Ever heard of the Flip the Switch Challenge or the Plank Challenge? You might even know a few people who have participated in these TikTok challenges that have become a breeding ground for some of the most memorable viral videos, amassing billions of views. 

For influencers and content creators, however, TikTok is more than just a run-of-the-mill social media platform. With the average influencer making a cool $121,765 per year and mega-influencers—also referred to as ‘TikTok royalty’—bringing in seven or eight-figure paychecks, the platform is a bonafide money-making machine for those who know how to make it work.

So it should come as no surprise that when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on March 13 to force ByteDance—TikTok’s parent company in China—to sell the app or face being banned in the U.S., a storm was starting to brew, especially among influencers who depend on the short-form video platform as their primary or sole source of income.

TikTok creators protesting outside the White House | NBC News

But before we get into the nitty-gritty of the marketing implications, let’s take a quick look at what seems to be the most important question influencers are buzzing about.

Could this attempt to ban TikTok succeed where others failed? 

If you think back to 2021, this is when the U.S. government first tried to ban TikTok when former President Donald Trump issued an executive order that didn’t make it past the federal court when a judge called it ‘arbitrary and capricious’ because it didn’t fully explore other ways of dealing with the problem.

Another judge ruled that the potential security threat posed by TikTok was ‘hypothetical.’ In 2023, the state of Montana tried to ban the app and was again struck down since it was thought to overstep the power of the state and infringed on the constitutional rights of its users.

The common thread that runs in these pursuits of banning TikTok is that it’s believed to store sensitive user data that’s eventually sent to China. It needs to be mentioned that there’s no solid evidence that this is true except for the fact that the parent company is Chinese.

With the bill passing through to the Senate floor, the next step is to wait and see whether it ends up on the president’s desk and finally in the U.S. court system, where the First Amendment will be tested as 170 million Americans eagerly watch to see if they can continue to use the app or find alternative platforms to express themselves.

House Representatives after the vote on the TikTok ban on March 13 | Le Monde

What’s the contingency plan for marketers if TikTok gets banned in the U.S.?

The influence of TikTok isn’t something to be easily dismissed. Don’t believe us? Take a look at these figures:

  • $50 billion market value
  • 90% of users report that using the app makes them happy
  • 1.92 billion users worldwide
  • 29% of TikTok users open the app every day
  • U.S. users spend 4.43 billion minutes on the platform every year
  • The average ROI is $2 for every $1 spent
  • 43% of marketers want to increase their use of TikTok
Time spent by U.S. TikTok users on social media platforms in 2023 | Apptopia

The numbers don’t lie and just by looking at the figures, U.S. content creators, influencers, and marketers may assume that banning TikTok could spell disaster. But on 29 June 2020, India went through with banning the app and much to the surprise of many, it didn’t lead to a total collapse of social media.

Instead, users simply migrated to other platforms, with Instagram being the clear beneficiary of the ban. YouTube Shorts, Instagram Reels, and other short-form video content soared and seeing the shift, Meta allocated $1 billion to invest in creators, with a large chunk of it being invested in creators in India.

But whether American marketers and content creators will face a similar shift is uncertain. So let’s take a look at the potential impact a ban could have.

#1: Your marketing strategy may need a facelift

American TikTok users are incredibly diverse and is a goldmine for marketers and creators who want to reach a wide audience. The creative freedom that users have has generated viral videos amassing billions of views, making it an unprecedented platform for visibility.

A ban could force marketers to rethink their strategies and look for alternatives that may not offer the same level of engagement or potential to make content go viral.

Alternative platforms for content creators may see a surge of brands trying to replicate their TikTok success even though the content consumption and unique community would be tough to replicate on another platform.

#2: Consumer engagement may take a hit

With users spending an average of 52 minutes per day, it’s a safe assumption that TikTok has truly redefined expectations for user engagement. The ‘For You’ page driven by strong algorithms is a win when it comes to streaming personalised content to make sure users are hooked.

A ban would disrupt these patterns and force brands to explore new ways to hold onto their consumers’ attention. Losing the interactive content could mean reduced social media engagements and potentially derail digital marketing campaigns, forcing marketers and creators to go back to the drawing board.

#3: Shift in the digital ecosystem

Banning TikTok isn’t something that will just have an impact on limited areas of your social media strategy. It could create a vacuum that other social media platforms rush to fill with a surge in new apps or existing apps as they try to capitalise and get a first-mover advantage to secure TikTok users who are potentially going to be in limbo.

This could end up fragmenting the digital marketing landscape, where brands will need to spend the same amount of effort across platforms for the same results.

Tech companies in the U.S. could accelerate the development of new apps that could fill the void left by TikTok. Even though this could bring fresh opportunities for marketers and creators, it could take time to establish in the U.S. and could slow down the pace of innovation in digital marketing.

What alternative short-form video platforms can replace TikTok? (if the time comes, that is)

While Americans hold their breath to see where the future of TikTok lies, it doesn’t hurt to keep your options open so that you’re not in a frenzy to find other platforms to jump on if banning TikTok becomes a real possibility (even if it isn’t, it won’t hurt to expand your reach on other platforms as that could only improve your social media standing).

You already know about Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, but there are many more TikTok alternatives that can help you get the job done (some may even be better than TikTok itself!). 

#1: Triller

Triller logo

Launched in 2015, Triller started as a video editing tool and over time has transformed the app into a social media platform where people can use the editing features to create videos and use whatever music they want.

With Triller being compatible with Apple Music and Spotify, it’s already a major competitor to TikTok where users can only use music that’s in the platform’s cache. TikTok was also dealt a huge blow in 2024 when it couldn’t make a deal with Universal Music Group, leading to music from huge artists like Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift not being able to be used by content creators.

The social media platform has also attracted a lot of big names like Alicia Keys and Charli D’Amelio, making this a great alternative to TikTok and an even better way of creating engaging content minus the restrictions that have been imposed on TikTok as of late.

#2: Likee

Likee logo

With 150 million active monthly users, Likee already has a massive audience that is using the platform to upload short videos or even live streams. With the power of 4D behind them, the platform allows creators to alter their backgrounds or physical characteristics. 

It’s the closest alternative to TikTok and for anyone familiar with TikTok, the learning curve is something that will be much easier. For marketers and content creators, this could be perhaps the most viable option.

#3: Snapchat

Snapchat logo

One of the more popular alternatives, Snapchat has been around for a while and has quite a reputation for allowing users to send doodles or texts to their friends. It also has ‘Spotlight’ and ‘Stories’ pages where they can see videos of people who they aren’t following.

There are even premium videos that feature celebrities making it a streaming platform. For example, Addison Rae, who first blew up on TikTok, also has a show on Snapchat called ‘Addison Rae Goes Home’ where she gives an exclusive look into her life at home.

Using these types of platforms can help marketers not only share their content but also collaborate with influencers and other content creators for partnerships that could replicate what TikTok offers.

Better to be safe than sorry, right?

At this point, there’s no clear decision on the future of TikTok in the U.S. since there’s still a lot of red tape to get through before banning TikTok becomes a reality.

There still isn’t any solid reason to start panicking, but there’s nothing wrong with being prepared and getting a head start building your following or audience on another platform before there’s a surge—which could end up being difficult for late adopters.

Keep your options open. Explore every possibility whether it’s making a list of potential social media platforms that your brand could thrive on or considering external social media marketing services that could give you a better handle on where to go and what to do if a ban is imposed. But one thing’s for certain: Staying put isn’t going to help. 

Make changes. Take the leap. Explore your options. Because we’re betting that every corner of your business strategy has a plan B and we hope that your social media does too.