Small Businesses at Risk of Impact from TikTok Ban

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Small and medium businesses face a real risk of losing out on the opportunities they currently have through TikTok, should a ban be put in place by the U.S. government. Sarah Martinez, the owner and operator of Sweet Sarah’s, is one of millions of businesses across the country who uses the app to reach out to customers and promote her products. All it cost her was time: creating a 50-second video of her creating a “boho rainbow cake” in her kitchen was enough to get 9 million views and a flurry of orders.

It is clear to see why businesses have come to rely so much on the app. Firstly, it provides a unique platform to showcase their goods or services without having to pay for advertising or hire a videographer. Secondly, the app can be quite user-friendly—TikTok algorithms recommend content based on the user’s interests, and the informal and creative environment encourages small businesses to succeed. Mike Boland of Localogy suggests that the app’s appeal to small businesses could be summed up in the form of two key words: “raw” and “unscripted”—qualities that small businesses can use to their advantage.

With Love, Imoni, is another business that has flourished under the platform—it has seen its reach expand further than any other traditional online platform. The brand is an example of how the app has enabled the “democratization of finding eyeballs,” says Marina Cooley of Emory University.

For all its advantages, there is indeed a downside to businesses relying too much on TikTok. Da’Zha Frazier of With Love, Imoni admitted that the fussiest thing about the platform is the uncertainty of what will become a hit and what won’t—an intimidating prospect for small businesses. To counter these apprehensions, Drew Harden of Blue Compass suggests diversifying marketing efforts on different platforms. It is a crucial step, because there is no telling which platform will remain available for the foreseeable future.

Nevertheless, TikTok seems here to stay for now. In a survey conducted by TikTok last year, majority of the small and medium businesses surveyed said that they were hoping to increase spending on the platform in the next year. It is clear that this app is an effective and accessible platform for small businesses, and that the US government shouldn’t overlook these facts while considering a ban—let alone proceed with one.