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How the Possible TikTok Ban Is Affecting PR

Published on April 3, 2024, 4:14 p.m.
by Alexis Anderson.

TikTok is one of the most popular social media platforms with nearly 1.6 billion active users as of January 2024. It is also used as a channel for PR and advertising, allowing brands and public figures to interact with their audiences in a new way than they ever were able to before. However, it could soon be gone forever in the United States.

TikTok was first launched in 2016 by ByteDance. The company then made it available globally in 2018 after merging it with the platform The platform took off — so much so that it went from 347.1 million users in 2018 to 1 billion in 2020 — with the United States now having the most users globally with 148 million in 2024.

Photo via Adobe Stock by Olekdandr

Although TikTok is a very popular entertainment platform, a United States government official, Rep. Mike Gallagher, says that the app is a security concern, due to the fact that ByteDance “does the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party.” In March 2024, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that will ban TikTok if ByteDance doesn’t sell to a United States based company.

The Senate would still have to vote to pass the bill into a law, but President Joe Biden said, “If they pass it, I’ll sign it.”

So what does this possibility mean for those brands who heavily rely on TikTok for brand awareness and consumer-brand relationships, as well as other aspects of public relations?

One of the features that users and brands enjoy is how it helps showcase brands’ personalities. By participating in trends and interacting with their audiences through short videos and comments, brands are able to display their personalities and be more relatable and attractive to consumers.

So, to be able to keep this kind of consumer-brand relationship, brands need to find a platform that is similar to TikTok. Some examples of alternatives to TikTok are Vigo Video, KWAI, YouTube Shorts and Firework, but the best alternative is most likely Instagram Reels.

Photo via Adobe Stock by VadimGuzhva

Instagram Reels is the most similar to TikTok’s visual aesthetic and tailored algorithm. Many businesses already use Instagram Reels, so it wouldn’t be a hard transition to make.

Whether TikTok will get banned or bought out is still uncertain, but either way, it is urgent that brands prepare to diversify their social media presence.

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