TikTok is a popular video-sharing social network created in China in 2016. This app has been enjoying incredible popularitysince its breakthrough in the international market in 2017 when the platform was launched for iOS and Android. In 2019 alone, TikTok was downloaded by 740 million users and thus, the app surpassed Facebook and Instagram, ranking second in the world in terms of downloads, just behind WhatsApp.
Until recently, the TikTok app has, generally, enjoyed popularity among the younger population but over the past two months of the pandemic of the new COVID-19 virus, it has grown to 800 million users, allowing people to create and share shorter video content. It was visible that quarantines established around the world as a defense against coronavirus pandemic, and staying in homes for weeks, have forced many users to create funny video sketches that are getting a lot of attention in all countries. TikTok has proven to be the perfect platform to share this kind of content, receiving more Google searches in the week ending April 11, 2020, than in any other week since its worldwide launch.
As the popularity of this app grows exponentially, so do many brands around the world recognize its increasing marketing potential, and some of the biggest ones like Nike, Walmart, Ralph Lauren, and the NBA have already taken some of that space for themselves. However, there has been recent concern about the safety of both users and those advertised on this network by those who don’t reside in China.
US Data Security Concerns Over TikTok
TikTok offers brands different ways to promote at its platform, such as hashtag challenges, full-screen takeovers, in-feed ads, and much more attractive stuff for those who want to reach their audience. While the popularity of this network is undoubtedly growing everywhere in the world, there are doubts, especially in the United States, when it comes to user data security. It should be noted that out of 800 million TikTok users, as many as 300 million are from outside China, and 37.2 million are registered in the United States. This number will increase to 45.4 million users in 2020, according to Market research company eMarketer.
In the US, there’s growing concern about this trend, not only because of the diminished popularity of US’s Facebook and Instagram but due to the very fact that Chinese-owned TikTok is raising fears of increased Chinese influence in the United States. TikTok is often portrayed by many as a technological Trojan horse with Chinese surveillance capabilities on a global level.
US Senator Marco Rubio ran on Twitter a real mini-campaign against the TikTok app, stating that it was censoring and concealing footage of demonstrations in Hong Kong. The problem was also that the Chinese company was collecting so much data about residents and businesses in America. Regardless of all this, TikTok is gaining popularity among the American elite in the entertainment industry, such as e.g. Jennifer Lopez, and America warns of problems with data protection and censorship in China, as well as the transmission of propaganda content. This is why the relatively benign concept of TikTok can be interpreted as a powerful tool for amplifying Chinese influence in the Western world through so-called “soft power”.
Big Brands and Celebrities Trust Tiktok
Brands, on the other hand, aren’t concerned about these claims and who’s behind the TikTok application and continue to use this platform for promotion. ByteDance, the company that owns the TikTok app, even stated that the data they collect about users is stored in the USA, using the Douyin app, which is a copy of TikTok for the Chinese market.
In 2019, which was definitely marked by Chinese TikTok, this app is gaining momentum and popularity worldwide. We have to wait for the answer to the question: Are the above allegations based on facts or is the dust risen around the Chinese application an attempt by competing companies to get back some of the lost customers through a detour?