This article takes a deep dive into the success of these top TikTok influencers, exploring their demographics, engagement, and much more.

The Data

We define a TikTok influencer as someone that makes content as a part of their income. To obtain data, we used web scrapers on various profiles of top TikTok influencers and on videos/audios as a whole.

Where are They From?

To start off, we will look at the demographics of top Tiktok influencers. Analyzing the graphs, we can delve into the factors that contribute to the success and popularity of these top TikTokers. While residing in the United States appears to be a common trend among them, it is important to note that TikTok’s global reach has enabled creators from various countries to gain immense popularity as well. The United States has dominated the entertainment industry and California being dubbed America’s entertainment hub could potentially explain this phenomenon. In addition to location, the content created by these top TikTokers plays a crucial role in their success. It is evident that the type of content produced resonates strongly with the teenage to early-adult demographic. These content creators have managed to captivate their audience and keep them engaged, whether it’s because of dance challenges, “a day in my life” vlogs, or comedic skits.

If we shift our attention to the gender distribution, we see that there are not substantial differences, indicating a relatively balanced representation among TikTok’s user base. A key characteristic of top TikTokers lies in their ability to create content that is relatable and entertaining, catering to the interests and aspirations of their followers. Now that we have basic information about the demographics of the users, we can begin to explore the kinds of content they promote that drives their popularity.

What Type of Content are Top Influencers Creating?

After categorizing the content of the top 100 TikTokers in the U.S. into a simple pie chart, it can be seen that overall, the niches are quite diverse ranging from beauty and skincare to magic. However, most influencers appear to be generating content relating to comedy, dance, entertainment and pranks followed by music, vlogs and beauty. The entertainment genre is quite broad, but usually consists of a combination of the other genres, challenges, duets, and filters. It was mainly given to users who did not appear to have a specific niche and produced more casual content. As a result, although there are a large portion of big influencers that are focusing on specific content, such as beauty, comedic skits, pranks and music, there are also a good portion that do not focus on a specific niche.

This means that a major portion of successful TikTok stars either delve in comedy, vlogs or dance or a combination of multiple categories. This is really interesting, because TikTik was a platform that originally blew up through dances and it seemed to have shifted to a combination of Vine (comedy/skits), Youtube (vlogs) and Instagram type content (fashion, beauty). In order to promote themselves and get on the ForYou page, many TikTok influencers also utilize hashtags in captions, which can affect engagement.

What Hashtags do you Need to Get on the FYP?

The stacked bar chart above shows the average level of engagement for each engagement type across the list of hashtags. One noticeable trend in the stacked bar chart is that hashtags related to the FYP (i.e. For You Page) exhibit relatively high levels of engagement. This makes sense because the FYP is the main discovery feed on the app that is personalized to users’ preferences, so when TikTokers’ videos are on the FYP, they are exposed to viewers who are interested in similar content and, hence, are more likely to engage. Additionally, both content-related hashtags (e.g. duet, comedy/funny, challenge, and behind the scenes) and niche-specific hashtags (e.g. moms and dads of tiktok) appear to be associated with higher levels of engagement, indicating that users on TikTok are more inclined to engage with content that aligns with specific categories or target audiences.

In contrast, based on the stacked bar chart, platform-related hashtags that mention “TikTok” and “follow” tend to generate lower levels of engagement. Thus, we can conclude that TikTokers’ viewers are generally less responsive to generic hashtags compared to specific hashtags, especially ones tailored to their interests. Also, relatively longer or wordier hashtags seem to correlate with lower levels of engagement than shorter hashtags, such as #cuteboy versus #cute and #viralpost versus #viral. This suggests that using more concise hashtags may be more effective in capturing the interest of viewers and motivating them to engage with the content. Understanding the influence of different hashtags on viewer engagement ultimately helps TikTokers not only maximize their reach on the app, but also appeal to a target audience, which will be discussed in relation to product advertisement in the following section.

