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The Turmoil Over TikTok

By September 23, 2020 No Comments
Person holding a mobile phone with the TIkTok app loaded

One of the strangest results of the pandemic, is the meteoric rise of the social media platform, TikTok. As millions of people were quarantined at home they began downloading TikTok in droves just to see what it was all about. In February, the app had 113 million downloads alone. According to TechCrunch, by March, when quarantine was in full-swing in most states, TikTok had been downloaded 315 million times. And much to the chagrin of many in Gen Z, the app was attracting many Millennials, Gen Xrs and even Baby Boomers.

What is it?

So, what does TikTok do? It’s a video sharing app. Users can create and upload 15-60 second videos to the platform. Many users perform dances to popular songs, lip sync to those same songs, or perform comedy sketches. The algorithm analyzes what users like and share and based on that, will serve up similar content. Since the pandemic, content has changed to include more educational content, political content, and DIY videos. In fact, you can find pretty much anything on TikTok, which is part of the appeal to users and serves as an opportunity for marketers.

Marketing with TikTok

How can you market on TikTok? Advertisers can create ads that show up on the welcome screen, and many large brands have taken advantage of this space. Brands from Guess to Taco Bell and Apple have purchased space on the welcome screen. These are big brands with large budgets to spend.

However, other brands including the Washington Post, have used TikTok accounts to promote their businesses organically. For example, the Washington Post has created a TikTok account and it’s impressive. The newspaper posts everything from skits about the news, to behind the scenes journalism, and many “trend” videos that incorporate the latest viral trends into Washington Post content. Their content has earned them 649,000 followers and 25.8 million likes. A print newspaper that relevant in a space like TikTok, is a marketing win.

Brands can also connect with influencers to promote their products. Influencers on TikTok have up to 61 million followers, like influencer and former LSU student Addison Rae Easterling. According to Forbes, this has earned Easterling the title of the top TikToker, and her following online has led to brand deals with American Eagle, Reebok, Fashion Nova and other brands. She is now a full-time creator and influencer and earns over $5 million dollars a year. Influencers are growing on TikTok and partnering with the right one can lead to billions in sales.

Does it Have a Future?

But what about TikTok’s future? Over the past several months, the Trump administration has threatened to ban the app in the U.S. leading many users and creators to be concerned for its future.

The administration cited national security risks for the proposed ban. They maintained that as a Chinese-based company, the app supplied too much data information on Americans to a foreign government. The government maintained that if TikTok wanted to do business in the U.S. they needed to be owned by a U.S. company.

Microsoft was poised to purchase TikTok, but that deal fell through and it looked like the ban was going to happen in September. However, Oracle and Walmart stepped in and a deal was brokered for them to purchase a minority stake in TikTok, and move American data to the Oracle cloud, with more protections for American data. The ban was off.

Considering TikTok?

As marketers, the team at Baseline is always looking for the newest platforms and trends for our clients. While TikTok may not be the right advertising platform for every business, it does provide unique opportunities for brands to market themselves. Interested in learning more about TikTok or other marketing opportunities? Contact us!