How brands are thinking about a possible TikTok ban

Spring: that time of year when flowers bloom, brackets are busted, and politicians weigh a TikTok ban.

The movement to get the country off TikTok appears to be gaining momentum after the House passed a bill earlier this month that would require the app’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell its stake in the app or cease operations in the US—much to creators’ chagrin, even though, if the bill becomes law, the process could take months or even years to complete.

For brands that have made their mark on the platform, the general vibe appears to be wait and see, though, similar to what creators told us last year, many brand marketers are keeping their eyes on Instagram and YouTube as potential alternatives. A recent eMarketer analysis found that Meta and Google, which own Instagram and YouTube, respectively, could stand to make billions in incremental ad revenue if the TikTok ban becomes law.

“We feel confident that whatever happens to TikTok in the US, we’ll continue to find success with our social marketing strategy because we’ve invested in building our content creation abilities across multiple platforms,” Katherine Chan, marketing director at Duolingo, which has 10.8 million followers on TikTok, told Marketing Brew in an email.

Should a ban actually happen, many brands plan to look to existing short-form video platforms. Melissa Palmer, co-founder and CEO of beauty brand Osea Malibu, which has 47k followers on TikTok, told us that losing TikTok would likely result in her team focusing on different but similar platforms.

“We have a lot of fun on TikTok. On Instagram, we have a little fun,” she said. “I would imagine that there would be some shifts in our content strategy on Instagram, and maybe something like YouTube Shorts would actually have its day in the sun.”

Nick Guillen, co-founder of hot-sauce company Truff, which has 244k followers on TikTok, told us the brand would also look to YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels as alternatives. For some brands, that investment in alternatives is already in the works: Chan said Duolingo has “focused on growing our audience and reach on YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels in the past year.”

At beauty brand Merit, which has 145k TikTok followers, CMO Aila Morin said her general approach is to make sure that no more than 30% of spend is allocated to any one platform in anticipation of situations like this.

“I’ve been working in social ads since 2015, when Facebook ads launched,” she said. “Since the very beginning, there have been talks of things being banned or changes happening, which is why I’ve always had that rule of thumb in my career, because it means that you’re never too heavily leveraged against one platform.”

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In addition to Instagram, Morin said Merit has seen “significant success” on Pinterest and YouTube. Olivia Pollock, senior director of brand marketing at online invite company Evite, which has 85k TikTok followers, told us Pinterest would also be a bigger priority for the brand in the event of a TikTok ban.

“If anything, TikTok encouraged us to be more innovative and adventurous with our content, which has been a positive shift for us,” she said in an email. “It’s a great place where our social team can test and concoct various out-of-the-box ideas and we’d most likely carry this content strategy over to other areas of our business.”

While brands have backup plans in mind, there are benefits unique to the app that haven’t been replicated elsewhere—and content doesn’t always translate outside of TikTok itself.

Guillen acknowledged that some of the content Truff has made on TikTok since it joined in 2019 “wouldn’t necessarily resonate on other platforms, like Instagram.” And Palmer said she believes the ability to “win with good creative” is more challenging outside of TikTok, and is getting harder to do on Instagram. Losing TikTok could mean losing the opportunity to build brand awareness and visibility that hasn’t yet been replicated on platforms like Instagram, she said.

At Evite, Pollock said her team would mourn the loss of TikTok’s reach and engagement opportunities, along with the direct conversations with customers that often happen on the app. “Our brand team loves the active engagement and insightful suggestions from our followers,” she said.

Because Merit doesn’t invest too heavily in any one platform, Morin said she feels the brand is “very well insulated” from any changes that could happen to TikTok or any other platform it uses. “Being a little bit more agnostic means you’re a lot safer as a brand long term,” she added.

Chan echoed a similar sentiment for Duolingo: “Our goal on social media is to entertain our audiences, regardless of platform,” she said. “We’ll continue to do that and go to where our fans are.”

At the end of the day, Guillen doesn’t believe a ban would “create a massive ripple” on Truff’s internal strategy or business goals. But he said his team “would be bummed, because we had a lot of fun on the platform.”

Originally Appeared Here

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About the Author: Rayne Chancer