TikTok may be in trouble in the United States. Our Congress has no fewer than four pieces of legislation in motion right now that in some form or fashion could ban the use of the platform in America. Most constitutional law experts are skeptical such a ban could survive scrutiny of the courts because it’s a clear violation of freedom of speech, a first-amendment right in this country.
Now, I’m the last person in the world interested in talking politics. I gave up on the possibility our elected officials actually represented the public’s interests in the 1990s. I keep informed so my vote still counts for something, but have zero interest in discussing or debating our dysfunctional, two-parties with all the power system.
So, that’s not what we’re going to do on this episode of Winfluence. We’re going to actually look at a real TikTok ban and imagine the implications for the what-if scenario.
India banned TikTok and more than 200 other apps three years ago. It was in response to Chinese military aggression along the border between the two countries in June of 2020. The Indian government cited privacy and national sovereignty as the main issues. The move abruptly turned off the app for 200 million Indian users.
Once again, that was almost three years ago. So we’ve had time to see how such a ban would take hold. Yes, India and the U.S. are different countries and cultures. But we’re not that far apart. Surely, we can glean some insights and peer into a possible future by understanding India now versus India with TikTok.
Pooja ParasuRaman is my professional counterpart at Affable.ai. It is an end-to-end influencer marketing platform. While Affable is a competitor of CIPIO.ai, technically speaking, we both have different philosophical approaches to the practice. And a common level of respect for one another.
Pooja operates out of India. So she not only has first-hand experience with what the TikTok ban has done to her country, but she’s working in the influencer marketing world where TikTok is for many creators, a primary source of income, and for brands engaging in influencer marketing, a fairly effective channel on which to market.
I asked Pooja to join and educate us on the ban and its effects in India so we can have a peek at what might soon be our own reality in the States …or perhaps your reality in your country should a TikTok ban be in the offing.
This episode of Winfluence is presented by CIPIO.ai, the community commerce marketing platform. Download its free eBook The Marketer’s Guide to Community Commerce Marketing today and learn how to turn your customers, fans and followers into top-performing influencers to grow your brand. The guide is a blueprint to identifying the influential voices in your own brand community, engaging them to advocate on your behalf, and managing an end-to-end strategy to do so. Download the guide for free here, or just click on the banner below.
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Pooja ParasuRaman Transcript
Intro: Do you want Instagrammers or TikTok ERs to post about your brand? Or do you actually wanna engage creators who influence their audience to buy your product? If you’re in the ladder of those two, you’ve come to the right place. Welcome to Win Influence, the Influence Marketing Podcast
Hello again, friends. Thanks for tuning into Winfluence, the Influence Marketing Podcast. TikTok may be in trouble in the United States. Our Congress has no fewer than four pieces of legislation in motion right now that in some form or fashion could ban the use of the platform in America. Most constitutional law experts are skeptical such a ban could survive scrutiny of the courts because it’s a clear violation of freedom of speech, a first amendment right in this country.
Now I’m the last person in the world who is interested in talking politics. I gave up on the possibility our elected officials actually represented the public’s interests in the 1990s.
I keep informed, so my vote still counts for something, but have zero interest in discussing or debating our dysfunctional two parties with all the power system. So that’s not what we’re going to do on this episode of Winfluence.. We’re gonna actually look at a real TikTok ban and imagine the implications of a “what if” scenario.
India banned TikTok and more than 200 other apps three years ago. It was in response to Chinese military aggression along the border between the two countries, in June of 2020. The Indian government cited privacy and national sovereignty as the main issues. The move abruptly turned off the app for 200 million Indian users.
Once again, that was almost three years ago, so we’ve had time to see how such a band would take hold. Yes, India and the US are different countries and cultures, but we’re not that far apart. Surely we can glean some insights and peer into a possible future by understanding India now versus India with TikTok. Pooja ParasuRaman is my professional counterpart at affable.Ai. It is an end-to-end influencer marketing platform. While Affable is a competitor of cipio.ai, technically speaking, we both have different philosophical approaches to the practice and a common level of healthy respect for one another.
