The Row Over TikTok Shows Why You Can’t Depend On Social Networks

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Over the last 5 years or so, musicians, artists, labels and businesses have sometimes taken to thinking that their online presence could be maintained just on social media. History has shown us that’s a bad strategy with multiple scenarios that have played out over time, and it looks like we’re seeing it happen again with TikTok.

If you haven’t been following, TikTok and other Chinese apps have been turned off in India over a political row that the two countries are currently involved in. Now it looks like the same thing is happening in Hong Kong as well. Even more worrisome to TikTok aficionados is the fact that the United States is also considering taking a similar action, which not only has users concerned, but also many in the record industry that find themselves relying on the platform for song promotion more and more.

TikTok has emerged as a kingmaker of sorts in the music world in the last 18 months, most notably after Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” becoming a surprise hit because of exposure on the service, and as a result, everyone in the music business has flocked to the video platform in hopes of achieving a similar result.

As expected, TikTok is becoming somewhat watered down thanks to the increased corporate presence, but that still hasn’t kept it from growing massively in popularity worldwide.

We’ve Seen This Before

But we’ve seen this movie before. Social platforms will run very hot when they’re the new thing on the block, but tend to cool off over time. That wasn’t yet the case for TikTok, but the doomsday scenario that people like me always say can happen looks to be playing out. That is, a sudden and unexpected deletion or inability to access the platform you depend on.

My advice is that you should never depend upon a social platform as your only online point of presence because of scenarios just like this. Those who relied on MySpace as the front for their music way back when had several cases of abandonment, the biggest one was waking up one day to discover that their follower counts were zeroed without any warning (even for investor Justin Timberlake).

More recently, Facebook is the classic case of gradually stripping away the ability for an artist to access his or her followers unless they pay. Over a period of about two years the potential to access your fans or followers organically went from 100% down to the 2% that it is today.

While there are few that depend solely upon TikTok as their primary social presence these days apart from a few “influencers” (and it looks like the time of the professional influencer is passing as well), it’s been so hot and avidly used that many labels, managers and artists have turned their entire attention to it.

There Is A Better Way

At least they’ll have other social platforms to go back to should a ban take effect, but it just illustrates my point – you can’t depend upon a social network for your entire online presence.

A website seems like such a dated concept, yet it’s the only place online that you can totally control. Social platforms make you conform to content, format, look and feel restrictions that are always varying, which will never happen on your own site. When all else fails, it’s the one place online where your fans and followers can find the information that want about you without fail (barring downtime for some reason, of course).

Yes, social networks are a valuable tool when it comes to promotion, but as we can see, they can’t be relied on as your major point of presence online. Too much bad can and will happen.

While the banning of TikTok in the United States may never come to pass, it’s a stark warning that social networks come and go, but only your website remains.

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