Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Preparing for the worst – how can marketers plan for a life without TikTok?

By Andrew Stephenson, Director of Marketing EMEA & India at Treasure Data

When TikTok was ‘the next big thing’, few predicted that it would change the face of social media and digital brand communications in the way it has.

Fast forward to today, and the rumour mill is spinning as the fate of the world’s most popular entertainment app hangs in the balance. Whether TikTok will be banned altogether in the UK or US remains to be seen, but as the British government, parliament and the BBC take restrictive steps against the app, the possibility of its downfall in the UK has never been closer. 

So what does this mean for brands? Whilst anxious marketers may be looking back to 2020’s TikTok gold rush with a sense of buyer’s remorse, investment in the platform cannot be labelled as misplaced. Not only do current projections expect it to reach 15 million UK users by 2025, but it has remained at the forefront of a rapidly changing social media landscape since the beginning of the pandemic.

But brands must always be prepared for all eventualities in the world of social media, and this responsibility falls upon marketers. It is crucial they keep their ears to the ground as they prepare for a worst case scenario of pulling spend from TikTok. “What will be the next big thing?” is a question always on the minds of advertisers, but now they must understand what any vacuum left by the social giant may look like, and who or what may fill it.

Whether or not we enter a ‘post-TikTok Britain’, here’s what marketers should keep in mind as they navigate these uncertain times.

Putting all eggs in one basket has never been a good idea

Over-investment in any one platform always comes with inherent risk, but the instability around TikTok serves as a reminder to marketers that quick and heavy investment in any one platform must be looked at with a long-term, holistic view.

Marketers ultimately cannot expect one platform to do all of the work for them. The proliferation of media networks and growing prevalence of shopper marketing highlights just how valuable first party data is in allowing marketers to truly understand their customers. As the deprecation of the third party cookie comes ever closer, brands must accept that first party data is now the sole bedrock of any successful marketing strategy.

At no point have marketers been able to build a whole picture of their customers based solely on one platform, and TikTok has been no exception to the rule. But current speculation around the platform will remind brands that utilising and unifying a wide range of data sources is simply not optional if brands hope to derive the most relevant and accurate insights.

Gone but not forgotten?

Regardless of whether the clock is ticking down towards the inevitable downfall of TikTok or not, there is no denying that the trends it shaped will endure for years to come. Not only has the platform been a new source of insight and revenue for brands, but it has fundamentally changed the way they market and advertise themselves online.

New influencer models, branded hashtag challenges and #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt will not simply disappear should TikTok meet its demise – so this moment should be treated as the beginning of a new age in digital marketing.

The power of the personal brand, live commerce and short yet eye-catching video content is only likely to evolve from here, with or without TikTok. It is crucial that marketers don’t stand still and let this moment pass them by, as the past three years have demonstrated that an experimental approach to new platforms and trends will only benefit brands in the long term. Even if TikTok’s lifespan is fleeting, marketers must carry the lessons gleaned with them into the future.

Life after TikTok

Nothing lasts forever, and before we know it the latest TikTok saga will draw to a close. But there will always be a ‘next best thing’, and a new marketing gold rush will one day be on the horizon – whether it be a new platform, digital marketing model or trend.

But in such a saturated digital landscape, predicting what this may look like will be no easy feat. In the meantime, marketers need to draw upon, optimise and utilise as much high quality consumer data as they can if they are going to spot the latest trends before they appear over the horizon.

Even in the worst case, TikTok will not die a quick death. But whether it be influencer marketing, online shopping trends or how brands are perceived, its legacy will live on for years to come. Now is the time for brands to invest in knowing their customers, as understanding how to manage what comes next will require more than painful nostalgia. The clue to where the herd may move lies in past and present customer behaviour – all marketers need to do is know where and how to look. 

Related articles