TikTok talks up privacy as it lures SA businesses

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 15 Sept 2022
Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, TikTok public policy and government relations director.
Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, TikTok public policy and government relations director.

TikTok is pledging strict adherence to SA’s data privacy laws, as the company works to get local businesses to embrace the short-form video hosting service.

Yesterday, TikTok hosted #WhatTheTok, its first TikTok for business media event in SA, showcasing how local companies and brands can embrace the “TikTok experience and reimagine how they connect with their communities”.

Detailing some of TikTok’s areas of priority, the company said security is at the top of its list, and it will ensure local privacy laws are adhered to. It also has multiple safety nets in place to protect users across the platform from harmful content, as well as misinformation, it noted.

TikTok data privacy concerns recently ignited global debate, with security experts in some jurisdictions cautioning users that the Chinese government could use the app to harvest personal information.

In SA, Fortune Mgwili-Sibanda, TikTok public policy and government relations director, denied this happens, telling ITWeb the company only “collects information that allows us to serve users based on their interests”.

Mgwili-Sibanda highlighted TikTok's commitment to safety, saying the platform is built with industry-leading safety measures, providing a safe environment for users and advertisers to create and enjoy content.

“Privacy is very important to us. We take our users’ privacy seriously in connection with safety. In terms of what we are doing in SA, there is the Protection of Personal Information Act, which guides all data processors and all data controllers on how they treat user data.

“We are very clear from the beginning – when users are signing up, we are transparent about the information we are collecting and what we use it for and how we use it. In SA, the Information Regulator has set very clear parameters on what you can do with data.

“For us specifically, when we deal with user data, we collect information that allows us to be able to serve you based on your interests. That’s the kind of data we collect so that we can serve the kind of content you want. It’s really to give you good user experience.”

The case for business

At the event, Scott Thwaites, head of Turkey, Africa and gaming for TikTok global business solutions, explained how local businesses can create value through TikTok.

“As we continue to build a platform where brands bring immense value to the user experience, we're excited to continue investing in solutions that give businesses in South Africa a platform to inspire others, be discovered and meaningfully connect with the TikTok community.

“The magic of TikTok is not just the chance to create, but the chance to discover and to be found. With TikTok for Business, our goal is to give marketers the tools to be discovered and connect with the broader communities around them.

“Brands are an important part of the TikTok experience. Whether they are starting trends or connecting communities, they are creating authentic audiences built on the foundation of sharing joy. They are embracing the creative and authentic spirit of TikTok, and giving users a new way to discover and engage with the products they love.”

Thwaites highlighted how TikTok as a platform can help businesses embrace shifts in the marketing landscape, saying there is a move away from measuring reach to measuring connection.

“Mass reach and frequency ad campaigns are not enough to move ad-fatigued consumers to take action. The lack of innovation in advertising has trained us to tune out. Relevance and authentic connection is what matters, and that is what TikTok can bring to a brand's marketing.

“Shopping is moving away from transactional commerce to community commerce – the digitisation of word of mouth. Consumers are no longer interested in ads that aim to interrupt and sell – they are looking for a more experiential and genuine shopping experience that is based on trust, authenticity and communication.

“Every month, billions of people across the world come to TikTok to share real moments from their lives. While doing so, creators are sharing their honest opinions about products and services, which resonates with other users.

“A testament to this impact is #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, which has racked up over 12 billion views, becoming one of the world's fastest-growing shopping phenomena. A few examples of diverse products that TikTok made people buy include mascaras, jeans, feta cheese, skin care products, and many more.”