What a Potential TikTok Ban Means for Advertisers and Marketers

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill for a TikTok ban, which has sparked various predictions about the complexity and implications such a move would entail for social media, tech industries, and global digital economies.

This isn’t just about a single app facing restrictions. If the ban becomes absolute, then it will create a massive ripple effect jostling stakeholders across the globe, and one of the core platforms that marketers use to advertise would be more or less crippled.

In this post, we’re taking a look at the potential ramifications as they pertain to marketing that could follow if TikTok actually does end up getting banned in the United States.

Kim Cooper
Director of Marketing, Amazon Alexa

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The Technicalities and Implications of a Ban

Removing TikTok from app stores would indirectly eliminate the platform’s operational capabilities, affecting not only the app itself but also its service providers and stakeholders globally.

TikTok app in Google Play Store

Such a decision, even just for the U.S., can have cascading effects worldwide.

First off, the U.S. House banning TikTok doesn’t mean a whole lot — yet. But it could become something bigger if it reaches certain legal checkpoints:

  • It would still have to go through the Senate
  • Then land on Joe Biden’s desk (which Biden admitted he would sign if it were presented to him)
  • And then go all the way up to the Supreme Court

Then and only then would a ban like this actually have some notable effect.

The way I see it is that there would be a clear, catastrophic chain reaction that would follow any sort of TikTok ban that would probably look something like this:

  • TikTok gets the boot from app stores: This means you wouldn’t be able to download or update the app anymore. No new users would be allowed to join and current users wouldn’t get the latest features or fixes.
  • Service provider limitations: This would disrupt operational capabilities by targeting backend services that are crucial for the app’s functioning, affecting everything from content delivery to user experience.
  • Global stakeholder concerns: This would affect all the big players who’ve invested in TikTok or work with it. It’s like owning part of a winning racehorse and then hearing that it might not race again. These global groups, including Sequoia Capital (which possibly stands to lose the most if TikTok is actually banned), are watching closely because their money and plans are tied up in TikTok’s future.

You May Also Like: Elevate Your Brand with a Top 5 TikTok Ad Agency

Economic Considerations and Responses

ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, isn’t likely to stand idly by in the wake of a potential TikTok ban without jumping into action. This company struck gold with TikTok, becoming a global sensation, and they’re fiercely protective of it. With $84 billion at stake, ByteDance has already dropped a cool billion on compliance efforts alone.

ByteDance’s moves show it’s not just about weathering the storm, but about strategic maneuvering to stay on top. They’re navigating a complex web of regulations and international tensions, all while holding onto an app that’s reshaped culture and media worldwide.

Privacy Concerns: A Universal Issue

With how much data privacy sensitivity has been surging in the last year, it’s no surprise that TikTok has fallen into the crosshairs of U.S. legislators attempting to ban the platform — again.

However, this is not a challenge that’s unique to TikTok. Other social platforms and companies engage in extensive data collection and analysis:

Image1

Examples like Amazon’s predictive analytics showcases the widespread practice of monitoring consumer behavior for means of remarketing to users who engage with a brand.

Related Content: How to Launch a TikTok Ads Campaign for E-commerce

How a Potential Ban Would Affect Marketers

If marketers were unable to advertise on TikTok due to a ban or severe restrictions, they would naturally pivot and flock to other platforms to reach their target audiences.

Here’s how this would likely happen:

  • There would become an immediate need to find alternatives: Marketers would seek out platforms with similar demographics to TikTok’s, such as Instagram Reels or Snapchat, which also cater to a younger, content-hungry audience. These platforms offer similar short-form, creative content opportunities that are ideal for innovative marketing campaigns.
  • There would be a new need for added channel diversification: Marketers would need to diversify their strategies across multiple platforms to mitigate future risks, investing in a broader online presence that spans several social networks and digital channels.

Omnichannel

  • If privacy laws are what kills TikTok, then engagement will become a huge focus: The need to adapt to different platforms, from a privacy point of view, would spark innovation in how brands engage with their audience. Each platform has unique features and user expectations; marketers would tailor their content and campaigns to align with these nuances, potentially discovering new, effective ways to connect with audiences.
  • Other platforms will get a heck of a lot more competitive: As marketers move their focus and budgets to other platforms, competition on those networks would intensify. This would likely lead to higher ad costs and a push for more creative and high-quality content to stand out in a crowded space.
  • New and existing platforms will fill the vacuum left by TikTok: The absence of TikTok would create a vacuum that new or smaller platforms could fill. Marketers who are always on the lookout for the next big thing could invest early in these emerging spaces, trying to capitalize on lower competition.
  • Marketing strategies will inevitably have to change: Marketers would need to revisit their marketing strategies, placing greater emphasis on platforms that offer robust analytics, targeting capabilities, and high user engagement rates. This strategic pivot could also lead to an increased focus on content marketing, SEO, and email marketing as complementary efforts to social media advertising.

In essence, the inability to advertise on TikTok would not deter marketers, but rather redirect their creative energies and budgets. It would lead to a period of adjustment and innovation as brands seek new ways to capture attention and engage with their audiences in an ever-evolving online ecosystem.

Likely Outcomes if a TikTok Ban Is Finalized

Speculation about TikTok’s future varies, with some predicting a possible divestiture or sale to keep the platform alive in certain markets. Historical precedents, such as discussions around divesting TikTok to companies like Oracle or Walmart, suggest that strategic solutions may be sought to address regulatory concerns while preserving the platform’s value and operations.

Here are a few of these scenarios:

Divestiture or Sale

In response to regulatory pressures, TikTok might find itself under new ownership. This could mean selling the app to a company based in a key market, ensuring its continued operation while appeasing local regulatory bodies. Such a move would aim to keep TikTok’s global community intact, leveraging the local company’s understanding of regulatory compliance and cultural nuances to maintain its popularity and relevance.

Strategic Compliance

Facing a patchwork of regulations across different countries, TikTok could ramp up its efforts to align with each jurisdiction’s unique requirements. This means investing more in legal, privacy and content moderation frameworks to satisfy various governments’ demands.

Strategic compliance (or “strategic survival” in this case) is about playing the long game, demonstrating a commitment to responsible platform management and securing its position as a global player by respecting local laws and cultural expectations.

Market Adaptation

The social media ecosystem is dynamic, with platforms continually evolving to meet user expectations and regulatory standards. Existing platforms could consolidate, merging strengths to create more robust offerings that better navigate the complexities of global regulations.

This adaptation phase is crucial for staying relevant and competitive, ensuring that users have access to engaging content in a compliant and safe online environment.

Conclusion: Adaptation in the Social Media Space

Regardless of the outcome, the digital space is resilient and adaptive. Marketers, influencers and companies will find ways to adjust, whether through platform migration, diversified social media strategies or innovative content delivery methods.

Remember, we almost went down this rabbit hole in 2020 when Donald Trump was president, and the ban didn’t progress. However, now the issues of data privacy are much more poignant in people’s minds, which could be the fuel needed to push a ban like this further than before.

In any case, our duty as marketers is to ride the wave and adapt our practices to find our audiences, no matter where they are. So, ban or not, marketing as we know it won’t go away. But it will definitely change.

If you’re ready to level up your social media ads, Single Grain’s TikTok ads experts can help!👇

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For more insights and lessons about marketing, check out our Marketing School podcast on YouTube.

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