When creators are platform dependent, they risk losing it all
The uncertain fate of TikTok in America continues, underscoring the precarious nature of the creators' business models and the over-reliance on social platforms.
In case you missed it, President Trump signed an ordinance earlier this month banning the use of the Chinese app TikTok. The order marks TikTok and the parent company ByteDance Ltd. as a threat to national security as "huge amounts of information are gathered from users, including information about Internet and other network activities such as location data and browsing and search history data".
Despite international sanctions, TikTok had an amazing 2020. The app was downloaded over 175 million times in the US and over two billion times worldwide. When the pandemic hit, TikTok became the most downloaded app in the world, installing 315 million times in the first quarter alone – the best quarter of any app, and for good reason -. The developers leaned on the platform and produced some of the most interesting content apps that have been around on social media for a long time.
TikTok's popularity is as undeniable as the privacy issues that have arisen since its inception. At the corporate level, wiping out your US audience with sanctions is extremely problematic, but the effects of a US ban on TikTok would impact the community of developers who have worked hard to make the app as popular as it is. Many developers have been able to build their brands, grow audiences, and make a living using TikTok, but the ghost of wiping this out is unfortunately nothing new to many of the most popular personalities on the platform.
While the TikTok ban is a dramatic example of the insecurity of even the largest social platforms, developers are increasingly aware of the value they create for platforms and how little they actually get in exchange. Policy changes, algorithm changes, shadow bans, and monetization restrictions have limited their ability to connect with fans and make a living doing what they love, and the developer platforms they rely on for free content are becoming increasingly restless.
Creators who don't have access to their audience lose everything if they rely on a platform. The TikTok ban is a dramatic example of what can happen when developers fail to maintain direct communication with their fans through a platform that they own their audience on instead of renting it from a platform.
To put these obstacles in a broader context, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and now TikTok have undergone intense government scrutiny over the collection and use of personal data. Opaque data practices have emerged, generating criticism and calls for transparency and corrective action at the political level. For the developers, this means not only that their assets are tied directly to the platforms themselves, but that the social platforms use their contributions to replenish their finances and collect deep personal data while they work hard to keep their fans happy hold data.
So what to do Creators bring amazing experiences to their fans and followers and are sporadically rewarded for it until they are no longer. To secure their creative and financial futures, developers should consider taking steps to ensure they have access and ownership to the audiences they are working so hard on to build and connect with.
By not relying too much on a platform, developers lower their overall risk of loss. Diversifying the approach to audience engagement and adopting a subscription model is key. Developers should try to invest their resources in tools that give them direct and unrestricted access to their fans while maintaining a meaningful one-to-one relationship.
By adding a subscription model to their social media presence, developers can also benefit from exposing key social channels while breaking the cycle of over-reliance on platforms. At the same time, fans and followers benefit from better access to and engagement with the creators who matter most to them, free from the toxic vitriol of social media. This model strengthens a creator's value to their audience and also increases their earning potential – a win-win situation for creators and fans alike.