This prohibition includes ‘‘all branded content” (commonly referred to as sponsored content or “sponcon”) posts in specified categories. TikTok defines branded content broadly to include all content that promotes goods or services where the TikTok user making the post will receive (or has received) something of value from a third party, or which needs to be disclosed under local laws and regulations. For example, any post that includes an affiliate link is considered “branded content” and subject to the ban on cryptocurrency promotion.
TikTok prohibits posts across many categories of branded content, including alcohol, tobacco, contraceptive products, dating services and a broad category of financial services and products. These include “All financial services and products” and lumps cryptocurrency with pyramid schemes, bail bonds and get rich quick schemes.
TikTok has several enforcement mechanisms at its disposal, including removing posts from the "For You" feed or deleting them entirely. TikTok may also suspend or disable users accounts. Additionally, brands—responsible for their influencers’ conduct—may also face bans and suspensions or be locked out of TiKTok’s advertising platform if they violate the branded-content policy.
How does TikTok’s ban compare to other social media platforms?
TikTok’s branded content guidelines stand alone in their breadth. While Facebook and Instagram prohibit sponcon relating to the narrow area of initial coin offerings, they do not broadly prohibit the promotion of cryptocurrencies and cryptocurrency-related financial services. However, both Facebook and Instagram require the business partner sponsoring the post to secure advance written permission. Similarly, Snapchat restricts—but does not prohibit—branded content relating to cryptocurrency—including wallets, trading platforms and initial coin offerings. In order to promote these services and products, permission must be obtained in advance.
Based on these changes, here are three key takeaways for business partners when sponsoring branded content on TikTok.
Review and revise current influencer agreements
Given the speed with which the cryptocurrency, social media and influencer marketing industries are evolving, it is always a good time to review influencer agreements. However, any cryptocurrency brand with influencers on TikTok should immediately review, revise and update those agreements, because existing agreements with influencers may violate the new TikTok policy. This is also a good opportunity to remember that influencer agreements should contain provisions that anticipate the potential for a shifting platform and regulatory environment that leaves the brand with sufficient flexibility to react.
Consider other platforms
Crypto brands should consider other social media platforms when engaging influencers to promote products or services. When considering other platforms, brands should be aware of what content is prohibited and what content is merely restricted, including whether a post requires prior permission from the platform.
Consider other ways to reach the TikTok audience
TikTok, like other social media platforms, offers two methods of advertising products and services: sponsored content and ads. Sponsored content posted by influencers is treated differently than ads placed directly by the brand through TikTok. TikTok maintains a separate policy with different restrictions and prohibitions for direct advertising.
In general, TikTok does not now prohibit all ads for financial services or products, including cryptocurrency or related products or services. However, there are country-by-country restrictions that advertisers must comply with and that still may prohibit the advertising of financial products or services, or some subset thereof, in certain circumstances. For example, TikTok prohibits ads promoting cryptocurrencies in the United States. This includes, for example, the direct promotion of Bitcoin or Dogecoin. TikTok’s ads policy also prohibits the promotion of cryptocurrency trading platforms and advisory services.
TikTok does not wholly ban all crypto-related ads in the United States, as the policy permits ads related to the “exchange, management, or investment of virtual funds,” so long as those ads comply with applicable law. TikTok’s ad policy does not further explain the line between prohibited and permitted crypto products and services, which leaves some gray areas. Nonetheless, there remains some room for crypto-adjacent brands to reach the TikTok audience through direct advertisements placed on the platform.
It would not be surprising if TikTok continues to refine its branded content and advertising policies as they relate to cryptocurrencies and related financial services. As such, crypto brands are wise to stay nimble, keep their influencer agreements up-to-date and look for new and creative opportunities to reach their target audience as additional barriers are erected by the leading social platforms.