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TikTok ban – A mistake you didn’t know you were making

If you are left stranded by the recent TikTok ruling in India, you’ve been making a classic business mistake. Being an influencer is akin to being an entrepreneur. You have to sense the pulse of the industry before it becomes mainstream – and figure out a way to get the market to pay you.

Digital-only businesses

If you are an influencer, you are running a digital only business. Unfortunately, this is a new kind of business. The playbook for such an endeavor isn’t yet well defined. This is a new concept, that’s been around for barely 5 years or so. To make things worse, it’s a fast evolving space. Every year you have a new product. Facebook – Instagram – Snapchat – Tiktok. Every few months you have a different kind of videos that become relevant.

You must keep changing. Your audience must not.

Ownership

Whether you are on Youtube, Instagram or TikTok, the changes that are outside your control should not affect your fanbase. You are in a business of eyeballs. If you don’t own the eyeballs, you are on thin ice.

TikTokers learnt it the hard way. In one swing of the sword, they’re out of business. Some of them have started building their audience on Instagram or other clones. But they have fundamentally lost the audience and are having to rebuild almost from scratch.

Loyalty

TikTok, Instagram and the like give you great visibility. There are millions of users who are always getting bored of content they’re consuming. When they’re looking new content, new entertainment, they might find you.

But the reverse is also true. They’ll one day get bored of what you provide in the midst of the other millions of creators’ content and easily switch.

Jumping ships is far too easy on social media. That’s been the breakthrough of this generation of internet companies. Reversing that will be the next.

Building a customer base that sticks with you no-matter-what is important. It is hard to get them to jump on to your ship. You need to be really valuable for people to want to jump in. But once they are in, they’d not want to leave either. You have a loyal fan base. Smaller, but more loyal.

Asking a user to join you in your journey and stick with you is a tough job.

But, if you’re not creating enough value for them to consider you worthy of their time and effort in joining you – are you really creating a long lasting business?

Diversity

Any business has two distinct steps. First, establish a strong foundation by providing value in a specific niche. Second, diversify to future proof yourself.

A restaurant adds items to its menu, opens franchisees, goes online.

A lot of influencers identify themselves in unison with the platform itself. “I’m an Instagramer” – that statement itself shows lack of diversification. If Instagram were to not promote their content, if Instagram bans them, Instagram gets replaced by a new app, Instagram gets banned – they’re stranded. Not only did they lose their cash cow, they also lost all the hard earned followers.

Most influencers are generating their livelihoods with brand collaborations and ads. They are at the mercy of other companies. If TikTok goes off they have no pricing power to claim high amounts from brands any more. If the brand that does business with them has a bad quarter and cuts off marketing spends, the influencer is now left with a revenue source cut off with no fault of theirs.

You’re getting diversification wrong

A lot of TikTokers say they’re on Instagram too. Lot of Instagramers say they’re also on YouTube. That’s barely any diversification. It’s better than nothing at all. But it’s still futile.

It’s hard to build an audience. Building it on two platforms is very hard. Three, almost impossible. You might as well build one audience really well and diversify the ways you make money off of that audience. If you have a loyal audience, you have the luxury to build multiple sources of revenues. Think brand collaborations, launching your own brand, premium content, fundraisers. The possibilities are endless and new opportunities will keep getting created. Are you positioned to capture that?

But if you are building an audience and a business(es) on top of it. You must be absolutely sure that no one can take the audience you’ve created from you.

Things go wrong all the time. Not putting all the eggs in the same basket keeps you alive in a drought.

Leave Instagram?

No. Instagram is great. It’s fun. People love it. So should you.

But you should know what you are signing up to. Instagram might become irrelevant any day. But you can still build an audience there. You can get discovered there. These are all the merits. Exploit them.

But always build loyalty. From day 1. Followers may come and go. But fans stick. Make sure you’re getting more fans, not just followers. Always give a way for your fans to upgrade. How can a follower become a pro-follower? What’s the next step in the journey?

These are the people you don’t want to lose. These are the people you want to find through Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok. Then promote them to your own exclusive club. Your own email list, your own whatsapp group, your own app. Very few people need to be given this opportunity. But these people are going to be so loyal, if the rest of the system starts crumbling, they’ll be there to keep you going.

Give these people great value that they don’t mind paying you in return.

These people exist on all social media. Social media is great for scouting them.

Your job is to give them a way to graduate out of just being a follower.


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