A TikTok Shut Down Reminds Advertisers Why A Good Identity Strategy Is A Must

Published: September 29, 2023

1nanceeAt some point in the future, there’s a chance that TikTok will no longer be available in the U.S. This latest news should serve as (yet another) wake-up call for executives who have yet to create a future-proof identity strategy. Few brands use first-party data to understand which sites and channels their audience visits at a granular level. If TikTok were to go away, this would leave many brands in the dark about how to find their TikTok audience. As cookie erosion continues, creating a smarter audience framework is a must.

While TikTok introduced the ability to add a first-party cookie to its site conversion pixel, not many advertisers take full advantage of this option on TikTok or other platforms that also offer the same opportunity. Three-fourths of companies are still heavily reliant on third-party cookies even though Apple, Chrome and regional regulations have already significantly reduced their accuracy and scale. 

There are several steps that advertisers can take to learn about their audiences and create a smarter media plan on the big platforms, and even on new channels like CTV, whether or not TikTok is banned. 

Step 1: Find Your Audience

TikTok states that it may share information that can be valuable in creating a robust identity strategy, which include IDs, cookie data and location data. Unfortunately, many advertisers do not take advantage of this information. Now is the time for advertisers to update their data configuration so that they collect the most granular information possible from TikTok and other platforms and partners. While every data point might not end up being valuable, by starting today, advertisers can start collecting data to figure out what data matters before it’s too late.

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Too few advertisers (19%, according to the latest CMO Survey) use social media to identify key audiences. Knowing “who is where” is incredibly valuable because advertisers can use that data to see how much their audience overlaps across social platforms and other channels.

For example, by collecting and matching user ID data, an advertiser can start to get a more complete, singular picture of their audience, rather than disconnected facets of information from different platforms that don’t all add up to a whole. This makes it possible to understand how much overlap there is between different platforms. This data can help advertisers understand if TikTok or other social platform users are available on different emerging channels such as CTV.

Step 2: Map Their Journey

Should a site like TikTok get banned, simply assuming that audiences can be easily replaced on a different social platform or channel is not a good strategy. Advertisers must use their understanding of an audience’s complete picture across different platforms and channels to create a smarter approach now and later. 

For instance, one study found that 40% of TikTok users don’t have a Facebook profile. If TikTok goes away, where will advertisers go to reach that 40%? Knowing where they go and where they came from can help.

If TikTok goes away, advertisers can use information — like referring URLs from their analytics tool — to put more pieces of the puzzle together and reach unique audiences in creative ways. If an advertiser knows that an individual came from Google search and what they were searching for, they can figure out a search strategy that drives traffic more directly.

For example, a home improvement big box advertiser might create new content based on search behavior to directly capture its unique TikTok audience on another channel, such as YouTube. Advertisers can also look at their overlap audience and start to understand what content they are viewing on Facebook or YouTube as a sort of proxy to determine how to expand a media buy if TikTok were no longer an option.

For today, having a more complete view of an individual across platforms and channels can help with smarter media buying. Advertisers can be more confident about what media buys to spend extra on to reach key audiences, determine if they could find a particular audience more affordably on other channels or see if they’re over-exposed on some of their audience while neglecting others. 

Step 3: Fill Out The Picture

Collecting granular data about an individual and mapping it to behavior and content online delivers significant insights that can dramatically improve a media plan. Constant data collection and analysis is an ongoing process to support a long-term identity strategy.

Advertisers collecting TikTok or other audience data will start to see what is missing in their individual user profiles and decide who to partner with to get a clearer 360-degree view. For example, mapping individuals and households more accurately to determine when to spend on CTV or mobile requires accurate identity data. And knowing more about conversion and purchase history can help advertisers value individuals to determine how important it is to reach them.

Having a granular understanding of individuals, where they go and what they do can help advertisers in the face of any major change. Don’t forget, looming out there is still the chance that Google Chrome stops allowing third-party cookies. TikTok being shut down might be the most imminent concern, but the reality is that the better an understanding advertisers have about their audience, the smarter their media buying will be today and in the future. 

Nancy Marzouk is the Founder and CEO of MediaWallah, a cloud-based user mapping Data-as-a Service platform.

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