What’s The Deal With TikTok?

If you have a GenZer in your life, you’ve probably heard of TikTok. If you’re targeting customers under 25, you’ve definitely considered it, if not used it, as part of your strategy, but every day we hear people asking what is TikTok and why all the controversy?


TikTok is a Chinese owned video-sharing social media network with over 800 million active users. Users make short videos, usually dances, lip-syncs and various other skit/talent type clips. Videos can then be shared and watched by others, often popping up on other platforms such as Instagram and going viral through challenges and hashtags.


TikTok’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past 2 years with many influencers and marketing departments using the platform to create dance challenges, lip-syncs and trick shot challenges. Users can create their own versions of a particular challenge and upload for others to view, like and share.


The primary issue with TikTok is that it’s targeted at a very young age group that often doesn’t realize the sensitivity of their content and in an effort to go viral, they are often less concerned with privacy settings. There can also be a plethora of inappropriate or mature content, causing many parents to shy away from allowing their kids to use the app before a certain age.


Based on the repetitive and mainstream nature of the platform, it’s also common that many people find the app a bit annoying, but the parental concerns and irritation factors pale in comparison to concerns around the use and collection of user information by the Chinese government. What started as a low hum of concern has spiraled into a full, nation-wide ban in India which is one of the largest markets for the social media network, with talks of the US and Australia also instituting bans.


TikTok collects more private information about it’s users than most of the smaller platforms combined. This isn’t uncommon when you look at Facebook or YouTube, but the problem with TikTok is around concerns that the Chinese government has access to any data that a Chinese company holds. This concern has prompted the US Army to ban it’s use as well, with the US Secretary of State recently stating that a national ban of TikTok is also under consideration, citing questions around whether the app is a national security threat.


Depending on what information you read though, it does seem that TikTok is doing what it needs to protect user information from getting in to governmental hands and being used differently than the intent it was acquired for (user experience and marketing data) but many suggest that the greatest concern with an app like TikTok is how young it’s users are and the ability to use the platform to spread false information and messaging that may not be critically vetted by its impressionable consumers.


TikTok really isn’t doing anything different than many other social networks in most areas, but the ability to influence such a young and impressionable audience is a cause for concern, especially when you consider the vastly different political climate in China and worry that TikTok could be used to manipulate its audience. Whether this is a true reason for concern is yet to be seen, but it certainly opens the moral question of the potentially damaging effects social media can have on young minds and offers an opportunity to start a real conversation about the intent, use and ramifications of social platforms and what could happen if things did go wrong.








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