TikTok: “To Scroll or Not To Scroll” – That is the Question for PR Professionals

When TikTok arrived in the app store during September 2016, no one could have predicted such skyrocketing popularity over the next seven years. In the height of the global pandemic of 2020, TikTok cultivated an online community that changed lives for consumers, brands and, clearly, today’s media landscape. Currently one of Meta’s leading competitors, TikTok attracts 1.2 billion monthly users.

Unlike Facebook and Instagram, the pressure to produce filtered and aesthetic content is low, and many praise the algorithm’s ability to turn just about anyone into an influencer overnight. With increased opportunity for visibility, wise brands are taking full advantage of the platform to continue building those consumer relationships. However, they certainly need to do their homework prior to taking the leap to TikTok. It is not for the faint of heart.

Content engagement rates are high, the world is excited about it, and revenue is booming.

So, what’s the problem?

Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility, and the US government is only beginning to uncover the dark secrets of TikTok. Through the FBI’s investigations, privacy and data sharing concerns are rising. Despite a limited public presence thus far, TikTok CEO, Shou Xi Chew is scheduled to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee mid-March in an effort to “meaningfully address” security concerns, according to a TikTok spokesperson.

Specifically, The Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed the TikTok chief will testify on March 23rd. This is the first time the chief executive of the company has been hauled to Capitol Hill to face questioning.

According to Ben Werschkul’s March 4th story Yahoo Finance,

“Washington’s ongoing conversation about regulating the Chinese-owned company advanced on several fronts this week.

On Capitol Hill, Republicans on one House panel moved forward on a bill to grant President Biden new powers to ban the ByteDance-owned app for more than 100 million American users. And the newly-formed House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party — led by two advocates of a TikTok ban — kicked off their public work with a primetime hearing on China’s “Threat to America.”

At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Biden administration made moves as well by continuing to implement a ban of the app on government devices, announcing that federal agencies had 30 days to get it done.”

Despite the controversy, brands haven’t shown any signs of walking away from this powerhouse of connection. From a PR perspective, social media platforms are the primary host for conversations and commerce today. It is difficult to imagine a world without them. Brands that partner with influencers on TikTok create avenues for communication with their ideal audience and loyalty with consumers. Their approach must be thoughtful, on brand and should not be rushed.

CGPR emphasizes the importance of consistent communication efforts across different forms of media, uniquely tailored to meet the goals of our clients. Visibility develops trust, and it is important now more than ever to be cautious, strategic and focused with the use of social media.

It will be important for brands and organizations to understand the shift that will continue to occur as more colleges and universities move to suspend the use of TikTok.

The primary users of the app are Gen Z and Millennials, the ones most likely to create content and take the bait from influencer marketing and advertising. If app users decline, brands must prepare new ways to reach their audiences, perhaps relying once again on *sigh* Instagram.

For those who ditched their 9-5 job to build their influencer profile in recent years, it’s tough to say what new limitations will arise after the Senate hearing in March. Optimistically, we can hope for productive conversation about regulating internet content to ensure safety for users of all ages. For now, “to scroll, or not to scroll” – that is the question.