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Surviving the TikTok Ban with Your Community Intact

Updated: Mar 18


Over 7 million entrepreneurs utilizing TikTok to boost their business traffic, depicted in a vibrant gradient of blue, purple, and cream

Key Insights:


  1. Millions Affected: With 150 million U.S. users, TikTok's potential ban poses a significant disruption for over 7 million small businesses leveraging its platform for growth.

  2. Digital Dark Ages: The looming threat of a "Digital Dark Age" highlights the importance of preserving digital content beyond ephemeral social media platforms.

  3. Ownership is Key: Website, emails, and in-person events are key to business growth. Without them, do you exist?



Introduction



When whispers of a TikTok ban started floating around in August 2020, it wasn't just the influencers and meme-makers who felt the ground shake. Small businesses, the unsung heroes hustling on every like, share, and follow, suddenly found themselves staring down the barrel of losing a key artery of traffic and brand visibility. Thanks to the Trump administration pointing fingers at national security concerns tied to its Chinese roots, ByteDance and TikTok have been on the US governments radar ever since. 


TikTok, with its 150 million U.S. users as of January 2024, has grown into something far bigger than just an entertainment app; it's become a vital platform for over 7 million small businesses looking to tap into its vast and engaged audience. However, the threat of a TikTok ban shines a harsh light on the risks of putting all your digital eggs in one basket. It's not just about missing out on the next big trend; it's about the real danger of losing your primary connection to your audience overnight.


So, what's the game plan for navigating these uncertain times? You've landed in the right place. We're here to break down the essentials of the TikTok dilemma, underscore the significance of diversifying your digital presence, and guide you through transitioning your audience to platforms where you hold the reins. From mastering other social channels to fortifying your own website, we'll show you how to keep your community engaged and your brand vibrant, no matter what the future holds for TikTok.



Understanding the TikTok Ban



In May 2023, Montana tried to ban TikTok completely, a move that hadn't been made by any other state. Feeling strong in support of what Trump had tried to do years earlier, they wanted to stop anyone in the state from using TikTok, not just on work phones but on personal devices too. However, a judge quickly stepped in and stopped this ban from going into effect, but the same sentiment hasn’t been forgotten.


Fast forward to 2024, and the conversation has been moved to the national stage once again. The U.S. Congress is seriously considering forcing TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, to sell off TikTok in the U.S. This came after a vote in the House where most agreed (352-65-1) that this should happen. But what exactly is the government asking ByteDance to do? And how does this affect us, the audience who uses the app daily? 


The U.S. government is considering compelling ByteDance, the Chinese parent company of TikTok, to sell its operations in the United States. This action aims to address concerns over national security and data privacy, stemming from fears that user data could potentially be shared with the Chinese government. The move to divest TikTok's U.S. operations would essentially require ByteDance to relinquish control over the app's American user data and operations, ensuring that TikTok under U.S. ownership would operate independently of its Chinese parent company.


Should TikTok decline to comply, the app would effectively disappear from our devices.


The potential disappearance of TikTok from our devices isn't merely about losing access to popular content; it's a wake-up call for businesses to evaluate their digital strategies. It urges us to ask ourselves critical questions about diversification and resilience in our approach to online marketing and community building.



Why You Should Future-Proof Your Influence Outside of Social Media



Owning your narrative and digital square footage is crucial, yet often overlooked, in the rush to leverage platforms like TikTok, Instagram, or Twitter for audience engagement. The stark reality is that these social media giants are, at their core, borrowed territory. 


This reality brings us face to face with the modern dilemma of the "Digital Dark Age"—a term that highlights the risk of our digital creations becoming as ephemeral as whispers, easily lost in the vastness of the internet. This notion isn't new; history is riddled with stories of invaluable knowledge lost not due to a lack of ingenuity but because of inadequate preservation methods. Today, our challenge isn't just about creation; it's about ensuring our digital footprints endure beyond the momentary lifespan of a social media post.


 The question then becomes: without social media, does your digital identity hold any weight, or does it vanish like so many historical texts and artifacts?


The key to navigating these digital uncertainties lies not in the platforms we use but in the tangible connections we forge. Your website, email communications, and even physical packaging become more than just marketing tools; they are lifelines that tether your online presence to something more enduring than the latest social media trend. They ensure that, even in the face of social media shutdowns, bans, or digital outages, your business remains visible, viable, and vibrant.


Diversification is key. Spreading your influence across multiple platforms ensures that if one goes dark, your voice doesn't go with it. Engage with your followers on Instagram, spark conversations on Twitter, share insights on your blog, and keep those email newsletters insightful and personal. Each platform offers a unique way to connect, telling your story from different angles and deepening the relationship with your audience. It's this multifaceted approach that future-proofs your online presence.



Transition Strategies to Survive the TikTok Ban



With the threat of TikTok disappearing looming over our heads over the next handful of months, it’s best now to start working on the diversification of your brand, in case the app really does disappear into the night. Regardless of what type of brand you have, these steps are the ones you can take to ensure your business survives past social media:


Announce Your Move Loud and Clear


First off, communication is key. Start by announcing your plan to branch out across different channels—not just once, but multiple times. Given the diverse schedules and time zones of your audience, a single announcement can easily slip through the cracks. Set up a schedule to periodically share your transition plans, ensuring no one misses out on where to find you next.


