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What the Collegiate TikTok Ban Means for Your Influencer Program

March 8, 2023

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In the latest social platform drama, TikTok is getting banned from use on college campus Wi-Fis. This the latest installment of TikTok’s losing battle in the US due to privacy concerns (it has also been banned on state-owned devices and networks.

So what does this mean for your influencer program, and more importantly, college influencers? We discuss the implications, and offer a few future-proofing tips below. 

What the TikTok Ban Means for Your Influencer Program (and How to Prepare)

How will the ban impact college TikTok influencers?

While banning TikTok on college networks will make posting and creating content a lot less convenient, it’s likely that the influencers who are fully committed won’t slow down. They’ll turn to resourceful solutions like finding other networks (e.g. local coffee shops, at home at their apartments) or utilize cellular data to create and post their content. 

That being said, it is possible that this ban will limit the type of college students that can be effective TikTok influencers. If free and convenient campus Wi-Fi is no longer available, the ability to continue creating content at a high volume will require access to non-campus space and/or money to pay for the cellular data. This is obviously not something that every college student has, and brings into question the impact this will have on diversity and inclusion in the industry. 

Tip: Thinking of partnering with college athlete influencers? Here’s some advice on how to incorporate them into your influencer program.

How can we expect college TikTok influencers to react?

Other than changing where college TikTok influencers can create and post content, this ban will further encourage influencers to diversify their social footprints.

Creators were already becoming more platform agnostic, and this will encourage them to go even further. These days it’s rare to find an influencer who is just on TikTok. Sure, they may have a larger following on one platform over another, but they have already started diversifying because they understand that platforms change, go in and out of fashion, and switch up their algorithms.

With this specific TikTok ban (and possibly more coming) it’s likely that we’ll see college TikTok influencers renew their efforts in other social platforms, and start taking advantage of paid subscription features (e.g. Instagram Subscriptions). We may also see influencers "self-deplatform" their content and move their most popular content to their own sites or the likes of Substack/Patreon, where they can monetize directly from their followers.

In the end, audiences follow creators, not platforms. As long as an influencer has built up a strong community and continues to create interesting and valuable content, they will be able to adapt with the changing platform tides. 

How could this impact my influencer program, and what should I do to prepare?

So, considering how college TikTok influencers will be impacted by this ban, what is a brand to do? If college TikTok creators are already a big part of your influencer program, or you feel that they need to be because they fit your target demographic, what can you do to prepare for any possible roadblocks?

“A successful influencer program is no longer just about volume, but about becoming more efficient and creative with the creators you bring on. The smartest and savviest brands are no longer putting all of their budget into a single post, creator, or platform — they’re thinking about the ability to reach audiences across many channels.” — Holly Jackson, global services director of influencer strategy and measurement at Traackr

Diversify your strategy. Similar to influencers, brands should make sure they aren’t putting all their eggs in one basket. Instead, they should think about how they can reach audiences across multiple channels. And, on an even deeper level, think through how different influencer types and platforms can help them achieve different goals. For example, TikTok might help a brand generate a lot of views, but YouTube might increase product consideration and purchasing. If you are a brand that needs or wants to work with college TikTok influencers, think about how you can stabilize by adding in variation. Could you encourage your college TikTok influencers to start cross promoting on other social platforms? Could you ask your partners if there are other types of content they are excited to make that doesn’t include their campus life? Are there other types of influencers — aside from college TikTokers — who could help you reach the same audience?

Pick partners based on adaptability and deeper values. Regardless of what content or platform is currently trending, audiences will always be drawn to authenticity. Sophisticated influencer marketers are thinking more holistically about partners and making sure there is alignment across values, and a flexibility to move between platforms. In the end, it may not matter which social platform you use, but what you choose to do with your partners. If you are able to find partners that share your brand values, you can think really creatively about your campaign content (without losing the essence of your brand). For example, Beekman 1802 looks for creators that align with its mission of “kindness” - this has led to many successes including one where TikTok influencers sold out products in Ulta.

Tip: If you’re interested, here are some other tips on how to find top creators for your influencer program.

Consider doing less, but better (and with more creativity). This new ban really just highlights the need to think creatively about how you partner with influencers. Limitations just provide an opportunity to discover something new and better. For example, maybe you ask your college TikTok influencers to avoid posting standard dance or campus “day in the life” videos, but do something else instead. 

“At Traackr, we diligently ensure that our clients have a strategy that is diversified. The truth is, bringing your influencer program from 100 to 300 creators won’t just add 3x results. A good influencer program honors the fact that creators provide more than just a platform for sharing your brands products or opinions. Ask yourself, what do they care about? What is authentic to them? How can they contribute to other areas of our business (e.g. market research or mission-driven initiatives) in ways that are unique to them?” — Holly Jackson, global services director of influencer strategy and measurement at Traackr

You can start this creative process out by asking your influencers what they care about (passions, values, etc). You could also work backwards — think about different areas of your business that you would like to impact and then explore how your influencers can help you. For example, maybe your college TikTok influencers can help you conduct market research with their audience. Your influencer partners can ask their audience what they care about and are interested in, and then help you tie back those findings to your messaging! (Walmart and P&G did something similar with a Gen Z audience when launching a product via its influencer program).

Embrace performance-driven influencer marketing by double checking and adjusting your strategy. Last, but certainly not least, it’s critical for you to constantly check and iterate on your strategies. Ask yourself: is the majority of my performance driven by one platform, influencer, or influencer tier? If so, how can you make sure that your next campaign helps balance this out? Or, if you find that the majority of your performance is driven by volume (number of mentions) instead of high efficiency (each piece of content earns high engagement and reach), how can you make content that is better built to engage audiences? Or do you need to think about working with a different tier of influencers, since some are better suited for engagement versus awareness?

If you really want to get deep into performance-driven influencer marketing, measurement, spend efficiency, and more check out this masterclass that we co-hosted with eMarketer

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