Future-Proof Your Marketing: What a Potential Ban Means for Your Brand

May 31, 2024by Jaquelin Bonura

To marketers everywhere, it feels like TikTok has been an ever-present part of our social media strategies. Why wouldn’t it be? The platform has not only revolutionized the way audiences consume content, but it has completely overhauled how social media keeps consumers engaged. At Hiebing, we’ve talked about how TikTok has had a lasting impact on how we connect or search for things on the internet–and while this platform has provided a competitive edge for brands who embraced it, there are plenty of risks to mitigate surrounding the turmoil of their business operations.  

With a looming ban proposed in the United States Congress, brands might be wondering what this means for their current social media strategies.  

TikTok’s Powerful Influence 

TikTok’s unique algorithm and high engagement rates provide a strong return on investment (ROI), making it a crucial part of many brands’ strategies. The platform’s ability to tailor content to individual users by creating a community rooted in similar interests ensures that marketing campaigns achieve exceptional visibility and interactions that foster brand awareness. A potential ban on TikTok would abruptly cut off an instrumental awareness platform, disrupt established influencer partnerships, and hinder the content innovation that drives dynamic marketing campaigns in this space. Such a disruption could force brands to reevaluate their digital strategies and seek alternative platforms, though none currently match TikTok’s level of user engagement and algorithmic precision.  

Particularly among Gen Z and Millennials, TikTok’s user base offers unparalleled reach and engagement, making it an invaluable tool for marketers aiming to connect with these demographics. The sudden loss of TikTok would not only affect advertisers but also impact the creators who rely on the platform for their livelihoods and the consumers who enjoy the diverse content it offers. 

Privacy Concerns in a Digital Age  

As Americans increase their time spent online, more user data is being tracked and sold than ever before. Legislation surrounding data privacy and a constant slew of privacy notices has brought this issue into the spotlight. Most recently, TikTok has found itself the subject of a bill banning the platform in the United States due to concerns surrounding the Chinese government being able to access sensitive data about American citizens collected on the platform. 

The TikTok ban was passed in late April 2024 as part of a foreign aid package. The legislation states that ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, faces a ban in the United States unless TikTok is sold to an American entity within nine months, with a three-month extension if a deal is in progress. This sale must include TikTok’s proprietary algorithm – a huge driving force of the platform’s success. In response, prominent creators on TikTok and the parent company ByteDance have filed two separate petitions against the United States government, citing an infringement on their First Amendment rights.  

If TikTok disappears overnight, communication professionals will have to keep an eye out for what platform will rise to take its place and be ready to pivot. 

In Favor of Ban Proposal:  

Supporters of the bipartisan bill restricting TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance highlight the significant security risks and privacy concerns associated with a foreign power owning American data. If compelled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), private companies like ByteDance would be required to turn over their data, jeopardizing the sensitive information of over 170 million American TikTok users, including geolocation, browsing history, and biometric data. This potential data seizure has alarmed intelligence and law enforcement officials. The debate over the TikTok ban underscores broader issues of data privacy, cybersecurity, and social media’s influence on public discourse, with U.S. lawmakers worried about TikTok’s potential to spread propaganda and misinformation. If ByteDance cannot find a suitable buyer, the act would require app stores and web-hosting services to remove TikTok, effectively banning it under foreign ownership. This shift could impact data handling practices and algorithms, offering brands a chance to emphasize their commitment to privacy and ethical practices in authentic ways. 

Against Ban Proposal:  

Opponents of the ban argue that TikTok poses no greater threat than American-owned social media sites that also collect and sell user data, accusing the government of scapegoating TikTok while neglecting privacy protections against American Big Tech companies. Dissenters highlight the disruption to revenue streams and partnerships with global advertisers as central concerns, noting that American users constitute a significant portion of TikTok’s user base and advertising revenue. The potential loss of access to TikTok’s predominantly Gen Z and Millennial audience would diminish marketing impact and force brands to rely on more established platforms, making it harder to stand out. This reduction in channel diversity underscores the need for a diversified social media strategy for effective risk management. 

So while we wait for an answer on the ban, what should marketers do?   

Diversify Your Approach  

In an age where social media landscapes are continually evolving, marketers should be ready to pivot their strategies and leverage alternative platforms like YouTube Shorts or Instagram Reels to maintain their reach and engagement. Deploying a multichannel approach ensures you’re reaching your target audience where they’re spending time while not putting all your social media eggs in one basket.  

Plan for both scenarios for 2025: 

Develop a strategic plan that accounts for the potential absence of TikTok should a ban be enforced.  

  • Depending on the cadence of your TikTok program, create content that has also proven effective on Reels and Shorts, enabling seamless deployment on these platforms if the ban is implemented.  
  • Evaluate the impact of reallocating your media spend to alternative platforms to understand how it will affect the goals initially set for TikTok.  
  • Additionally, assess the potential for maintaining and transitioning influencer partnerships to these other platforms, ensuring continuity and minimizing disruption to your marketing efforts. 

Whether TikTok remains available in the United States, it’s clear that it has changed how we think about content. Whether in favor of the ban or against it, the debate highlights the importance of data privacy, the need for agility in marketing strategies, and the fast-paced momentum of the ever-evolving social media landscape. Staying informed and adaptable is crucial for brands to prepare for incoming shifts in audience behaviors and necessary changes to strategic plans. We might not know what the future holds for TikTok yet, but we do know that marketers should be ready to pivot to whatever platform rises to take TikTok’s place.  

Ready to refresh your marketing strategy to prepare for a potential TikTok ban? Email Nate Tredinnick at ntredinnick@hiebing.com to set up a call. 

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