Pooja operates out of India, so she not only has firsthand experience with what the TikTok ban has done to her country, but she’s working in the influencer marketing world where TikTok is for many creators, a primary source of income, and for brands engaging in influencer marketing, a fairly effective channel on which to market.
I asked Pooja to join me today to educate us on the ban and its effects in India so we can have a peak at what might soon be our own reality in the United States, or perhaps the reality in your country should a TikTok ban be in the offing. That’s coming up on Winfluence.
This episode of Winfluence is presented by cipio.ai, where you can create a consistent flow of authentic user generated content to fuel paid, earned, shared, and owned campaigns that set your content marketing on fire.
One of the main methods of doing that is by shifting your influencer marketing focus to a community influence marketing one. That’s where you discover the influential voices in your own community of customers, fans, and followers, and partner with them to create authentic content that recommends your brand.
We’ve published a brand new e-book called The Marketers Guide, the Community Influence Marketing. It’s a step-by-step manual that shows you how to do it. The result is a more cost efficient way to engage creators and drive word of mouth marketing while capturing better performing content for your paid and owned social media efforts.
Download the free guide by visiting getcipio.ai/guide. For those of you watching on the stream, I’ll throw up a handy QR code so you can scan to get there. And folks, this isn’t just a two or three page quick guide. This is a fairly hefty ebook written by yours truly detailing how you can leverage community influence marketing to drive growth in your brand.
getcipio.ai/guide, download the free ebook and start engaging your community today. What will America look like if Congress gets its way and bands TikTok? We’re gonna peek into what’s happened in India with Pooja ParasuRaman from affable.Ai, next on Winfluence.
Jason: Pooja, thank you for taking the time to chat with me today. Obviously the conversation is happening before any legislation in America has been passed or voted upon. So we’re really talking in hypothetical terms about the US, but we’re not talking in hypotheticals when we refer to India. Give us a little bit of the background as to why, when, and such, the Indian government banned TikTok. I think it’s been almost three years now?
Pooja: Yep. Thank you for having me Jason, and you are absolutely right. I think, there was a TikTok ban in India, and this was way back in 2020, and it came as a massive shock to the industry as well. And rightly, like you said, TikTok had gained so much popularity in India and we had close to about 200 million active users, monthly with India being one of the largest South Asia markets for the platform.
For all obvious reasons, yes, it was a massive shock. But there were some underlying tones and notes exactly like how it is now in the US as well, to a possible ban, and you know that this could happen and there probably needs to be a risk mitigator as well. But I think given that it was the first of its kind back then in 2020, because of geopolitical reasons as well, which we’ll not get into.
But, because this was back in 2020 and it was first of its kind, I think people didn’t really take it as seriously till it actually happened. So I think it did change the social media landscape, the influencer landscape a lot, and impact the space a lot is what I would say. I think what TikTok did bring to India though which set the scene was, it came with not just the easiest way to produce content, but I think it also came with about 15 regional languages.
And for a country like India thats a massive add-on as well. And you had people from rural, urban, suburban, it was a massive talent boom that India saw, for what I could say be it singing or dancing or makeup artists and designers. I don’t think we’d ever seen anything like that before.
So for what it was worth, I think it really set the scene for India, but at the same time, I think it impacted the creators the most at that point.
Jason: Yeah, I’ve been to India once before, and the one thing that I noticed and learned in talking to a lot of people there was, compared to America, the difference between urban living in India and rural living in India is, vastly, there’s a wider gap there, than there is in the us.
And so having an application like TikTok come in and really connect and empower people in rural communities, which are far more rural in reality than Americans probably think of when they think of rural. Just because of the differences countries and cultures to have that taken away is probably devastating.
