It's hard to talk about content creation in 2023 without addressing the potential TikTok ban looming in the United States. As if app closures, Twitter chaos, and tech company layoffs weren't enough to cause concern, now creators need to worry about one of the most explosive developments in social media suddenly vanishing.
Or do they?
In reality, whether or not the U.S. can ban an app like TikTok remains a mystery. Not just because of legal challenges and potential public blowback, but because the actual process of doing so is unprecedented and rife with technical challenges.
So what does any of it mean for content creators and their teams? First, we understand just how much anxiety this uncertainty causes. Particularly for agencies and creators who leveraged TikTok's growth for their own businesses and brands. Telling people who rely on TikTok to pay some or all of their rent to "not worry about it" is useless and tone deaf.
But it is worth trying to channel some of this anxiety towards platform diversification.
Does A TikTok Ban Change Your Content Strategy?
Whether or not a TikTok ban materializes, TikTok's impact on social media is here to stay. The immense popularity of short-form vertical video spawned immediate copycat products from Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, as well as dozens of other apps.
So here's the ultimate question: whether it's TikTok or somewhere else, does the style of content you make and how often you post it really change? If you're already crossposting all of your content, you know that content doesn't always perform the same way on every platform. Your strategy should already be about establishing a steady rhythm of finding what works and trying new things you enjoy.
If you have already honed your vertical video skills utilizing TikTok (either natively in the app, on your phone, or just getting really good at cropping and framing traditional 16:9 aspect ratio landscape videos to fit a 9:16 aspect ration vertical video world), you've already got the skills necessary to continue producing high quality content for every major phone app.
The Power Of Community
If there's any silver lining to a hypothetical TikTok ban, it's this: when it comes to building community, TikTok is one of the least reliable platforms. So, in theory, even creators who have built followings of hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of followers aren't necessarily losing as much as they might if say, YouTube suddenly got banned.
That's because TikTok is a platform that has always served the content over the creator. It's part of the reason the platform is so addictive — the idea that seemingly any content at any time can "go viral."
But it's also why users who amass followings of hundreds of thousands of people still find the majority of their videos getting views that match anywhere from 1 to 10 percent of their following. Because users just don't really see videos from people they follow that much. Sure, TikTok has done a better job of showing users content from people they follow in the past few years, but at the end of the day the vast majority of time on the app and views come from the "For You Page," which is dominated by trending videos.
That's why we're such big proponents of trying to funnel your fans and followers to a place where you are more likely to "own" that relationship. Places like Discord, Patreon, and most fundamentally, email lists.
What Content Diversification Truly Means
The truth is, content diversification is about more than just where you publish content, though. It's also the kind of content you make.
Now, we're not saying that all podcasters also need to make music (please), or that all musicians also need to run a Substack. If that's something you're genuinely interested in, then go for it.
But let's put it this way: if your business relies on reaching your audience on social media, it's not really your business. You're just borrowing it for as long as that platform stays relevant (or chooses to let you reach your followers).
Right now, pretty much all content creators are safe sticking with creating short-form vertical video as part of their primary strategy. It's not going away any time soon (though that doesn't necessarily mean it's sticking around forever, or on every platform equally).
But longer videos (with captions), livestreams, audio-only versions, and fan clubs (or communities) should all be on your short list, too. Hopefully, this should ultimately be fun and exciting.
There's a bit of a "fail fast" mentality to tackling new corners of the content world. All that means is be willing to try your hand at a lot of different platforms and content styles. Heck, even consider starting over with a new approach if it feels right.
As long as you're driving people to give you data that you own (like an email or text list), you're never wasting time. And even if there is a TikTok ban — or a ban on any platform for that matter — you'll be setting yourself up to weather the storms by diversifying.