Do you create short-form promotional videos on TikTok as part of your marketing strategy?
If so, you should know that a newly proposed Senate bill (the RESTRICT Act) could ban TikTok for all U.S. users.
Why is that?
Some American lawmakers believe that TikTok contains malicious spyware that leaks personal data from U.S. users to the Chinese government.
There have also been claims of China using TikTok’s algorithm to spread inappropriate content & misinformation to its users.
While the security concerns have been around for a while, the heat really began to rise in December of 2022 when it was uncovered that employees from parent company ByteDance were using TikTok user data to track two U.S. journalists.
The Chinese company promptly fired the employees, but the damage was already done – as the talks of the U.S. government banning the platform began soon after.
TikTok is an advertising behemoth, with its ad revenue still projected to surpass $6 billion this year. As such, many marketers rely on the video-sharing platform to promote their products & services to Gen Zers.
If the U.S. ban does go forward, marketers will have to shift their efforts to other social media platforms.
Stay tuned to learn more about the potential TikTok ban and what it could mean for your digital marketing campaign.
Why Is There Talk of Banning TikTok?
FBI Director Chris Wray voiced his concern over the cybersecurity threats posed by TikTok in November of 2022.
He mentioned the possibility that the Chinese government could use TikTok to control the data collection of millions of users or possibly control the recommendation algorithm – which they could use for ‘influence operations’.
Not only that, but he also pointed out that Beijing could use the social media app to control software on millions of personal devices, granting the ability to ‘technically compromise’ them.
These are real concerns that the federal government has for America’s national security, which is why they’re now drafting legislation that could ban the use of TikTok.
Besides the FBI, Indiana’s Attorney General Todd Rokita has filed legal action against the platform for promoting inappropriate content to minors and for misleading customers into believing their data was protected from China.
The United States already has an active ban on TikTok for all government-issued devices and at some universities. Beyond that, some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have asked Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores.
It’s clear that the tensions surrounding the platform have been building for quite some time, which led to the proposal of the RESTRICT Act and the DATA Act.
What’s the RESTRICT Act?
RESTRICT stands for Restricting the Emergence of Security Threats that Risk Information & Communications Technology.
It’s a bill that aims to reduce the risk of foreign technology by giving the government the power to identify & respond to emerging threats.
It’s crucial to note that the bill doesn’t mention TikTok outright.
Instead, the bill includes all foreign services that contain personal data from more than 1 million U.S. citizens.
That means TikTok would definitely apply, as would apps & services from other adversarial countries, including China, North Korea, Russia, Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela.
If the bill goes through, the Secretary of Commerce is responsible for creating processes to find and stop foreign technology products that pose a risk to national security.
The Act would deliver a devastating blow to TikTok’s US operations, either outright banning the platform or cutting ties with American companies.
ByteDance has continued to deny storing US data in China, going so far as to spend $1.5 billion on Project Texas, which is the company’s attempt to rebuild TikTok on U.S. servers. To do so, they’re partnering with software company Oracle to host U.S. user data, which should alleviate concerns about sharing data with the Chinese government.
What’s the DATA Act?
The House Energy and Commerce Committee has devised another measure for banning TikTok, the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act or DATA for short.
How does it differ from the RESTRICT Act?
Instead of leaving things up to the Secretary of Commerce, the Biden administration would be in charge of sanctioning or banning TikTok if it’s determined that the platform shared U.S. user data with the Chinese government.
The RESTRICT Act is a bit different in that it establishes systems to penalize & ban all foreign technologies that pose security threats, whereas the DATA Act focuses entirely on TikTok.
How Will Banning TikTok Affect Marketing Strategies?
If you rely on TikTok for advertising, a ban would mean having to rethink your strategy by considering other social media platforms.
Even if you don’t advertise through TikTok, a ban means the competition on other platforms will suddenly become very fierce.
Everyone that leaves TikTok will migrate to platforms like Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook, for instance.
The good news is that many other social media sites have adopted the features that made TikTok so popular, especially for Gen Zers.
So if you’ve been shooting short-form videos to market your products & services, you can migrate your content to Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and SnapChat’s Spotlight tab. These platforms also thrive on quick videos that are 90 seconds or less, and you can add filters, special effects, and music – just like TikTok.
YouTube (2.5 billion) and Instagram (2 billion) actually have more users than TikTok (1.1 billion), so it’ll benefit your brand to have a presence there as well – even if the TikTok ban doesn’t go through.
Companies are doing more with less
A majority of marketing teams aren’t able to increase their budget for this year, but they have more robust year-over-year growth goals than 2022.
In other words, companies are trying to do more with less, which is why the TikTok ban couldn’t come at a worse time for some.
Not only that, but with marketing budgets as scarce as they are, marketers aren’t eager to invest in creating content for TikTok due to the looming ban.
After all, it would be a shame to waste precious marketing resources on creating TikTok videos only for the platform to disappear from app stores in the United States.
The competition on other social media platforms will see a massive spike if the ban goes through, which will put an even tighter strain on marketing teams. Not only will they have to do more with less, but they’ll have to outdo more competitors than ever before.
If you have an active Gen Z audience, it’s worth your while to start branching out to Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and SnapChat’s Spotlight tab just in case things go south for TikTok. That way, you’ll already have a contingency plan, as your content will be on several different platforms.
Rethinking your TikTok marketing strategy
Many digital marketers use TikTok ads at every stage of their sales funnel, not just the bottom.
While it’s common to think most TikTok ads are looking for transactional intent, that’s not always the case.
Plenty of brands use TikTok videos to inform & educate their audience to generate leads and build brand awareness.
That means if the platform does get banned, you’ll need to rethink your strategy for each stage of the sales funnel – and that usually means creating content for different platforms.
Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube each have unique uses for your content strategy. By that, we mean that what works on Facebook won’t necessarily work on Instagram, which means you need to create specific types of content for each platform.
You can use short videos on Instagram Reels to promote your products & services. You can also use longer-form videos to satisfy informational & educational queries on YouTube to generate leads. After that, a well-optimized Facebook Ads campaign can help you boost conversions for more revenue.
Whatever approach you choose to take, it’s imperative to consider the advantages and disadvantages of each social media platform. For instance, releasing videos on Facebook probably won’t yield as many views if you upload them to Instagram or YouTube instead.
Lastly, should the TikTok ban become a reality, you’ll want to remove the TikTok tracking pixel from your website.
Why is that?
It’s because the tracking pixel is a third-party code that could potentially slow down your website. So if TikTok isn’t around anymore, needlessly keeping the tracking pixel will only hurt your loading times, so it’s best to get rid of it.
Final Thoughts: The Potential TikTok Ban
TikTok has been at the center of a lot of controversies lately, and there are now two formal bills proposing its ban inside the United States.
This has caused growing anxiety among marketers that rely on TikTok for advertising, as the ban would force them to rethink their digital marketing strategy.
Platforms like Instagram Reels & YouTube Shorts are TikTok substitutes, but a ban will mean the competition will grow in a big way.
Do you want to ensure that your business stays profitable if TikTok should get banned?