The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants TikTok banned in the United States, saying it poses security concerns.
FCC commissioner Brendan Carr argued that the fact that ByteDance, a Chinese company, owns the short-form video hosting platform raises national security concerns. According to the commissioner, sensitive data on US citizens could flow back to China. The commission is also concerned that state actors could use the platform to influence American citizens.
It’s still a developing story. But the impact of a TikTok ban would be far-reaching, forcing digital marketers to rethink their approach to search engine optimization (SEO) and link-building outsourcing strategies.
TikTok in the US by the Numbers
TikTok launched internationally in 2017 after gaining traction in its home market as Douyin. It started as a short-form video-sharing platform but has since grown into a fully-fledged video service offering all types of video content.
It’s one of the fastest-growing social media apps in the United States, and as of 2021, it had approximately 86.9 million active users.
So popular is TikTok that Americans are increasingly relying on it for their news. According to Pew Research, the number of US adults who regularly get news from the platform has increased from three percent in 2020 to 10 percent in 2022.
“No Other Path Than a Ban”
Carr said he didn’t believe there was any other way forward apart from a ban. He said there was no guarantee that TikTok would be able to sufficiently protect user data in a way that prevents it from getting into the wrong hands.
If US lawmakers adopt the FCC’s recommendation, TikTok creators may have to find an alternative platform for their content.
While the authority to regulate TikTok doesn’t fall directly on FCC, it has considerable influence on such matters. Congress has previously acted on its concerns about Chinese telecom companies, with Huawei getting banned from doing business in the US.
But TikTok is trying to find a way out of the impasse, including divesting part of its business to an American company. A spokesperson from the company said they’re confident of reaching an agreement with the Council on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS). He said that TikTok would reach an agreement that satisfies all the national security concerns.
According to the spokesperson, the FCC has no role or knowledge in the discussions with the US government.
The Impact of TikTok Ban on SEO
A ban would affect content creators and TikTok users, and the digital marketing and advertising industry.
TikTok took the digital industry by storm and started influencing search engine optimization. It has become increasingly intertwined with other areas of digital marketing – including SEO. Google has ranked the platform’s videos in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Better-performing TikTok videos are more likely to appear in SERPs as Google perceives them as valuable to users based on users’ responses. Content creators and business owners are also coming up to speed with the mix of TikTok ranking factors to get their videos recommended to users in the app by its algorithm.
For digital marketing professionals, TikTok has been the perfect gateway to millions of untapped consumers. Brands have been engaging users on the platform through carefully crafted marketing campaigns. The campaigns have been more focused on driving brand visibility and awareness than sales, helping in social media marketing and organic search traffic.
Now faced with a possible ban, brands, and marketing professionals will be left with a considerable gap to fill. They have to find a platform that’s a hit amongst Gen-Z, villagers, small-town folks and people from different backgrounds across the US. YouTube and Instagram have a strong presence in the country, but their short-video platforms (YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels, respectively) lack what TikTok offers.
The possibility of a US ban on TikTok will confuse many digital marketing plans. Brands will lose their work on the most downloaded social media app in the US and have to get started on other platforms.
But whether the government bans TikTok, it’s essential to recognize that the digital marketing environment is changing. Perhaps now more than ever. And it’s essential to be able to adapt your strategy to these changes.