When you are leading a race, tracking your No. 2 competitor is important, but it is often more important to know who is creeping up from behind the pack.

For a few years now, many marketers identified Instagram as TikTok's main competitor. However, it looks like YouTube is positioned to be the fiercest competitor to TikTok.

Google announced that access logins for YouTube Shorts, the mini video platform meant to rival TikTok, have reached more than 1.5 billion user views per month. The significance is more than the size of the audience; Data.ai forecasted that TikTok would reach 1.5 billion users per month by the end of this year.

Tracking the YouTube Playbook

YouTube has long held a significant advantage as as the world's second largest search engine; its results also appear in a standard Google search. Lately Google has been working to position YouTube as a major competitor to connected television platforms, establishing contracts to host major live-streaming events like the NBA Finals and adding surround sound to its premium YouTube TV service. 

YouTube is working to attract content creators and influencers to create unique video content. When you consider its position as a significant search engine, YouTube can be an advantageous ecosystem for marketers that have already invested heavily in YouTube video content as part of a blended social media/SEO plan.

Related Article: Inside TikTok's Explosive Growth

Tracking the TikTok Playbook

Meanwhile TikTok has garnered humongous popularity among marketers launching campaigns aimed at consumers. It has strengthened its metrics as the new longer 10-minute limit supplants the 3-minute limit introduced last year. The longer formats have already paid dividends for audience experience.

Marketing research firm eMarketer noted that TikTok users will spend more average time on the platform compared to YouTube users on YouTube. This means TikTok has become a significant starting point for customer engagement, offering more time for creativity in influencer programming and marketing messaging.

Moreover, the platform has strengthened its advertising options during the pandemic as people spent more time online. TikTok launched self-served ads in 2020, following up with launching Pulse, a system for display ads in the top 4% of videos in the "For You" page. Advertisers have 12 categories to choose from, supplementing programs for selecting TikTok influencers. 

There is also growing adoption of TikTok among social media tools. Hootsuite announced its scheduling dashboard works for TikTok accounts. This lets user manage social media posts across the most popular social media platforms.

Learning Opportunities

Related Article: What Social Media Trends Will Emerge for 2022?

TikTok Privacy Concerns Loom, But Do Marketers Care?

Yet privacy concerns remain a shadow over TikTok. Brendan Carr, commissioner for the Federal Communications Commission, requested that Apple and Google discontinue availability of the app on its app stores. On an open letter request via Twitter, Carr accused ByteDance, the company that owns TikTok, of allowing sensitive data to be accessed by the Chinese Communist Party. ByteDance has stated that app data remains only on servers located in the United States.

Controversy over TikTok will not likely slow down marketer fever for the app. But YouTube still has a significant advantage over TikTok. Marketers can organize their social media and SEO strategy more cohesively. The features available can help make the video experience support a customer experience well.

For example, YouTube Analytics includes a chart displaying what percentage of search is occurring for one's video channel. Doing so helps identify referral sources where people are discovering the videos. Programming for Shorts also appear in YouTube search results (and consequentially Google), so monitoring performance can highlight how well the videos are drawing an audience and where additional marketing can best be served.

It's All in Platform Analytics

No matter which social media platform, marketers must consider how well platform analytics highlight clues to audience retention. The ability to know how well people are engaged plays into the opening moments of a customer experience.

Along with Instagram Reels, TikTok and YouTube are now the entertainment venue for Millennials and Generation Z that TV was to young audiences when it launched in the 1950's. The approach influences how much of a gateway the platforms are for providing and selling significant services, such as financial services. Marketers should get ready for a competitive environment in the live video market during 2022.