TikTok ban: don’t lose sleep over it

Everyone’s talking about the potential TikTok ban in the U.S. 

Lawmakers argue that TikTok’s ownership by Chinese tech giant ByteDance poses a security threat and fear they’re handing over U.S. data. TikTok denies these allegations, but President Biden signed into law a ban of the app unless ByteDance sells to a non-Chinese company.

So, what does this mean for brands?

Many of our clients have asked us: what will happen if the platform goes down? Where will their audience go? Should they stop activating on TikTok, just in case? How can they possibly go on without it??

Let’s take a minute.

Brands should definitely not stop using TikTok. 

Harry Tidswell, Group Account Director at Brainlabs, talks us through why now is the time to push forward on TikTok and shares two strategies to future-proof your influencer marketing, whatever happens.

Is TikTok really going down?

We don’t have a crystal ball, but we believe that the threat of a ban is just that – a threat. 

This isn’t the first time the U.S. has tried to ban TikTok. Former President Trump attempted to ban the app in 2020 without success. And with 170 million Americans using the app, the public is fighting back.

If the ban goes ahead, it won’t take effect until at least 2025. Yes, this is only six months away, but we all know the impact just one successful video can have on brand success. So, if anything, now is the time to put more budget into TikTok campaigns and make the most out of the platform while you’re guaranteed to have it.

And while there’s no denying the U.S. makes up a large portion of TikTok users, it’s not the only country. The platform is popular in many areas, especially across Asia and Europe. TikTok brand strategies will still remain relevant all over the world, even if the worst happens in the States.

Harry says, “My response to clients forever and always (because this comes up every year), is who cares if it goes down? Because your campaign will have already happened. It’s already had the impact it’s needed to have – it’s reached the audience. But if it does go down, there are strategies to put in place for long-term success.”

So, if brands are worried, what can be done? 

The TikTok ban: Short-term strategies for long-term success

If you want to develop high-performing campaigns on TikTok and achieve disproportionate cut-through despite the TikTok ban, you’ve come to the right place. 

Strategy 1: Convert your existing audience

Stop building a new TikTok audience and start converting the one you have.

It’s all well and good for brands to increase their following on TikTok. Building a community is a long-term strategy that will reap reward after reward. If you’re worried about the effects of a ban then moving to the conversion stage of the funnel will help you increase sales now.

We worked with Meta Quest to do this, boosting curiosity and deepening consideration for Meta Quest 3 in the UK. The campaign targeted Prospects/Self-purchasers and Teen and Young Adults (TAYA), and aimed to create relevance by delivering social proof of the product’s “wow” factor.

We partnered with tech and gaming creators for unboxing videos and collaborated with Tommy Fury during a high-profile boxing match. We created hype around the Halloween OOH activation, backed up with Twitch activations and custom, paid media assets.

By using a measured content delivery approach, we gradually built interest and drove conversions without overwhelming the audience. This strategy resulted in 7.5M organic views.

We carried out a brand lift study with our measurement partner, ThisThat, which showed improvements across all brand metrics, including relevance, consideration, and action intent.

The point is that activating ultra-targeted, niche influencer campaigns to drive conversions now will ultimately boost sales more cost-effectively in the short-term. And by creating a cross-channel approach, we encouraged audiences to engage with Meta Quest on other platforms so they know where to find them in case of a ban in the future.

Strategy 2: Build out assets for now and in the future

Usage rights fees are more expensive than ever, but they’re also more cost-effective.

By purchasing the usage rights to influencer marketing content, brands can diversify content and utilize videos across multiple channels. Not only can content be posted on the creator’s accounts, but on the brand’s too. This is especially useful if brands create an omnichannel presence.

Brainlabs worked with Activision on the launch of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and posted content on Call of Duty’s and the creators’ platforms. This approach hugely increased the reach of each video, and the campaign totaled over 27M organic views, 400K+ total likes, 16K+ comments, and 16K+ saves and shares.

Harry says, “If you’re looking for content rather than the following of the influencer, that’s when it’s really handy. You’ll be cost-effective in looking for creators, and you don’t have to rely on their engagement rate, their views, or even if TikTok exists.”

As COD has over 12M followers, we found that the tastemaker’s content often performed better on COD’s channels. This jaw-dropping cracked glass artwork achieved 2.6M views, 191K+ likes, and 1K+ on COD’s Instagram, compared to 44.6K views, 2K+ likes, and 100+ comments on @niallshuklart, the creator’s account.

Of course, it’s not about just gaining usage rights to assets and posting. Brands need to utilize tools (like our Bytesights 2.0) to analyze conversations and ensure you’re getting in on the right ones at the right time. Then it’s all about measuring the highest-performing content and doubling down on paid ads with only the best activations.

Building out a roster of content will set you up for future success no matter what happens to TikTok. But the beauty of this strategy also lies in the long-term relationships you can build with certain creators. It’s not just on socials where these influencers can impact. Brands can use influencer content for online ads, events or even to boost SEO. There are multiple creative (and effective) ways of boosting the performance of your influencer marketing campaigns both on and off social channels. 

Ultimately, a multi-channel approach is crucial. 

To do this effectively, you must assess what’s performing best in your TikTok strategy and choose your platforms accordingly. Eye-catching, short-form content working well? Consider Instagram reels. Targeting keywords and SEO strategies? YouTube Shorts may be the solution. Our proprietary tech tools and Brainlabbers’ expertise enable us to plan the right platforms to reach each brand’s audience and assess where best to drive budgets if the TikTok ban happens.

Bored of the TikTok ban?

Us too. So we’ll leave you with this: whether the TikTok ban or sale goes ahead, for now, it doesn’t matter. And that’s the whole point of TikTok – focus on what’s happening now.

You don’t need to be drastically changing everything at the moment, but if brands are apprehensive, these strategies will help optimize short-term performance. By focusing on their existing audience and building assets, brands can plan for all possibilities without throwing away their current approach.

The strategies are only half the picture – you need to know how to tailor them to your brand. And if you don’t know, talk to the experts (hello!). We can’t predict the future, but we can definitely help you prepare for it.