  • Schedule Multiple Announcements: Use scheduling tools to plan several announcements over the next couple of months, covering different times of the day to catch as much of your audience as possible.

  • Use All Available Formats: Post your announcement in videos, stories, and regular posts to maximize visibility. 


Embrace the Power of Emotion

Next, why not make your announcement engaging and shareable? Tap into the current trends and humor by turning your announcement into a meme. This could be something like, "Guess who's back on Instagram because TikTok is playing hard to get?" It’s a fun way to reconnect with your audience on other platforms and encourage them to spread the word. 


Make a Direct Appeal

Don’t hesitate to directly ask your TikTok followers for their support on other platforms. Be specific about where they can follow your journey—whether it's your blog, YouTube channel, or Instagram. A direct call to action is crucial for guiding your audience on how they can continue to support and engage with you beyond TikTok.


Warmly Welcome Your Followers Elsewhere

Once you guide your TikTok followers to your other channels, greet them with warmth. Craft posts or videos specifically designed to welcome them to their new digital hangout. Acknowledging their effort to follow you elsewhere not only shows appreciation but also encourages them to stick around for more.


Collaborate and Expand Your Reach

Teaming up with other creators or brands who are also expanding their online presence is a great strategy. Collaborations can introduce your content to new audiences and vice versa. Utilize Instagram’s collaboration feature, for example, to create joint content that benefits both parties' followers. Make sure you:


  • Choose Relevant Partners: Collaborate with brands or creators who share a similar audience demographic but offer complementary content.

  • Plan Joint Content: Work together to create content that leverages both parties' strengths and appeals to both audiences.

  • Cross-Promote: Ensure both parties promote the collaboration across their platforms to maximize reach.


Leverage Unique Platform Features

Each social platform has its own set of tools designed to enhance engagement. On Instagram, make the most of Stories, IGTV, and Reels to cater to your TikTok audience with familiar short-form content, as well as offering deeper dives into topics they care about.


  • Instagram: Use Stories for timely updates, IGTV for longer content, and Reels for short, engaging videos similar to TikTok.

  • YouTube: Consider creating short-form content in YouTube Shorts, in addition to traditional video uploads.

  • Facebook: Utilize Facebook Groups to build a community space where you can interact more personally with followers.


Stay Consistent

Consistency is your best friend in keeping your brand in the minds of your audience. Stick to a regular posting schedule across all platforms you're active on. A content calendar can be a lifesaver here, helping you to plan and execute your content strategy smoothly.


Engage Actively with Your New Community

Engagement is much more than just sharing content; it’s about creating a genuine connection with your audience. This means diving into the comments, sharing likes, and sparking discussions that bring your community closer together. A connected and supported community is the key to long-term engagement and loyalty. This concept is supported by research from Bain & Company, which found that increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost profits by 25% to 95%. By ensuring each community member feels seen and offering them value-rich experiences, you’re building a loyal customer base that's more likely to return.


Expanding beyond TikTok allows you to explore new avenues for connection and engagement, each platform offering unique tools and audiences to tap into. This diversification strategy ensures that your voice remains heard and your brand visible, regardless of changes that go on in social media land. Not only that, but it invites you to deepen the bonds with your audience, fostering a community that's robust, engaged, and adaptable.


In doing so, you transform the challenge of a TikTok ban into a catalyst for growth and innovation (and isn’t that the real benefit of being a small business owner?) The journey might require effort and adaptation, but the potential rewards — a more diverse, stable, and vibrant digital presence — are well worth it. Embrace this moment as an opportunity to future-proof your business and create a long-lasting impression that leaves your audience remembering your brand even if the online goes offline.



Final Insights



While social media platforms serve as powerful tools for enhancing brand visibility, it's crucial to anchor your digital presence in assets you truly own. The reliance on SEO, email campaigns, and even direct engagement through in-person marketing or events forms the backbone of a sustainable strategy. As we venture further into an era where data preservation is less guaranteed, the necessity for your business to have a life beyond social media becomes ever more apparent.


Diversifying your online strategy is much more than just a plan of action; it's your shield against the unpredictable nature of social media rules and possible ban.  By engaging your audience through various channels—be it social media, targeted emails, or content on your own website or blog—you're doing more than just safeguarding your online space; you're actively growing it. This broad strategy fortifies your digital presence, making it strong enough to withstand any policy changes and wide enough to connect with more people.


Remember, the goal is not just to survive potential bans or policy shifts but to thrive amidst them. By laying a foundation built on diversity, engagement, and ownership, you secure a future for your digital presence that is both vibrant and enduring. If you’re unsure where to start on this adventure, let’s chat! Zoek is here to help you build a high-converting website, grow on Instagram and Facebook, update your branding or content to bring in views, and more. 



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