Inside TikTok's exclusive creator ambassador program, where 12 influencers get paid trips, brand connections, and access to new features

  • TikTok launched an exclusive creator ambassador program in 2019 to help a select group of influencers grow their followings and businesses on the app.
  • The program has several perks, like all-expenses-paid trips, connections with brands, and access to test out new product features.
  • Different from TikTok's college ambassador program, only 12 creators are accepted as creator ambassadors and they are vetted through an extensive interview process with the company. 
  • Business Insider spoke with several members of the program about how they got involved and how the program has helped them grow as influencers and earn money. 
  • Subscribe to Business Insider's influencer newsletter: Influencer Dashboard.

TikTok runs an exclusive ambassador program in which it picks 12 creators at a time and helps them grow their followings and businesses on the app.

The creator ambassador program, which is different from TikTok's college ambassador program, has several perks, like all-expenses-paid trips, connections with brands, and access to test out new product features. 

The six-month program was launched in 2019 and is run by Joyce Chun and Emma Gribbon, who are members of TikTok's creator team. Chun said the ambassadors represent the creator community and come from diverse backgrounds and content styles. They are some of the first to test out new product features, and they communicate with the larger creator world at events and industry panels like VidCon. 

The program ran for the second time in January some of the members included Alan Chow (2.6 million followers), Sarah Lugor (2.4 million followers), Bonnie Rodríguez Krzywicki (2 million followers), and thisaintjay (4.4 million followers).

To be accepted, the creators applied and went through multiple rounds of interviews with the company, Chow and creator Tyler Gaca told Business Insider. They both mentioned that during the interview process the company was focused on finding creators who post original content (instead of only posting trends), and working with people who would be comfortable talking to the public and representing TikTok. 

"I definitely think the ambassador program has been a huge factor in me being able to take things to the next level," Chow said. "Just being surrounded by other creators who know what they are doing really helped me clarify what direction I want to take with my content." 

Business Insider spoke with Chow, Gaca, and several other members of the program, about how they got involved and how the program has helped them grow and earn money.

'I had a lot of really cool branded business opportunities that came through TikTok '

Chow said during the first weekend of the program, creators from across the country were flown out by TikTok to Santa Monica to visit the new office that had just opened in Culver City. 

"We went to Disneyland," he said. "We learned about TikTok and its different features, and we learned from each other, our best practices."

Gaca, who has 800,000 followers, said his favorite experience as an ambassador was in February when TikTok sent him to New York Fashion Week.

"After that the opportunities that were brought along made me take things a lot more seriously," he said. "To have someone at TikTok say they see potential in you and want to see you grow definitely made me feel special."

TikTok's built-in monetization features remain relatively limited, yet there are a number of ways successful TikTok stars are making money, through paid song integrations, brand deals, app marketing, and other methods.

Cosette Rinab, who is a senior at the University of Southern California and has 2.3 million followers on TikTok, told Business Insider in January that working with TikTok directly had helped her expand her business and land sponsorships with brands like Bumble, Hollister, and Universal.

Chow said the program had helped him get partnerships with brands like Adobe, Reese Puffs, and Doordash. He added that promoting brands had become his main source of income.

"I had a lot of really cool branded business opportunities that came through TikTok during the ambassador program," Chow said, like meeting Alicia Keys. "She was promoting her new song, 'Underdog,' and they invited me out. I got to make a fun video with her to the song, and that was definitely a highlight."

Trips and other perks that come with being an ambassador

In general, influencer "ambassador" programs provide a small group of creators with added resources and access to a company (like trips or events). Several ambassador programs simply provide free gifts or exclusive event access. Prominent ones include Sephora's ambassador program #SephoraSquad, Fenty beauty's TikTok-focused ambassador program, and Lululemon's brand ambassador program. 

For TikTok, the benefit of having a program like this is the direct relationship between the company and its users, which is helpful for product or community feedback, the company said. 

Chow said he still regularly talks to the other ambassadors, and as a member, he spent time learning how to work with brands and getting advice on editing and figuring out what to post. 

"Before the program, I was doing some trends, some dances and some cute videos," Chow said. "But joining the program helped me clarify what to focus on. Many different people on the app just create trendy videos that go with the flow, but if you're able to establish a type of comedy that you do, or a type of fashion that you're known for that exists outside of the trends, then I think that really solidifies you as a creator."

For more on TikTok and the influencer industry, check out these Business Insider posts:

  • A TikTok star with 880,000 followers explains the ways she earns money and how much she makes

  • TikTok influencers reveal all the ways they're making money despite the app's limited monetization features

  • A college TikTok influencer with 1.6 million followers explains how much money she makes — and her 3 main sources of income

  • Addison Rae is the world's top-earning TikTok star, according to Forbes. She shared the inside story of her rise to fame.

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