So, while the US and China don’t share a border and military maneuvering is not likely gonna surface in America’s issues, at least we all hope not. The reasoning behind the ban seems to be very similar to the reasons that the US Congress people are pushing for. Privacy concerns, Indians sovereignty, they don’t want the Chinese Communist Party influencing or impacting popular opinion or issues in the country. Is that about right? Is that kind of why it all happened?
Pooja: That as well, and like I said, it did happen primarily, like you said, for those geopolitical reasons that it began with, and with that, obviously about 59 odd Chinese apps also got taken down. It wasn’t just TikTok as well, so there was that obvious concern about security.
There was the obvious concern about data leak, and what intelligence is truly going to Chinese apps as well. But I think over and above all of that, there was the whole political issues as well, which was underway.
Jason: Yeah. All right, take us back to the time of the ban. You made reference to this earlier, but when people there were first hearing that this might be happening or this, could happen, how did the general public react? What kind of uproar did it cause or did it cause one at all?
Pooja: So I think that’s the thing. I think people were just being overly optimistic about the situation as well. They were assuming that ongoing concerns and they may reel it back and, things may not really go down the way it did. So, like I said, given that it was the first of its kind, in such a scenario as well, I think people were not mitigating the risk as much as you’d think they should be.
People are still creating content and building their profiles on TikTok, brands were still connecting with creators on TikTok, so I don’t think people understood the impact of it as much yet.
And even when it did happen, I think people took a beat for about a week or so to actually think of whether it’s gonna come back because they thought that they would reinstate and they would actually bring it back as well. So I think people were just very optimistic, to be honest, at that point. But no one really saw it coming as hard as it did.
Jason: And also to and maybe this is just me projecting some, poor math skills here, but I know there were 200 million Indian users of TikTok at the time. But India has well over 1.4 billion people, so we’re also not talking about a platform that was as ubiquitous as say Facebook is in America.
So I would think that if there was outrage or if there were anybody really upset, it may have been less than what maybe we might have anticipated. Is that fair?
Pooja: Yeah it’s fair to say, like I said, I think the people that were most affected were the you know, people who boomed with their talent, and who actually saw that they could monetize with their talent as well at that point, there are a lot of creators, at that point, budding creators I would say at that point who would either quit their full-time jobs or were actually doing this as part-time to actually, make money out of it.
So I think it was more of an impact there. And the way I would look at it as well is if it happened now in India instead of 2020, I’m sure the impact Andro would’ve been much higher. But I think we were just starting out, people were just learning the ropes of these things and understanding what this could really be.
And so you’re right, it probably wasn’t as loud a cry as what we are seeing today.
Jason: Right. So in my mind for the American audience and I’m assuming this is probably somewhat similar to those, in India, although not exactly, because there’s also as we mentioned, there’s geopolitical reasons that this happened and that kind of changes the context a little bit. But in my mind, the big objections that people would have to such a ban are that it, first of all, in America it violates freedom of speech, which is a protected right in our constitution.
There are thousands of people though, who earn all or a good portion of their living is content creators on TikTok. So you’re stripping away that audience’s ability to earn money and it’s significant enough in the amount of people that it affects, it may have economic implications. Now, US law can still govern how a foreign company operates in the US So regulation is feasible.
Not to mention absolutely none of the concerns that congress has about TikTok in the US are not also present in Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, except for the fact that it’s a Chinese company and subject to the wishes and will of the Chinese government. Now, in my mind at least, in America, a lot of this is about the fear of communist propaganda or control of the impacts on US popular opinion, which can impact elections and things like that.
And a big part of me thinks this is all just paranoia. I wonder if people in India see the band there similarly. Is it a communist paranoia thing or does the military stuff have more of an impact on how everybody accepts that this is happening?
Pooja: So I think in India, the way they saw it, I would say is less of paranoia because I think the government plays a very big role here as well.
