- TikTok has talked to Kevin Systrom, the co-founder and former CEO of Instagram, about leading the company's U.S. operations, the New York Times reported, citing people familiar with the matter. Systrom left Instagram in 2018, about six years after Facebook acquired his 13-employee startup for $1 billion.
- In addition, TikTok hired Cheryl Gresham as head of media and partnerships, she announced in a post on LinkedIn. Gresham previously worked as global head of integrated media at YouTube. Gresham also was VP of global media and integrating marketing at toymaker Mattel, and a director of media at Taco Bell.
- Discussions with Systrom and the hiring of Gresham come as TikTok continues to build out its executive ranks despite facing the possibility of being banned in the U.S. The company is looking for a CEO to replace Kevin Mayer, who resigned after three months in the job.
TikTok's hiring of a former YouTube executive and its reported talks with Instagram's co-founder indicate the company was, until yesterday, continuing to push forward with its growth plans amid the possibility of being banned in the U.S. However, as the personnel developments were revealed before the U.S. Dept. of Commerce announced today that it would ban downloads of TikTok starting on Sunday, Sept. 20, it's currently not clear what TikTok's plans for the U.S. are going forward. Until there's greater clarity on the future of TikTok's operations, mobile marketers may take a wait-and-see approach to the platform.
While TikTok is estimated to have been downloaded more than any other app in the past year, it's entering a crowded field dominated by digital media giants Google and Facebook that aren't going to concede market share easily. Already, the companies have developed features in their apps to copy TikTok's key features, and they have vast troves of consumer data to help marketers with their ad targeting. TikTok's key advantage is its popularity with younger consumers who may stick with the app as they get older and have greater spending power that marketers want.
TikTok has 100 million users in the U.S., 50 million of whom use the app daily, according to a lawsuit it filed against the U.S. government to challenge the ban, CNBC reported. To monetize that user base, it will have to continue building out its advertising platform to demonstrate business outcomes that marketers increasingly demand from their media partners.
TikTok faces several hurdles to avoid a ban in the U.S., including approval by the Trump administration and China's government on a new ownership structure for the platform. The latest plan would give Oracle, Walmart and other U.S.-based investors a majority interest in TikTok, which would file for an IPO next year, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.