My State Banned TikTok, Now What?

Here are four questions social media managers should ask to determine how the TikTok ban will impact higher ed marketing and communication efforts.

2 minutes
By: Jon-Stephen Stansel

Across the country, state legislatures are passing laws banning TikTok from being installed on state-owned devices. These laws seem logical on the surface—after all, why does a state accountant need to have TikTok on their work device? 

However, the bans put a burden on marketers and communications professionals working at state universities who use the video-sharing app to communicate with current and prospective students. TikTok has become a premier channel for universities that want to reach GenZ, and these laws put state universities at a disadvantage in their marketing and communications efforts.

So what’s a social media manager at a state university to do?

First, it’s important to remember that, while similar, these laws vary from state to state, and even universities within the same state interpret these laws differently. Some are banning TikTok from state-owned devices, but others are deleting university-owned accounts and banning the app from the campus wifi network.

As a social media manager, you need to talk with your university attorney to find out exactly how your state and institution are interpreting the TikTok ban and how it applies to your professional usage of the platform. Additionally, when interpreting the ban, it’s highly unlikely that the university attorney and upper administration have considered how the university is using TikTok in its marcomms efforts. A simple conversation will go a long way toward understanding how the ban affects your work as a social media manager and helping explore possible workarounds.

Here are four questions you should ask.

Can you use your personal device?

Using your own device seems like the most logical loophole. Chances are, you were probably using your personal device to manage TikTok before the ban, but this could open up some issues for social media managers. This route could open your phone to FOIA requests and put you in the hot seat when a state legislator asks “Why does this university still have a TikTok account when we passed a law banning it?” 

Having a university TikTok account isn’t worth losing your job. So, before managing a TikTok account on your personal phone, it’s a good idea to ask your university attorney about the implications of doing so.

What about an exception for social listening?

Even if your university has decided to delete its TikTok account, there is still a major reason for a social media manager to be on the app. Students are still making videos about your university and on your campus. Universities need to know what is being said on TikTok and should monitor the app for possible issues from students complaining about a water leak in the library to something as serious as a gun threat. 

Several states have exceptions made for law enforcement written into the TikTok bans. Is your campus police department monitoring the platform? Could a similar exception be made for social media managers to monitor TikTok as well? 

Can you pay a third party to manage an account?

TikTok might be banned on state-owned devices, but you may be able to hire a third-party vendor to manage your account for you. However, this can be tricky, as it requires a lot of effort to make sure that the third party is creating content and interacting with students in a way that best represents the university.

Additionally, it’s extremely challenging to check the work of this vendor if you can’t get on the platform. Nonetheless, having a third-party vendor manage the university’s TikTok account might be a better alternative to having no account at all.

Can you legally buy ads on the platform?

Most TikTok bans only prohibit the app from being installed on state-owned devices. What about running paid ads on TikTok? Is there an issue with using state funds to purchase ads on a platform that the state has banned? Can you work with an ad agency to run paid ads on TikTok?

Although banning TikTok from state-owned devices puts marketers at state universities at a disadvantage, how your institution interprets the law is ultimately out of your hands. However, as a social media manager, it’s important to talk with key decision-makers at your university to inform them of how it affects your marketing and communication efforts and to gain a better understanding of how the ban specifically applies to your job.

Jon-Stephen Stansel

Jon-Stephen Stansel


Jon-Stephen Stansel is the digital media specialist for the University of Central Arkansas and is a social media professional with a decade of experience managing and creating content for higher education, small business and government social media accounts. He has worked for Texas State University and the Texas Department of Transportation, as well as consulting for many small businesses. In addition, he has taught courses in social media management and presented at many national and international conferences. He holds a Bachelor’s in Radio and Television Production and a Master’s in English, both from Arkansas State University.

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