As the Clock Ticks on the TikTok Ban, Here’s What Marketers Need to Know

With the future of TikTok in jeopardy for Americans, marketers should be working on backup plans if they use the popular platform. This friction stems from a bill that President Joe Biden signed into law in April that will ban TikTok, unless its Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, sells its shares in the company. Americans seem torn on the matter: A Reuters/Ipsos poll released this week found that 46% of Americans believe China uses TikTok to “spy on everyday Americans.” However, there’s also been significant outcry among younger people as ByteDance appears set to maintain ownership.

Mission North has been watching these developments closely, so we asked our in-house subject matter experts what their advice is for brands and communications professionals.

Logan Wood, Designer

What should content creators be thinking about if TikTok goes away?

“TikTok has had a huge impact on the way content creators connect and market to their audiences. The quick-cut, lo-fi style the platform cultivated has trickled down to other platforms. A potential ban means that the style of content, the creators that make it, and the audiences that crave it will be looking for new platforms to find it. 

Most creators already use multiple platforms, linking their other accounts within their bios and crossposting where the platforms allow – Instagram reels, YouTube shorts, etc. While we wait to hear the fate of TikTok, creators should consider doubling down on promoting their other accounts and optimizing their existing TikTok content to perform best on channels it’s moving to.”

As a Gen Zer, what can marketers learn from TikTok’s popularity with your age demo?

“TikTok’s hyper-curated, niche content—paired with users who post in a more casual and authentic tone than other platforms—has made TikTok feel more relatable to Gen Z. The tone of TikTok is now intrinsic to the way Gen Z uses social media at large.”

Allison Gittings, Vice President, Integrated Strategy

How should brands prepare for this decision?

“The potential ban highlights the importance of brands taking an integrated marketing approach. Relying solely on one platform or just a few to communicate brand message is risky. 

Diversifying the channel mix not only prepares brands for potential disruptions but also helps reach their diverse audiences where they consume media, whether it’s YouTube, Instagram, podcasts or elsewhere. Building your presence across channels and platforms ensures a cohesive story that reaches your audiences at various touch points throughout their day, reinforcing your brand message and ability to do it in creative ways that resonate.

Advertisers should have contingency plans to reinvest paid dollars into other channels. If brands do not have a presence on other social channels, they should secure handles. Exploring alternative influencer partnerships and diversifying content creation will enable brands to prepare for potential shifts.”

Jackie O'Connell, Sr. Director of Digital Strategy

Some B2B marketers have leaned into TikTok to reach different generations, most notably Gen Z. Is there anything else they should do if it goes away?

“I’d recommend that marketers invest heavily into a social listening strategy across all social media channels to understand Gen Z’s current mood regarding this potential ban. What is the sentiment? What are they saying will be their next move? Which social channel will they jump to should the ban happen, and why?

Plan ahead by going directly to the source and listening to your audience. Don’t ever just assume.”

Nick Maschari, Global Corporate Affairs and Corporate Communications Leader

What does the looming TikTok ban tell us about future tech regulations?

“We don’t have to wait long to see how Congress’ more assertive posture around China will impact the technology sector and other critical industries – it's already happening.

We see it, for example, in the proposed BIOSECURE Act focused on the biotech industry. The bill will impact pharmaceutical supply chains and large pharmaceutical companies that have historically done business with Chinese biotechs. Other sensitive, high-performance technologies, such as AI – and especially in the context of defense – face similar dynamics.”

Dan Gunderman, Content Strategist, Former Cybersecurity Journalist

What has TikTok taught us about trust and technology?

“The TikTok craze has been powered by the app’s virality and ability to elevate and potentially enrich average users. However, this can have consequences – like the fear of massive data collection by the Chinese government.

TikTok’s arc – from its peak as the most downloaded app in the world to a potential decline via outright ban – proves that there’s always knock-on effects to blind faith in technology. In this instance, lawmakers have been singing the same tune around potential Chinese data collection: It’s like the U.S.’s efforts to 'rip and replace' telecom equipment from the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE, or warning about Chinese hackers trying to breach American networks.”

Will consumers’ behavior change due to data risks discussed in the TikTok debate?

“They have long taken a laissez-faire approach to popular apps, opening themselves up to terms laid out by Big Tech – because, ‘Well, why not?’

As much as I’d like to think this ‘ultimatum’ will persuade users not to commit personal information to apps without some due diligence, I don’t think it will overpower the collective urge to follow popular trends.”

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