Thursday, November 30, 2023

TikTok hearing brings potential US ban into focus for brands and creators

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TikTok is placing emphasis on its creators and their reliance on the platform in its bid to avoid a ban. On 22 March, the platform flew 30 creators to Washington, DC, who met with representatives to discuss how the ban would impact their livelihoods. A ban would have a major impact on the monetisation strategies of many creators and brands. 

Now that things have heated up, brands ought to be mindful of optics, Deborah Greaves, partner at Withersworldwide, says. They face the risk of backlash should they decide to stay on the increasingly scrutinised platform. “Brands should be aware of promotions on any social media platform that can result in brand shaming,” she says. “Some brands may decide to exit TikTok as a means of making a political statement. There are others who will exit due to pressure from their followers.”

Some in the social media marketing space welcome the attention the hearing has drawn to platform regulation. “This is a monumental moment for our industry,” says Amber Venz Box, co-founder and president of influencer marketing platform LTK. “It is the first time I’m seeing a genuine desire to regulate scaled platforms to protect citizens.”

Given this, creator and social media agencies recommend that creators and brands diversify their social media strategies, impending ban or otherwise. This echoes data from the Vogue Business Index, which found that, amid current digital volatility, brands shouldn’t be reliant solely on TikTok or any one social media platform. “The brands and creators that win on social are the ones who view it as one large conversation happening across multiple channels,” youth agency Archrival founder and CEO Clint Runge told Vogue Business in January. “When one platform shuts down, conversations don’t stop; they just continue elsewhere.”

Creators are recognising now more than ever the need to diversify in building and growing their businesses, Venz Box says. As for brands, LTK isn’t seeing a shift in TikTok investment — yet. If it were to go, it wouldn’t necessarily change their approach to influencer marketing, Venz Box says. “It will just shift where the spending happens to other platforms.”

Permele Doyle, president and co-founder of influencer agency Billion Dollar Boy, isn’t convinced disruption would be minimal. “The impact of a potential ban would be a significant economic blow,” she says. “While there are arguably already some readily available US-owned alternatives, such as YouTube and Instagram, who could fill the void left by TikTok should a ban be imposed, fans of the platform would argue that it’s irreplaceable.” She notes TikTok’s spontaneity and less produced videos as part of its appeal. It’s also a cheaper platform to run video ads on compared to others: according to Doyle, cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM) on TikTok is about half that of Instagram Reels, a third less than Twitter and 62 per cent less than Snapchat.  

She expects that brands will be hoping for a compromise such as separating business from Douyin and a ramping up of “Project Texas”. “[TikTok] is a unique and valuable asset for brands that simply can’t be captured elsewhere — particularly for brands in the fashion and beauty industries.”

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