If you pay attention to the news, have you wondered if TikTok is banned what that could mean for your franchise marketing strategy?
There’s no denying that the impact of a ban could be profound for the lucrative social media giant. But it doesn’t mean you can’t take steps to be prepared for a potential ban and safeguard your company, which can include steps to:
- Take inventory of what information has already been shared.
- Refrain from installing the app on additional company devices.
- Create a plan on how you might change your franchise marketing strategy if a ban is implemented.
- Remove the app’s tracking pixel from your website.
TikTok’s influence is significant on franchise marketing campaigns and provides one of the best channels to reach Gen Z users, who use the app to share, connect and create online communities.
The Chinese-founded company has more than 1 billion users, overtook Google as the most popular site in 2021, generated $13 billion in advertising last year and is expected to top $44 billion in 2027.
Franchise marketing companies, which have experience with marketing like Curious Jane, use it to reach specific audiences and learn the behaviors of clients’ customers, much like any other platform. But in TikTok’s case, the audience sought by many marketers is teenagers. Two-thirds of U.S. teens use the app, which makes it the second most popular app in that age group. YouTube remains the most popular, for now.
So, when threats of banning the platform were volleyed in political theater, people took notice. It also raised important questions for franchise marketers regarding ongoing campaigns.
While a ban is probably a long way and multiple court challenges away from happening, it’s good to think about the future. We’ve compiled a few questions and answers that you might have about how the talk of a ban might affect you, your company and upcoming franchise marketing campaigns:
Q: What threat does the platform pose to franchise marketing campaigns?
A: While it remains to be seen if much of this is simply political rhetoric, there have already been instances of security troubles.
But the overarching question of threat is difficult to answer with so many unknowns about the platform and how the company operates its separate footings in both the U.S. and China. Given the company’s Chinese origins, some lawmakers think the Chinese government could employ user data to target the U.S. audience with misinformation and propaganda campaigns.
In other instances, location data could be used to track users. In an unsettling illustration of that use, TikTok and parent company ByteDance employees in both the U.S. and China used location data to track Forbes journalists late last year. While TikTok moved to fire those individuals, the instance also illustrated that fears of user data being used maliciously weren’t unfounded.
If you have already used the app, or are currently using it, take inventory of what information you are sharing with the platform. If you feel vulnerable, turn off what you can and protect yourself and your campaigns.
Q: If a ban on TikTok happens, how can I stay up on franchising trends if I choose not to have an account to maintain my privacy?
A: The good news here is that you don’t need to download the app to view videos. You can still view videos through the company’s website, tiktok.com. Trending videos on the platform have their own page and you can click on the name of the creator to take you to their page. From there, you can browse through a selection and hunt for specific videos. It’s more cumbersome, but it avoids downloading the app if you’re concerned about its security.
Some franchise marketers who continue to use TikTok have refused to implement the company’s tracking pixel over security concerns.
Q: What if I already had downloaded it but canceled my account and deleted the app out of concern?
A: Odds are, your information is already stored in the company’s servers. But since the app no longer resides on your phone, it no longer can collect information on you or your location.
If you want to continue to use the app, but want to be as secure as possible, you might consider limiting the access to certain company-owned devices and limit what information you share. Also, talk with your employees and internal marketing teams about how you are changing your practices and why.
In a post on the company’s website, Aruna Sharma, TikTok’s global head of privacy and regulatory affairs, provided a list of steps the company had taken in 2022 to protect its U.S. and European users. Some of those improvements included creating TikTok U.S. Data Security (USDS), which is designed to oversee all aspects of the U.S. TikTok platform related to data and content, providing more transparency, updating privacy policies, collaborating with hackers to improve platform vulnerabilities and updating community guidelines.
Q: I’ve heard the app has been banned by the government. What does that mean?
A: The federal government and 28 of 50 U.S. states either announced or enacted bans on the platform for state government agencies, employees and contractors on agency-issued devices. Auburn University, University of Oklahoma, University of Texas-Austin and Texas A&M University also have banned its use, and other universities are discouraging it among faculty and students.
This means the employees can no longer download or access TikTok’s app on agency-issued phones. And when it comes to students, they won’t be able to access the app or its functions when using school Wi-Fi internet access. They can still use their apps, along with the general public, when accessing it from their own cellphone data.
Q: What happens to our campaigns if TikTok’s platform is shut down?
A: For franchise marketers and businesses, it would mean significant adjustments to ad campaigns on other platforms. It’s something Curious Jane’s teams are constantly monitoring as they develop and launch targeted campaigns for clients on the platform.
While an outright ban might remain unlikely, it doesn’t hurt to have a plan ready to identify other ad platforms that could serve as its replacement. Keep in mind, TikTok isn’t the only company to face questions about its security and privacy practices. Lawmakers have scrutinized Facebook and Twitter for years, prompting reforms within those platforms.
In recent months, TikTok has been working to separate its U.S. user data from that of its Chinese-based parent company, and TikTok remains in talks with the current U.S administration. Moving forward, it will be telling to see how the company responds to the concerns about privacy and user data protection, along with what actions, if any, Congress takes in its upcoming session.