What a Potential TikTok Ban Means for Your Brand

On Wednesday, President Biden signed legislation banning Chinese-owned TikTok unless it is sold within a year. It is the most serious threat to the social media app’s future in the United States, escalating the country’s technological conflict with China. The legislation was included within a bill that included international aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan and requires ByteDance to sell its ownership in TikTok within 12 months or risk being shut down.

This is the first time the United States government has tried to ban an app on a national scale. However, it has already ordered that all federal employees remove TikTok from government-issued phones, and 34 states have prohibited it from government devices. A Montana law prohibiting everyone in the state from using TikTok was put on hold after a federal judge ruled in November that it “likely violates the First Amendment.”

Why a TikTok ban?

The FBI has warned that TikTok poses national security dangers due to the Chinese government’s alleged link with ByteDance. This link might allow the Chinese government to “control” software on millions of devices in the U.S. and conduct influence operations through the app by prioritizing specific pieces of content.

Many other countries, including members of the European Union, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, have also banned the app on their employees’ work phones. India and Nepal also made it illegal to use TikTok in their respective countries.

The advocates of the bill, as well as other countries that have banned the app, argue that TikTok is a question of national security and  provides the Chinese government with a powerful instrument for spreading propaganda. They cite the Chinese national security legislation, which requires enterprises to comply with the Chinese government’s intelligence collection.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the Chinese government plans to prevent ByteDance from forcing the sale of TikTok, potentially leading to its prohibition in the United States.

Critics of this bill argue that if passed, other governments may force American corporations to sell or transfer their local operations to a foreign entity. And based on the new law’s broad phrasing, it may also affect ByteDance’s other apps, such as Lemon8 and the AI-powered homework app Gauth.

Even if TikTok is sold to a new U.S. owner, creating it as a distinct firm with its own shares, ByteDance may diminish the strength of the transaction by not including TikTok’s algorithm in the sale. Without the algorithm, U.S. TikTok would not be as popular as it is now.

What does a potential TikTok ban mean for your brand?

Due to the nature of how the law is structured, TikTok users are unlikely to experience any immediate disruption. The app’s sale will likely be delayed for months as TikTok looks to challenge the legislation in court, and the earliest TikTok could be banned in the United States is January 2025.

So, if TikTok adds value to your business through organic content or paid advertising, the newly signed bill should not affect any aspect of your present TikTok strategy. Don’t get rid of an efficient media channel that can still have a positive impact on your business for nearly nine months. If you’ve developed an audience on TikTok, and you’ve fostered that community’s growth, there’s no need to abandon that audience just yet.

However, if your brand is primarily focusing its content efforts on TikTok and nowhere else, it may be time to align your content approach on TikTok to other social media platforms that have similar post formats Many view Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts as potential alternatives for brands looking to reallocate their TikTok resources to another platform. The TikTok ban might result in billions of dollars in additional ad revenue for Meta and Google, the owners of Instagram and YouTube, respectively, according to recent eMarketer research.

Because Motion encourages clients not to invest too heavily in any one platform, we believe our clients will be well insulated from any significant changes stemming from a TikTok ban. Being more agnostic when it comes to your content strategy and the channels you’re active on means there is less risk to your brand long-term, and you can weather turbulent changes like this.

If you were planning to launch your brand’s TikTok channel in 2024, don’t let this news dissuade you from doing so. Even if the ban takes place, you have nine months to help your brand garner greater reach, grow your online community and potentially create new sales opportunities.

While many advertisers continue to invest in more established marketing channels, TikTok has untapped potential for reaching new audiences that aren’t on other social media platforms. In January 2023, Sprout Social data showed TikTok had 850 million global users, with 40% of them not on Facebook, and 63% of them not on Twitter.

What happens next?

Currently, it appears more likely that TikTok will be sold off in some fashion, or the bill could be nullified after the election, as Donald Trump has reversed his position, saying that he is opposed to a ban.

Depending who you talk to, this legislation is either the culmination of months of work on Capitol Hill or a complete shock. Motion has been tracking the latest TikTok news in our monthly social media roundup, Social Commotion, for months. We’ll continue to provide updates as news progresses.

Don’t forget to follow Motion on LinkedIn to stay up to date on the latest.

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