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Is The Clock Ticking On TikTok?

TikTok has been in the news a lot lately. In case you’ve missed it though, Congress is considering a ban on the app if China does not sell its ownership in the company. The concern is the risk to the privacy of millions of Americans and national security. My goal here is not to get into a political debate, but to look at the potential impact of any ban by Congress on the marketing programs of companies like those I serve.

But let’s talk about how a video can be a threat to national security, because continuing to use TikTok right now may reflect negatively on your brand. The app logs user actions, which could put the user’s personally identifiable information at risk. In addition, the CEO of the company has refused to guarantee that TikTok is not providing any data to China. Data privacy is not a huge consumer issue, but given the strained US/China relations lately, some of your audience may be concerned.

It’s not a bad idea to start using additional platforms or channels for your content regardless of TikTok’s status in the US. I have started to advise my clients to use other video platforms and social media channels in addition to TikTok and to limit TikTok usage whenever possible. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the idea that this app presents any threats, a TikTok ban can have an impact on your marketing.

My advice is not just so you can avoid any negative impact to your brand reputation based on the legal wranglings of TikTok. It’s more a matter of continuity with your marketing program. You cannot have the marketing channels you’re relying on interrupting your marketing continuity because they shut down. That could result in a significant reduction in your pipeline. But where else should you go? What outlets should you be using for your video content?

The answer depends on your target audience and their preferences. If they are still on TikTok, then be there, but also point to a secondary location where they can find your content in case TikTok goes away. The worst-case scenario here is that you develop a secondary channel for your content before it is needed. And you may even find you can get in front of prospective customers who do not want to use TikTok.

There are strong opinions around TikTok, but younger audiences do not seem to care as much about the security risks as older audiences. If you decide to develop a secondary channel to your TikTok marketing efforts, don’t position it as a decision based on fear as much as it is a decision based on the convenience of your audience. “We want to make sure you have access to our content because we know you enjoy it” is a much better positioning than “We’re afraid TikTok will go away.”

What are some good alternatives to TikTok? There are several, including YouTube Shorts, Snapchat, Triller, and Instagram (Reels). There are also other platforms that are designed for different audiences. As with anything in your marketing, you need to know where your target audience is, define the goals for being in front of that audience at that time on that platform, and then be there with appropriate content.

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