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Beyond the Ban: How Can Attorneys Prepare for a TikTok-Free World?

Posted on Wednesday, April 10th, 2024 at 7:00 am    

UPDATE: Since this post was written the bill has been signed into law. Read about it here.

The TikTok Phenomenon

TikTok’s rise to fame was unlike any other social media. With its addictive short videos and algorithm-driven content, the platform has captured the attention of users worldwide.  Content on the platform ranges from dancing videos and trending challenges, to educational clips and life advice.  The diversity of content on TikTok has made its target market widespread.

The Impending TikTok Ban

Americans face the possibility of losing TikTok within 6 months if a bill known as The Protecting Americans from Foreign Adversary Controlled Applications Act is signed into law.  The goal of this bill is to force TikTok’s Beijing-based parent company, ByteDance, to sell its stake.  For a while now, legislators have been attempting to oversee the platform due to its connections with China.  China is accused of spying on Americans through the app and influencing them by either amplifying or suppressing specific content.

On March 15th, 2024, ByteDance was given a choice: Sell TikTok within six months, or lose access to app stores and web-hosting services in the U.S. The future of this legislation is uncertain – it’s in the hands of the Senate for the near future.

If ByteDance does sell TikTok, U.S. users could seamlessly continue to use the app.  “It could be very non-intrusive, and users may not even notice that ownership of the company has changed,” says Ivan Tsarynny, a cybersecurity expert who testified before the House Committee. “And in the mid- to long-term, a sale has a very strong possibility of eliminating China as a threat.”

Here, we will be discussing the implications on lawyers if the ban does go through.

Prime Example of Lawyer Success on TikTok

The use of TikTok by legal professionals like Attorney Tom illustrates a near perfect use of the social media platform for legal education and client engagement.  Attorney Tom, from the Kherkher Law Firm in Houston, Texas, showcases how creative and informative content can profoundly influence audience engagement and brand visibility within the legal sector.  With over 700,000 followers and nearly 20 million likes, his TikTok profile, @attorneytom, serves as a compelling example of how legal expertise can be made accessible and engaging through social media sharing.

Through Attorney Tom’s example, it becomes evident that TikTok has facilitated a unique form of legal outreach, blending education with engagement. By understanding what made Attorney Tom’s TikTok presence effective—authenticity, accessibility, and educational value—law firms can learn about how client engagement is evolving online and why it’s important to adapt their marketing strategies accordingly.

How Will the TikTok Ban Affect Legal Marketing?

The potential ban on TikTok poses a uniquely conditional threat for lawyers.  For the past few years, TikTok has provided attorneys with a simplified opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and personality through creative and engaging content.  For law firms that are using TikTok as part of their marketing efforts, they could lose access to an extremely valuable audience and will need to shift their attention to other platforms where their target audience is still active. If the bill passes, these law firms will have to find a new way to humanize their brand and connect with potential clients on a more personal level.

The ban may result in a decrease in brand visibility and awareness among TikTok users – a younger demographic that may have been previously untapped through older, traditional marketing channels.  This loss of visibility could impact brand recognition, client acquisition efforts, and overall market competitiveness.

What Can Your Law Firm Do To Prepare?

TikTok is just a video platform, and similar results can be achieved elsewhere. While the TikTok ban would pose obstacles for some attorneys, it could also open doors for alternative video marketing outlets.  Legal marketing professionals will be forced to explore other video platforms and strategies to effectively reach the same audience they built (and lost) on TikTok.  In doing so, marketers must use website traffic and social media analytics to understand shifting behaviors and preferences.  By keeping up with user trends, specifically the “hottest” platforms, law firms can better tailor their content strategies to their prospective clients across multiple channels.

Video marketing has proven to be highly impactful in the legal world, and it will not disappear with TikTok.  Law firms rely on several video marketing platforms other than TikTok for a number of reasons:

  1. Legal video content tends to be more engaging and memorable than text-based content.
  2. By incorporating videos into their marketing strategy, law firms can capture the attention of their audience more effectively and convert attention into action (hiring the firm).
  3. Video allows law firms to humanize their brand by showcasing their attorneys, staff, and office environment.
  4. Video content can greatly improve a law firm’s SEO. Search engines like Google prioritize video content in search results, and including videos on a law firm’s website can help improve its search rankings and drive more traffic to the site.

Luckily, TikTok is not the only platform that offers engaging and shareable video content.  To name a few:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • Snapchat

and many more channels offer video marketing similar to TikTok.

You can see in the graphic above from EMarketer, that Gen Z is using social media at an increasing rate, nearing Millennial levels of usage. Looking ahead, we project Millennials and Gen Z will continue paving the path for social media usage.  Attorneys need to make sure they don’t overlook the older of these two generations as their marketing focus shifts to the faster-growing, younger generation.

What’s the “New” TikTok?

Our prediction?  Instagram Reels.  Instagram has already launched Reels as a direct competitor to TikTok. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, also owns both Instagram and Instagram Reels.

Like TikTok, Instagram Reels have the same “viral” format that helps build trust and resonance among the most active social media audiences.  Like TikTok videos, Instagram Reels are short, fast-paced videos that can be discovered across the feed, in stories, and on the explore page.  Reels have the highest potential to attract TikTok users looking for an alternative platform.

Instagram Reels has a massive user base of over 500 million, spanning diverse backgrounds and geographical locations worldwide.  Instagram alone has over a billion active users worldwide.  With Reels seamlessly integrated into the Instagram app, it has immediate access to this vast audience, making it a prime contender to TikTok’s reach.

In an interview for AdWeek, Ryan Enoch, SVP and Director of Strategy at Momentum Worldwide, says “Still, no platform quite works like TikTok with its built-in editing tools and unique algorithm. Instagram on the other hand requires quite a bit more strategic thought and creative polish in how to connect with and reach audiences vs. TikTok”.

Many users are already familiar with Instagram and its features, making the transition to Reels smoother compared to entirely new platforms.  The convenience of having Reels within the same app where users already visually engage with friends, brands, and influencers, will put it above other competitors aiming for TikTok’s spot on top.

Based on the above graph from Emplifi, it is evident that the reach on Instagram Reels has consistently been at least double that of TikTok. Instagram Reels, benefiting from Instagram’s previously established infrastructure, consistently outperforms TikTok in terms of reach and impressions, reaffirming its status as a formidable contender in the short-form video market.

Need Help Planning Your Firm’s Next Video Strategy?

TSEG has 15 years of experience in digital marketing for attorneys.  We specialize in all kinds of lead generation campaigns for law firms across multiple social media sites. Contact us to learn more or to set up a paid advertising campaign on high-performing social network platforms.

As we prepare for the potential TikTok ban, one thing is clear:  Adaptability is everything. Make sure your law firm is ready for what comes in 6 months – the ongoing reign of TikTok, or the possibility of a new marketing platform takeover.