by. Asia Floyd
Over 150 million people across the United States are on the social platform TikTok. TikTok is a popular social media app that allows users to create, share, and discover different videos and content. The social platform allows for many people to come together for entertainment and comedy, learning and gaining knowledge, growing businesses, and free expression. TikTok helps to inspire and influence creativity and allows users to discover and connect with a broader global community.
While many users are enjoying the social platform, many lawmakers in the United States, Europe, and Canada are trying to restrict users’ access to the platform. Many lawmakers and regulators are concerned that the platform and its parent company, ByteDance, may use sensitive data that has the potential to fall in the hands of the Chinese government. “They have pointed to laws that allow the Chinese government to secretly demand data from Chinese companies and citizens for intelligence-gathering operations. They are also worried that China could use TikTok’s content recommendations for misinformation.”
TikTok bans affecting universities in the U.S.
More than two dozen states have banned TikTok on government-issued devices and many colleges, including the University of Texas at Austin, Boise State University, and Auburn University. Additionally, Montana plans to vote on a bill as well to possibly block TikTok in the state. Eight Florida universities have also banned the social platform, including University of West Florida, Florida State University, University of Florida, New College of Florida, Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, and University of South Florida. On March 29, The State University System of Florida Board approved emergency regulations that required these universities to remove TikTok and other social media platforms including TencentQQ, WeChat, Vkontakte, Fizz, and Kaspersky from Wi-Fi networks and university devices. There was an increase of privacy concerns on how the owners of TikTok handle user data. “…especially regarding whether the app could be infiltrated by the Chinese government to spy on its 150 million American users, is the central focal point around the ban.”
There are also concerns that TikTok could be used by the Chinese government to spread propaganda to global audiences in addition to harmfully affecting young users.
What does this mean for advertising?
Many marketers are not too worried about the increase of TikTok bans across the Western governments. “That’s not to say marketers are oblivious to TikTok’s potential risks. But until the red tape becomes much tighter, advertisers will continue to turn a blind eye in favor of an arguably cost-effective platform to reach their target audience.”
Many marketers and advertisers enjoy using the social platform to target and attract Gen Z users. Over 60% of TikTok users are in Gen Z, meaning they were born after 1996. “Generation Z is one of the most diverse generations yet, with high levels of education, digital nativism, social and cultural awareness and a high propensity to be more expressive. Just as millennials fueled the rise of earlier social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, Generation Z is fueling the rise of TikTok, and understanding the relationship between people and platforms is very telling of what to expect of this rising generation.”
It is unlikely that advertisers will invoke their own ban on TikTok, as advertisers can target and connect with a younger generation through the platform. “Marketers are apt to keep their TikTok spend, given the channel’s attractiveness especially to Gen Z users, who have wholeheartly adopted the app as the main space for them to share, connect and build online communities… There is proof, however, that the app is one of the main ways marketers can reach a lot of younger people at the same time. That’s a big thing to give up in any context — let alone one based on the threat of data abuses in the future, not now.”
Also, many marketers are not entirely concerned with a potential TikTok ban considering this is not the first time a social media platform has run into privacy issues. “Marketers remain unfazed as this is not their first encounter with a social media platform causing concern with privacy issues, and they know it will eventually settle down,” said Rob Jewell, chief growth officer at Power Digital.”
TikTok is a fun and popular social media platform for many people to enjoy, and more importantly, for advertisers to capitalize on. It seems that as long as advertisers continue to be mindful of the platforms advertising policies and limitations around data, they can continue to use it as a vehicle to reach a younger, more engaged audience.