The Looming TikTok Ban and Implications for Marketing

  • Categories:

    Social Media

  • Date:

    June 4, 2024

The Looming TikTok Ban and Implications for Marketing

Social Media

The unique algorithm that powers TikTok provides an almost mind reading experience by keeping users’ For You Pages fresh with enticing and relevant content. It’s a phenomenon other companies, including Meta, have tried to replicate without success.

It’s also helped drive the social media platform to the top of the class, boasting more than 1.5 billion monthly users who now spend nearly a whole hour daily on the app. The size and loyalty of TikTok’s user base — which helped generate $2.7 billion for parent company ByteDance in 2023 — has made the app an appealing and effective channel for many brands.

However, the ongoing legal battle between the U.S. government and ByteDance has left many marketers wondering about the future of this popular platform.

While predicting the outcome with certainty is impossible, here are the three possible scenarios for TikTok:

  1. TikTok wins: If ByteDance successfully defends itself in court, TikTok will presumably continue to operate, though with additional regulations. This outcome would be the least disruptive for marketers who rely on the platform.

  2. Forced sale: TikTok could be forced to sell to a U.S.-based company. However, ByteDance would likely withhold its powerful algorithm, a closely guarded secret and the key to TikTok’s meteoric success. Without this algorithm, the platform may not produce the same results for its new owner.

  3. Total ban: If ByteDance refuses to sell and loses its legal battle, TikTok could be banned in the U.S., leading users to look for similar experiences on other social platforms such as Instagram (Reels) and YouTube (Shorts).

What immediate actions should marketers take?

Given that the legal battle will likely continue for some time, the current iteration of TikTok won’t disappear right away. Marketers already using TikTok effectively as part of a multichannel strategy don’t need to make immediate changes — the adage “use it before you lose it” applies here. However, staying informed about the legal proceedings and preparing for potential changes is crucial.

If your brand is heavily invested in TikTok, consider diversifying your social media strategy. A balanced channel mix can help mitigate risks and ensure you aren’t left without a viable platform, should TikTok face significant restrictions or a complete ban.

How should influencer marketing pros prepare for a possible TikTok ban?

Influencers and content creators who rely on TikTok for income should also be proactive. Diversifying content strategies to include other platforms, such as Instagram Reels, is essential. While many are hopeful that TikTok will prevail, preparing for various outcomes — from a full ban to new restrictions or ownership changes — is wise.

Is it time to pivot from TikTok?

A full pivot off TikTok isn’t necessary at this point. However, ensuring a well-balanced social media strategy is prudent. This approach will help brands stay resilient in case TikTok’s uncertain future turns for the worse.

Where will TikTok users go?

If TikTok disappears, Instagram would be the most likely alternative due to its similar Reels feature and the existing presence of many TikTok creators. A survey by Vervey forecasts that 71% of users would migrate to Instagram, with Facebook and YouTube as secondary options.

A well-founded Business Insider POV argues millennials still streaming to TikTok have the potential to “make it even bigger and more powerful,” should it survive the ongoing legal battle.

So, though the future of TikTok remains uncertain, marketers should continue to leverage the platform while preparing for potential changes. Diversifying social media strategies and keeping an eye on emerging platforms will ensure that brands and influencers can adapt to whatever outcome the legal battle may bring.

And remember, even though TikTok seems to get most of the buzz — good and bad — it’s certainly not the only social media game in town. Explore four tips to help amplify your brand’s presence on Facebook and Instagram.

Explore more articles from Wray Ward.