The fear that arose from early reports that TikTok could be banned in the U.S. has largely subsided for social media creators, advertisers and agencies. Many weren’t even worried to begin with.
“Honest to God, TikTokers aren’t taking it that seriously,” said Ross Pomerantz, who posts about working in a corporate job to 215,000 followers. “Any serious creator is already diversifying where they’re putting their content,” he told Observer. Pomerantz relies on social media for his income, and his audience is spread across TikTok, Instagram (388,000 followers), YouTube (30,200 subscribers) and LinkedIn (99,300 followers). If TikTok were to go offline at any point, he could shift to posting on the other platforms where he’s built followings.
Despite bipartisan efforts to regulate or ban TikTok, Pomerantz isn’t considering leaving the app because of how easy it is to make videos, he told Observer. “No one is leaving until (a ban) becomes real,” he said.
Tensions between TikTok’s executive team and U.S. lawmakers had been brewing in the months leading up to CEO Shou Zi Chew’s Congressional testimony in March. Two days before the hearing, Chew posted a video calling on TikTok users to post what they love about the app for elected officials to see. The company also paid for dozens of creators to appear on Capitol Hill prior to the hearing, some of whom spoke about the platform’s impact on their lives. The five-hour-long testimony did little to settle tensions. Lawmakers appeared fed up with Big Tech as a whole, and some expressed their dissatisfaction with TikTok’s plan to safeguard American users by storing their data on U.S. land. Congress members have introduced a series of bills that could result in a TikTok divestment or national ban, but none have passed the Senate or House of Representatives yet. Montana became the first state to block TikTok app downloads in May after Gov. Greg Gianforte passed a bill making it illegal for the company to do business in the state. The law drew court challenges from users and the company.
Governmental processes happen slowly, and the likely court challenges that would arise from a national ban could mean TikTok users won’t have an answer on the app’s future any time soon. Creators who rely on the platform for income could be subject to a long, drawn-out fight to keep TikTok operational. But it’s not concerning many of the affected parties.
“No (advertiser) is saying they don’t want to put money in TikTok,” Ryan Detert, CEO of Influential, a marketing company, told Observer. During today’s economic downturn, a return on investment is the top priority for advertisers, he said. TikTok has a great ROI, with users browsing and purchasing products more frequently than users on other social media apps, according to Insider Intelligence.
Influential has run campaigns with Google, Amazon and McDonalds, and it has more than 3.5 million creators in its network, according to its website. Detert has not seen any slowdown in company spending on TikTok as a result of a potential ban. The general belief is that TikTok and the U.S. government will find a solution before it comes to that, the CEO said.
It’s not something the creators bring up either, he said. The industry talk amongst influencers isn’t about a TikTok ban, he said, but about how to monetize platforms and income streams—a problem in the creator economy that is largely unaddressed.
TikTok’s response encouraged agencies
The initial concern around a TikTok ban stemmed from a lack of information, said Chris Jacks, director of growth strategy at HireInfluence, an influencer marketing agency. The company has managed campaigns for Microsoft, Walmart and Diet Coke, according to its website.
Since the news spread, TikTok has educated users on what a ban entails, detailed its action plan with Project Texas and demonstrated a willingness to comply with U.S. legal processes, he said. “Based on my interaction with TikTok, they strike me as a company that, for the right reasons, would be willing to do pretty much anything to accommodate whatever is required of them to exist in the U.S.,” he told Observer. TikTok has 150 million monthly active users in the U.S. It generated an estimated $9.4 billion in revenue last year, up from $4 billion in 2021, according to Business of Apps.
From TikTok’s initial launch in the U.S. in 2018, the company has been transparent about changes and has a good process for working with agencies, Jacks said. “Every interaction we’ve had with TikTok as a platform has been very positive,” he said.
Similar to Detert’s experience, Jacks said creators aren’t bringing up the potential ban as a concern. HireInfluence doesn’t have a backup plan for if TikTok shuts down, but that decision hasn’t been made in vain, according to Jacks. It seems like everyone is working towards a resolution, he said, and the marketing company is confident in TikTok’s response. HireInfluence is still seeing “incredible demand” to have marketing campaigns on TikTok, Jacks said.