Do More Views Mean More Appeal?

In order to examine the appeal of influencers, it is important to evaluate the acceptance and popularity of product advertisements they post. This is closely linked to their relatability to the audience. When an influencer is relatable, their audience is more likely to embrace their advertisements and make purchases as a result. In the case of TikTok influencers, relatability can be measured by comparing the Percent view count to the Percent Like count or Percent share count for advertising videos. It is worth noting that the view count on TikTok generally relates to the number of followers, so comparing across influencers on view counts is not reasonable. By assessing the Percent view count (calculated by dividing view counts by the number of followers), we can determine the level of engagement an influencer has or the exposure their videos receive. To gauge relatability, we can compare the Percent view count with metrics such as the Percent Like count and Percent share count. By examining the relationship between the Percent view count, Percent Like count, and Percent share count, we can identify which advertisements attract and are accepted by a larger audience, which indicates the relatability of an influencer.

The above graphs illustrate the percentage of play counts for the top 20 influencers in the beauty category on TikTok, along with their corresponding percentage of Like counts and share counts. The data reveals a trend wherein influencers with a higher percentage of play counts, indicating a larger relative audience, tend to exhibit higher Like counts and share counts. However, there is an interesting observation regarding the TikToker “meili_zzz.” Despite having a relatively higher percentage of play count, this influencer does not possess outstanding share counts or Like counts. This suggests that while “meili_zzz” may have a larger audience, a significant portion of that audience did not engage with or share her videos. This finding implies that she may not be as appealing as other bloggers in the beauty category. By analyzing the data points in both graphs, we can delve deeper into the relationship between view count, share count, and Like count, leading to a comprehensive analysis of the factors contributing to an influencer’s appeal.

How Often Should You Post?

We wanted to examine another factor that influences a TikTok influencer’s success, which we defined as the number of followers. This factor was the average time between their posts, to see if the frequency has a correlation with how many followers a creator has. To acquire this data, we split the data into two categories. The blue points represent 20 influencers in the beauty community who receive a lot of PR packages from various companies. The orange points represent the top 20 creators on TikTok who are not celebrities or companies.

Between the two groups, we noticed that among the top influencers there is not a correlation between follower count and the average time between their posts, leading us to conclude that the frequency of how much they post does not actually affect their engagement. On the other hand, in the beauty community, there seems to be somewhat of a correlation between the amount of followers and the average time between posts. The less time there is between posts, the more followers a creator has. By posting frequently, these creators’ followers trust them to post often, which may lead to them gaining more followers because they could be seen as more “trustworthy”. However, since this correlation is quite loose, there are probably other factors at play, because there are many influencers that post a lot, but do not have a lot of followers.

What Audios Should You Use?

Hashtags and audios remain the primary motivating factor behind the total impressions on a particular piece of social media content. By better understanding trends in musical elements and metrics, we can find patterns that differentiate successful long term content versus memes and hypecurves. This is especially important with the recent rise of catchy audios that influencers regularly use to get access to targeted audiences. Audios are in a way reshaping the way influencers target niche audience because they are more efficient than and require less effort to make an imprint on viewer’s mind. Instrumentalness is the chance of an audio having no spoken words. As observed below, there is a correlation behind why the most popular audios having some sort of human vocals, perhaps a sound that is more relatable to viewers. Observing the scatterplot of Track Popularity vs Time Signature, we can see that a time signature of 4 is overwhelmingly popular on Tik Tok. Instrumentalness, on the other hand, had minimal impact on how engaged the audience was with the audio track.

Instrumentalness vs. Track Popularity

Time Signature vs. Track Popularity

Speechiness vs. Track Popularity

Conclusion

Social media is on the rise, and this is just the beginning of a new era. Figuring out the best way to beat the algorithm is no cakewalk, and there are many factors that come into play, such as the type of content one creates, where they’re based, and the music they use. We hope this analysis gives you an insight into a way you can potentially rise to fame through social media.

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