September 14, 2021

Video Wars: TikTok vs. YouTube for Marketing

Christina Sirabella

For the better part of the last decade, social media platforms—and therefore, consumers—have become increasingly focused on video. In 2020, 96 percent of consumers increased their online video consumption, and as of 2021, an average person is predicted to spend 100 minutes per day watching online videos. Video is powerful as a marketing tool, and it’s become an irreplaceable part of any brand’s marketing strategy.

When you think about “social video” in 2021, two platforms likely come to mind: TikTok and YouTube. And the story almost writes itself—YouTube is the veteran player that’s been around for over 15 years, and TikTok is the talented rookie that is giving it a run for its money. So, how do these video platforms compare? Is one better than the other? Keep reading to learn more and find out how you can use TikTok and YouTube to improve your social media marketing efforts.

TikTok by the Numbers

  • TikTok has 689 million monthly active users globally (this number excludes users in China, however, as the app operates in China under a different name).
  • In 2020, 62 percent of TikTok users in the U.S. were aged between 10 and 29, but as of March 2021, that number has dropped to 47.4 percent.
  • 90 percent of TikTok users open the app multiple times daily, and the average time spent on TikTok is 52 minutes per day.
  • The average engagement rate on TikTok in 2020 was 17.5 percent.
  • 68 percent of TikTok users spend time watching other people’s videos on the platform, while 55 percent of them upload their own.

YouTube by the Numbers

  • YouTube is the second most visited website in the world.
  • YouTube has 2+ billion users, making up almost one-third of the entire internet.
  • YouTube users watch one billion hours of content daily.
  • 21.2 percent of YouTube’s global audience is between 25 and 34, and 17 percent is between 35 and 44.
  • 80 percent of U.S. parents with a child age 11 or younger say their child watches videos on YouTube, and 53 percent of those children use the platform daily.

Search & Exploration Capabilities

Both TikTok and YouTube have mastered the art of allowing anyone to access pretty much any kind of content they want to see—they’ve just done this in different ways.

TikTok’s secret sauce is its algorithm, which fuels the “For You” feed that makes the app so addictive. TikTok itself defines its algorithm as “a stream of videos curated to your interests, making it easy to find content and creators you love […] powered by a recommendation system that delivers content to each user that is likely to be of interest to that particular user.” So, when people use TikTok, they generally are not searching for something specific—rather, they open the app knowing that the videos they’ll be shown will be highly personalized to them. It’s less of a search experience and more of an exploratory experience. You never know what the “For You” page will have in store for you.

On the other hand, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world. Its appeal lies largely in the ability to search for anything and find exactly what you’re looking for—whether that’s a tutorial for how to change a tire or the most recent Lady Gaga music video. This works in the favor of brands as well, whose branded content or videos are easily searchable and discoverable on YouTube (and elsewhere, since YouTube videos also rank high on Google search results). Additionally, YouTube’s embedding capabilities allow users to easily embed videos into other mediums, which increases its lifespan.

Content Creation & Monetization

These apps are also different when it comes to the content creation process as well as monetization features.

TikTok has essentially revolutionized the content creation process. It streamlined the process for putting together clips, adding effects and filters, and recording a voiceover. You can film, edit, and upload an entire TikTok video in as little as five minutes. Additionally, since the goal of TikTok is for people to use the same songs or repurpose other people’s original audio, there’s no fear of videos being taken down for copyright reasons—in fact, many of the Billboard “Top 40” songs are also the top audio clips on TikTok. When it comes to monetization for content creators, the platform does have a LIVE Gifting feature and has supported its creators with its Creator Fund, but compared to YouTube, TikTok has a long way to go.

YouTube has been at the forefront of creator monetization for years, allowing many of its creators to be part of the YouTube Partner Program and make money through ads on their videos. The platform has also rolled out what it calls Paid Digital Goods—essentially any product that lets fans directly pay creators—throughout the past four years, and earlier this year announced that it plans to pay $100 million to creators who use YouTube Shorts, its TikTok competitor. The content creation process is slightly more difficult with YouTube, however, as it isn’t possible to shoot videos directly in the app, and content that does well on YouTube typically is longer and requires higher production value (whereas TikTok content is shorter and more lo-fi).

Recent Developments

So, it seems like YouTube and TikTok don’t have much in common beyond being hugely successful video platforms—and until recently, that was true. However, interestingly enough, the platforms are both taking steps in each other’s direction. YouTube launched Shorts, which are vertical-optimized videos that are up to 60 seconds long, as a way to directly compete with TikTok. TikTok, on the other hand, recently upped the time limit on its videos to three minutes (from one minute) and is even flirting with the idea of extending it even further to five or ten minutes, which certainly seems like it’s venturing into YouTube territory.

All of this follows the larger trend of social platforms really trying to “do it all.” While a few years ago each app had its own specialty, it seems like these days they’re taking cues from each other, becoming less specialized, and developing their own versions of each other’s features. We can’t quite tell what that means for TikTok and YouTube just yet, but you’ll be the first to know when we do.

Want to learn more about how your brand can leverage TikTok or YouTube for your marketing efforts? We’d love to help.

Tags: Best Practices, Influencer Marketing, Social Media, Strategy, TikTok, Video, YouTube

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