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The Tik Tok Fiasco

The history of Tik Tok and India has been a love-hate one. Just as we were entering the age of the latest social media platform Tik Tok, it’s controversies caught up with it. 

Tik Tok was set to become an effective marketing platform, with its immense popularity and penetration. But as India- China relations took a dive, the future of Tik Tok became uncertain in its largest market. With shady allegations surfacing and ethical issues, the Chinese video-sharing app is now banned in India.  

Source: Unsplash

What did Tik Tok start off as?

Calling itself a “destination for short-form mobile videos“, Tik Tok was a bite-size version of YouTube, with videos ranging between five and 60 seconds in length. 

Creators have access to a variety of filters and effects, as well as an assorted music library. It became a platform for self – expression where people could lip-sync, dance, make comedy sketches, upload adorable pet videos, showcase their artwork, and whatnot.

In the beginning, Tik Tok was considered to be a place for “cringy” videos with high meme potential as opposed to elitist Instagram

A girl taking a selfie

Source: Unsplash

But as the popularity grew, many Instagram creators and influencers took to Tik Tok, for they received immense recognition over there. Not to forget, it gave rise to a whole new generation of pseudo-celebrities who have millions of followers all over the world.

The app further became a hitmaker in the music industry. Roddy Ricch’s The Box became Rap’s First Viral No.1 Hit as an effect of it’s highly followed “The Box Challenge ” on Tik Tok.

How did Tik Tok Become a Marketing Magnet for numerous brands?

Very soon, Tik Tok became a liberating platform for millions of Indian users. This was a self-esteem booster for several newborn creators and first-time users. It was a platform where they could be themselves and propagated the idea that anyone can be a star. 

As a result, it was used by people from every nook and corner of the country. 

Tik Tok found its largest user base in India with around 100 million users. Thus it attracted a lot of brands to use it as a marketing platform. Brands such a Zara, Myntra, Sketchers, Reebok, Snap Deal, Dharma Productions, Voot, Viu, Layz, and many many more have TikTok in their social media strategy. 

Clean&Clear Tiktok feed

Source: exchange4media.com

Making use of the “Trend Culture“, the brand advertises through a certain trend. Examples are Pepsi’s #SwagStepChallenge, Clean and Clear’s #UnbottleApnaSwag, and Flipkart’s #BigBillionStar among many. With Bollywood celebrities joining the app too, Influencer marketing got a new angle to explore.

With providing a huge assortment of content for a diverse audience, Tik Tok managed to find a permanent place on everyone’s phones.

Tik Tok’s Controversial Journey

One of the biggest shortcomings of Tik Tok’s part was irresponsible content propagation

It has a history of problematic incidents in India involving pornographic content and exposure of children to sensitive content, unprecedented accidents, and finally the You Tube-TikTok controversy. The app’s rating came down to 1 start on Google Play Store following a trend to #BanTikTok on Twitter. This was when a popular TikTok star Faisal Siddiqui posted a TikTok video endorsing acid attacks on women. The app continues to be infamous for poor content moderation

The current India-China political scenario is probably the final nail in the coffin for Tik Tok. The Indian Government has called for a nationwide ban along with 58 other apps, mostly Chinese. This will be the second time, that Tik Tok is banned in India. 

Source: Indian Express

The government justified that the apps are engaged in activities “prejudicial to sovereignty and integrity of India, defense of India, the security of the state and public order.”

The government also cited complaints about data on Indian users being transferred abroad without authorization, hence a major invasion of privacy. 

Impending Effect On Indian Marketing and Brands

This ban on Tik Tok is going to cause several Indian brands to reformulate their marketing strategies. With Tik Tok’s advertising rates more economical than YouTube and Instagram, Brands will now be stripped of a viable marketing platform. Tik Tok’s share will now be redistributed among other platforms. 

With the advertising industry facing a global recession due to the coronavirus pandemic, removal of Tik Tok from the picture results in a large gap. The replanning of advertising budgets will lead to a sudden loss of revenue.

It will be interesting to see how influencers and brands adapt to this change and shift to other media. Will they be able to maintain their influence on other platforms? Will Indian Social Media apps come up? How will brands regain their vast consumer base? Will a parallel social media platform be available that is financially viable and has a large reach? 

India Tiktok Update

Source: Instagram (@indiatiktok)

What does the future look like?

As negotiation between TikTok and the government continue to take place, it’s definitely a major deal-breaker for brands. But at the same time, national security issues and invasion of privacy by these apps is a bigger problem to solve. As for now, nothing can be said about the rising tensions between India and China. However, there is a foreseeable economic upheaval, resulting from the dispute. 

Brands need to stay aware of the economic and political environment. They need to be prudent in their strategizing as they proceed with their marketing efforts. The future is uncertain, but hopeful

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