July 28, 2020

YouTube vs TikTok

Social media platforms are a huge part of our lives, it can be easy to forget that it hasn’t always been this way. The digital landscape is constantly changing, and this year the video-sharing app TikTok is growing at an incredible rate - challenging both Instagram and YouTube in popularity.

When it comes to social media marketing, video has taken the world by storm and is being incorporated into almost every modern marketing strategy. Brands’ interest in partnering up with content creators on these platforms is growing rapidly, especially after the Coronavirus outbreak, with influencers more accessible than traditional production companies.

So what’s the best platform to promote your brand - the ever-popular alpha of video content YouTube, or the fresh newcomer TikTok?

TikTok had it’s boom earlier this year, and is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms in the world with over 1 billion active users worldwide. It’s a video-sharing platform and social network, which allows users to watch clips and makes producing content easy, as users film up to 60 seconds of footage, edit and upload it all in the app. Unlike YouTube, these videos are filmed in a vertical format, the usual way people hold their phones.

YouTube on the other hand has been in the game for a while and is the oldest social media platform still in use today. It’s the second-largest search engine in the world and 95% of the global internet population watch YouTube.

Something that YouTube and TikTok have in common, other than both being video-sharing platforms, is that the content is viewed with sound on. Sound is by far the biggest upside on TikTok and it has already shown how powerful it can be when it comes to music, helping many songs top charts all over the world.

In other words, both TikTok and YouTube have things in common but serve different purposes. What are these purposes?


One of the main differences between the two platforms is watch-time. For marketers, this is the time you have to tell your brand story, make sure you explain key messaging, convey your brand purpose, and release a call to action. 

On TikTok, this amount of time is a maximum of 60 seconds. That gives creators a minute to fit in your brand messaging, but also include their main content. You want to organically integrate your brand in an authentic way, which is made more difficult as most content centers around a soundtrack. 

However, YouTube has the longest watch-time out of all social media platforms. It favors longer videos which means that as a brand you have a better chance of delivering promotional content and showcase your products in action, whilst still being naturally integrated with the creators already popular content. 


Tiktok has really won the hearts of the teens of the world with 41% of TikTok users being aged between 16 and 24. The popularity of TikTok with Generation Z could easily be explained by the fact that the creators of the app decided to choose under 18 as their target audience from the very beginning. The creators of TikTok understood the desire for young creators to produce and consume content immersively and quickly - better than other competitor apps. This made TikTok a place where young users can express themselves in a creative and fun way. 

As for reaching your target audience, YouTube’s audience includes almost every demographic imaginable. With YouTube being around for so long, it has content that resonates with almost any demographic. 


When you post content on TikTok, it will be seen by few viewers to start with. The algorithm measures Initial engagement and if requirements are met (minimum one like per every ten views), the content will be shown to additional users on the well-known ‘for you’- page. This allows newcomers and small creators to grow quickly and receive thousands, if not millions, of views without a large number of followers. (if the content is entertaining enough!)

TikTok trends, also known as challenges, are a vital part of the platform and usually involve a popular song, routine, or hashtag that other users attempt to re-create. As a brand, tapping into these trends can be rather challenging as the speed of these trends are very unpredictable and new trends emerge every day. 

YouTube videos on the other hand are constantly discoverable and searchable, with many YouTube creators earning consistent views over years of growing their audiences, meaning that trends on YouTube have a longer lifespan than TikTok trends and are easier to predict and tap into. 


When it comes to authenticity, these two platforms adapt slightly differently. Since TikTok is such short-form content, there is not as much time to build a trusting relationship with your audience compared to YouTube. Similar to the audio - since TikTok started out as Musical.ly, TikTok has a huge focus on the audio - which means that there is not really a vocal conversation between the creator and the viewers - this makes it less personal. 

One of the benefits of TikTok is that creators can use whatever audio they want - without fear of the video getting demonetized. This is because TikTok creators cannot monetize - i.e. earn revenue from ads run alongside their videos - yet, which could mean that TikTok creators are more keen and excited to work with brands even if they don’t necessarily love the brand, as it’s their only source of income from the platform. 

YouTube creators share their whole lives with their subscribers, which builds a strong and trustworthy relationship. Due to this open relationship with their subscribers, 4 out of 10 millennials believe their favourite YouTube creator would understand them better than their friends.

As YouTube creators already make money on their channel by monetizing their content, not all creators feel a need to promote brands. So when a creator does work with a brand, it often comes across as more authentic as creators can be pickier about what brands they want to be associated with.

Ultimately, while TikTok can help brands generate massive view counts, it can be challenging for them to share their brand messaging and values within a one-minute video without appearing intrusive. The reach and development of trends on the platform are also very unpredictable.

So unless you are promoting a soundtrack that has viral potential and your target audience is slightly younger, YouTube is still the more reliable platform.

Brand on TikTok cartoon | Marketoonist | Tom Fishburne

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