TikTok Bans — What Should Your Business Do?

With the recent news surrounding TikTok bans in the United States, advertisers have reason to be concerned about its effect on their advertising strategies. After exploding in the space and taking over as a leader in digital advertising, TikTok’s reign may be in jeopardy. It’s reasonable to ask, “what should my business do?” in light of the news surrounding the platform’s data security. 

Why is TikTok getting banned? 

The short answer is that as of this article’s publication date on 12/15/2022, TikTok is not getting a complete ban in the United States. A much longer answer is needed to understand the context of recent news surrounding TikTok bans. 

With a reported, 1.2 billion monthly active users in Q4 2021, the short video app has become the shiny new toy in social media. Marketers, in particular, have flocked to the platform post-iOS 14.5’s effect on Facebook — and have been generating incredible ROAS for brands in all verticals. Influencers, eCommerce leaders and even airline companies have flocked to the platform to connect with audiences organically but also to run ads. 

TikTok launched in China in 2016 and quickly gained traction, sparking parent company ByteDance to launch an international version of the app the following year. The app initially gained popularity with teenagers and the 20-35 crowd but has since made significant gains with Gen X and Baby Boomers. 2020 kicked off the app’s surging popularity, amassing 693 million downloads globally, sending it to the top of ‘most-downloaded’ app lists – but not without controversy. 

Source: https://influencermarketinghub.com/tiktok-stats/

India and Pakistan have banned the app, citing “morality issues.” Issues with the app started springing up in the United States as well: risky video “trends” like “NyQuil chicken” (Yep, it’s exactly what you think it is), milk crate climbing, and even sticking pennies into electrical outlets took the app by storm, landing many teenagers in trouble and parents looking for explanations. Despite the extensive press on outlandish TikTok-related accidents and pranks, the top concern for TikTok remains the question of data privacy and how user information is used by parent company, ByteDance. 

Where is TikTok Currently Banned? 

As of mid-December 2022, seven states (Alabama, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Utah) have announced a ban on TikTok on government devices. 

Additionally, Indiana has drafted two lawsuits against TikTok, accusing the platform of misrepresenting its data security. The concerns aren’t stopping at the state level, though. 

On December 13, Senator Marco Rubio proposed a bipartisan bill to ban TikTok from operating in the United States, citing data privacy as the top concern. TikTok hasn’t commented on this legislation but has said, “the safety, privacy and security of our community is our top priority.” 

How do TikTok bans affect marketers?

As a marketer, maybe you’re feeling like the TikTok wave is coming to a grinding halt just as your brand is working up the gumption to explore the platform. Your brand may already have an established TikTok presence, and you’re wondering what’s next. 

You can’t predict government action on TikTok, but you can decide how your brand prepares. Here is our recommended plan of action while the situation develops: 

Don’t Tune Out

Now isn’t the time to stop paying attention. Legislation on TikTok feels as if it’s changing every day, and if your brand has explored the platform, keep a pulse on what’s happening so your brand can react accordingly. 

Utilize TikTok Content Elsewhere

No matter your personal feelings on “TikTok copycats” such as Instagram Reels, plugging your existing TikTok content into these platforms is a safer way to push out video content if current TikTok legislation is a concern. If you’ve created valuable video content for your brand, use it on other platforms and in other use cases, like in your newsletter or on your website. No TikTok watermarks, though – Instagram doesn’t like these

Keep Yourself Honest on Your Media Mix

Social media is not owned media. We know it certainly feels like it is, but here’s the truth: Platforms change rapidly, and your brand has no control over things like national bans, algorithm flux or site outages. Are you prioritizing a single platform versus nurturing your audience holistically? If TikTok was banned tomorrow, what would that mean for your brand? As we saw with Twitter’s ownership change, platform-wide changes shake up the very foundation of the network itself and call ad spend into question. 

Maintain relationships with your audience across a thoughtful variety of mediums, and don’t pledge your undying loyalty to any one platform – it may be gone tomorrow. Such is the state of social media in 2022. 

Consider Your Stance

Is data privacy part of your brand? Are you a government-aligned brand? Your ‘stance’ on TikTok usage may have already been decided for you as a result. But if not, think about all the puzzle pieces. While it’s not necessary for every brand to have a ‘hot take’ on TikTok usage, zoom out to examine the role TikTok may play with your customers, stakeholders and beyond.  

Is continuing TikTok advertising right for your brand? Only you can say. As a trusted partner, we’re here to empower your brand to make smart decisions that align with your cultural and business goals. As we await further news on potential TikTok bans, sit tight with us – we’ll figure out the best path forward together. Looking for a partner who can help you navigate an ever-changing digital advertising climate? Look no further. At Goodway, we’ve partnered with organizations for several decades and through a constantly evolving advertising landscape. Let’s talk!