TikTok’s U.S. Ban: Here’s What to Know

“Rest assured: We aren’t going anywhere,” TikTok Chief Executive Shou Zi Chew said in a video shared to the platform on Wednesday.

This week, President Biden signed a bill into law which gives TikTok’s Chinese owner, ByteDance, nine months to divest the app or it will be blocked in the United States.

The law was introduced amid concerns that TikTok might share user data with the Chinese government, a claim which TikTok has always denied. TikTok executives have pledged to challenge the law in court and will likely push a judge to pause the law until the case is resolved, which could tie up the law for months, perhaps years.

In court, the law could raise questions among judges, as it appears to penalize just one platform for broader issues on data privacy and algorithmic transparency. Others suggest there could be a first-amendment issue at play.

But let’s focus on what we can control here: how do we go about using TikTok during this time as brand communicators?

What should I do if TikTok is a part of my media mix?

In the short term, nothing. Even if the clock keeps ticking on the nine-month timeline to sell, planned campaigns will likely go live and conclude within that period.

Will my audiences start leaving the platform before the ban is enforced?

Likely not. Concerns related to China’s ownership of the platform are not new: if users were going to leave the platform based on this information, it’s likely they would have already done so. It’s also worth noting that TikTok’s user base is highly engaged. According to TikTok, there are 150+ million active monthly users in the United States, and an average user spends 1.5 hours per day on the platform.

Which other platforms should I consider if the ban is enforced?

While TikTok has highly competitive performance benchmarks and a very engaged audience base, other platforms with similar content consumption and social interaction functionalities are well poised to absorb TikTok’s viewers, content creators and advertising dollars.

If communicating via TikTok is a part of your mix, it’s likely you’re already using—or have at least considered—Instagram, which has already mimicked the functionality and specs of TikTok with Reels and sees significant audience overlap: Nearly three-fourths (74.5%) of U.S. TikTok users also use Instagram, according to eMarketer.

YouTube is another alternative with strong audience penetration, but their short-form functionality, Shorts, which was launched as a direct response to TikTok’s 2020 ban in India, has not experienced as high of a level of adoption as Reels in the U.S.

The bottom line is this: a ban is likely much farther out than nine months but if it is enforced, communicators have options. For now, we recommend staying the course with existing plans but will be ready to make strategic shifts with our clients as the situation evolves. Should you have any specific questions related to your media mix, let us help you answer them.

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