Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

How will a potential TikTok ban change the future of influencer marketing?

By Jenny Tsai, Founder and CEO of WeArisma

TikTok has taken the world by storm since its launch in 2016 by popularising short form video content. In 2022, it became the most downloaded app in the world, surpassing competitors such as Meta and YouTube. Although it is the most popular social media app of today, TikTok has become embroiled into wider diplomatic uncertainty and lawmakers are concerned about users’ data privacy.

Initially, a TikTok ban had been limited to work-related devices, but some steps are being taken to restrict the social media app beyond work devices. In March, the White House backed a bill that will grant them power to enforce a nationwide TikTok ban, and in May, Montana became the first US state to completely ban the app.

Now, in Europe, TikTok faces similar scrutiny from lawmakers over security concerns with a potential ban being touted in the region. So what could a TikTok ban mean for brands, advertisers, and influencers who have made strides to appeal to audiences on the platform?

Why advertisers are still attracted to TikTok

Despite the threat of a widespread TikTok ban in Europe, US TikTok ad spend was reported to have increased by 11% in March, suggesting that brands are not currently planning to decrease spend on the platform and it continues to be an important channel for marketers. 

A catalyst for this is the huge shift in the way that consumers – and especially younger generations – discover brands and products. For example, 40% of  Gen Z users already prefer TikTok and Instagram for search over Google. A big reason for this is that TikTok’s algorithm more naturally plays into consumers’ need for more authentic, captivating, and personalised content. 

For marketers and advertisers, this means it can deliver strong brand impact and ROI on short-form video content, alongside YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels, and many leading luxury, fashion, and beauty brands are increasingly relying on the platform for their influencer marketing efforts. 

In fact, WeArisma’s influencer analytics show that the most well-known global brands in these sectors, the largest investors in influencer marketing, have significantly increased their TikTok investment from 2021 to 2022, with paid TikTok influencer content growing by an average 73%.

Effects of a Europe-wide TikTok ban?

Many influencers have built their brand and communities around TikTok and are hugely reliant on the app for income and brand collaborations. A Europe-wide ban of the app would mean that TikTok influencers can no longer reach their audiences in the region, impacting their reach/engagement and in turn, their ability to drive brand and performance impact. This will more than likely lead to decreased sponsorship opportunities and brand deals as advertisers and marketers aren’t able to reach the same audience on TikTok.

Brands will have no option but to overhaul their influencer marketing strategies in Europe, including looking to competitor platforms such as YouTube and Instagram that still enjoy large audience numbers and offer similar short-form content that consumers want. An important thing to keep in mind is that many influencers have diversified their presence across multiple social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube. If TikTok is banned in Europe, successful influencers adept at producing short-form video content will likely start using Instagram Reels and YouTube shorts more, creating an opportunity for Facebook and Google to increase their share of the market. While TikTok influencers may switch to YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels, smaller influencers may miss TikTok’s viral algorithm which recommends content based on its virality rather than the influencer’s follower size. 

But what will a potential ban mean for TikTok itself? TikTok has 150M monthly users in Europe which can be linked to the growing number of influencers in the market. As concerns relating to its privacy and security circulate, it is likely that some users (consumers and influencers alike) may decide to shift away from TikTok to alternative channels, which would reduce advertiser and marketing spend and as a result decrease TikTok’s company revenue. 

Don’t ‘lift-and-shift’ strategies if a ban takes hold

If TikTok is indeed banned in Europe, this would impact brands’ influencer marketing strategies and the relative importance of TikTok in the marketing mix. Brands should be wary about trying to do a ‘lift-and-shift’ of TikTok campaigns onto alternative content channels as other channels may have different pricing and audience targeting and the influencers themselves may not have the same reach across other platforms. 

This added complexity may increase the need for influencer measurement platforms like WeArisma that can help brands identify the best influencers on alternative channels, and use historic data to set benchmarks and support campaign optimisation. So, while the brands, creators and their audience – the social media users – will enter a period of flux, they can take the right steps to maintain the impact and ROI of their influencer marketing as they adapt their campaigns.