What does a TikTok ban mean for its community?

by Tisha Yap
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TikTok is one of the most downloaded application today and has managed to even outrun the other longstanding social applications such as Instagram, Facebook and even WhatsApp. With over 1 billion active users, 86% of its revenue is generated purely from advertising and with the implementation of the recent TikTok For Business model, revenue is bound to rocket. However, several countries bear concerns towards TikTok’s privacy issue from its affiliation with Beijing. As a result, various countries such as the U.S., Australia, Japan, and more are contemplating on the idea of a TikTok ban that could be inconvenient and possibly detrimental to TikTok’s users.

Here are some of the possible domino-effect outcomes that might follow a ban on TikTok

Loss of audience reach

TikTok is a powerful and frankly one of the most effective means used today that allows for influencers and brands to connect and engage with all types of audiences but predominantly younger audiences aged 16 to 24 years old. There are many benefits to using TikTok. With the current social and economic climate, TikTok has helped many brands to overcome their financial and social marketing constraints that which were caused by the ongoing economic recession and pandemic. TikTok has a reach of 100 million users in just America and a ban would mean the loss of these 100 million users and the dilution as they venture on to the next alternative.

Increased audience fragmentation

The first course of action that a user would do upon a ban on their favourite or most used social media app, would be to hunt for the next best thing, where in this case it would be Reels, Byte or Triller. This would then result in increased audience fragmentation as the claimed 100 million users are spread out within these three alternatives or even worse, more. Brands would then have to invest more efforts to diversify their platforms in order to reach their intended target audiences. This would call for increased efforts and required funding. Not forgetting the learning-curve that brands will have to face on an entirely foreign platform.

The threat on livelihood itself

Many creative users utilise this platform either as a means of livelihood or simply as a way to pass the time, create and share ideas. America alone makes up of 42% of TikTok’s total revenue and a ban would leave a gaping hole not only on TikTok’s financials, users’ audience reach and but on English language ad content. 80% of creatives, in America, mentioned that the ban on TikTok would impact them significantly and would affect their entire livelihood. These creatives were enabled a source of income through either TikTok itself or simply from the high exposure that comes with TikTok that allows users to redirect their audiences to their other social media platforms such as YouTube where with an increased traffic, comes increased revenue. What TikTok lacks in monetisation tools, it makes up for it with high exposure to a large audience base. Furthermore, not many users would go thorugh the hassle of using a VPN to access TikTok should it get banned so what are the chances of TikTokers avoiding a blow to their income? Slim, very slim.

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Possible death of multi-generational content

Anyone who has used TikTok would know that are much multi-generational content and this has not been seen on any other platforms so far throughout the entire lifespan of the Internet which hints that this might not be replicated elsewhere should TikTok fall. That goes to show that TikTok has the ability to bring people from multiple generations together and strengthen bonds. Should TikTok get banned, would there be another social media platform that would ignite such wholesome content and bonding for users to engage in? Hopefully so.

One less distraction from the tragedy that is 2020

Last but not least, many initially turned to TikTok as a means to cope with the COVID-19’s social distancing measures that are still happening all around the world even today. TikTok is a positive escape from the havoc that is 2020 for most users and losing TikTok would truly be upsetting for any user as TikTok is a hub of all sorts of short-minute content and this helps desensitise users with the overload of information and acts as a distraction from the negative happenings late. Even if one isn’t a TikToker themselves, they would still be exposed to the hilarious content due to cross-media where the very same content is shared on multiple platforms. For example, reposting a TikTok video on an Instagram Story.

Loss of financial aid – TikTok Back To Business

Before a TikTok ban was even a thought, TikTok was working on a program – TikTok Back to Business Program – that would incentivise brands to try their new advertorial services by offering US$100 million in free ad credits globally as an aid for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs). The program was launched in July 2020 and with the current economic climate, this would no doubt benefit SMEs, especially those who have been hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. SMEs would be able to temporarily overcome their marketing financial constraints and freely access TikTok’s ad services and potentially garner great returns. With Trump following through on his word with an executive order to ban TikTok by 20 September 2020 unless there is a change of ownership, this threatens the existence of the program and diminishes its sole purpose of existence to provide aid to SMEs in need for a helping hand. Following the lawsuit from TikTok, the Trump administration has extended the original timeline of 45 days to 90 days instead making the new deadline to be 4 November 2020.

Despite TikTok’s efforts in upping their US ties by appointing LA-based and former Disney executive Kevin Mayer as TikTok’s new CEO and distancing away from both its parent company, ByteDance, and any ties to the Chinese government, tensions have only risen and TikTok has till 4 November 2020 to seal the deal with Microsoft on selling them the U.S. operations of the app or lose America as an audience.

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