Header image of a woman looking intently at her phone with the TikTok logo featured on the side.

What the Potential Tiktok Ban Means for Your Digital Marketing Strategy

TikTok has been in the news a lot lately—for a variety of reasons. Most recently, their CEO went before Congress to answer questions about data collection and the platform’s ties to China. But what does this all really mean for the platform, and how does it affect your marketing plans?

 

TikTok is just the latest social media platform to be under scrutiny. Late last year, we saw a lot of skepticism around Twitter post-Elon Musk acquisition. With all these changes, many marketing professionals are thinking about where to go next. And for nonprofits, that skepticism may feel heightened due to issues like data privacy, transparency, and diving into new tools. 

 

Though the platforms have seen an increase in changes, it’s no reason to cause alarm or fear. In fact, it’s a great chance to discover all that the platforms have to offer and ensure you follow best practices to ensure your (and your supporters) data is kept safe and secure across platforms. Our recent blog on the state of Twitter aims to help ease those fears, and we hope to do the same with this piece on TikTok.

 

Table of Contents

 

Why is TikTok Being Banned?

So, why has Congress decided to consider a TikTok ban? There are definitely a lot of layers to their stance, with some of the biggest reasons for concern including their ties to China, concern that user data is being directly shared with the Chinese government, their lack of monitoring harmful content (which can be said for almost all social platforms), and its effect on young audiences (though the platform does have age restrictions).

 

What the Potential TikTok Ban Means for Your Organization

So, what does this potential ban mean for your nonprofit? Even if you’re not on TikTok, there are a few important takeaways to consider from this conversation at the moment.

           1. Video content will continue to be popular, regardless of which platform it lives on. If your nonprofit isn’t already leaning into video, now is the time to do it.

           2. Your social media strategy should be connected to a larger user journey—you should never run your social media efforts in isolation. Social is never one stop—you’re likely trying to drive supporters to your website, get them to join your email list, or make a donation. 

 

In short —don’t focus your marketing efforts on a single platform, and you won’t have to worry if any platforms are affected. 

And when it comes to what to do about TikTok? Every nonprofit is very different, and what you should do next will vary greatly on a variety of factors. Naturally, we suggest switching to Instagram Reels and maybe even YouTube shorts if you feel the need to switch away from the platform. But, as we indicated with the recent changes at Twitter, we recommend that you assess the platform internally and weigh how you’d like to proceed.

 

A Holistic Digital Marketing View on the State of TikTok

As an agency with a wide range of services, we chose to look at this not just from a social media perspective but talk to our specialists across the agency to weigh in on the topic.

As we mentioned in our recommendations, your marketing strategies should not be done in a vacuum but as holistic strategies to increase awareness around your nonprofit and bring in new supporters. 

 

Pivoting Between Platforms for Paid Media

Nate Mize-Pressler, Associate Media Director + Kim Anderson, VP Media

TikTok has been a strong paid media channel for organizations looking to increase their brand awareness and credibility with Gen Z and Millennials. With targeting limitations on platforms like Instagram and Facebook for younger audiences, TikTok—along with Snapchat and Twitter—provides opportunities to leverage third-party data while building out first-party data for your entire integrated marketing strategy. By reaching younger audiences across all of these channels, your ad strategy can pivot between platforms more efficiently based on your goals and any challenges that may arise.  

This strategy not only makes sense from a digital marketing perspective but also aligns with how your audience consumes media.  Most people, on a daily basis, consume content across multiple social channels, so it’s likely that if TikTok goes away, users will simply spend more time on another platform.  In fact, according to one recent survey, most TikTok users report they’d replace TikTok with Instagram Reels—closely followed by YouTube shorts.

 

The Positive Effects of Platforms for Creativity

Maggie Rakiovic, Senior Designer

Tiktok has been a fun platform to enjoy as a user and a digital marketer. It has been a platform that has challenged how we think about content strategy. I believe, overall, it’s been for the better. We’re seeing more authentic content on Tiktok—being raw and real is rewarded. As a designer, you probably wouldn’t expect me to say this, but I was getting tired of the perfectly curated aesthetic that was popular on social media before the pandemic. It was not sustainable for organizations or personal users.

TikTok has pushed us to use the voices of real people and influencers that are part of the communities we work with—something we need to do more of. If there is a TikTok ban, it will be a loss for many people, but I plan to continue encouraging the clients I work with to be authentic because that is the biggest lesson we can learn from the platform.

 

Protecting Consumer Data is Important

Luke Dringoli, VP of Tech

This talk about the TikTok ban is just the tip of a bigger conversation—what we need is a comprehensive, national online privacy law.

This is how we address concerns related to not only TikTok (feared geopolitical surveillance) but also US tech companies like Google and Meta and how they violate the privacy of US citizens by collecting troves of personal data—data that is bought and sold by data brokers as part of a multi-hundred-billion-dollar industry. 

