How a TikTok Ban Would Impact Creators and Influencers

How a TikTok Ban Would Impact Creators and Influencers


Three billion downloads. 672 million of those in 2022 alone. 50 million daily active users. The most time spent in-app of…all the apps. That kind of popularity and engagement might sound like we’re describing something that could be around for a very long time.


So does it surprise you if we’re talking about something that could go “lights out” at any time?


That’s exactly the specter that TikTok’s been living under for the past several months. The White House told federal agencies in February that they had 30 days to figure out how to delete it from all government devices. In March, a committee of the U.S. House of Representatives voted to “advance legislation that would allow President Biden to ban TikTok from all devices nationwide,” according to The New York Times.


It’s not often that a platform as big as TikTok is under the threat of total banning in an economy as large as the United States. Here’s what it could mean for TikTok’s thriving creators.


What “Turning the Lights Off” Could Do To Creators and Brands

Turning the lights off on one platform would be especially rough for those who have built a personal—but less viral—following on TikTok.


Tara Blair Ball, a relationship coach on TikTok, says her largest following (270,000 followers) is on TikTok. “[A ban would mean] I’ll need to spend more energy building up another platform, as it’s important for me to have at least two platforms where I’m connecting with followers,” Ball said.


Fortunately for Ball, the majority of her paying clients come from Instagram. But even for well-diversified creators, the threat of a TikTok ban could upend their relationship with social media.


Stepz, a TikTok breakout artist, is a clear example of the new digital environment TikTok has created for music artists. According to Stepz, TikTok has represented a new media platform where record labels and music scouts can find new young artists who might otherwise struggle to find their voice. In his mind, banning TikTok would “damage the music hard,” reports the BBC.


Stepz embraces a form of hip-hop that isn’t quite like what he sees in the rest of the UK market. “Rap music in the UK was all about stab this, stab that,” said Stepz. “But [thanks to TikTok] kids that actually have talent can show their sound and if it’s good it will go off.”


He credits his early success to posting music on TikTok, where going viral afforded him more opportunities. Stepz has enough self-confidence to believe that he would have succeeded anyway. But he believes the attention TikTok brought him was a tremendous boost early in his career.


A ban could be especially damaging for less-privileged TikTok creators who needed the exposure to break into the industry. Monique, who created the TikTok channel Skinfiltrator, said the platform was the “only social platform where I’ve really felt support.” That’s not something to easily toss away.


Monique is a creator who offers tips for people with African and Asian skin. And she says the fact that TikTok’s algorithm “doesn’t discriminate” is a key reason she’s been able to find an audience at all. Today, she’s in contact with dermatologists from all over the world—and a lot of it is due to the outreach she’s built on TikTok.


“I just don’t think it’s gonna be replaced by another app any time soon,” said Monique.


Another TikTok influencer, Andrea Sager of @thelegalpreneur (77,000 followers on the platform), says that a TikTok ban wouldn’t erase their business overnight, “but we would have a hard time growing at the pace we have been growing, since most new leads are coming from TikTok.”


Legalpreneur uses TikTok for its amplification powers. They’ll post helpful legal tips, then use the link in their bio to funnel interested prospects to the Legalpreneur website. And it works. “Right now TT is one of the main ways we’re bringing in clients,” Sager said. “We’re essentially a bootstrapped startup with almost no advertising budget. TT is one of the main reasons we’ve been able to keep our client acquisition cost so low.”


That goes away if TikTok goes away. Although Legalpreneur has been trying to send their audience to an email opt-in and build a list, “our cold audience pipeline would nearly go away completely without TikTok.”


That reinforces one key aspect of the “rented” land that comes with over-investing on one platform. If your pipeline only comes from one source, you run the risk of the well going dry when the algorithm changes or new regulations get rid of the app completely.


Fortunately, there’s another way to build an audience online.


How might it not matter?

There’s one bit of good news here: time. The TikTok ban has been looming for quite a while. It may continue to loom for quite a while, with no definitive end in sight. Creators like Tara Blair Ball have used that time wisely, diversifying their audience to multiple platforms.


Ultimately, an influencer like Ball is working through rented platforms when relying on social media. And the threat dangling over TikTok reveals how that makes some creators vulnerable. In the digital age, it’s far better to build your own media distribution channels.


“At this point, I’m very lucky to have diversified across Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter,” says Dino Favara, owner of Mercury Social Media. “However, [a ban] would be negative for my business because TikTok is where I do a lot of testing in order to figure out what works and to help develop a relationship with my audience.”


The key: build your own audience while the sun is still shining. Getting an audience to subscribe to your brand isn’t easy, but it can potentially mean that apps like TikTok won’t have such a tight stranglehold on your incoming business. To entice people to sign up and follow you directly, you can:

  • Publish exclusive, off-platform content that demonstrates the value of following you. After all, if all of your good content is on TikTok, why would followers ever need to go off-platform?

  • Build a sense of brand loyalty. Whether that’s brand merch or any other visual cue that suggests you’re more than your TikTok account, you have to embrace the psychology of going off-platform. Reinforce the idea that TikTok is just one arm of your community.


De-coupling from TikTok

There isn’t anything wrong with building an audience on TikTok. But there is something wrong with making yourself vulnerable to a TikTok ban. Like the influencers in this post, you should work to diversify your incoming traffic, build a sense of community, and own your future channels of distribution. That way, you won’t have to bother reading the headlines about TikTok’s future. You’ll own your own future.


Interested in using AudiencePlus to empower you to own your relationship with your audience? Sign up here.


Kaleigh Moore | About the Author

Writer and Contributing Author

Kaleigh is a subject matter expert on DTC businesses and the SaaS tools that integrate with them. Her clients include well-known brands like Shopify, Stripe, and Klaviyo. She’s also a contributing author for Forbes, Vogue Business, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and more. You can follow her here.


How a TikTok Ban Would Impact Creators and Influencers

A potential ban on TikTok in the U.S. could have a huge impact on creators. What can they do to diversify their audience and rely less on the platform?

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