Citing security concerns, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that bans American companies from doing business with TikTok’s parent company. He also said he would bar the app from operating in the country if an American company doesn’t buy TikTok by Sept. 15.
But it may be too late. Already, creators have begun to abandon the app altogether over the potential doomsday. Many have started moving their viral videos to Instagram’s newest feature, Reels. The feature mimics its predecessors, including TikTok, through the creation of short, entertaining videos.
“If TikTok ends then I will rebuild my empire on [Instagram] through Reels,” said 25-year-old Zachariah Porter — a self-declared “part-time server, full-time content creator” — who joined TikTok in 2019 and has amassed more than 970,000 followers, helping him sell out his just-launched merchandise in 13 hours.
For him, TikTok is more than just an app for funny videos and dances — and the loss of it could have devastating effects on his business.
“A lot of people have written [TikTok] off as a silly app for kids,” he told The Post. “However, when I tell them I average over 7 million views a week and got myself out of debt, their opinions start to change.”
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The mass exodus is eerily reminiscent of when Vine shut down three years ago, creators say.
“[When you] are spending all this time to build up a following on a platform, it’s kind of a shame to see [that] platform die,” said Lance Stewart, a 24-year-old content creator. “It is giving me flashbacks of Vine when it was dying and we all saw it coming.”
Stewart began his Internet career on YouTube, and then joined Vine and began making videos of himself pranking his grandmother, curating a following of 6 million by the time the app was shut down.
Thankfully, he said, he was able to promote his other platforms before Vine met its fateful end. But he had to rebuild his business “from the bottom up.”
Now, he has more than 6 million subscribers on YouTube and Instagram, but double that on TikTok, making a potential ban of the app all the more upsetting.
“I’m going to be super upset, because I’ve never grown on a platform as fast as I have on TikTok,” he said. “I’m at 13.2 million followers right now, and it’s only taken me about eight or nine months to grow that, which is absolutely insane: [On] Vine, it took me three to four years to grow 6 million followers.”
John Shahidi, CEO of Shots Studios, produces content across media platforms and manages Internet celebrities including Lele Pons and Rudy Mancuso. In 2016, his team caught wind that Vine was in a downward spiral about a year before it was permanently deleted. Shahidi said he made the decision to focus on other platforms for his clients.
“The problem was, and this is the same for TikTok creators now, it’s really hard to go from Vine, which was six seconds, or TikTok, which is 15 to 22 seconds, to three- to five-minute videos on YouTube,” he said. “It’s just a completely different ballgame.”
Since Trump’s announcement to potentially ban the app, Shahidi has received an uptick in calls from creators asking for guidance, getting about 10 calls in just the last week from influencers with millions of followers afraid to lose it all.
His advice is to turn to other apps, such as Reels.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, began testing Reels last year, although the timing of the feature’s official release is coincidentally convenient to panicked TikTok creators looking for other avenues.
“Instagram is the home for creators and young people who have established communities and connections and already do amazing things on the platform,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Post. “Reels will allow them to extend their creativity, and we’ll build on the format over time based on their feedback.”
Regardless of whether the ban goes through, creators should prepare for the worst, said Hannah Stocking, a 28-year-old content creator managed by Shots Studios who first gained popularity on Vine.
“Take the time to understand the algorithms of each platform,” she said.
Stocking, who lived through the downfall of Vine by transitioning to YouTube, Instagram and now TikTok, said the fear, frustration and confusion creators are feeling now is the same as it was back in 2017.
But she and other influencers are keeping a positive attitude.
“Platforms and trends come and go,” Stocking said, “but good storytelling and high-quality content will shine wherever it is.”