As talk of a TikTok ban grows, so-called influencers whose livelihoods are tied to the platform aren’t panicking – at least, not yet.
Yahoo Finance spoke to three of those influencers, with nearly 5.5 million followers between them. The topic of conversation: How they are thinking about the growing series of bans on state and university devices, as well as the fiery rhetoric coming out of Washington. For the most part, although they are concerned, they have not yet seen their businesses affected.
“The current bans do not have a direct impact on our business,” influencer and digital marketer Chase Chappell told Yahoo Finance. “If they were to ban TikTok for everyone in the US, that would be a cause for concern, as 50% of all our customers come from TikTok specifically. This is also my biggest platform in terms of followers and views, and our business depends on this platform as a source of growth.”
Chappell’s business focuses on helping others grow their social media reach and TikTok is a big part of his life. He spends two to four hours a day on the platform, and his business isn’t the only one on TikTok he’s worried about. He is worried about the fate of the businesses he deals with as well.
“If TikTok were to be banned, thousands of our customers would be affected financially as this platform has become a major source of their clientele and income,” he said. “Not only that, this will have a huge economic impact across the United States, as millions of users are buying goods from American companies that they discovered specifically on TikTok.”
There’s only so much data on the growing role of small businesses on TikTok and, frankly, it’s worth taking what we have with a grain of salt – but what we do paint a picture of a platform where the economics of -influencer is flourishing.
Data from digital marketer Higher Visibility suggests that as many as 65% of the most prominent full-time online creators are using TikTok as their primary platform going into this year. The ‘why’ is quite simple – creators and small businesses, often alike, are often drawn to TikTok’s now storied organic reach. In addition, TikTok itself has been studying small businesses on its platform, collecting data based on 7,000 responses. Bottom line: Up to 78% of small businesses currently on the platform plan to increase investment in it.
So, as influencers await the Washington-TikTok standoff, what are they doing to protect themselves? For one, many have been diversifying beyond TikTok. Mik Zenon, whose TikTok presence focuses on products and “life hacks” like finding the most useful home gadgets on Amazon (AMZN), has been building on other platforms for years now.
“If the bans were ever to extend to personal devices, then the impact would be significant,” he said. “There was talk of something like this happening in summer 2020 under Trump’s presidency. Back then, 100% of my business was on TikTok. I quickly learned the need to have a presence on as many platforms as possible. .. I have a following now on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube and have collected tens of thousands of emails over the years. I no longer feel like I’m over-leveraged on one platform.”
Anyway, about 25% of Zenon’s livelihood is tied to TikTok.
Concerned about security?
As far as data security is concerned, our Yahoo Finance influencers were mixed on the problem. For Zenon, he is no more worried about TikTok, which is owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, than any other platform.
“I’ve come to accept that all social media platforms collect our personal data to some extent when we use their apps,” he said.
Chappell, meanwhile, said that the government’s concerns make him question the long-term ramifications.
“It certainly makes me wonder how this could be used against the United States in a future scenario, [but] so far, I don’t have any specific personal reasons to be worried about them,” he said. “My only concern is about the potential ‘what ifs’, but I can’t worry about the ‘what ifs’ all the time, otherwise I’m always worried and that’s not good for anyone.”
For TikTok’s part, the company is in the midst of negotiations with the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to address the government’s security concerns. “We believe that the proposal under review by CFIUS—made up of our country’s top national security agencies—will address all of the national security concerns about TikTok so that our community can feel confident in -their safety, privacy and security,” said a company spokesperson. .
‘My followers are everything’
Ban prospects aside, TikTok is clearly important to small businesses on the platform.
For Fafa Araujo, who runs Fafa Fitness and often goes by her name, the platform has done nothing but change her life, she said. She joined TikTok in 2021, and gained her 2.1 million followers in the short time since then.
“It would be really hard for me to move forward right now or even be where I am without TikTok,” she told Yahoo Finance.
“TikTok brings me what I’m looking for—people I can help,” she added. “I know it’s only been two years for me on TikTok, but it helped me find my happiness helping others. TikTok is the love of my life.”
For Araujo, who is based in Miami, the fear of a ban comes from her connection with those followers – she doesn’t want to lose them, professionally and especially on a personal level.
“My followers are everything,” she said. “Without them, what am I?”
Allie Garfinkle is a Senior Tech Reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter at @agarfinks.
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