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TikTok Has Two Choices: A Marketing Makeover or a Ban

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May 4, 2023
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7 minutes
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.
Oh, the dreaded congressional hearings. First, it was Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg, then Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai, and now, TikTok’s CEO Shou Chew. Seems like the government’s reach is far and strong, and if they’re concerned about national security, they will summon even the richest and most successful people.

If you recall, the Indian government banned TikTok in 2020 over security concerns. However, according to a Forbes article, in 2023, TikTok still has data on Indian users. So, yes, the fact that America is now concerned is not to be taken lightly.

In this article, we will discuss the main concerns that US government officials expressed in the recent hearing. Then, we will talk about some marketing strategies that TikTok can use to save itself from a potential ban.

So, let’s dive into it.

The 3 Main Concerns of the Congress Regarding TikTok

So, you're wondering if the US Congress has the power to bring social media companies in for hearings, right? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. No matter how many billions you have in the bank, congress can still drag you to court for a 5-hour-long grilling session. This is because social media companies have a big impact on our lives and society, and lawmakers want to make sure they're acting in the best interest of the public.

Although TikTok’s CEO Shou Chew’s congressional hearing went for hours, here are the top 3 points that we can quickly discuss.


  • The US Congress can summon social media companies for hearings to ensure they act in the public's best interest.
  • Congress is concerned about TikTok's impact on children's safety, especially since kids can access potentially inappropriate content through the app.
  • TikTok's algorithm is designed differently for China and the West, which raises concerns about the Chinese Communist Party's political intervention in the app.
  • TikTok should incorporate stronger content moderation and encourage kids in the West to limit social media use to rebrand itself as a responsible company.
  • An external marketing consultant can give valuable independent insights that could help TikTok in these tough times.

1. Children’s safety

Shou Chew, TikTok CEO quote

Children born after 2010 may possibly be the first generation of humans to have easy access to a myriad of social media apps. The problem is, nobody knows what impact this will have on them when they become adults. Only time will tell. However, at the same time, lawmakers cannot just sit back and do nothing.

TikTok was accused by Rep. Bob Latta, a Republican from Ohio, of promoting a video about the "blackout challenge" or choking challenge to a 10-year-old girl from Pennsylvania's feed. Tragically, the girl later passed away after attempting to imitate the challenge in the video. It’s likely that her parents had no idea about this whole thing.

Another aspect, which is not deadly, but still concerning, is what the TikTok algorithm shows to kids. You see, TikTok is called Douyin in China. And it’s not just the name of the app that is different. The way the app functions is also customized for China at the direction of the Chinese Communist Party. For example, in China, TikTok’s algorithm is designed to show educational videos on science and technology, history, etc. Well, if it’s anything else, especially provocative adult content, the CCP would immediately step in and remind TikTok who’s the real boss.

However, things are slightly different in Western countries. In America, kids can access potentially inappropriate videos and absurd trends through TikTok. Also, the amount of time they spend on this app also shows how addicted they are. In 2021, kids and teens in the US spent an average of 99 minutes on TikTok, while those in the UK spent 102 minutes.

You see, we don’t really know what kids can access through their phones. That’s why kids’ safety was a very important part of this hearing.

2. CCP’s political intervention

"TikTok told us that you weren't spying on journalists. In your testimony, you stated that ByteDance is not beholden to the CCP. However, each of the individuals listed is affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party, including Zhong Fu Ping, who was reported to be the Communist Party Secretary of ByteDance. He has called for the Party Committee to 'take the lead' across all party lines to ensure the algorithm is enforced by the 'correct political direction'.
  • Rep. Cathy Rogers, Chair

Did you know that social media can be used to set political narratives? Even Trump attributed his 2016 presidential victory to social media. Trump’s team tested not 10 or 20, but more than 50,000 versions of ads on social media, while his opponent Hilary Clinton spent $200 million on traditional TV ads, not knowing how powerful social media is.

He set the stage. He showed the world that Facebook and Twitter, the websites that people use to pass the time or stay connected with loved ones, can be used to gain the highest political power. Apparently, China has figured it out, too, and they may be using TikTok as a way to set a narrative in the 'correct political direction' as Rep. Cathy Rogers said.

3. Extreme content around healthcare information

“Another study showed that TikTok had a hydroxychloroquine tutorial on how to fabricate it from grapefruit. Now there are two problems with that. Number one, hydroxychloroquine is not effective in treating COVID, so that's one issue. The second issue is that you can't even make hydroxychloroquine from grapefruit.”
  • Congresswoman Diana DeGette

It’s true that TikTok can be the ideal social media platform to spread healthy habits. An influencer can motivate people to exercise, eat fruits, and do yoga. However, there are many unqualified users who give the wrong health or medicine-related advice on this platform. As a matter of fact, people have ended up in the hospital over this.

Recently, 15 students in Mexico were taken to a hospital for taking part in the "Internet Tranquilizer Challenge". Yes, you heard that right. The challenge involves taking a type of tranquilizer that is meant for animals, and then the last one to fall asleep wins. Apparently, authorities are warning people that using these drugs unsupervised could lead to all sorts of problems like drowsiness, nausea, difficulty thinking or remembering, coordination challenges, or even breathing difficulties. And in the most severe cases, well, you can already guess.

How TikTok Can Use Marketing to Rebrand Itself as a Safe Platform

After so much bad publicity, TikTok really needs a rebranding strategy if it wants to stay relevant in the world. Here are some ways TikTok can get back up on its feet after this ordeal.

1. Create ads to promote itself as a safe platform

Parents need to know what steps TikTok is taking to make it safe for their kids to use it. TikTok can create a series of video ads that demonstrate how it uses AI and human moderators to ensure safety. Another possible ad series could be testimonials from famous TikTokers who made successful careers by posting videos on the platform. That way, the company can emphasize the positive impact it has had on the community.

2. Make it easy to report harmful content

Ever heard of the 7 Ps of marketing? Well, ‘product’ is the first P, and TikTok needs to step up its game and make major changes to the product. They can create a more sophisticated content reporting system that ensures prompt action. This includes the use of AI as well as well-trained human content moderators who can remove harmful content within hours.

3. Organize in-person events to promote online safety

If TikTok wants to rebrand itself as a safe app, the company officials need to go out of the office more and engage with the community. They should organize cyber safety events in major cities like New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, Washington D.C., etc. Company personnel should also visit schools and give talks to kids on online safety and encourage limited use of social media.

4. Promote American patriotism on TikTok

Yes, absolutely, this may be the number one action they should take right now. TikTok is perceived as China's data collection machine that is going to harm Americans. The trust is decreasing, and the recent congressional hearing made matters worse. If TikTok can come up with strategies to promote patriotism in a healthy and non-divisive way, it could make the politicians in America a bit more open to letting TikTok operate in the United States.

5. Hire marketing consultants

It’s high time that TikTok seeks an independent, external, third-party perspective on its situation. Seems like they’ve been handling things internally so far, and it doesn’t seem to be going in the right direction. Marketing consultants can help TikTok with everything from omnichannel marketing to customer experience transformation and competitive advantage retention.

Here at Consultport, we have more than 10,000 consultants in our talent pool. We only choose the best of the best, and all our consultants have experience working in the world's biggest companies. Hiring a consultant from Consultport is a breeze! With just a few clicks, you can access a diverse pool of experienced and highly qualified marketing consultants.

If that sounds interesting to you, get in touch now.