And I think there were some very serious concerns around more than just the data leak or the security issues or who owns what data or who’s seeing what content. Like I said, it quite political in nature as well. So I think people did take it quite and seriously it wasn’t seen so much as paranoia in the sense that it’s gonna come and go away, and people are probably scaring us at this point to put some checks in place. I think they did see valid concerns for it to actually happen in reality as well.
Jason: Very good. We’ve been talking about India’s reaction to the TikTok band and when it happened almost three years ago. When we come back after the break, we’re gonna ask Pooja to take us through what effect the band had on creators, users, and India as a whole and you might be surprised what you’ll hear.
We’re talking to Pooja ParasuRaman from affable.ai, don’t go away.
Back on Winfluence, talking to affable.ai’s marketing director, Pooja ParasuRaman. She is in Affable India offices and India has been without TikTok for almost three years now. Pooja I read an article yesterday that seemed to indicate that for the most part, India has moved on without TikTok, and it’s not a huge problem that the app is no longer available there. Is that accurate?
Pooja: Yeah, absolutely. I think, the time when the ban actually happened, a lot of, local apps, namely Roposo, there was Tick Kick. There was an MX TakaTak so all of these apps, in a way were all short form video apps as well. So they did come up, they did gain some attention and traction.
What I did hear from reports as well was that a lot of the creators were actually monetized quite heavily and were signed exclusive contracts to be on their platform so they could actually reel some of the creators in. But obviously I think that wasn’t a very long-term or a sustainable plan, because eventually also what seemed to happen was, be it creators or be it brands,
from a global perspective, from an audience engagement perspective, from a growth perspective, reach perspective, I think people started realizing that they have to shift gears back to platforms like Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and YouTube for that matter. So I think the whole localized platform approach was a bit short-lived, in terms of its success, but it hasn’t really seen what the other platforms that are US based or China based for that matter has seen till date.
So yes, there was a massive shift back to reels. There was a massive shift back to YouTube shots and how do you basically grow that? So I think that’s where people turn to and that’s what people turn to.
Jason: That makes perfect sense, and I think that’s probably what will happen here too, is if we don’t have the option for TikTok, there’s several other options out there and we’ll probably figure it out. So, Let’s go back to 2020 a little bit, break it down a little bit more. How did the content creators, react to the ban?
How has it affected them and how have they, outside of just turning to Instagram and YouTube shorts and whatnot, how have they adjusted to move forward. Has it affected them in a huge way, or have they just, okay, that pathway’s shut down, let’s go over here and we’ll keep going?
Pooja: Yeah, absolutely right Jason. I think that’s the way we saw it over a point as well. I think initially it was a shock, initially they did take it as is it going to be something that, they just care us with, like you said create that kind of sense of it’s banned for now and then comes back in about two to three weeks.
So I think for about a few weeks, people didn’t really know which way out, and what’s next. I think the people most impacted were people like your creators and your small businesses who really, took to TikTok to actually make, your profile bigger or engage much more or get more business out of it.
And I think the way creators also started seeing it and these are some reposts that I read as well is, where some of them actually went back to their day jobs because they’re like, okay, I’m done now and the profile that I have created, the amount of followers that have a must is all gone, so now do I just go back to my day job?
Some of them actually quit and became entrepreneurs. And now obviously people have started going back to instagram and YouTube. So I think people just found a way out. I don’t think it impacted them so severely in the long run. I think it was that momentary shock of, oh my god, I’ve created such a massive following.
I’ve put in so much effort and time into it and, I’ve just gotta do that from scratch
Yeah. What about brands? how have the brands reacted to a big marketing channel being wiped out almost overnight?
Pooja: So I think, that’s the similar route that I think brands also took, there were a lot of brands that I heard of where, who are part of agencies as well, where they had actually signed up a few contracts on TikTok even after that ban. And they had to basically, either cut down on the contracts or change up plans and change up strategies.
