New Brunswick

Millions of U.S. followers? What N.B. creators think about a potential TikTok ban

Unlike American content creators, Canadians don't make a lot of money from TikTok in the first place. But that doesn't mean they have nothing to lose.

House of Representatives passed a bill that could lead to the end of the app in U.S.

A smiling man with grey tufts of hair and glasses stands behind a bar. Behind him are rows of bottles of various alcohols.
Larry Canam says if the United States proceeds with a proposed TikTok ban, he'll miss the connection he's built with his millions of followers there. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

Half of Larry Canam's 6.7 million followers live in the United States. A potential TikTok ban in that country might stop them from seeing his videos. 

Canam, who lives in Fredericton and whose TikTok account has exploded in growth over the past couple of years, says that what he'll miss most if the U.S. does ban the app is interacting with his audience. 

"It would be hard to lose that connection," he told CBC News. "It would be disappointing, for sure."

The House of Representatives voted in favour of a bill last week that could lead to the end of TikTok in the U.S. Supporters of the bill cite concerns about national security.

The bill, which still needs Senate approval, would require TikTok to either part ways with its Chinese owners or face extreme difficulty operating in the U.S. That means the company would receive heavy fines for every person who downloads or uses TikTok in the U.S., though that would be hard for users to do since the app would disappear from app stores. 

Canam built his TikTok account on what he describes as "slice-of-life" content. His most popular videos feature him in his home bar, making milkshakes or cocktails. Recently, he's found success in cooking and gardening videos.

WATCH | Two N.B. TikTokers on why a U.S. ban would be disappointing:

Here's what some N.B. creators think of potential U.S. TikTok ban

2 months ago
Duration 2:30
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that, if approved by the Senate, would either force TikTok to divest itself of its Chinese owners or functionally ban the app in the country. Canadians don’t typically make as much money from TikTok as Americans, but that doesn’t mean they have nothing to lose.

Retired and in his 70s, Canam said he doesn't make TikTok videos for money, although Canadians don't enjoy the same financial windfalls from the app that American creators do. Success has brought lots of partnership opportunities and brand deals, though, which he said help offset some of the costs associated with making his videos.

Luckily for Canam, most of his brand deals are with Canadian companies, since U.S. companies would have to pay more to ship their products to him. He's also been steadily growing his YouTube account — a million subscribers in under a year — and plans to make it his main focus if a TikTok ban goes through. 

He's also recently started up on Instagram and said other social media companies have contacted him, hoping he'll join their platforms. But, he said, TikTok just has a "different feel."

"This is my most important one and the one that I love," he said. "It's easy to work with and it just seems to be a fun community."

An elderly man with glasses and a mustache smiles at the camera.
Canam has 6.7 million followers on TikTok. He estimates about half of them live in the United States. (Submitted)

Canam claims his success on the platform is a kind of happy accident. From the beginning, he's personally interacted with his audience, asking them questions, replying to comments, and paying attention to what they want. He introduced a midweek mocktail segment, for example, when he noticed how popular non-alcoholic drinks were becoming. 

"I'll still enjoy doing my videos and interacting with people, and if it grows it grows, and if it doesn't then I'll still have a lot of fun."

Kelly K Laing, a TikTok creator based in the Saint John area, does worry about how a potential ban in the U.S. would hurt future opportunities. 

Laing started her TikTok account during the pandemic to document her move from Toronto to New Brunswick. The videos started as a way to stay connected with her friends and show them what her new life was like.

Then the views increased, and today she has just over 70,000 followers. She estimates 20 per cent of them live in the U.S.

Unlike Canam, Laing's followers are primarily Canadian, and her content leans more toward a Canadian audience. Travel and tourism is her beat, and she said she has followers in Ontario and Atlantic Canada alike, eager to see what experiences Laing shares on her account. 

"It just kind of started as a passion project and now I post when I can, I post what I like, and it's just something I enjoy doing as an outlet," she said.

For many Canadians, getting partnership opportunities or brand deals is a clear sign your account is growing.

Laing has worked with tourism boards and has even received offers to create content for events such as the Memorial Cup, which was held in Saint John in 2022. This summer, she said, she has deals in the works for some golfing events. 

But with New Brunswick right on the border with Maine, Laing said, it makes sense for her to try to attract an audience there.

A marketing director in her day-to-day life, Laing said she travels a lot for work, and it would be easy to start filming videos outside Canada. A U.S. ban, though, would mean she couldn't get views in that country.

"It would definitely hurt, and I don't think it's going to be a very positive thing," she said.

More followers and views also mean more attention from brands, and Laing said a U.S. TikTok ban would cut out a lot of companies based in the U.S. that she could otherwise pursue deals with.

There is a potential bright side to the ban for Canadians.

"Maybe these brands would start looking at creators outside of the U.S. to start working with," she said. "Maybe they would think about working with more Canadian creators."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Raechel Huizinga

Social Media Producer

Raechel Huizinga is a social media producer based in Moncton, N.B. You can reach her at raechel.huizinga@cbc.ca.