The news that the UK government has banned TikTok from corporate phones for security and privacy reasons will come as a blow to many forward thinking social media managers who’d already spotted the potential for the platform to engage new audiences in a big way.
But if you work for a public sector organisation, or have concerns as a comms pro in any industry, the news needn’t put the brakes on your portrait video plans.
Ultimately, you need to weigh up the pros of being on the platform versus the pitfalls.
So what’s the risk?
Like most social media applications- especially Meta owned Facebook and Instagram- TikTok collects lots of data from its users.
The difference between TikTok and the rest is that it’s Chinese owned and, like other Chinese companies, the Chinese government could in theory access this data- something which TikTok itself denies.
I work in the public sector – do I have to delete the app?
Currently the ban only applies to government departments and it only applies to work phones, though other public sector organisations are reviewing their position and the BBC has taken a similar step in asking staff to remove the app.
It’s worth pointing out here though that organisations are only restricting access on corporate devices.
National government departments, councils, emergency services, health trusts, the BBC and other public organisations still have TikTok accounts and still intend to use it to reach their audiences – especially the millions of people aged under 34 who are increasingly hard to reach using other digital platforms.
I don’t want to use my personal phone for work – is there another way?
If your organisation is asking you to stop using TikTok on work devices, your best bet is to carry on using the app but doing so from your personal phone.
We understand not everyone is prepared to use their own devices for work purposes. If this is you, you could ask your organisation to provide a standalone device solely for social media purposes which still has access to the apps you need – including TikTok- but isn’t hooked up to your network, thereby reducing the risk of important information or contacts being accessed by the app.
Is it all just a big conspiracy?
Unless you’re an expert in geopolitics, it’s probably beyond any of our pay grades to second guess the big picture reasons behind the ban. But suffice to say growing concern in the US and Europe about China’s influence on world affairs is heavily tied up in the decision.
We’ve also seen suggestions that TikTok’s phenomenal growth has given US-owned digital giants like Meta and Google the heebie-jeebies, with heavy lobbying by Meta behind Washington’s own government phones ban.
We’ll let you make up your own minds on that one.
You offer TikTok training- no wonder you want us on the platform!
True: we do offer training in TikTok, but we deliver it to a broad range of clients many of whom aren’t public sector.
Many brands will ultimately continue to use TikTok because they understand its enormous potential for reaching huge numbers of people for free.
TikTok has become the fastest growing app on the planet and on a purely practical level, right now it’s hard to see how any social media manager can legitimately ignore it completely.
Ok, so just tell me – should I be on there or not?
Our answer here is the same as what we wrote about Twitter in the wake of Elon Musk’s takeover: think about your brand’s strategy.
Social media channels come and go and it’s impossible to know what will happen in the future, so think- who do you want to talk to, what do you want to say and how you build trust and community.
If you have clear answers to those questions, that should help to steer you in the right direction.