What The TikTok Ban Could Mean For Marketers In The US

On 24 April, Joe Biden signed a bill that threatens to ban the social media app TikTok. The law has given ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, an ultimatum: sell the app’s US operations or face a permanent ban.  

The ban would take place by blocking TikTok across all app stores and disallowing web hosts from distributing the platform. The law comes after hypothetical concern that data from TikTok’s 170 million US users could be accessed by the Chinese state, breaching national security laws. 

ByteDance has 270 days to make the decision… 


…and the clock is ticking 


TikTok’s US business could sell for over $50 billion (£39.9 billion), making it no easy bid. As you can imagine, very few companies can afford to splash out like that, but potential bidders could include the likes of Apple, Amazon, Google or Netflix. Even there, buying the app may involve disrupting antitrust regulations and unfairly monopolising on market power.  

If TikTok does get banned, then the US constitutional right to freedom of speech could be threatened and a political storm could follow.  

What Does This Mean for Marketers In The US? 

Economically speaking, the TikTok ban would also shut down a huge e-commerce opportunity. On September 12 2023, TikTok launched TikTok shop. The in-app marketplace takes down the user-barrier of having to leave the app to purchase from a creator. With the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt tag having 7.3 million posts, the app has become a hell of a force in social commerce. 

Further data, as polled by HootSuite, shows that: 

  • On average, businesses use 15% of their marketing budget on TikTok 
  • 1 in 4 business owners use TikTok influencers for product sales or promotions 
  • Advertisers see an average return of $2 for every $1 spent 
  • TikTok is the fastest growing platform for product discovery 

In 2023, TikTok reported it drove $15 billion in revenue for small businesses alone. It’s no surprise then that the ban will bite these enterprises the most.  

For marketers, the ban will create a huge rift in digital strategy. With a detrimental loss of audience access and influencer partnerships, marketers will have to ‘think outside the Tok’ by redressing content tactics, shifting spend and revaluating data analytics. Likewise, brands that have built a reputation heavily tied to TikTok would need to modify their branding to better fit other platforms – all of which means adapting to new demographics, algorithms and media formats.  

A New Opportunity? 

Whilst TikTok’s foreseeable expiration date is 19 January 2025, US businesses could use this window as an opportunity to solidify presence on clone platforms. These platforms being YouTube Shorts, Facebook and Instagram Reels, all of which have soared in popularity over the past three years.  

YouTube Shorts, that rolled out in 2021 now accumulates 70 billion daily views, whilst Instagram and Facebook Reels, launched across 2020 and 2021, have a combined total of 200 billion views per day. 

The looming ban could benefit these platforms as businesses race to get there first. Should the ban take place, businesses with a pre-established presence on these platforms would have the upper hand on their social strategies. 

What To Do Now 

According to expert in cybersecurity, Milton Mueller, there is real doubt that TikTok would pose a threat to US security levels. In fact, TikTok has gone to great lengths to delete data of American users from ByteDance servers, and they have also moved all information to US-based servers in an effort to keep data out of Chinese surveillance.  

For those in the US, the advice is to carry on posting as normal. If you have concerns about breaches to your security, then TikTok allows the option to create a new or anonymous account. You are also able to disable TikTok from accessing your contacts and photos via phone settings. 


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