Is the Clock Ticking on the Future of TikTok?

Marketers, business owners, and brand reps who promote their goods and services on social media—which is to say, the majority—are concerned about the possibility of a nationwide ban of that most popular platform, TikTok. This development has raised many questions: “Why would TikTok be banned?” “Is it likely that a ban will take place?” “How can I promote my brand on social media if TikTok is gone?” Let’s provide some answers.

The (literal) trials of TikTok

TikTok, for all of its popularity—not to mention advertising profitability—has been under the microscope of Washington, D.C. as far back as 2020 due to concerns related to national security. (Specifically, it is ByteDance, the creator of TikTok that is under investigation.) Possibilities of privacy invasion, intelligence-gathering, and infiltrating and spreading misinformation are the main reasons among many as to why many Americans are worried enough to wish this platform banned for all time.

A stop to TikTok has taken root in some places

Indeed, quite a few states have already ordered TikTok to be removed on devices issued by the government. Many colleges are also blocking the app. Two months ago, Shou Zi Chew, who is the CEO of TikTok, appeared at a hearing before Congress in an effort to put the fears of legislators and policymakers to rest—to little success. Presently, the decision as to whether TikTok will remain in the U.S. or eventually be discontinued is in limbo. So, what are marketers and business owners whose TikTok campaigns are thriving supposed to do? For the time being: Practice patience. The situation may not be as dire as it seems.

Is “ban” too strong a word for the current climate of TikTok?

Note that the beginning of the blog used the word “ban.” The paragraph just above, however, uses “removed,” “blocking,” and “discontinued.” Yes, they may be synonymous with “ban,” but they don’t sound as definite. Where government devices are concerned, one would hope that any political employee would not be spending the majority of his or her time on TikTok, if in fact the app has been downloaded. Additionally, these government employees would likely have the discretion to keep certain apps—including all social media—on their personal devices instead of those issued by the government. With these considerations in mind, it seems that an outright ban on TikTok will be unlikely to happen in the near future.

TikTok keeps ticking on…

All those who argue in favor of a TikTok ban have a long and difficult fight ahead. There is no legal precedent and whatever plan there would be to institute a ban is not clear. (Organizations such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Pentagon have neither a stake nor jurisdiction in the matter.) And, perhaps most noteworthy, is that despite the current intrigue, this app remains a favorite among social media users throughout the world (not just America). According to statistics reported in Insider Intelligence/eMarketer, this platform has 834.3 million users. (To say that banning TikTok would make a lot of people unhappy would be beyond an understatement!) Still, there may well be marketers and brand reps who have reservations about either maintaining or building on their TikTok presence, given even the slight chance of a ban. The solution: Social media diversification.

Social here. Social there. Social media everywhere!

One takeaway from this ongoing social media political drama is a reminder that there are other platforms which can communicate a brand’s message. While it may be arguable as to whether or not these sites can generate interest in a brand as effectively as TikTok, marketers must be aware of alternative options. In a “worst case scenario” of a world without TikTok, business owners and marketers should closely watch the search patterns and social behavior of their audiences. What sites are they visiting to learn about the latest products and services of their favorite brands? Are one or more social media sites seeing an increase in subscribers who were once TikTok devotees? And, for the purpose of diversification, marketers should evaluate already established platforms that can yield successful results for their brands. For example…

  • Instagram Reels: An offshoot of Instagram, Instagram Reels provides many of the same features that appeal to TikTok users. The focus is on great storytelling and spontaneous, organic content is often the most well received. And where marketing is concerned, it was reported at the beginning of the year that 90 percent of the two billion members who subscribed to Instagram Reels followed at least one business on the platform.

  • Pinterest: Once considered a cool place where members posted and shared images to favorite boards, Pinterest has transformed into a powerful marketing tool with an array of benefits that include cost-effectiveness and relative ease at posting content. And, where marketing is concerned, Pinterest can conveniently—and non-intrusively—catch the attention of its members as they shop. (As of last summer, there were 433 million users on this platform. What’s not to love?)

  • Snapchat: For making connections and audience engagement through photos and message, Snapchat delivers the same efficiency that TikTok provides. And it is worth noting that Snapchat joined forces with well-known online store eBay last summer. Through this partnership, members are able to share listings they’ve posted to eBay among their Snapchat friends. (It should be noted that these audiences are made up of members of Generation Z. You know, the younger shoppers who prioritize authenticity above all else.) And while on the topic of being authentic, there is also…

  • BeReal: Perhaps the most “no frills” social media site on the Internet today, BeReal is a “friends-centric” platform where members receive “push” notifications within their circle and have the option to then snap and post photos on the spur of the moment. While the potential for marketing through BeReal is still in its early stages, brands should at least consider this relatively new site. (Hey, campaigns for Logitech and Chipotle worked.)

  • Lemon8: There is an irony to this last entry, as it was created and introduced by ByteDance—the company that gave us TikTok and which is the subject of the current controversies. Created as a challenger to Instagram and Instagram Reels, Lemon8 has been hailed by influencers as the ideal social media platform that focuses primarily on health and wellness. As with BeReal, the marketing possibilities for Lemon8 remain to be seen. One perk is that users may register their TikTok and Instagram accounts through this site.

If your brand is already active—and succeeding—on TikTok, there is no immediate reason to discontinue your strategy, despite questions and requests for a halt of this platform from Washington. At this point in time, a ban seems unlikely. At the same time, however, your brand would benefit from added exposure via other social media sites. (And if a ban happens, your brand’s visibility will be covered by other platforms.) There is power in diversification, and this is particularly true in social media.

Care to present your brand to several social media sites? The social media team at the EGC Group will be happy to make these introductions.