But I think the way it impacted them as well, obviously as a brand, the way you look at platforms, you look at messaging differently on different platforms, you look at approaches differently on different platforms. So I think in a way it just totally changed the way they approached their strategy. So they had to cut down on whatever they had approached as a TikTok strategy at that point.
But I think for them as well, if they are collaborating with creators, if they’re collaborating with influencers or celebrities, obviously I think they also need to help them, build their audience and build their space where they are, I wouldn’t discount the fact that brands do have some amount of money to basically push to get the followers and build that engagement versus a creator who’s just starting out, who has to start from scratch.
So I think brands did just adapt eventually but they had to take a hard look at how they approach content as
Jason: Sure. So if you were advising an American company, and a TikTok band was imminent here, which it may be, we don’t know that for sure, but what would you tell a brand, to do, to move through a ban and continue to thrive, and what would you tell a creator?
Pooja: So I think again I think TikTok just sometimes becomes the obvious choice, for every consumer marketer and even a B2B marketer these days, for instance, because of the way the platform is, the way you can produce content on it, the way how original and authentic at some level it seems, because it’s less productionized in a way compared to other platforms.
Thinking about just a single platform approach is a very naive concept in this day and age. I think the point of how do you build a content strategy that suits different formats, that suits different platforms is definitely something to look forward to. So basing your bets on one platform is obviously a massive learning that comes from the Indian context as well.
And I think just generally from a marketing context as well, don’t put all your eggs in one basket as we anyway say. I think having said that, the whole short form content of, short videos is here to stay. We have been speaking to a few industry leaders as well, and I think all of them talk about how, short form videos is something that is continuing to gain its traction that it is.
So obviously your reels or your spotlight or your shots is not gonna go away and you do have further channels to actually expand that into. Having said that, there are aspects of live streaming, there are aspects of creating experiences, that places like Instagram offer and I don’t think we are making enough use of.
It’s less of a omnichannel strategy, but more of an omni experience strategy in a way, if you will. So I think it’s just about looking at your overall brand strategy and what you would do for it. And at the same time, and I think we’ve spoken about this before as well Jason, and since you also come from a community perspective.
How do you build your community of followers? How do you build your community of customers that will actually follow you regardless of which platform you go to? They consume content because they like certain profiles there, they like certain people there or brands there. So how do you build that? How do you grow that?
And I think one other critical factor which we tend to avoid is what the whole leadership branding part plays to it. You know, end of the day, people follow people and personally, that’s how I am as well. If I follow a brand maybe because of the quirky content as a marketer, that I follow them just to learn how they create content. But I would rather follow a leader in that brand or that agency or that company, because he or she or they are leaders, And their opinion kind of matters to me.
So I think one of the critical aspects to this brand strategy approach as well is how do you also build your leadership branding on multiple channels?
I think that would be my high level take for the brands. Looking at a data driven approach as well in terms of which channel is critical for your audience and why you should be on that particular channel.
Jason: I absolutely love the building community part of it. That’s certainly right up my alley. But you’re right when you invest in building a true brand community where you’re engaged with your customers, your fans, your followers, the channel isn’t really the lynchpin of things anymore. It’s the relationship that is, and that can take place across channels so good stuff.
Pooja do you think India will ever allow TikTok back in or what circumstances would have to change for the government there to relax that restriction?
Pooja: I highly doubt it. I think this has been discussed over and over again, but it doesn’t look like it’s gonna make a comeback for sure.
Jason: Oh, wow. It’s interesting, I’m optimistic, I think more now talking to you than I was before that we could survive something like that in America, cause it sounds like Indian people typically are super resilient and they just find a different or a better way to do things when obstacles are put in front of them.
And that’s probably not uncommon to apply to the American folks as well, so we’ll see how that works out. Hopefully we don’t have to deal with the band, but if we do I feel a little bit more optimistic about it. While I have you here, Pooja let’s talk a little bit and tell folks a little bit about Affable.
