A potential U.S. ban on TikTok, America’s fastest-growing social media app, would be a boon for the likes of Snapchat, Instagram, and YouTube—and has advertisers recalibrating billions of dollars in spending plans.
- TikTok's share of U.S. digital ad spending is expected to double to 4% by 2024.
- Wedbush Securities analysts estimate the odds of a TikTok ban at about 90%.
- About a quarter of TikTok users would turn to Instagram for short-form video content after a TikTok ban.
TikTok, owned by China’s ByteDance, captures 2% of America’s $94 billion digital ad spending, a proportion that’s expected to double by next year. It raked in $10 billion of worldwide advertising revenue last year and may take in more than $18 billion in 2023. Among social media sites, it trails only Facebook and Instagram in number of U.S. users.
Its removal from U.S. shores would be a windfall for rivals eager to attract TikTok’s 150 million American users and its advertisers. While the app’s disappearance won’t happen anytime soon, because the U.S. would probably give ByteDance three to six months to spin off the three-year-old company, Wedbush Securities puts the odds on an eventual ban at 90%.
Granted, the app could reappear if it’s bought by a Big Tech firm such as Apple, Microsoft or Oracle. TikTok’s vaunted algorithm could be a sticking point, according to Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives. “Detaching the algorithm from ByteDance would be a very complex process with much scrutiny from US regulators,” Ives wrote in a recent report.
And not every user is eager to have it back. Some 37% of respondents to a Cowen Survey of 2,500 social media users in December said they wouldn’t seek a replacement.
Still, there’s little doubt that rivals are sharpening their knives. Here’s a look at the revenues and advantages of the TikTok competitors that stand to benefit from a ban:
The photo-sharing site owned by Meta Platforms (META) may share a parent company with Facebook, but Instagram's younger audience and Reels feature make it more similar to TikTok in the eyes of advertisers.
A quarter of TikTok users would turn to Instagram Reels if TikTok were banned, according to the Cowen survey. Among TikTok's youngest adult users, that figure jumps to 37%.
Instagram is also favored among digital marketers selling products on social media sites. According to a HubSpot survey, 33% of social media marketers say Instagram offers the highest return on investment.
Instagram's U.S. ad revenue is growing rapidly, with forecasts it will rake in $39.7 billion in ad revenue in 2023, a 220% jump from $12.4 billion in 2019.
Snapchat (SNAP) has historically been favored by young users, with the share of U.S. teens using the app growing to 59% in 2022 from 41% in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center. Only TikTok experienced a larger increase in use among teens.
Nevertheless, Instagram surpasses Snapchat in popularity among teens and the likelihood of inheriting TikTok's displaced users; just 3% of respondents said they would turn to Snapchat in the event of a TikTok ban.
Snapchat may have lost some of its edge in the social media market, with revenue growth slowing to 12% in 2022 from 64% the year before.
Though Pinterest (PINS) may not be among the titans of the social media market, it has proven to be an effective social commerce site, with 15% of all U.S. users making a purchase on the platform in 2022.
Social commerce has exploded on TikTok in recent years. In 2022, 23% of U.S. users (27.3 million) made a purchase on the site, a 73% increase from the year before.
Nonetheless, Pinterest has made shopping a focus of its business with tools that streamline the shopping process and boost ad loads when a user demonstrates shopping intent. Social commerce marketers could look to Pinterest as a TikTok replacement.
TikTok surpassed Youtube in average time spent per day on the platform last year. YouTube’s advertising revenue fell for only the second time in the company's history in the most recent quarter, dropping 7.8% to just under $8 billion.
However, while ad dollars were down, YouTube Shorts—designed to compete with TikTok’s short-form videos—reached a milestone of 50 billion daily views in the fourth quarter of 2022, up 66% from the first quarter.
Youtube began sharing revenue with Youtube Shorts creators earlier this year, a policy that could help it attract content creators (and their fans) in the event of a TikTok ban.
Facebook still accounts for the majority of parent company Meta's more than $100 billion in annual revenue. Though growth has stalled, with North American ad revenue slipping about 2% to $52.6 billion in 2022.
The slower growth comes as Facebook is losing users aged 18 to 24, exactly the audience advertisers are seeking to reach through TikTok. In 2022, 1.6 million users in that market quit Facebook, while the app also lost 2.1% of its audience aged 26 to 41.
TikTok is a clear favorite with Gen Z, attracting 81% of users in that demographic, while only 56.2% used Facebook.