If you work in social media (or tech and advertising more broadly), then you are aware that TikTok has been under scrutiny over data privacy concerns for years. It’s not the first time the platform is facing pressure; most recently with the Biden administration demanding that ByteDance (the app’s parent company) divest its shares of the social media platform or face a total U.S. ban. Any potential ban would be a significant shift in the social landscape, especially now that the platform has 150 million U.S. users and is set to hit over $18 billion in ad revenue this year.
So, what do brands and advertisers need to know?
TikTok is not likely to go anywhere, anytime soon
There will almost certainly be legal challenges to the Biden administration’s actions that could take months or even years to resolve. It is unlikely the platform will cease to operate within this time.
There may be a settlement or scenario that appeases regulators and allows the platform to remain active
This could be in the form of enhanced data privacy and oversight from regulators and/or U.S. companies. It could also involve a U.S. buyer stepping in to satisfy U.S. regulatory demands and keep the app running. Oracle and Walmart are already in talks with the platform.
What is TikTok doing to address safety?
TikTok’s response to regulators is taking shape in the form of “Project Texas,” a $1.5+ billion-dollar effort to shore up privacy concerns and move U.S. user data away from locations that may be vulnerable to Chinese interference.
Under the plan, TikTok is creating U.S.-specific versions of the company’s internal systems, such as ones that monitor content virality, affect what users see, and even the algorithm that powers the platform.
The new systems will include all U.S. user data and be hosted in servers owned and monitored by Oracle (headquartered in Austin, Texas). Furthermore, the system will be limited to a U.S.-based team that ByteDance executives will be restricted from accessing.
What does this mean for your brand and how should you proceed?
- Don’t panic: Keep producing compelling content that satisfies the TikTok audience and the platform’s algorithm. Short-form video content isn’t going anywhere, and, in the highly unlikely case where TikTok goes away, there will be another platform that fills the void.
- Make a contingency plan just in case: The good news is that much of the same content, trends, and creative strategies you would develop for TikTok can be utilized on Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.
- Ask your agency (or in-house marketing team) to help provide strategies that mitigate any fallout should TikTok be banned, including ways to:
- Diversify your content formats and platforms where your brand shows up.
- Research emerging or underutilized platforms to which audiences are more likely to migrate.
- Increase ways to “recycle” content meant for TikTok on Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts.
- Create or expand your influencer marketing capacities to tap into highly engaged audiences, no matter what platforms they are on.
The scrutiny surrounding TikTok is going to remain high, but it does not mean the platform is going to disappear (at least any time soon). Brands should continue advertising on the platform, while developing a “Plan B” that minimizes any disruption that could emerge from a ban.