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The rapid rise of TikTok has come with some concerns. You’ve most likely seen plenty of news reports about harmful TikTok trends that cause young people to do harmful or disrespectful things like holding their breath until they pass out or slapping their teachers at school.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, though, as to why brands have been reluctant to embrace TikTok’s capabilities. The company’s ties to China and related concerns about data privacy, plus the young user base and potential for unwanted PR outcomes for brands, has spurred caution about engaging with the app for marketers.

The popularity of TikTok has skyrocketed. The platform increased its user base in the United States by 85.3 percent from 2019 to 2020. Financially, too, the app is growing. ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, is projected to have ad revenue of $11 billion this year. TikTok also reported having 1 billion monthly active users in 2021.

Despite this rise in popularity and the app’s place in the cultural zeitgeist, marketers have not exactly jumped all over TikTok. The app’s projected annual ad revenues are not expected to measure up to that of Instagram.

Brand safety concerns account for part of this hesitance, but so does the fact that marketers are typically much older than the young demographics that make up TikTok users. This can make it difficult for marketers to understand what engages young consumers and how to convert social media follows and likes into conversions and sales.

Brands want to advertise or engage with influencers in spaces that won’t result in poor optics. That could mean inappropriate comments are posted on a brand’s page or that obscene or socially unacceptable behavior is associated in recommendations stemming from a brand’s post. TikTok’s popularity, the sheer volume of posts and the fact that Gen-Z users’ humor can be unpredictable, loaded with innuendo or simply hard to understand contribute to marketers wariness of potential risks.

Steps to address brand safety

TikTok has taken some steps to restore assurance in brand safety in the face of this adversity. The app overhauled its branded content guidelines as of July 15, 2021, with emphasis on the BC (Branded Content) toggle, a disclosure that notifies users that paid content has been created to advertise or publicize a brand. This was added for better transparency and to highlight the difference between paid advertising and branded content, which are similar but not the same.

TikTok also has a brand safety center that lists its latest steps to protect companies that advertise on the platform. The app has a team that monitors posts and removes content that is in violation of its community guidelines. It also says it tries not to recommend certain categories of content that may not be appropriate for a general audience on For You Pages.

According to eMarketer, TikTok released a report on teen safety in November 2021 and introduced features that filtered out content about self-harm and eating disorders. It also added mental health resources in search results for sensitive topics.

Another concern about TikTok is that its parent company, ByteDance, has ties to the Chinese government. TikTok has denied that it shares data with China and tried to clarify that TikTok itself is not under any direct authority of the Chinese government.

On advertising and conversion lines, too, TikTok is trying to improve. About five months ago, TikTok introduced in-app purchases from brands. Similar to Instagram’s new addition, Instagram Shopping, brands can set up pages where users can purchase products without even needing to leave the social media app. Successful integration of ecommerce could be a major boon for TikTok, as social commerce sales hit $26.97 billion in 2020, according to eMarketer.

TikTok has without a doubt influenced much of the new social media marketing techniques that brands are adopting across many different platforms in the modern era. Measures for brand safety, its powerful algorithm and cultural relevance are helping boost TikTok in the eyes of both consumers and retailers.

IZEA has powered TikTok campaigns generating 15B+ views since 2020.
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