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6 minute read

TikTok, like other up-and-coming social media apps before it, has become the top mainstream app for social influencers. Many real estate agents are finding it to be a great platform for sharing new, captivating, and pertinent content with a wide audience of billions, hoping that their brand message will go viral.

However, just because TikTok is popular doesn’t mean it’s free from security concerns or the risk of damaging your well-established brand and reputation. Even though it may be tempting to overlook these problems and take advantage of TikTok’s massive success, you should at least acknowledge the following potential risks to you, your revenue, your brand, and your clients.

Reason 1: Customer Privacy and Security

Marketing departments often overlook security issues, leaving it to the IT department. However, with TikTok, you should pay closer attention.

Think about it this way: If a user informed you that your website was infected with malware and was spreading it to every visitor, that would be a major issue! You would immediately notify your web or IT team to resolve the problem as soon as possible.

Although it’s up to individual users whether they register for, download, install, and use the TikTok app (or visit their website), there is a chance that people could link their journey with your brand’s customer journey chart to a TikTok privacy or security breach. This negative experience, whether justified or not, could negatively impact your brand, particularly if you have a close integration or exclusive tie-up with TikTok.

Reason 2: Your Own Privacy and Security

It’s easy to download the TikTok app to any phone or tablet device. It’s also easy to assume that the Google Play or Apple App stores have your best interests in mind and would never let you download an app that would compromise your personal privacy and security.

Indeed, these major app stores have made a lot of updates to their terms of use and security policies and features to help ensure that you’re protected.

There have been security-related bans of the TikTok app in the U.S. military, other US administration government organisations, and even (briefly) at Amazon.

Reason 3: A TikTok Ban is a Brand Ban

If you don’t own a channel, you’re not in charge of it. You don’t want to rely entirely on the success of one newly-popular social media platform for your entire brand.

The market is littered with brands that established a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and the now-defunct Google+ platforms, only to have their channels shut down.

Sometimes it was due to arbitrary rules about which types of businesses were permitted to have a page or handle.

Sometimes it was a mistake made by an overzealous social platform employee who banned a post or channel.

And sometimes, it was being cut off from advertising due to “not spending enough money per month on the ad platform”. Or not having a physical address as a remote-only organisation and having a listing disabled on Google Business.

You may already be aware that governments in a growing list of countries have now banned TikTok on all government devices, including:

  • Australia. On April 4, Australia banned TikTok from all federal government-owned devices over security concerns.
  • Estonia.
  • The UK.
  • EU institutions.
  • France.
  • The Netherlands.
  • Norway.
  • Belgium.
  • USA
  • Denmark
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • India
  • Taiwan
  • Pakistan
  • Afghanistan

If TikTok gets banned completely (which is a very real possibility), you will lose access to your audience overnight, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Engagement and reach aside, if you’re relying on TikTok to generate brand awareness and leads, this could impact your ability to generate revenue.

At the very least, diversify your channel holdings to protect your brand from being entirely dependent on one platform. Don’t build your social media house on rented land!

Reason 4: TikTok May Violate Your Company’s Privacy Policy (and/or your cyber insurance policy)

Does your company’s privacy policy include a paragraph or section outlining what you will and will not do with customer or user information?

That’s great, but you need to have your legal counsel review it again in the context of TikTok. This is because the app continually monitors and sends data about users’ engagement with your content. The app sends a wide range of data back to ByteDance (and, potentially, back to the Chinese Communist Party).

This includes, but is not limited to, device brand and model, operating system version, mobile carrier, browsing history, app and file names and types, keystroke patterns or rhythms, wireless connections, and geolocation. In addition, TikTok records personally identifiable information, as well as user data collected from other sources, such as age, image, personal contacts, relationship status, preferences, and other data collected through its single-sign-on feature.

It’s tempting to believe that this issue is beyond the scope of your company’s privacy policy and, therefore, irrelevant to consider. However, remember that your own use of the TikTok app on your devices, with its inclination to spy on your WiFi and other network connections, as well as leverage data stored on your device, can jeopardise your users’ data. This is especially true if the app happens to collect data about them from your network.

Reason 5: Being More Concerned About Your Clients’ Wellbeing

The UK publication The Telegraph reported on the problems that TikTok is causing for teenagers. This criticism used to be mostly reserved for Instagram and, before that, Facebook. However, due to TikTok’s highly targeted and accurate AI-based algorithm, it knows precisely how to torment its users with things they are better off not seeing for their own mental health.

Do you provide real estate-related content to your TikTok audience? Be aware of the potential harm caused by the aggressive app algorithm to individuals suffering from mental anguish about affording the rent or their mortgage payments.

What about political content? TikTok does not seem to differentiate between facts and disinformation or misinformation for certain audiences, particularly if ignoring disinformation or misinformation serves the owners’ purposes.

Reason 6: Your audience may not even be there

Another crucial factor to consider when evaluating TikTok as a marketing channel for real estate agents is the platform’s user demographics. The majority of TikTok users fall within the younger age bracket, with over 60% of its active users being between the ages of 16 and 24. While this may be an ideal audience for some businesses, it may not align with the typical homebuyer or homeowner profile.

According to recent data, the median age of a first homebuyer nationally has risen by a full decade – to 34.5 years of age, while repeat buyers have a median age of 55 years old.

As a real estate agent, targeting an audience that is significantly younger than your core clientele could result in wasted time and resources. For most agents, focusing on other platforms with a more age-appropriate user base, such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or Instagram, would likely yield better results and align more closely with the needs and expectations of potential homebuyers and sellers.

In closing…

There are more than these six reasons why you should carefully consider whether to continue using or promoting your content on TikTok. However, the primary reasons are to avoid problems with customer privacy and security, to avoid associating your brand, to protect your own privacy and security, and to ensure your brand’s ability to continue transmitting its value to the world (if it’s banned!), and out of concern for the health and well-being of your users.

Even if you decide to continue using TikTok for your social media portfolio, make sure you have addressed these risks in a way that safeguards you, your business, and your customers.

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