As the social media app TikTok continues to raise security concerns, some churches and ministries would face a significant shift in outreach strategy if the platform is banned in the U.S. The app, which allows users to easily create and share videos, is one of the world’s fastest-growing social media platforms, especially among young people.
The U.S. has threatened to ban TikTok here unless its owner, ByteDance, sells its shares of the company. The chief security concern is that ByteDance could give users’ data to the Chinese government. TikTok was recently banned on phones issued by the U.S. government, and several states and university systems have enacted similar policies.
In March, lawmakers introduced bipartisan legislation that would allow the U.S. Department of Commerce to determine whether social media platforms represent a national security risk.
Reaching younger audiences
While TikTok is best known for viral dances and recipes, Christian leaders also use the platform to reach younger audiences. Passion Conferences has more than 2 million likes on videos of its worship events. Shane Pruitt, national next gen director for the North American Mission Board, uses the platform to encourage deeper discipleship among young people. Cristina Baker started sharing her hope-filled videos during the pandemic and now has more than 1 million followers on TikTok.
Churches too have begun using the platform to connect with a larger audience online. TikTok offers leaders a unique opportunity, Lifeway’s Zac Workun wrote in 2021, to upload short, rewatchable lessons and begin to build community there.
The potential shifts in social media come at a time when churches are enjoying a big advantage across all platforms, said Brady Shearer of Pro Church Tools. For the first time, he said, social media are prioritizing vertical video as the preferred type of post. (TikTok led the trend.) Churches already have a “gold mine” of content for vertical video, Shearer said, because most create a video message every week.
150 million active users
Additionally, social media platforms are moving toward algorithms that point users to new content based on their activity, rather than limiting them to content liked or posted by friends, he noted. That means churches can post the same vertical video on multiple platforms to reach different audiences.
Last year, Pew reported 67% of teens in the U.S. say they use TikTok, and 16% say they use it constantly. Only YouTube has a larger share of teen users. TikTok’s CEO, Shou Zi Chew, will testify before Congress March 23 and is expected to share that the app now has 150 million active users in the U.S.