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Instagram vs TikTok vs YouTube. Which platform should you be on to see the most success?
Let’s talk about the pros and cons of each platform so that by the end of this post, you can decide which platform is the best choice for YOU.
Pros & Cons of Instagram
The first thing we need to address is the question: Is Instagram dead?
Instagram currently has over 2 billion monthly active users, with 60% of its users logging in to watch and post 500 million stories daily.
I have students in my Instagram course that are seeing great results on Instagram currently. As in THIS YEAR.
If there are people like Kelly and Ryan currently seeing amazing results, Instagram is not dead.
Pro #1: Every Content Type is Available
Name another platform where you can post photos, videos, stories, go live, message your followers, send voice memos, hop on calls with your followers and do collaboration posts that reach both audiences.
There isn’t one. So no matter what type of content you like to create, Instagram has it.
Pro #2: Easiest Platform for Beginners
Instagram truly is the easiest platform for beginner creators and aspiring Influencers just getting started. They have a very low barrier to entry.
You don’t have to be a video wiz to see success.
Yes, we know Instagram is pushing Reels, but the barrier to entry is low. Even if you have 0 video skills and no video gear, you can still create photos, educational graphics, memes, and be consistent with other content before jumping into something you may not feel ready with.
Pro #3: Most Monetization Features
Instagram has the most monetization features for their creators.
They have 8 ways you can monetize Instagram. While not every feature is available to everyone yet, they exist.
The 8 features on Instagram that allow you to monetize are:
- Instagram Affiliate
- Live Badges
- Reels Bonuses
- Reels Ads
- Setting up your own shop tab
- Brand Partnerships
Even though they don’t have all the kinks rolled out, they’re at least making those big moves to start offering creators a variety of ways to make money for different niches.
Pro #4: Making Sales and Building a Community
Instagram is the best platform for sales and building a community.
If you’re someone who is struggling on Instagram right now, you might be laughing at me or rolling your eyes. But once I explain, and go through the pros and cons of the other platforms, you’ll have a new appreciation for this app.
Instagram is the only platform where you can attract new eyes, build and nurture a community, nurture relationships with your followers, and convert followers into customers or clients.
You have every avenue to communicate with your community how you want, and that’s how they’re vastly different compared to other social media platforms.
Pro #5: The #1 App for Influencer Marketing Spend
In 2022, we saw about $16.4B being put into the Influencer Marketing Industry.
And while we don’t have the data for 2022 yet, in 2020 and 2021, Instagram still came on top for most brands putting their Influencer marketing budget towards Instagram. We have yet to see what the data for 2022 will be, but my guess is it will be more or less the same.
Because, again, Instagram is the easiest way to build a loyal and engaged community who trusts you.
Con #1: Algorithm Waves
Ah yes, the dreaded algorithm. How can we talk about Instagram without bringing up the algorithm?
This is probably the biggest complaint Instagram users have: trying to please the algorithm and dealing with random drops in engagement that come out of nowhere.
I’ve done my best to make sense of the Instagram algorithm, but with its constant changes, who’s to say when that’ll become outdated?
Con #2: Bots
Instagram has a lot of bot accounts that spam-comment and follow, making it harder to gauge an accurate engagement rate.
The average platform engagement rate is 3%, which means if your post can reach 3% of your followers, you’re doing GREAT!
Con #3: No Strategy = No Growth
And finally, it’s harder to reach new eyes on Instagram without the right strategy, making it potentially harder to grow compared to platforms like TikTok.
It’s definitely possible to reach new users, but it might be the hardest platform to reach those new users.
Pros & Cons of TikTok
TikTok is the newest of the platforms we’re talking about today with, at the time of writing this, over 1 billion monthly active users (which is still 1 billion less than Instagram).
Pro #1: TikTok is a Baby
Even if you start a TikTok page today, you are still ahead of the curve.
TikTok launched in 2017 after rebranding from Musical.ly, making it 5 years old. You can still be a first adapter and trendsetter when looking at TikTok’s age compared to Instagram or YouTube.
For example, YouTube launched in 2005, making it 17 years old. Imagine if people didn’t start YouTube channels 5 years into its launch because they believed they were too late. Or even 10 years after they launched, because they believed it was “over-saturated”.
Do you know who didn’t care about that? Emma Chamberlain. Emma Chamberlain started her channel in 2017, which was the same year she went viral. That was 12 years after YouTube launched!
So don’t tell me it’s too late to join TikTok.
TikTok is still a baby. You can be ahead of the curve even joining in the next 5 years.
Pro #2: SEO is Skyrocketing Creators
TikTok’s search engine capabilities are AMAZING!
It increases the overall user experience, where users can easily search and find videos they’re interested in AND gives creators the ability to be easily discoverable.
Small creators have more of an opportunity to get on the For You Page (FYP), increasing virality. The main, default page on TikTok is the FYP. That’s huge!
Literally, when you’re scrolling it’s all people and accounts you don’t follow. Meaning every user by default is being introduced to dozens of new creators daily. That makes it so much more possible to grow fast on TikTok.
Pro #3: Short-form Video Royalty
TikTok is the short-form video King and Queen. If you love creating short-form video content, that is the place to be.
Now, while there are a lot of great pros for TikTok, as the platform becomes more well-known and older, creators are becoming more vocal about the downside of TikTok.
Con #1: Difficult to Nurture a Following
It’s incredibly hard to NURTURE a following, relationship, or community on TikTok.
