TikTok Has Two Choices: A Marketing Makeover or a Ban
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
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.
1. Children’s safety
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
- 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
1. Create ads to promote itself as a safe platformParents 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 contentEver 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 safetyIf 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 TikTokYes, 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 consultantsIt’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.
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