For many brands and influencers, the viral video app TikTok has become not only a steady stream of content and ideas — it’s become a source of income. However, with security concerns and potential government-regulated bans on the way, how should brands be approaching the use of TikTok in their marketing strategy?
What We Know
TikTok has over 800 million active users worldwide as of June 2020, and has been downloaded over 1.5 billion times in the App Store and Google Play. The demographic for TikTok heavily skews to younger generations, with 41% of the user base being aged between 16 and 24 years old.
Usage rates for the app are also through the roof, with over 90% of all users accessing the app on a daily basis, for an average of 52 combined total minutes each day.
On its face, the usage rate and user numbers would appear to make TikTok a valuable asset for brands and businesses. However, in early July, the Indian government officially banned 59 Chinese-based apps, including TikTok, due to border tension with China. Now, the United States is contemplating a similar ban, but not because of tensions – but because of potential privacy issues.
In late 2019, the U.S. military branches blocked access for all personnel to the app, citing a warning from the Pentagon regarding privacy concerns and a “potential risk associated with using the TikTok app.” Now, companies like Wells Fargo are joining in and advising that employees delete the app, not only from their company devices, but from personal devices, as well.
“Due to concerns about TikTok’s privacy and security controls and practices, and because corporate-owned devices should be used for company business only, we have directed those employees to remove the app from their devices,” the statement from Wells Fargo said.
In an article written in The Verge, Russell Brandom dove deeper into the concerns around TikTok, and the challenges it presents to the American government:
“For experts, the concern is less about mass data collection and more about targeted operations that are harder to detect,” Brandom said. “Because TikTok maintains the standard level of invasive app access, the Chinese intelligence services could potentially use it as a portal to surveil specific users or gather compromising information. The FBI has already raised the alarm about Chinese spies stealing US trade secrets, so that same access is even scarier for Amazon or Wells Fargo, which might plausibly have proprietary tech that China wants to steal. As long as the Chinese government can put pressure on TikTok through its ownership, there will be ways to snoop on users without raising alarms. That makes it hard for high-risk users to feel entirely safe, no matter what the app does.”
Bottom Line for Brands
Aside from the obvious privacy concerns — is TikTok right for your brand, anyway? The short answer is: maybe.
While it is one of the fastest growing social media channels in the world, engagement and impressions on TikTok are going to come down to one vital piece of any social media strategy — content. If you plan to use TikTok as a brand, it will take a vision for the channel that connects with your audience, creativity when it comes to creating videos to share and a cohesive plan amongst your team in putting the content together.
At this time, however, due to the mounting privacy concerns (and potential government shutdowns of the app), we would recommend focusing your time and energy on content elsewhere — like Facebook, Instagram or email marketing.
At SmartSolutions, our team can help assess your company’s marketing strategies and efforts and help you create a plan for your digital marketing channels.
Every company has a story — and at SmartSolutions, we’re passionate about helping you tell that story.