Despite emerging in China in 2016, TikTok became a global sensation during the Covid-19 pandemic. With people forced to stay indoors, they turned to alternative methods of engaging with the world and entertaining themselves, and the video platform offered a no-fuss means of doing this. Since then, it has become a go-to for marketers, celebrities, and the general public alike. But this all changed when ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, breached US privacy laws using the platform. In turn, the US has been attempting to ban the use of TikTok or come to a safe agreement. To find out what’s going on and learn how to prepare for a potential US-wide TikTok band, continue reading.
The US-TikTok Relationship Overview
From 2019 onwards, everyone from celebrities to businesses began to use TikTok, and Lil Nas X even released “Old Town Road” through the platform, and it rose almost instantly to number 1 on the Billboard Charts. However, it wasn’t long before ByteDance found itself tangled with the US Federal Trade Commission, as it paid a $5.7 million fine to settle allegations that they’d been illegally downloading private information of children on the network.
The controversial actions of ByteDance don’t stop there, as documents were leaked in September 2019 that proved video content was being censored if it was deemed offensive by the Chinese Government. From there, an official investigation was launched into ByteDance and how they may have been using the platform to leak sensitive information to the Chinese Government.
Naturally, none of this was sitting well with the Trump administration, and it led to him claiming that he was going to ban TikTok in the US back in July 2020 – he stated this was a retaliation to China’s shortcomings with the global pandemic. By this point, several US military branches had banned TikTok on government-issued phones.
Actions against ByteDance/TikTok only spiraled after this, with Trump issuing executive orders to prevent any US business from engaging in business with the company, and the US Secretary of Commerce was tasked with defining what these banned transactions looked like.
To help alleviate the murky waters, tech company Oracle offered to buy TikTok, which satisfied Trump. However, this sale wasn’t completed before Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 elections, and demand for the sale has since fallen through.
Currently, the US government is turning up the heat with its battle against TikTok’s potential national security threat, as it’s being enforced that all government employees delete TikTok from their work phones; similar bans are being sought across the Western world.
The Likely Pitfalls for Marketers
Naturally, the current US political storm surrounding TikTok is leaving marketers feeling uneasy, as many of them rely on the platform to reach millions of people. After all, there are currently more than 140 million active TikTok accounts in the US alone. As well as this, the platform has an enormous range of tools dedicated to analyzing marketing strategies, which is a huge bonus for professionals.
If the US moves to ban TikTok across the board, any business or influencer relying solely on the app to engage their audience will lose all the hard work they’ve put in, which is why measures need to be put in place to minimize the potential disruption. We discuss this below.
Use “Copycat” Platforms
TikTok set the modern-day standard for video content in the social media world, but there has been an onslaught of “copycat” platforms adopting similar systems. For example, Meta introduced “Reels” for Instagram and Facebook and Google brought “YouTube Shorts” to YouTube. Therefore, rather than concentrating on TikTok, you can push out video content across other well-established platforms; current US TikTok users will have to use them anyway (if the ban goes through).
Diversify Social Media Efforts
If all your eggs are in the TikTok basket, it’s time to spread them out to other social media platforms. By engaging users on additional platforms, all you’re doing is opening the door to a potentially larger audience. The best-case scenario is that TikTok remains in the US, and you’ve just gained more followers.
Direct Followers to Other Platforms
Whenever you post content on TikTok, direct users to other platforms as well – providing it’s contextual. By leaving all of your contact details on the platform, your followers will know where to reach you if the ban ever comes to pass.
Utilize Mailing Lists
If you operate a mailing list on your website, encourage TikTok users to sign up. That way, you will always have a direct line for your marketing efforts, and it won’t matter if the platform gets removed from US-based app stores.
The balance is shifting between the US government and ByteDance all the time, so it’s important to keep in touch with the latest news. The best way to do this is by setting up a Google Alert, which will notify you whenever a new story is released on your chosen topic. As well as this, be active on platforms like Twitter, which is often where news stories drop first.
At the time of writing, the TikTok ban in the US is merely speculative – nothing has come to pass. Therefore, make efforts to diversify your marketing strategy, but remember to play it cool as well. If TikTok takes the plunge, there will be another app to take its place (just look at what happened to MySpace and Vine back in the day). As well as this, the use of a VPN is all the rage these days, so only a complete global TikTok ban will keep people from accessing the app.
There’s no denying the value and reach TikTok has to influencers, businesses, and celebrities. If ongoing negotiations between the US Government and ByteDance result in a country-wide ban, the impact will be felt significantly. To prepare for the possible, begin diversifying content to other platforms, directing people to mailing lists, and reading the latest news. Lastly, remember to keep calm because nothing has passed to impact the general public at this point.