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What Happens if TikTok Isn’t Sold by September 15th?

Updated: Jan 14, 2021

Why is TikTok at Risk of being Banned? 

The current U.S. administration is concerned about the video-sharing app and its connection to national security. The Chinese internet company, ByteDance, bought the app originally known as and rebranded it into what it is today. This connection to China has caused U.S. officials to become wary about the possibility of China using the popular app to collect data about the United States. Forbes quoted Kevin Mayer, CEO of TikTok who recently resigned, stating that “TikTok would never share personal data, and the company is fully committed to transparency.” The company released a statement saying that “TikTok’s U.S. user data is stored in the U.S., with strict controls on employee access.” Nevertheless, the U.S. administration has declared that if the potential deal with Microsoft is not completed by September 15th, the app will be banned in the United States. 

So, What Happens Next? 

According to James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as posted in an article in the Washington Post, current users of the app will most likely still be able to use it. However, many features may no longer work and the app will quickly deteriorate into something very different. The app will no longer be able to be downloaded from app stores, but there is no clear way as to how the app could be deleted from an actual phone. Lewis clarifies that “people who already have the app should be able to open the app, swipe through videos, and even create their own. But, if TikTok has been removed from app stores, users won’t be able to receive updates. And that might eventually break features -- and make devices less secure if the app can’t get necessary security updates and patches.” 

If these changes do occur, TikTok is predicted to fade as other social media platforms sweep in to gain market shares, such as Instagram Reels, Triller, and Snapchat. We recently posted an article about the new Instagram Reel function, which is designed similarly to TikTok and might be the closest fit to replace the current app. However, there is talk of content creators moving their videos to YouTube as well, though the platform is not considered as user-friendly. The key within this new takeover will be to capture the attention of Generation Z or those born after 1996. Gen Z currently makes up over 60% of TikTok’s user base and is recognized as one of the most diverse generations the world has yet to see due to its emphasis on high levels of education and social and cultural awareness as well as being brought up in the digital age. The millennial generation brought a rise to earlier social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and now the power has been transferred to the hands of Generation Z. McKinsey & Company research described in an article by Forbes explains what these platforms should be doing in order to capture the attention of this influential generation. 

Attracting Generation Z 

One of the defining characteristics of Generation Z is their emphasis on identity and individual truth; they tend to reject stereotypes and believe in being the truest version of themselves. This allows Generation Z to be open to change and to connect with those who appear different than them. For these reasons, Generation Z tends to support personalized products and brands. TikTok has honed in on this, allowing each user to have access to customized videos based on their preferences, rather than demographic or socioeconomic status. 

Being that they have grown up in the digital age, the majority of Generation Z prefer to absorb content in the form of videos, whether it be for entertainment or education. Their tech-savvy upbringing allows them to be conscious of digital advertising tactics, so providing authentic advertising or content is appealing to them. As mentioned in the Forbes article, “TikTok videos are typically characterized as raw, high-energy and deeply engaging because TikTok provides advanced, yet simple-to-use tools for users or businesses to embed music and visual effects on videos. Unsurprisingly, given TikTok's take on dynamic content that contrasts with Instagram's more polished feed, TikTok's expressive Gen Z users tend to have significantly higher engagement rates compared to users on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.” If any of these apps are to take place in the succession of TikTok, they are going to have to adapt to this trend. 

Generation Z tends to prefer to create content that expresses their individuality rather than solely consume content, which is another reason why TikTok has become so popular. Generation Z recognizes that social media platforms are used to display the “picture perfect” version of themselves, but TikTok tends to commend individuality and authenticity over perfection. Any platform looking to adapt to the current trends will have to take this into account. 

A final thing to take into account is that these content creators are going to move to wherever their followers want them to be. Bustle interviewed Anna, aka @Glitterandlazers, who has over 6.5 million followers on the TikTok platform. Anna explained that she’ll "do what [she’s] always done and listen to [her] community, and do [her] best to support them somewhere new." It will be interesting to see which platform takes over next.

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