TikTok, a popular video-sharing app loved by the Nepali masses, was banned in Nepal on 13 November 2023. In Nepal, TikTok was the third-highest-used platform, after YouTube and Facebook, with over 2.2 million active users. Because TikTok is built on discovery and authenticity, it has become the ultimate destination for budding entrepreneurs and small businesses in Nepal to promote their ventures.
Now, with the ban on TikTok, business owners are facing the brunt as their primary marketing channel has been shut. We, as digital marketers, recognize the value of social media platforms in today’s time and understand the consequences of TikTok bans fellow businesses are facing. As we’re sharing the same pain point, let’s delve into the impact on entrepreneurs.
Launched in 2017 in Nepal, TikTok, primarily as an entertainment platform, received wide acceptance and love from Nepali consumers. With the option to create a Personal Account or a Business Account, TikTok brought in users of every age, background, and interest. The massive popularity of TikTok among Nepali users is because of its viral trends and content. TikTok’s algorithm is trained to show content that is engaging to the audience with relevant interest, regardless of the following. This gave a huge boost of confidence to emerging content creators and businesses, instilling the belief that if their content is of quality, it is bound to go viral. Because minimum effort would deliver tangible success, TikTok became a favorable place to scale one’s business.
If you’re under the impression that Nepal is the only country to ban TikTok, then that’s not the case. Globally, on the basis of data privacy concerns, TikTok is banned in different countries such as Afghanistan, India, Iran, and Kyrgyzstan, and government-issued devices in several states of the United States. In Nepal, although freedom of speech is one’s right, TikTok was heavily criticized and on the radar of the Nepalese government for spreading hate speech. Be it because of the lack of digital literacy or the platform’s lack of regulation, in four years, over 1,647 reported cases of cybercrime linked to TikTok.
Take, for example, the recent fraud case where a woman was scammed of Rs. 2,60,000 via TikTok. Claiming to be from the well-known Zam Zam Electronics, two men lured a woman, claiming she won an iPhone via a lucky draw, and forced her to deposit the said amount for customs duty. This is a clear example of how people misuse TikTok and how easy it is to scam people who aren’t digitally competent.
Finally, the government cited “effects on social harmony” and “security concerns” as the core reasons for the stringent step to ban TikTok.
If you look at it from a surface level, it’s relatively easy to get started on TikTok. Everyone has a smartphone in their hands. Next, you download TikTok, film the videos on trending audio, and upload them for people to consume. This need for limited resources and budget is what attracted small businesses towards it. Similar to other popular social media platforms, TikTok too proved to be a cost-effective marketing platform that expanded its reach and connected businesses with their potential customers. As of 2023, TikTok had over 2.2 million active users in Nepal, so that goes to show potential business owners to find their future consumers there.
Additionally, finding and connecting with your niche audience using relevant hashtags and the “For You” feed that displays videos tailored to the consumer’s interest amplified the chances for small businesses to tap into their desired users far more organically. Data by Capterra states that small and medium-sized companies that market their services on TikTok get 96% engagement. This data is enough to prove how beneficial TikTok was for small businesses across the globe, including Nepal.
Since the digital demise of TikTok, small businesses and budding entrepreneurs in Nepal have lost an effective channel to market their businesses. Because it helped in marketing, promotion, and brand building, businesses of all scales and sizes relied on it. However, now that the platform has been snatched from them, the impact this decision has had is discussed below.
TikTok has become the preferred platform for businesses to reach younger demographics and target audiences organically. The ban led to the loss of a valuable marketing channel, making it challenging for businesses to connect with their target audience, especially if they have built a significant following on the platform.
TikTok had ample options for short, creative, and engaging content, along with making videos on already popular/viral audio, which was effective in brand building. Small businesses and entrepreneurs might need help to replicate the same level of brand exposure and engagement on other platforms, such as Facebook and YouTube, potentially disrupting their branding efforts.
TikTok was the platform where unique and niche products gained visibility through viral trends. Especially in the case of new businesses, they might find it harder to get their products discovered by a wide audience, impacting growth, which directly contributes to their sales.
Because SMBs were relying heavily on TikTok because of its cost-effective marketing, the loss of these valuable avenues has resulted in revenue setbacks for many small enterprises. Businesses relying on TikTok for brand visibility face challenges in finding alternative platforms that can offer a similar level of reach and engagement. Likewise, the e-commerce feature on TikTok that allowed the audience to purchase directly from the platform was a way to increase sales, but that opportunity is now not available.
In response to a TikTok ban, businesses may need to shift their focus to other social media platforms. This transition may require additional time, resources, and adaptation to different content formats, potentially delaying marketing campaigns and strategies.
The decision to ban TikTok was dropped days after the rule for social media firms to set up a liaison office in Nepal. We agree that TikTok lacked regulation and control as people with any intention, be it good or bad, could hop on to the platform and influence people. However, banning an app that generates revenue and is a marketing tool for businesses is an extreme approach in our eyes. Without resorting to an outright ban, the Nepal government could have waited for TikTok to set up their liaison officer, taken precautionary steps to educate the users, regulated the platform, or even collaborated with TikTok to make it a safe and ethical place. Some alternate approaches that come to our mind right now are:
What Next for Business Owners?
While TikTok had many advantages and growth opportunities, today’s reality is that TikTok is banned. Now is the time to search for alternative opportunities rather than sulking about the loss. Although it’s a challenge, there are various strong marketing platforms and opportunities.
There are many other apps, such as Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, or Snapchat, that give businesses a place to create short-form, engaging content. If you’re not already on those platforms, you can hop on it. If you already have your account on other social media platforms, then it is time to strengthen your presence on existing platforms.
Video is a powerful tool that can connect you with your audience on a personal level. If you’re dependent on words and images, you must shift your focus to creating compelling videos across platforms that resonate your brand/business with your target audience.
Every social platform has a handful of influencers that the masses look up to. If you’re new in the space or want immediate attention from consumers, you can collaborate with influencers. Identify the influencers who have similar ethics and cater to audiences relevant to your business and partner with them if your marketing budget allows it.
Website is the most effective platform to display your business credibly. 84% of consumers consider a small business credible if they have a business website. So, developing a website for your business is a must. From setting the tone of your business to the services you provide, your mission, vision, and everything else related to your business, a website is the optimal place to market your business. Invest in designing a website that reflects your brand in the most accurate sense. Additionally, invest in SEO, as it is another effective way to boost the organic visibility of your website.
Paid advertising is a popular approach many businesses take to get instant attention and traffic towards their business. You can leverage the paid advertising options for your social media channels and website to boost your visibility and pull interested consumers to your business.
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