How YouTube is Opening the Door for Competitors like TikTok
Kristina: You believe YouTube has opened the door for competitors to begin taking their spot in the social media space – why?
Dan Levin, Co-Founder, President & COO, ViralGains: Years ago, YouTube decided (and ever since has made clear through their actions) that they were going to focus on its top 5% of talent and content creators while ignoring the rest. Now, I can’t even blame them — it “sort” of makes sense… In life, there’s an 80/20 rule called the Pareto Principle that states roughly 80% of one’s outcomes are driven by approximately 20% of their inputs. YouTube took that to the extreme and said that the outputs from 5% of their inputs are good enough for them.
As a consequence, I have, for years now, observed innumerous creators — those in the “6-20% band” if you will — fervidly complain about YouTube’s almost complete lack of support for them as creators and a lack of appreciation for their contributions to the platform. This has been made evident by the still unresolved issues plaguing so many of them like demonetization or mass bans.
So here’s how this plays out. YouTube is busy focusing on its top 1-5%. The 6-25% who want to be in the top 5% will spend more and more time on other platforms like TikTok or Instagram, where they have the opportunity to be in the top. Meanwhile, those in the 26-100%, who likely don’t have what it takes to make it to the top, will be all that remains for YouTube to draw from once the top folks go out of fashion.
In other words, YouTube is perpetuating a glaring hole in its long-term talent strategy. It either needs to start listening to its community or shell out massive dollars to stay relevant in the mid 2020’s.
Kristina: What does TikTok bring to the table that YouTube doesn’t?
Dan: It’s not so much that TikTok offers a certain functionality that doesn’t exist on YouTube, but there’s a cultural shift going on. YouTube reeks of inaccessibility, and people are getting tired of it. They’re dying for a viable competitor.
I believe both YouTube and Instagram have opened the door for competitors to siphon off substantial amounts of the consumer eyeball market share in the social media space, although each one for a unique reason.
For Instagram, their biggest emerging competitor is definitely TikTok. What TikTok brings to the table that Instagram no longer has a chance of redefining is two-fold:
1. Instagram largely centers around passive consumption (scrolling through the feed), whereas TikTok is predicated on active participation. Strike one for Instagram.
2. TikTok is like what YouTube used to be — raw, edgy, experimental, unfiltered, youthful, viral and experiential. With Instagram on the other hand, you can’t as easily post unpolished content and expect engagement. But that’s okay — Instagram was never made for raw; it was made for polished and high quality. Unfortunately, the young masses have spoken and they’re getting sick of pretentious culture. They want “real” and they want “connection” — that’s TikTok. Strike two for Instagram.
For YouTube, it remains to be seen who emerges as their biggest competitor. Certainly, platforms such as Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are taking up massive swaths of consumers’ screens from an eyeball market share perspective, but no one has so far come close to replacing YouTube in terms of its unique functionality, massive repository of content and cultural significance.
Kristina: Are we at the point where YouTube could do a MySpace and become totally obsolete?
Dan: Absolutely not. Fortunately for those guys, any prospect of YouTube becoming MySpace is at least more than half a decade away. So, you could say they have ample time to get it together, but considering the stakes are in many, many hundreds of billions of dollars, it certainly behooves them to start thinking now.
Kristina: Why does this matter for brands and merchants?
Dan: For the world’s largest brands, these trends actually matter a bit less. The reason is because they have the human and financial capital resources to put many eggs into many baskets. It’s a huge advantage that means they can invest in devising a strategy for each major social platform with the knowledge that whether it were to become obsolete or end up important enough to define the zeitgeist of the moment, they’re already there and ready.
Meanwhile, for smaller and mid-sized brands, these trends are much more important to keep an eye out for. They have to be a lot more selective as to where and how they invest for the future in terms of social platforms strategy. Being in the right place for the long-term can be a major boon for a small business or merchant that happened to bet on the right platform, but if they get it wrong and miss the boat elsewhere, they’ll be in serious catchup mode.
Kristina: How can brands know if sites like TikTok are a good fit for them?
Dan: If a young, global and culture-driven audience is a priority or aligning with the zeitgeist of the moment is a driving factor for a brand, then it’s time for them to invest in TikTok.
But if brand safety is important, one bit of advice would be to tap into Instagram influencers with whom brands are already working with that are experimenting with TikTok themselves — letting them take the risk first and learning from their mistakes.
In order to be successful on TikTok, brands also need to have the resources for rapid content creation. Few marketing departments have the budget to play around, so they’ll need to make sure it’s an investment that will pay off.
Kristina: What kinds of content do brands need to be creating for social media?
Dan: It depends entirely on what their strategy is, and on which platform they are creating content for. The sort of content that does well on TikTok is nowhere close to the kind of content that does well on LinkedIn. So, the simple answer is that it has to be appropriate to the medium and in alignment with their values and long-term goals.
Kristina: How should social content be different from/stand out from more traditional digital ads?
Dan: Social content is meant to be just that — social. It’s meant to engage large groups of people and be slightly less about the individual, whereas traditional digital ads are about pinpointing precisely and then precisely marketing to that one person who is most relevant for the brand and ready to move from one stage of the customer journey to the next.