TikTok Ban 2024: Diversifying your Brand’s Social Strategy

As the TikTok saga unfolds with impending “TikTok Ban” legislation passing on Capitol Hill, marketers are left navigating a landscape of uncertainty. With potential changes looming, it’s crucial for brands to understand the implications of the TikTok ban and strategize accordingly.

Imminent TikTok Ban

As of Tuesday, Congress has officially passed a bill that effectively forces ByteDance to sell TikTok or close shop in the US.  ByteDance has already conveyed that it will fight the legislation in court, as well as several consumer watchdogs and the ACLU.  While the courts have already overturned several state efforts and Trump’s executive order in 2020 regarding TikTok bans, those were on different grounds.  With national security being the primary concern of this bill, the previous cases do not establish strong precedent.

ByteDance’s prospects of retaining TikTok in the US look bleak.

is tiktok getting banned in the USA - loudcrowd perspective

Potential TikTok Ban Outcomes

While court battles will be waged over the next few months, there are effectively three possible outcomes.  Two of which would lead to TikTok (or something similar) surviving:

Here are the possible outcomes:

TikTok Ban outcomes;
A. Bytedance sells tiktok and the app surivives
B. Bytedance refuses to sell and the app fades away
C. The Courts rule the bill unconstitutional and the app surivives

Outcome A: ByteDance Sells TikTok and the App Survives

Obviously the preferred outcome by TikTok users.  There is a world where capitalism prevails, and ByteDance sells the app for north of $100 billion.  There will be no shortage of bidders for one of the most valuable apps of all time.  Presumably, this would not come along with major changes to the app, but China has made it clear it does not want to export AI technology.  Under their rules, the App might be forced to use a new algorithm.

Outcome B: ByteDance Refuses to Sell and the TikTok Ban Happens

If the Chinese government believes the app’s algorithm or national security value is greater than $100 billion, it’s possible that they will refuse to sell. In that scenario, the legislation requires the major app stores (Android and Apple) to remove TikTok, preventing users from downloading the app or installing updates.

While this might sound innocuous, apps do not survive off of the App store for long.  Updates are crucial, and that will effectively derail TikTok’s ability to continue to effectively create enough value for its users.  It will eventually fade away.

China has already signaled that it would not allow a sale under its export rules.  Its unclear if that was a posture, or if they do believe that TikTok’s algorithm is a restricted export and effectively a national security asset.

Outcome C: The Courts Rule the Bill Unconstitutional and the App Survives

While ByteDance and consumer advocacy groups have promised to fight the bill, there are few guarantees that the courts will be able to once again overturn a TikTok ban (as in 2020 and in state-led efforts).  This bill, which cites national security as its purpose, will not be as easy to overturn.

It will likely take months to figure out the future of the app.

Impact on Brands and Marketers

For nearly every brand that sells to American consumers, this legislation has monumental implications.  TikTok has become an incredibly important platform for brands to directly build awareness and share content with consumers, and often more importantly, partner with creators.

For the millions of brands that are going to be impacted, here is a playbook for how to manage the next few months and hopefully minimize disruption.

Action Item 1: Measuring Exposure and Managing Risk with Analytics

For brands that have not yet started evaluating how to manage a potential scenario where TikTok is removed from the App Store – it’s time to get to work.

The first order of business is understanding what your exposure is.  How much value does TikTok currently create for your business?  Here’s how to get started measuring that:

Social Analytics and Brand Awareness

How many impressions is TikTok driving for your brand?  Calculate the total monthly views of your brand’s videos, as well as creator and customer mentions.  While your own account’s views can be calculated with TikTok’s native analytics, to calculate creator and customer mentions, you will need a social analytics tool.  For most brands, brand awareness metrics will be most severely impacted.

Referred Revenue

While this metric will be imperfect, since it only accounts for direct referrals, you will also want to measure how many sales are directly referred from TikTok.  For most brands, a simple Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics report will give you referral data.  But beware… this revenue is likely to be massively understated.

TikTok Shop Revenue

For brands that have adopted TikTok Shops, this revenue is now in jeopardy. 

While there are other areas where TikTok can provide more indirect value, measuring exposure starts with those three reports.

Action Item 2: Acquire User Data Before TikTok Ban

Here is a scary prospectus.  You’ve spent the last 7 years acquiring followers on TikTok, only to lose them all overnight.  To mitigate the risk of losing a massive distribution channel, you need to start acquiring data of users that can be used to identify them off of the platform.  Want users to sign-up for a new-product on the waitlist or an opportunity to win something?  Now is the time to capture sign-ups.

Action Item 3: Link to Instagram and YouTube

If this is really the end… you need to drive users back to other platforms where they can follow you.  For most brands, that means Instagram and Youtube.  Link to your other social profiles, and start using call to actions (exclusive content or product drops) to drive people back to other platforms.

YouTube's investments into YouTube Shorts and social shopping will finally payoff after the TikTok ban
YouTube’s investments into YouTube Shorts and social shopping will finally payoff after the TikTok ban

Action Item 4: Return of the… Mailer?

For those brands who have found a lot of success using TikTok Shops, you will unfortunately have huge swaths of customers that are only identifiable by their address.  So you guessed it… get ready to jump in the DeLorean and retarget those customers via direct mail.

Brands may have to resort to other forms of marketing after the tiktok ban like the mailbox

Action Item 5: Identify TikTok Focused Creators

One piece of good news for brands is that you are not going to be in this alone.  For brands that partner with creators, your creators will be just as anxious to create solutions for audience risk.  Creators with a large TikTok presence will be very eager to drive their audiences back to Instagram or Youtube.  

But that doesn’t mean brands should be reactionary.  Brands should be proactive in identifying their largest TikTok creators, and prepare contingency plans if those creators no longer have the same size audiences.

TikTok Ban Bonus Idea:

For TikTok creators that will be most disrupted – consider directly posting their content on your channel.  Even without an audience, they still might be amazing creators, and the goodwill (both from the creator and the public) might galvanize consumers.

Action Item 6: Make Creator Deals Performance Based

Particularly for your TikTok creators, it will be harder than ever to efficiently price out the value of content.  One way to mitigate the risk of large changes in reach or content value is to make your creator partnerships performance based.  If creators are being largely compensated based on affiliate sales, you’ve effectively made your costs platform agnostic.  

Action Item 7: Invest in Diversified Traffic and Higher Conversion Rates

For brands with a large TikTok presence… this is going to be painful.  But failure is not an option.  Prepare to fill in the gap of lost social impressions by investing in creators or paid ads.  And for those creators, make sure they are equipped with conversion tools like Storefronts and affiliate codes.  While it may be impossible or prohibitively expensive to completely replace your TikTok traffic, improving the conversion rate of referral traffic from may be the best way to avoid a revenue disruption.

The LoudCrowd model of Creator Storefronts offers brands an owned channel for social and video commerce
LoudCrowd enables influencers to post UGC content on a brand’s website natively with Creator Storefronts

Take the TikTok Ban Seriously

For many brand marketers, this will be the fire drill of all fire drills.  Smaller brands with large TikTok dependencies will need to get extremely aggressive with their mitigation strategies if they want to survive.  Larger brands will risk severely missing revenue targets.

Now is the time to prepare for what might be coming in 2025.  At the very least, brand marketers need to be measuring their exposure and modifying their creator plans.  With a change of this magnitude, inaction could have dire consequences.

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