The recent ban on the TikTok app amidst the growing Indo-China tensions left a void in the lives of several content creators and brands equally. While the government said that the decision was taken after considering the opinion of different stakeholders; it certainly turned its back on nearly a million TikTok users who relied on the app for their careers and livelihood.
The COVID-19 induced lockdown led to an upward swing in the number of downloads, contributing hugely to the popularity of the ByteDance owned short video platform. According to the estimates by SensorTower, the number of downloads for the app zoomed past 2 Billion-plus globally until April 2020 with Indian users accounting for a rough 30% that is about 611 Million downloads. Aside from the name, fame, and a huge follower base, TikTok was a source of lavish earnings for many through brand endorsements on their feed. TikTok became one of the many platforms to be tapped for the purpose of digital forms of marketing by short videos created by its users.
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The Problems TikTok Influencers Are Facing
TikTok wasn’t just an entertainment app but a platform that provided a level playing field of work for content creators belonging to different strata of society. The multilingual platform with 14 regional languages was easy to use and could be accessed even in the most remote locations. The platform catered to a diversity of content creators, genres, and users. TikTok stars were a stripe of creative people from villages, and small towns, to cities. The platform gave a voice to droves of people helping them transcend the barriers of age, gender, class, geographical location, status, or profession. It also provided a safe space for the queer community to express their narrative very creatively.
The simple entertaining videos by such TikTok influencers caught the attention of several brands from the apparel, cosmetic, beverage, and fitness industry for collaborations. The ban on TikTok has left users, creators, digital marketers, and even brands in the lurch. However, the stakes are very high for TikTok influencers who will have to restart, rethink, and re-strategize on their approach. The primary roadblocks include:
Loss of a Steady Income
As per the influencer marketing platform, Zefmo media, the platform was a source of earning for nearly a million users in the Indian subcontinent. Brands like Zara, Puma, Pepsi, Clean and Care channelized the popularity of TikTok influencers to create brand awareness, and partnered with influencers to promote the sales of their products.
The app which allowed users to create short videos procreated a new stream of celebrities who were known as TikTok influencers/stars. TikTok influencers who made it big with their lip-synced short videos and innovative dance moves capitalized on their fame by partnering with brands. TikTok Influencers with a follower base of millions made nearly ₹30,000-35,000 per month.
According to a report prepared by the Indian Institute of Human Brands (IIHB), the ban on TikTok has resulted in financial losses of about ₹120 crores in the annual earnings of the top 100 influencers on the platform. The report suggested that the top 3 gainers in the TikTok game were Riyaz Aly, Faisal Shaikh, and Arishfa Khan with a collective follower base of 100 million and annual earnings between ₹3-6 crore.
Rebuilding a Follower Base
Mohamed Thoufiq and his 72-year-old grandmother Rajamani from Chennai, who made TikTok videos of famous movie dialogues, garnered a significant follower base on the platform. Content creators will have to start building on their community from scratch. A tight-knit audience base is a foundation on which a simple social media user catapults into an influencer. Gaining the trust and loyalty of users is very daunting and time taking particularly when starting on an altogether unfamiliar platform.
Switching to other hyper-competitive platforms like YouTube and Instagram will be a real challenge for erstwhile TikTok influencers. They will have to slug it out with the competitive advantage enjoyed by the established influencers on other social media platforms.
Finding Simple Alternatives to TikTok
The ban on the China-based app, TikTok left millions of its creators in a limbo. However, it couldn’t restrict the talent houses of the platform who although apprehensive, switched to other social media platforms. While several influencers on TikTok ramped up their efforts to build their community on Instagram and YouTube; homegrown apps like Mitron and Chingari saw an upsurge in the number of downloads.
TikTok influencers and content creators migrated to other alternative applications mentioned below that gained traction post the ban:
- Roposo claims to have grown from 4 million to 64 million users.
- Trell backed by Sequoia Surge claims to have zoomed past the 10M download mark.
- Mitron app has gained 10M followers since its inception in April 2020.
- Chingari app saw 100K downloads per hour right after the ban on TikTok was declared.
- Bolo Indya available only on Android phones has already crossed 1M downloads.
- Reels by Instagram released in July is an inbuilt feature in the app that seems to be gaining momentum among users just days after its launch.
While there seem to be several contenders to fill the gaps created by the exodus of TikTok; Influencers and Brands will have to re-think content creation and marketing strategies to solidify their presence on these alternative platforms.
Difficulty Leveraging Online Presence into Show Business Careers
Foraying into show business was never this easy until TikTok came up. Landing at Mumbai for TikTok creators seemed like a fairytale yet became a reality celebrated by millions of their followers. It is a well-known fact that entering show business is not a cakewalk. Thanks to TikTok, Indian creators made their way on the global map irrespective of their geographical limitations.
Several TikTok Influencers like Riyaz Aly, Avneet Singh, Jannat Zubair, Sameeksha Sud, Mrunal, were handpicked by music labels like T Series and Zee Music Company for their albums sung by the likes of Neha Kakkar, Tony Kakkar, and Milind Gaba.
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The ban on TikTok has definitely brought a change in the social media marketing landscape; it will only last for a short while. TikTok influencers are diversifying in their approach and are rebuilding their follower base on different platforms. However, user engagement, adaptability, and acceptance in the community is a million-dollar question for many TikTok creators.
In the wake of the ban on TikTok, it is suggested that content creators must try to explore multiple platforms to sustain their visibility and keep their reach expanded. They must strive to look beyond the present and establish their personal brand such that their tribe follows them wherever they go.