You have creators like MissDarcei who has over 500k followers on TikTok, hosted a meet and greet and no one showed up. People were speculating that it was because a lot of followers didn’t know about it.
Why is that? Well…
Con #2: A Majority of Users Spend Time on FYP
That means not enough people spend time on the Following page.
So even if you have followers, it’s less likely they will see your videos unless they go viral again and end up on the FYP.
As you can see in this tweet, we have creator Matt Navarra say that growth on TikTok is becoming harder and harder. Taylor Lorenz said, “Many users don’t follow people on the app, they just come to consume content on the FYP.”
I’m even guilty of this, after spending all my energy on Instagram engaging and talking with followers, I go to TikTok to dissociate. It’s like my mindless platform where I just scroll. And even when I do find a creator I follow, I hardly ever spend time in the ‘Following’ tab. It’s something that I’m working on to support the creators I follow, but it’s a hard habit to break.
For those reasons, creators have said that having 10,000 followers on TikTok is almost the equivalent of having 1,000 IG followers
Con #3: “Shiny New Toy” Syndrome
Finally, people are quick to believe in the “shiny new toy” syndrome.
They like the idea of a new app being the secret to quick, effortless and overnight success, when in reality TikTok has the same issues every social media platform has.
I’m in a Slack channel with a bunch of TikTok creators, and their complaints and concerns look just the same as those who complain about Instagram and YouTube.
TikTok removing accounts randomly, videos getting deleted for no reason, talking about a “shadowban” being a thing, and engagement randomly dropping.
And it’s not just one-off instances, it’s a thread of creators struggling with the same thing.
So, if you believe a new platform means things will be easier with fewer issues, you’re wrong.
Now, what’s interesting with TikTok, that isn’t as relevant to Instagram or YouTube because it’s in its early days, is that we don’t quite know where they’re going or the direction they’re taking yet:
Here’s an interesting prediction from TikTok creator, Cocomocoe:
Pros & Cons of YouTube
YouTube has 2.2 billion monthly active users.
Pro #1: Searchability
I mean, YouTube is owned by Google.
If you search for something on Google and have those keywords in your YouTube video, it’s very possible that your video can land on search results as well as YouTube search results.
They have their SEO down.
Pro #2: Evergreen Content
YouTube has the longest shelf life for any social media app out there. Shelf life is basically how long a piece of media can live.
Instagram Stories last 24 hours. In-feed Instagram posts last about 24-48 hours. An Instagram Reel lasts up to 2 weeks.
TikTok has a little bit of a longer shelf life. TikTok videos can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few months.
With YouTube, the shelf life is almost never-ending. I have content that’s 3-5 years old that still gets views daily, making YouTube the best platform for evergreen content to constantly be existing and thriving.
Pro #3: Highest Pay for Creators
YouTube has the best payout system for creators.
Those 3-5-year-old videos that are still getting views, I get paid for.
On Instagram, there are Reels Bonuses, but you only get paid for the 30 days you’re getting views and plays.
Obviously, the payout looks different for every account and every niche, but the fact still remains you can have a 5+-year-old video that continues to bring in the money. That leads to the next pro.
Pro #4: Passive Income
I could stop posting videos on YouTube and my videos will still be featured in search results and still get plays.
For those months I stop posting and get those views, I will still get paid.
Pro #5: Long-form Video Royalty
YouTube is the most well-known platform when it comes to long-form video content.
If you’re someone who enjoys creating and watching long-form videos, YouTube is likely going to be your home.
Con #1: Hardest to Grow
YouTube can be the hardest platform to grow on.
With YouTube, there’s a huge learning curve when it comes to keywords, how to rank in specific searches, thumbnails, how to write video titles and descriptions, etc. There’s a lot that goes into posting one simple video.
There’s also the fact that the algorithm is more evergreen, so you’re not necessarily relying on a video blowing up within the first 24 hours of posting. It could take a year for a video of yours to gain traction and go viral.
I had a video that randomly took off 2 years after posting it. So, you never know what video is going to blow up or when it will. But it’s still absolutely possible to grow a YouTube channel.
Con #2: Most Time Consuming
It almost goes without saying YouTube is the most time-consuming platform.
You have filming, scripting, outlining, editing, learning the platform, making thumbnails, and so much more.
There’s a lot more that goes into it, so it requires much more commitment.
How to Decide Which Social Media Platform You Should Be On
So how do you decide which platform you should be on?
Instagram? TikTok? YouTube?
What it comes down to is 4 things:
- What are your strengths? What are you good at?
- Your capacity. What do you have the time to spend on?
- Your interests. Do you enjoy the platform? What do you enjoy creating? Do you enjoy the type of content you’ll be making?
- Listen to your gut. When you think about where you want to be in the next 3-5 years, what platform excites you the most? Say to yourself, “I’m a YouTuber. I’m a TikToker. I’m an Influencer.” Which one excites you the most?
If you have to, get a piece of paper and write your answer under each section: strengths, capacity, interests, gut. You will find a common denominator.
Here’s the thing. Each platform is going to have its quirks.
If you’re someone who gives up when it gets hard, blames the platform/algorithm and switches apps, you will not see results.
Any platform can work for you as long as you put in the work. It’s as simple as that. Stop putting in minimal effort and expecting maximum results. You can do it.
And for my final piece of advice, as always, follow your joy.