TikTok Faces Trust Crisis in Canada as Negative Sentiment Grows, Warns Horizon Media Canada's Tipping Point Analysis

Nearly 60 per cent of Canadians express concern over TikTok’s lingering privacy issues

TORONTO, June 05, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The trustworthiness of TikTok, the popular micro-video sharing platform, is being significantly impacted by bad press according to Horizon Media Canada. The erosion of trust in TikTok among Canadian consumers is raising concerns for brands utilizing the platform.

While Canadians are generally skeptical about a total government ban on TikTok in the country, brands must exercise caution in their use of the platform. Despite this, Horizon's survey found that brands can’t ignore the powerful pull TikTok is able to exert on consumers’ attention versus other social media platforms. If TikTok is banned — or, in the event its credibility continues to drop — Meta’s Facebook and Instagram are perfectly poised to fill the gap left, followed by YouTube, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest.

"Negative media coverage has hit Tik Tok hard over the last six months,” said Simon Ross, VP of Strategy & Insights at Horizon Media Canada, in discussing the potential implications for brands advertising on TikTok. “While it remains popular and essential for engaging with younger demographics, brands should monitor the rapidly evolving perceptions and sentiments toward TikTok to be fully informed of the benefits and possible risks."

Key findings from Horizon Canada's study include:

  • Strong Engagement: 18-34-year-olds are significantly more likely to engage with brands on TikTok and discover new brands (39 per cent).

  • Negative Impact: 59 per cent of all Canadians have become more cautious about using TikTok due to data privacy concerns.

  • Mental Health Concerns: 56 per cent of respondents believe TikTok is causing harm to teens' mental health.

  • Limited Trust: TikTok ranks low in terms of trust among all age groups.

  • Age Disparity on Banning: Canadians aged 18-34 are the most resistant to the idea of banning TikTok.

  • Privacy Concerns: Over half of Canadians aged 65+ consider TikTok invasive to privacy, while only one-fifth of the 18-34 age group share the same concern.

The survey emphasizes the genuine erosion of trust in TikTok. The future of the platform's brand reputation depends on various factors shaping public opinion, as outlined in the research report.

TikTok's Negative Sentiment Intensifies

While older Canadians' negative view of TikTok may have a limited impact from a brand marketing perspective, their active participation in voting makes their concerns significant. In fact, 93 per cent of Canadians aged 65+ would support a TikTok ban depending on the platform's owners, highlighting the political challenges TikTok faces in Canada.

Additionally, individuals aged 65+ are more traditional media consumers and were exposed to overwhelmingly negative headlines about TikTok in Q1.

It’s true that TikTok’s traffic has remained on an upswing. The app boasted 14.1 million unique views in February 2023, reflecting a 13 per cent gain for TikTok usage compared to the same month a year prior, according to comScore.

Considering the significant negative press during the same period, however, the report’s analysis of media conversations regarding TikTok revealed:

  • 324k posts discussing TikTok (42 per cent increase compared to Q1 2022)
  • 8 billion impressions generated by the posts (175 per cent increase compared to the previous year)
  • Net sentiment about TikTok at -29 (a 207 per cent decline year-over-year)
  • Quebec, Alberta, and Ontario were the provinces most affected by the recent news, with no significant differences observed between them.

TikTok's Value Proposition for Brands

Despite the scrutiny from government and media, the survey shows that the value proposition of TikTok remains strong. There appears to be a disconnection between opinions about the TikTok brand and the app's utility. For instance, 18-34-year-olds are significantly more likely (32 per cent) to follow and engage with brands they like on TikTok, as well as being inclined to make purchases.

TikTok also serves as a vital platform for discovery among the 18-49 age group, allowing users to explore new brands and products. Brands that align with TikTok's primary purpose of "edu-tainment" can leverage the platform's high engagement levels.

The survey highlights the specific engagement value TikTok offers across various categories:

  • Comedy & Cooking: Content in these categories resonates well with all age groups, with 57 per cent and 68 per cent of respondents liking them, respectively. Additionally, Pet Videos (55 per cent) consistently appeal to most TikTok users.

  • Other Viewing Categories: While not as strong, other categories still maintain a hold on the app. Sports-related content, for example, accounts for one-fifth of all posts watched by Canadians aged 18-49, with a slightly lower figure of 15 per cent for users over 50.

  • Sports: Half of Canadians who watch sports-related content on TikTok believe that the app is not as valuable for sports content compared to platforms like Instagram and Twitter.

  • Movie and TV Trailers: As a micro-video platform, TikTok provides a natural space for movie and TV trailers. Users are significantly more likely to enjoy movie and TV show trailers (87 per cent) and clips previewing theatrical and streaming releases (80 per cent). In terms of genres, comedy surpasses drama with 93 per cent to 67 per cent preference.

"TikTok finds itself at a critical moment in maintaining relationships with Canadian brands and consumers," Ross said. "The platform's next moves in reforming privacy policies, addressing teens' mental health concerns, and respecting freedom of the press will be pivotal. These issues matter greatly to Canadians. TikTok's immense popularity provides an opportunity for it to reverse its negative image, and we, along with our brand partners, will be closely monitoring its actions."


The study was created by Horizon Media Canada’s Tipping Point group, using its multi-modal research and analysis, and multiple sources, including Horizon Media Canada’s StatsCan provincial panel. More than 250 Canadians nationwide were surveyed from March 31 to April 7, 2023. The survey employed Horizon Media Canada’s suite of social listening and cultural intelligence tools, and a blend of trusted secondary sources, observational techniques, and proprietary and curated supporting data. 

Horizon Media

Horizon Media, Inc, the largest independent media agency in North America, delivers data-driven business outcomes for some of the world’s most innovative and ambitious brands. Founded in 1989, headquartered in New York, and with offices in Los Angeles and Toronto, the company employs 2,400 people and has media investments of more than $9.5 billion.  Horizon Media's fundamental belief is that business is personal, which drives its approach to connecting brands with their customers and engaging with its own employees resulting in industry-leading workplace satisfaction levels (Glassdoor).  The company is consistently recognized by independent media outlets for its client excellence and has earned several "Best Workplaces" awards reflecting its commitment to DEI and the life and well-being of everyone at Horizon Media.

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