TikTok Ban? What Business Leaders Need to Know

Last week, legislation overwhelmingly passed the U.S. House of Representatives (352-65) that would force TikTok’s owner, ByteDance to either sell their stake in the company to a non-Chinese entity or risk the app being shut down in the United States in the coming months. This bill was introduced over security concerns and the possibility of Chinese government interference. 


Economic Impacts

Over 2 billion people use TikTok across the world, with over 150 million of them in America. This makes TikTok an important advertising platform for thousands of businesses, not only nationally but also locally, including many small businesses. There are also immeasurable effects including individual users reviewing restaurants, products, and more, giving additional unpaid exposure to business owners. 


Local Impacts

Many of our local businesses use TikTok to reach their younger audiences. The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids uses TikTok as part of the marketing strategy for their Annual Membership Campaign. Stacy Vance, Communications Director for the YMCA, shared that although a TikTok ban wouldn’t affect her team too much, they’d still want to find a way to reach the younger demographic they currently reach through their TikTok advertising. 

The Grand Rapids Gold recently started using TikTok as a tool for brand awareness. Shanee Marvin, the Gold’s Director of Strategy, and Brittney Whitefield, the Gold’s Marketing Manager said they’re keeping an eye on what’s happening in the news. They have a plan to switch their TikTok content to Instagram reels if something were to happen to TikTok. “Instagram is our number one platform for engagement and followers and we also see the highest conversion rate of tickets sold on Instagram. That makes it an easy shift for us to focus our time and dollars if the TikTok platform gets banned.” 


What’s Next

The TikTok legislation now heads to the Senate, where there is much less enthusiasm about passing the legislation. If the bill passes the senate, The White House has indicated that President Biden will sign the bill. Most experts agree TikTok will most likely be sold by ByteDance to a non-Chinese company, rather than shut down. There are already a few parties interested in buying the platform. As for what exactly will happen, it’s hard to say until the bill proceeds. 


Takeaways for Businesses

“If you take away anything from this, it’s that you don’t own your audience on any platform,” said Jeff Pipp, General Manager for Bloom Social. Pipp recommends diversifying marketing efforts across multiple social media platforms to insulate from everchanging social media algorithms, audience trends, and platform changes. 

Kevin Kamis, Owner of Launch Kit and TikTok Content Creator himself, shared a similar viewpoint to many marketing professionals in the area – platforms change all the time. From TV to MySpace to TikTok, the trend of how we gather information has changed over the years. “We’re not worried about which way the vote falls. Either way, people will continue to share stories, it’ll just make room for the next best platform. 


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