I know you’re an end-to-end influencer solution, but there’s a lot of those out there. So what makes affable.ai different?
Pooja: Yep. So we are a platform, actually it’s an end-to-end influencer marketing platform. The point is we actually offer about four different modules to it. I think our biggest and our most sought after is obviously our, influencer discovery. And I think what makes this the way it is exactly going back to the data driven approach that we talked about, is how can you actually get down to which platform your audience is on and which creators actually make sense to your audience, by drilling down into each of the platform and creators data as well.
This goes into aspects of, what geographies your followers are presenting, what genders their, followers are. How many suspicious followers they have for that matter. And I think the interesting thing is these days, because everybody’s collaborating with a creator, it also calls out how many brand collaborations each of those influencers has and what brands do they typically work with, so that way you weed out your competitor’s influencers as well.
So obviously you have your discovery and then it moves into how do you manage your CRM of influencers. And recently we actually launched something which
it’s called community in a way. But I think what we typically do with that feature is accept and streamline and automate the way how brands accept inbound influencer requests. Because what we’ve heard is a lot of them get in on DM saying, can I collaborate with you but people have no sense of data or understand why they should work with that creator.
Pooja: It streamlines automates your effort. So we work on an inbound mechanism of influencer requests and an outreach based mechanism as well. And obviously then you get to run your campaigns on the same system and get your reports as well on the same system. So in a way, it’s an end-to-end system that you don’t have to get out of.
Jason: Very nice. And where can people find both Affable and you on the interwebs?
Pooja: So we are present on, affable ai. It’s as our name suggests, which is very easy to URL as well. So we are on affable.ai, but yes, I’m available on LinkedIn as well. Would love to make connections with anybody who’s interested.
Jason: Very good. We’ll make sure those links are in the show notes. Pooja thank you again for spending some time with us here and giving us a peek into what a TikTok ban might look like. I hope we don’t have to experience that ourselves in the US, but it’s good to know we have friends elsewhere looking out for us if we do so we appreciate your time.
Pooja: Yeah. Thank you so much Jason. Thanks for having me.
Outro: Fascinating conversation for sure. Again, I’m not someone who gets excited about political conversations and I don’t want to bring any form of politics onto or into this show. I think if you’ve, listened to or watched me for any length of time, you can probably gather where my political leanings are, but I value the perspective and opinions of those who may disagree politically and refuse to let politics prohibit discourse.
So I try really hard to keep it out of what I post online, what we talk about here and such. But to me, banning TikTok is not only a violation of free speech because the speech that is silenced with a ban is not that of the Chinese government. It’s of the millions of users, people like you and me.
There’s no substantial proof or evidence, the Chinese government is manipulating the company or the app it produces, and Congress can set up regulations to mitigate those concerns. And on top of that, the CEO of TikTok testified to Congress and even suggested setting TikTok up completely in the US, with US servers and executives and oversight.
I just think Congress is participating in another McCarthy-esque communist witch hunt. And with the atrocities that have happened in our political system in the last 10 years, I wouldn’t put it past them to actually pull off this ban. And in my opinion, that makes America one step closer to not being a democracy.
I’d be happy to hear your thoughts. Please keep them to the issue and let’s not veer off into elephants versus donkeys. Email your thoughts to me at [email protected]. If you’d like record your reaction on the voice memo app on your phone, then email the file attachment to me at that same address, [email protected].
I may play them back on the show and continue the conversation. Might be cool to hear your thoughts in the event of a later band two, so hit me up kids.
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Of course, you can now watch the show every Monday morning at 11:00 AM Eastern, 8:00 AM Pacific time on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter, just find me there, I’m Jason Falls every. If you have a moment, drop, Winfluence a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, we are on all of them. Winfluence is a production of Falls and Partners and presented by cipio.ai.
The technical production is by MPN Studios. Winfluence airs along MPN, the Marketing Podcast Network. Thanks for listening folks, let’s talk again soon on Winfluence.