While the concerns surrounding TikTok are real, banning it would not solve the root problem. Through their inaction, our legislators are giving tech companies more or less free rein to collect as much data as possible about all of us, consent or not.

We work with our clients to take a leadership position on online privacy, not only because it’s the right thing to do but because it builds trust with supporters and deepens the organization’s credibility. In some cases, this means deliberately avoiding the placement of third-party pixels from Meta, Google, TikTok, and others on their website and related platforms so as not to hand over information about their valued supporters and program participants. This might make our job as marketers more difficult, but in many ways, we see it as preparing our clients for the future and doing right by their supporters.

 

Kristen Friedel, Sr. Director of Data Analytics

Let’s shift the conversation on the TikTok ban from where the data is stored to whether it’s ethical to collect and use personal and behavioral information from social users in the first place. And not just for Tiktok but for all social platforms.

TikTok is not alone when it comes to collecting mass amounts of personal data on its users. Social media platforms have normalized the mass collection of sensitive data, such as your name, location, marital status, friends, interests, and so much more. Scary, right?

This data could have profound physical or psychological safety implications if leaked or used unethically. When used for advertising targeting, it may create brand trust barriers, mainly if targeted ads include details of a person’s identity that they do not want to be shared or exposed.

Yes, a ban on TikTok would mean one less platform to diversify your marketing strategy. But, it will also open the door for marketers to hold serious conversations around the ethical use of social media data for advertising. That’s a necessary step forward to ensure that we center data collection + use around audience trust rather than jeopardizing the security of an individual’s identity for profit.

 

SEO Expanding Beyond Traditional Search Engines

Megan Brooks, Associate SEO Director

TikTok has quickly become one of the most widely used social media platforms and one of the most used search engines, which few anticipated. When you want to find a quick dinner recipe or how to elevate your hair care, you can now turn to TikTok to find an answer. Unlike traditional search engines, not only will you find the answer, you’ll get a video showing you how to do so.

Without knowing it, users who create videos or utilize hashtags have found themselves trending or ranking highly for popular search terms within the TikTok search engine. TikTok has only shown how imperative it is to use proper keywords and to know your audience, which is crucial for SEO.

A ban on TikTok wouldn’t necessarily have drastic changes other than showing that any platform could be a search engine, even if someone doesn’t realize it. The ban would cause users to pivot and change their marketing plans just as they have done with the loss of Vine, changes from Facebook to Meta, and the news around Twitter. SEO will always continue to evolve along with digital marketing but will continue to stand the test of time.

 

Social Media and Brand Awareness

Alex Lewis, Sr. Brand Strategist

Nonprofits ask several important questions when they’re in the midst of brand development. How can my organization reach our target audience better? What can we do or say that will help us create better, stronger connections with our audience? At their core, these questions call back to the larger issue of brand awareness and where better to tackle brand awareness than on TikTok?

When assessing existing or potential audiences early on in our brand research, we often ask, “What social media platforms do you regularly use?” TikTok is always on the list, especially so for millennials and Gen Z. These generations can be critical when it comes to giving, as both millennials and Gen Z are more likely to give—and give to many different causes. TikTok serves as a great outlet for nonprofits to easily reach an enormous audience and build brand awareness.

Messaging also plays an essential role in brand strategy, but the world moves fast, and what matters today might not matter in a few weeks when your content is ready to go out. TikTok helps nonprofits keep a pulse on what resonates with their audiences right now. Nonprofits can easily see what their audiences care about, work with influencers (key for younger audiences) to spread their message, and quickly create—and even experiment with—content. 

A ban would mean a loss of access to the absolutely enormous audience found on TikTok and a loss of a fast and effective way to spread brand awareness.

 

A Much Bigger Conversation 

Clara Campbell, Sr. Advocacy + Campaigns Director

There’s so much going on here. First, regulation on data and internet platforms—this is a much broader topic than just TikTok, but it’s shown in an especially dramatic light because its parent company is a Chinese company. There are a lot of different influences and issues at play. We all know TikTok is not the only or even the biggest data farmer of them all, and banning it won’t stop data collection.

This conversation also shows the wide gap that exists between the people making policy (primarily old, Caucasian males) and the people using the technology. We need more diverse young people in Congress! And policymakers and leaders need to make sure they’re listening to their constituent’s voices and concerns and taking that into account as they’re legislating.

 

Conclusion

This isn’t the first time TikTok has made waves in the news. With the state of social media always in flux, remember that there is no need to make an immediate change in presence and strategy. The current news with TikTok is further proof of what we’ve always known with social media—brands and nonprofits must always be ready to adapt and pivot. Whether it’s an algorithm change, a new feature, or new legislation, social media is ever-changing and demands flexibility from its users.

Now is the time to assess your brand’s social media presence, dive into all that other platforms have to offer, and ensure that you are always following best practices to ensure data is kept safe and secure across platforms. 

If you’re looking to build an impactful strategy to drive success and adapt to the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing, reach out to Media Cause.

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