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TikTok Marketing in 2023: Is It a Case of Deja Vu?

As the year 2023 begins, a favored topic of discussion among social media marketers and promoters remains relatively the same as it has over the past two years. TikTok, the creative social media platform that skyrocketed to immense popularity just prior to the pandemic, is once again getting the lion’s share of attention as brands prepare to allocate marketing spend in a year that promises to be challenged by rising inflation, economic recession, unfavorable geopolitical events and lingering supply chain issues.

In the past year, 24 percent of marketers found that using TikTok was valuable and effective for reaching strategic goals, a 21 percent increase in favorability over the previous year. Faith in the social media platform increased by 700 percent in the same period. With nearly one billion monthly users, the TikTok app cannot be ignored as a viable tool to reach a targeted audience. With 73 percent of consumers saying they prefer short videos over longer ones, the platform has become the place to go for creative, shortened video content.

Fans of the platform, on average, spend 10.5 minutes per user session, considerably longer than its competitors Facebook and Instagram. Despite its popularity among users, the platform appears to lack a large selection of content compared to other digital media sites. “It’s the place where people are spending the most time, but it’s the platform that’s known least,” said Nick Cicero, vice president of strategy at digital analytics firm Conviva. “There’s a huge opportunity for people that are jumping in right now.”

TikTok has a reputation for where content goes viral, even for those novices that just tip their toe in the space to get a feel for the experience. The algorithm enables content from any actor to be distributed widely across the platform quickly and effectively. Content views can spread from a few hundred to a hundred thousand quickly. Influencer marketing is a big part of the app’s ecosystem, but business accounts and direct advertising is becoming more prevalent. TikTok has a highly focused demographic with 60 percent of its users belonging to Gen Z and falling in the 16 to 24 age group who report that they feel a deeper connection to companies they interact with on the platform.

Before fashioning an effort to introduce a brand to TikTok, it is advised to consider that the effort may not be surrounded by all good news. Despite becoming one of the most used social media platforms in the world, many users and observers in the U.S. continue to express concerns about the quality of the app’s content and the developers’ handling of users’ personal data. This is the year that restrictive data security measures are to go into effect across the internet and not all the TikTok news, relative to the handling of user’s data, is upbeat and favorable.

Concerns over alleged actions by TikTok’s Chinese parent owner ByteDance are once again calling into question just how long TikTok will be around. A movement to ban the app, that most recently began with Republican state governors, has quickly spread to Congress. Earlier this year TikTok was forbidden to be installed on devices owned by the federal government. According to Reuters, 19 of the 50 states now restrict access to TikTok on state government computers after an internal TikTok investigation found that “ByteDance employees had used TikTok to record journalists’ physical locations using their IP addresses in an attempt to surveil their movements.”

“The misconduct of certain individuals, who are no longer employed at ByteDance, was an egregious misuse of their authority to obtain access to user data,” said a company spokesman. “This misbehavior is unacceptable, and not in line with our efforts across TikTok to earn the trust of our users. We take data security incredibly seriously, and we will continue to enhance our access protocols, which have already been significantly improved and hardened since this incident took place.” But is the company’s statement good enough to ease marketers’ fears and lower the perceived risk factors?

The decision to make TikTok a part of a brand’s marketing strategy comes down to determining if the TikTok shoe fits: Is the style compatible to the brand’s established image, and is wearing it likely to find the brand’s targeted consumer.