TikTok’s future in the United States has become increasingly murkier after President Donald Trump threatened to ban the app in the U.S. (although he likely can’t do that). To avoid a potential ban, parent company ByteDance would need to divest its interests in the app, with Microsoft emerging as a potential suitor to acquire the company’s U.S. operations in the coming weeks.
With the uncertainty around TikTok, marketers have been left in a waiting game about the fate of the app and their ongoing brand campaigns and deals with influencers. Even if the app isn’t banned, advertisers and audiences are eyeing alternatives like Byte, Triller and Instagram’s new Reels feature to evaluate the potential of those platforms.
Adweek talked to marketers and social media managers from several brands with presences on TikTok about their outlook on the app’s future, their contingency plans and their thoughts on alternatives like Instagram Reels.
Katy Wellhousen, senior account director at RQ Agency, which has worked with the likes of HBO and Pizza Hut, said the Microsoft acquisition talks are cause for optimism for TikTok’s relevance and status in the U.S. She said that RQ is advising clients that have a presence on TikTok to move forward with their current strategies while being prepared to use or adapt that content onto another platform that might take its place.
“What we’re seeing now is content arbitrage: brands repurposing TikTok content on apps like Triller or working with Triller influencers for native content but sharing that video on TikTok,” she said. “I think we’ll see brands hedging their bets across these apps for a while, regardless of where things come to a close with TikTok’s stance in the U.S.”
The San Diego Zoo’s social team is no stranger to pivots of this nature, which had a popular Vine account when that platform shut down. Matthew Steele, social media supervisor for San Diego Zoo Global, said that the team is prepared for anything, but they’re optimistic about the potential for Reels due to Instagram’s preexisting user base and the organization’s own built-in audience.
Steele suggested it’s possible that Reels could come out ahead of TikTok in the same way that Instagram Stories “dethroned” Snapchat as a platform for Stories styled content.
“If Reels ultimately rivals TikTok, we want to be poised to take advantage of that shift and will continue to focus our strategy on making that channel a top destination for animal and conservation content,” Steele said.
CreativeDrive social media manager Eugene Litman, whose team manages the account for snack brand Nutter Butter, said the brand’s first move when Trump threatened the ban was to make a TikTok that pointed fans to its Instagram, which resulted in a wave of followers. The team also preemptively reserved the brand username on Triller, and now that Reels has launched, they plan to launch a full-fledged strategy for that platform.
However, the brand doesn’t plan to repurpose content for those platforms. “Reels and the others will likely develop their own trends and challenges that are unique to each platform, so I don’t see us repurposing most TikToks but instead creating content that’s contextual to each,” Litman said.
Erin Hodges, digital marketing coordinator for the Tampa Bay Rays MLB team, said her team hasn’t made moves into alternatives quite yet, but they’re looking into other venues for TikTok-style content. Hodges said she sees Triller as the closest analog to TikTok because it has a similar look and feel, functionality, content creation tools, user demographic and algorithm. Byte is distinctive because the content is the shortest of all those available, at only six seconds.