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What are the differences between YouTube Shorts and TikTok?

Simon Lebrun
May 16, 2023
Last modified on
November 2, 2023
The differences between YouTube Shorts and TikTok

TikTok quickly became the social network of choice for Generation Z, not only as a source of entertainment, but also as a new frontier of discovery. Like Instagram with Reels, YouTube was quick to follow in TikTok's footsteps.

In 2021, YouTube is introducing "Shorts" in France, a short video format that looks surprisingly similar to the one offered by TikTok.

This poses a major dilemma for content creators and advertisers: which platform should they choose to distribute their content and launch their advertising campaigns?

Each social network has a distinct audience and offers unique features. So it's essential to choose wisely, based on your target audience, your industry, your brand image and your resources.

In this article, we'll compare in detail what these two short video platforms have to offer, particularly in terms of features, engagement and advertising options. This should help you decide where to focus your marketing efforts to make the most of the potential offered by short vertical videos on social networks.

Is YouTube Shorts the new TikTok?

It's essential to recognize that YouTube Short is not simply a replica of TikTok. Although it is an extension of YouTube, Shorts has its own identity that clearly distinguishes it from that of the Chinese social network. Ironically, while YouTube is trying to imitate TikTok's format, TikTok is experimenting with formats that are closer to YouTube's traditional goals, even multiplying the maximum length of its videos to ten minutes.

Therefore, it would be reductive to say that "YouTube Shorts is the new TikTok", because Shorts is not the central essence of the platform.

Let's take a look at the significant differences between the short video formats of TikTok and YouTube Shorts:

TikTok vs YouTube Shorts: Similarities and differences

In this section, we have structured our analysis of the two social networks YouTube Shorts and TikTok.

Below is a comparison table, summarizing specific points of similarity and difference.

TikTok features, but not YouTube Shorts...

  • A reaction and duet function, allowing users to integrate other content creators' videos into their own accounts.
  • A Q&A function, where users can ask questions that creators are invited to answer in video. Content creators also have the ability to respond to comments.
  • A discovery tab that makes it easy for users to explore trendy sounds, effects and hashtags.

YouTube Shorts features, but not TikTok...

  • A scheduling tool that helps content creators publish their short videos at the best possible time.
  • The selection option to specify whether their videos are intended for children, or whether they should be restricted to viewers under 18.
  • The possibility to modify the content even after its publication.
  • The option to "unsubscribe" your Short, which means it's accessible to anyone who owns the link to this video.

TikTok vs YouTube Shorts : The comparison

1. Views and commitment

With its long history, YouTube generates twice as much traffic as TikTok. However, it's the views and engagement that get brands' attention. According to data shared by Google, YouTube Shorts recorded 6.5 billion daily views from its launch in the US in March 2021. By 2023, the format will reach 30 billion daily views.

Despite this, TikTok remains the undisputed leader in terms of user engagement and retention. Compared to YouTube Shorts, which had the lowest engagement rates, averaging about 0.48%, and Instagram's average Reel engagement of 0.92%, TikTok has about four times the engagement rate.

2. Video format

YouTube Shorts and TikTok are two platforms dedicated to sharing short video content. Their user interfaces are relatively similar, with videos scrolling in full screen for an immersive experience. Users have the option of manually scrolling through videos to move on to the next one.

However, there are several key differences between the two platforms. The first notable difference is the maximum length of videos; currently, YouTube Shorts cannot exceed 60 seconds, while TikTok recently extended the maximum length to 10 minutes.

What's more, the type of content varies considerably between the two platforms. TikTok generally favors spontaneous, authentic content that captures the moment. In contrast, YouTube shorts are often excerpts from longer videos, where users consume the content as teasers inviting them to watch the full video from which the short was excerpted.

3. Audio

Both TikTok and YouTube Shorts offer creators the possibility of adding music to their content from their extensive audio libraries. What's more, users can view all videos associated with a specific sound directly from these libraries.

However, YouTube Shorts seems to have an advantage in this area. YouTube has an extremely extensive and diverse music library, surpassing that of TikTok. This enables content creators to integrate tracks from major record companies such as Sony, Universal and Warner into their content.

It's important to note, however, that audio plays a much more central role on TikTok than it does on YouTube Shorts. Indeed, music and audio trends on TikTok are often the fastest way to go viral, whereas on YouTube Shorts, music is simply one of many editing options available. So while YouTube Shorts has a larger music library, the importance of audio in content creation and user engagement may be more pronounced on TikTok.

4. Editing in the application

Both short video platforms offer a host of tools enabling creators to edit their video content directly within the application. For example, both platforms let you change the speed of videos, add subtitles, and much more.

Nevertheless, it should be noted that TikTok has more advanced editing features. The application boasts a rich library of filters and effects (such as green screen, augmented reality, etc.). What's more, it offers a wide variety of formats and numerous options for collaborating with other users, such as duets, Q&A and more.

On the other hand, YouTube Shorts offers some unique features that may appeal to creators. Among these features are, as mentioned above, a scheduling tool that allows you to choose when to publish the video, an option to restrict access to minors, and most importantly, the ability to edit the video even after it is published. These options may give YouTube Shorts an advantage for certain creators, depending on their specific needs and preferences.

5. Analysis

Both TikTok and YouTube Shorts provide analytics tools to evaluate the performance of your video content. These tools include tracking the number of views, likes, comments, viewing time, shares, impressions and reach.

However, there is a difference in terms of accessibility to this information. On TikTok, you can consult the analyses directly from the application. On the other hand, to access the analysis data for YouTube Shorts, you need to go to your "YouTube Studio".

If you'd like to deepen your understanding of analytics on TikTok, we recommend you consult our dedicated guide to the subject.

6. Advertising

The TikTok app not only offers partnership opportunities with influencers, but also the possibility to launch advertising campaigns directly on the app, with several features, such as Brand Take Over, Top View, Hashtag Challenge or sponsored effects.

For its part, YouTube also offers a tool for launching advertising campaigns. These ads, called Shorts Ads, are maximum 60-second formats that appear between two videos. As on TikTok, you can choose your advertising objective, your audience and your bidding system on YouTube Shorts. However, YouTube Shorts currently offers only one ad format, making the platform less flexible and creative than TikTok in this respect.

Which to choose: YouTube or TikTok?

Ideally, we recommend incorporating both social networks, YouTube Shorts and TikTok, into a marketing strategy. Each of these platforms offers the opportunity to reach a distinct audience (GenZ on TikTok, millennials on YouTube), achieve specific objectives (visibility on YouTube, engagement on TikTok), and interact with users in a unique way.

However, if your resources don't allow you to expand to these two social networks, we recommend TikTok. In addition to generating greater engagement than YouTube Shorts, TikTok makes it easier to share compelling content and create a strong bond with your community. As a relatively new platform, it also offers greater chances of virality.

Ready to get started on TikTok and run successful campaigns? Call on our agency!

We'll support you in creating content and setting up effective campaigns on TikTok, ensuring that our actions are in line with your marketing objectives

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