By Mike Knight

In this article, we compare TikTok and YouTube platforms and take a look at some of the pros and cons of each.

Similarities

There are several important similarities between YouTube and TikTok. For example: 

  • Both are popular video-sharing social media platforms that encourage user-generated content.

  • Both platforms also cater for content from individual content creators and businesses. For example, there is ‘TikTok For Business’ and ‘YouTube For Business,’ both offering advertising and other services. 
  • YouTube and TikTok enable interaction between users, e.g. comments, replies, and subscribe buttons.
  • Both offer analytics, e.g. views, followers, impressions, and comments.  
  • The two platforms also use similar algorithms, i.e. content is served based on preferences, interaction, previous activity, account settings, and video performance.
  • Both platforms enable captions and text overlays.

Differences

Here is a short list of some of the main differences between TikTok and YouTube: 

  • Like YouTube, TikTok is a video-based social media platform, however it is a short-form video-sharing app where users can create and share relatively informal, 15-second videos on any subject, rather than YouTube videos which can be hours long. For example, YouTube supports 12 hours for verified accounts and 15 minutes for unverified accounts, so contributors have the scope to present more detailed messages, instructional and promotional videos, entertainment, marketing videos and much more.
  • TikTok users are generally younger, i.e. mostly teens (18- to 24-year-olds).
  • YouTube content is often more refined and tailored than TikTok videos, and YouTube provides more active participation among users than TikTok. 

TikTok 

TikTok was created by ByteDance in 2017, and formerly known as Musical.ly. Cloudflare’s Radar, which monitors Web traffic, records TikTok as having overtaken Google to become the world’s most popular online destination. TikTok has One billion active users spread across 154 countries. Almost half (43 per cent) of TikTok users are 18-to-24-year-olds. 

Both the YouTube and TikTok platforms have pros and cons, some of which depend upon what the user is trying to achieve, e.g. which target market a business may be trying to reach with what message. Here’s a brief look at some of the main pros and cons of TikTok. 

Pros

  • It is free, convenient and many people say it’s easier to edit and upload content in TikTok than in other competitor apps/platforms, e.g. Instagram or Snapchat. It has an immediacy, i.e. users can quickly add videos directly from their mobile and customise them with background music, stickers, and filters. 
  • It’s a visible space with a familiar format of funny, positive video clips for Gen Z, who spend a lot of time on their phones. TikTok’s short clips appeal to the younger generation’s shorter attention spans. 
  • It gives ‘ordinary’ people the tools to creatively express themselves, engage, and take part in current discourse, although videos are mainly for entertainment.
  • It provides a place for brands to experiment with their messages in entertaining ways, with a way for TikTok itself to discover popular new ways to expand its brand even more (e.g., the popularity of food and recipe video clips), leading to the idea of ‘TikTok Kitchen.’ 
  • It has a content-rewarding algorithm that’s helped to drive meme culture, and TikTok’s algorithms can learn user preferences and customise the video feeds to their users, thereby helping it to keep users interested and engaged. 
  • It makes good use of music, which is particularly appealing to young age groups, and enables TikTok videos to be shared on Instagram, thereby boosting usage/download rates.

Cons

  • Worries about links to the Chinese state and allegations that it may have discriminatory content censorship standards that are decided by the Chinese government. 
  • A US counter-intelligence investigation and an investigation by (Israeli) Check Point over possible backdoors and security vulnerabilities that the platform may have. 
  • Worries from child advocacy groups that the app may pose a risk to children.
  • Criticism from Reddit CEO/co-founder Steve Huffman that TikTok, once installed, is like a kind of ‘spyware’ that’s always listening. 
  • A £4.3m fine after Musical.ly was found to have knowingly hosted content published by under-age users. 
  • A temporary ban in India. 

YouTube

Google-owned YouTube has a massive user base of 2.6 billion users worldwide and is ranked the second-most popular social network, with only Facebook having more active users. YouTube users are generally older because it is popular with a broader spread of age groups. For example, 81 per cent of 18–25-year-olds (in the US) actively use YouTube (its largest group of users) but so do 71 per cent of 26-35-year-olds, and 67 per cent of 36-45 and 46–55-year-olds. 

Here’s a brief look at some of the main pros and cons of YouTube. 

Pros 

  • It’s free and easy to use and offers an easy way to share information via a variety of media, e.g. music, video, and animation. 
  • YouTube has a wide variety of content, making it more appealing to a diverse audience, and the popularity across different age groups allows it to reach a wide audience. 
  • It is a good platform for brand building across many industries and is widely used by big brands, e.g. Apple, BMW, Motorola, and more. 
  • YouTube is good for active content marketing because clear calls to action are allowed, e.g. audiences can be asked to subscribe to your channel, go to a website or social media page, and more. 
  • YouTube is owned by Google and YouTube videos can be used to drive users to websites, gain backlinks, and improve SEO and search engine rankings. YouTube can really help to drive traffic, audience engagements, and revenue for businesses. 
  • YouTube is easily accessible for users, e.g. via Google or via the YouTube app. 
  • Money can be earned through videos, and large followings can be built making it influential, plus it’s a good platform for showcasing talent and expertise.

Cons

  • As with TikTok, there are worries about the risk to children and young people using the platform because of the nature of some of the content (explicit, violent, sexual content), and it may need a parental block. 
  • YouTube videos are public which can create issues with copyright and privacy invasion. 
  • Making videos for and uploading them to YouTube can require more time and editing than TikTok. 
  • There are a lot of adverts and distractions on YouTube which can interfere with messages and can be frustrating for some users. 
  • There are a lot of rules and restrictions for video posting and a channel which has taken some time to build up can be disabled by YouTube if, for example, there are complaints or if Terms of Service and Community Guidelines are breached. 
  • Any advertisers can put an advert on your video, e.g. competitors. 
  • Although money can be earned on YouTube, it is not as easy as often hoped and requires large numbers of subscribers. 

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

TikTok has quickly become the go-to social video sharing platform, particularly among teens and young people and is now the world’s most popular online destination. Its short, mostly fun, engaging videos could be said to really appeal to Gen Z phone-gazers and as such has a real value in marketing as a way to reach young audiences and create viral influence.

Google’s YouTube has 2.6 billion users (currently much more than TikTok) and reaches a wider spread of ages, plus it has the advantage of being good for driving website traffic and revenue by enabling calls to action. YouTube also allows more detailed videos and offers great brand-building opportunities, which is why many big brands use it as part of their promotional strategies. It depends, therefore, what the audience and the aims are which platform and in what way businesses choose to use them.

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