After TikTok bans on government devices, communicators may need to examine their strategies, though a personal device ban is unlikely.

More than 30 states and cities have banned TikTok on government devices. These bans are likely to continue unless TikTok parent company ByteDance can provide firmer evidence that user data is not at risk of being mishandled by Chinese government entities.

This was one of several topics we addressed in our recent Ragan Social Media Crash Course webinar. We examined the likelihood of a ban, and what that means for communicators who establish guidelines for their brands and employees’ social activity.

Will TikTok be banned on personal devices?

Experts agree that it’s unlikely TikTok will see a full-scale ban at the federal level for several reasons.

  • 5 million U.S. businesses are active on the platform, and banning it from personal devices could cost the U.S. economy $6.8 billion.
  • The U.S. government has a tenuous historical record of regulating tech companies and social platforms — or even fully grasping the challenges they pose.
  • The US government has yet to “ban” a major social media platform from personal devices. And despite many others being U.S. based, it’s worth considering that the second-largest stakeholder in X after Elon Musk is Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz — so foreign influence is a bit of a selective issue.

From the (military) horse’s mouth:

“It would be incredibly difficult to have a nationwide band that would be governed effectively, efficiently and the same for every state,” said Alan Black, director of corporate communications for the U.S. Navy at Dahlgren, Virginia.

Black and his team manage the Navy’s TikTok presence — without access to the app on their work devices, and without the military brand having an official presence of its own. “We do have a challenge in the government,” Black quipped wryly. But even so, having a strategy is critical, and the Navy is up for the challenge.

The team turned to creators — primarily micro-influencers in the STEM space — to speak to their experiences and recruit for the skills the military needs.

“It’s kind of a third-party advocacy role, where you have people talking about your brand, but they’re talking within your guidelines,” Black said.

Looking ahead and knowing the risks

While average users and creators are unlikely to lose access to the app, it’s worth keeping the topic in mind:

  • From a creator’s perspective, government bans raise issues surrounding the app’s content moderation practices, having a safe social media experience, and ensuring privacy factors such as the handling and use of their data.
  • From a brand perspective, it’s about brand safety, ensuring the viability of creator partnerships. It also raises the question of whether TikTok is the right platform to use, or whether an alternative such as Reels is the safer bet long-term.
  • For communicators in government organizations, making it clear to employees how they engage with the app, share details about their work and approach brand partnerships is critical. Set guidelines and be ready to answer questions from creator-employees.

Jess Zafarris is a content director, editor, journalist, speaker, social media engagement strategist and creator. Her 13 years of experience in media have included such roles as the Director of Content at Ragan Communications, Audience Engagement Director at Adweek, and Content Strategy Director and Digital Content Director for Writer’s Digest and Script Mag. Follow her on Twitter/Threads/IG and Tiktok @jesszafaris  and connect with her on LinkedIn.

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