TikTok is dominating the social media arena. Despite a history of privacy and security controversies, the video-sharing app remains one of the world’s most popular social platforms with almost 2 billion downloads and 800 million active users. It appears that TikTok will be sticking around — if everything goes to plan.
On Aug. 6, President Donald Trump issued an executive order that would ban the app in the U.S. if TikTok’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, didn’t sell within 45 days. Since then, Microsoft teamed up with Walmart to put in a bid, but ByteDance wouldn’t sell to the tech giant. Microsoft dropped out, leaving Walmart to pair up with Oracle, a computer software company that would handle U.S. user data.
Now, the three companies are hashing out who will own how much of the new U.S.-based company TikTok Global. Many young users — users who can’t be found en masse on any other platform — anxiously await more news. If you’re a marketer targeting Gen Zers and Millennials, you should be paying attention, too.
Should Marketers Use TikTok?
TikTok privacy concerns might be simultaneously overblown and underestimated. Experts say the company’s data collection policies concerning American users are similar to other social platforms, but policymakers fear ByteDance could hypothetically be forced to hand over data to the Chinese Communist Party under China’s laws. ByteDance has maintained that this scenario would never happen. However, with Washington and Beijing engaged in an ongoing trade dispute, the app makes an easy target for American lawmakers seeking to curb international influence.
Meanwhile, marketers are left in an uncomfortable limbo. While some U.S. companies have imposed TikTok bans, many major brands have been paying serious cash to advertise on the platform. The app’s unprecedented ability to garner user engagement has allowed companies like Chipotle to see significant advertising ROI in a matter of days. Other brands targeting younger consumers have noticed, which is why many are scrambling to put together a TikTok marketing strategy.
Advertisers that adopt the platform now will be ahead of the competition. Just keep in mind that TikTok’s advertising feature is still new; the platform didn’t launch its first ad unit until last year. This can be both good and bad for new adopters. By experimenting with TikTok, marketers can maximize their brand reach. However, they also must assess the risk of investing in a social platform that’s still developing.
What to Consider Moving Forward
The potential rewards of a viral TikTok campaign are huge, but are they worth the risks? Here are three things to keep in mind as you decide whether to utilize the platform:
1. Your Audience
Who is your target audience? If you’re attempting to reach anyone under 30 years old, then the sooner you get on TikTok, the better. If you are not sure, you should conduct marketing research to confirm that TikTok is a viable channel for reaching your audience. Jumping onto the platform now can give you an advantage over the competition in terms of awareness with Generation Z.
Because TikTok marketing is so new (and controversial), many advertisers are focusing their efforts elsewhere. This leaves an opening for marketers to capitalize on a platform used by a lot of younger users. The downside is that the app is as “young” as its users, so it’ll be a while before the platform can offer the same functionality and ease of use as Facebook or Instagram.
2. TikTok Data Privacy Policies
That said, the measures TikTok takes to hide behind-the-scenes data collection activities is a big differentiator. Right now, it’s impossible for independent researchers to know everything the app does. As a marketer, you should pay attention as TikTok data privacy policies evolve and stay on top of the issues that could influence them.
3. Your Objective
After conducting a thorough risk assessment, you may decide that TikTok is a platform that you need to be on right now. If that’s the case, make sure you have a clear goal for advertising on the app. The sheer quantity of users logging in every day makes it a potential goldmine for brand awareness campaigns, but lower-funnel, conversion-oriented campaigns can be successful on TikTok as well.
The platform offers features that streamline partnerships between brands and influencers, and it gives advertisers plenty of flexibility to decide how they want to engage with audiences and where they want to drive engaged viewers. It’ll be easier to keep up with the app as it continues to evolve if you take time to learn the platform now.
As questions surrounding this young social media platform persist, marketers should plan for a number of possible outcomes. Advertising on TikTok could be the next big thing, or it could come to an abrupt halt. We’ll all know soon enough.