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Short video: which social network will come out on top in 2023?

2023 will see the short video format cement its place as a major growth driver of social media audiences and engagement. For KOL marketers looking to harness the format, one of the key questions to answer is: which platform’s version of short video is best suited to my objectives?

groupe de personnes autour d'un trophée
groupe de personnes autour d'un trophée

Short form video is fast becoming an essential tool for marketers to attract attention online and deliver key messages in an entertaining format, and investments in the format are set to increase significantly in 2023.

Marketers already leveraging short form video expect to maintain or increase investments in the format, while 21% plan to leverage it for the first time in 2023, a survey by Hubspot found.

Meanwhile, spending on influencer marketing is set to increase overall in 2023. TikTok is expected to capture a 17.1% share of dollars spent on influencer marketing in the US this year, compared to Instagram’s (all content formats) hefty 44.6% share of spending.

Key Takeaways

  • TikTok is the clear leader when it comes to driving trends and engagement amongst the youngest users of social media.
  • Meta’s heavy investments in AI to improve the Reels user experience are paying dividends in increased plays and content sharing.
  • YouTube Shorts’ creator revenue sharing program tipped to entice top creators from other platforms.
  • Platforms which combine social interaction with entertaining short video content will come out on top.

TikTok is undoubtedly growing its market share and cultural clout, but the platform is up against competitors with serious skin in the game.

Both Meta (owner of Instagram) and YouTube (Google) are throwing everything they’ve got at short video. Their deep pockets and sophisticated data capabilities indicate that while TikTok may have won the initial short-video battle, the war itself is far from over.

TikTok: youth, trends, engagement

Accelerated by Covid lockdowns and the associated increase in social media usage, TikTok undoubtedly upended the social media landscape. Its powerful recommendation algorithm has the uncanny ability to deliver users exactly what they want, leading it to be described variously as mysterious, spooky and addictive.

The platform has attracted the youngest audience of the big social media players, with 72% of global users aged 18-34, including 41% in the 18-24 age bracket. In doing so, it has cornered the market on entertaining content that generates massive impressions and almost double the average engagement of Instagram.

Established social media players moved quickly to compete with TikTok by introducing their own versions of the short video format.  

Instagram’s problems in introducing Reels and recommended content into its feed have been well documented. And while YouTube Shorts has shown steady growth, the format has failed to deliver the exciting and entertaining content that TikTok is known for.

All that could change in 2023 however, as both platforms ramp up efforts to attract top creators, improve recommendation systems and take on TikTok at its own game.

Reels: Meta on the offensive

Meta says Reels views and engagement is growing steadily across both Facebook and Instagram.

Reels plays across Facebook and Instagram doubled in 2022, while “the social component of people resharing Reels has grown even faster and has more than doubled on both apps in just the last six months”, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg told investors during a call to discuss the company’s full year results.

Underpinning the company’s strategy on Reels are Meta’s massive investments in AI, which are designed to improve the user experience by boosting the recommendation system’s ability to deliver users more relevant content. Analysts are confident that engagement on Reels will continue to climb, with the product likely to become a category leader.  

Less exciting as a platform than it once was, Instagram nevertheless continues to have a loyal user base, including among Gen Z and millennial users. Notably, 80% of TikTok users also use Instagram, 77% use YouTube and 82.5% use Facebook.  

Instagram’s slightly older audience also makes it the preferred platform of prestige and luxury brands for its proven ability to engage audiences with higher spending power.

The challenge for Instagram is integrating Reels and recommended content from accounts that users do not follow in a way that does not devalue traditional content formats like photos and posts which users know and love.

Competing for top creators

One thing all platforms have in common is that the algorithm needs to be fed. KOLs and creators hoping to make a living from their social media activities must consistently post content or risk losing eyeballs. This applies to all platforms they maintain accounts on.

The biggest challenge has been remaining consistent. If you take a break from content, the algorithm might not show your work to as many people when you choose to return to a regular cadence,” comments US-based content creator @foodiesnitch.

To entice successful creators to stay on their platforms and continue to post regularly, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and others have developed creator funds or payment programs worth billions of dollars.

The most lucrative amongst them is YouTube’s Partner Program, which gives creators a cut of ad revenue appearing on videos and has seen the platform pay creators $50bn over the last three years. In 2021, for example, YouTube’s top creator, Mr Beast, earned $54m from YouTube.

In a move which many experts believe could be decisive in the struggle to attract short video content, YouTube has replicated the revenue sharing program specifically for Shorts. From 1 February, Shorts creators will receive a 45% cut of revenue from advertisements that appear next to their videos.

By contrast, TikTok’s $1bn creator fund has been widely criticized by creators, as has its revenue sharing model TikTok Pulse. TikTok creators with 100,000 followers recently reported having received just $5 from the program.

Social rules

Instagram’s wide product offer — text posts, photos, shopping, video, etc. — developed over its years in the market gives it a natural advantage in the need to develop social interaction and engagement around content.

Together with YouTube, which is renowned for delivering strong engagement rates, the two platforms have spent years developing sophisticated data analytics capabilities with which to woo advertisers. Both platforms offer a range of opportunities for developing and analyzing influence, and influence x advertising campaigns.

TikTok’s ability to deliver massive viewership gives it the jump on awareness campaigns. Its problem, however, is conversion; TikTok’s ability to entice users to take action over and above watching, liking and commenting remains underwhelming.  

To address this shortfall, TikTok is banking on TikTok Shop to drive affiliate revenue and conversion in the app, and is busy introducing a range of features designed to introduce more sociality to the platform and offer marketers more opportunities.

And just as Meta and YouTube copied short format video, TikTok has introduced Stories, longer video formats, community groups, and copied upstart platform BeReal with TikTok Now.

I deplore the uniformization that the social networks are getting into. I like each platform for its specificity,” comments international publishers HarperCollins social media manager Melusine Huget.

For me, Instagram is photos, it’s not videos. We really differentiate between Reels and TikToks. Reels is a practical format because it allows us to duplicate TikTok content […] but we try to have strategies that are adapted to each format.”

Cashing in

Common to all TikTok, Shorts and Reels is the need to monetize the format. TikTok and its parent company ByteDance are at an added disadvantage given the company has yet to turn a profit, and must continue to invest heavily to support rapid growth.

As a result, TikTok is offering advertising rates at half the price of Instagram for 1,000 views. Such a move might help it grab a larger slice of the digital advertising pie, but if the platform is flooded with brand advertising, will users be turned off?

It’s the conundrum also facing Reels. Instagram is facing “a fair amount of urgency” to monetize Reels, according to boss Adam Mosseri, who says he is “trying to balance that urgency with making sure we don’t make any mistakes by pushing too hard or too fast.

Looking ahead, one thing is sure: short video social media content will continue its rapid ascendancy. Less sure, however, is which platform will come out on top in the struggle to win over the best creators and attract the most advertising dollars.

Watch this space…  

About Kolsquare

Kolsquare is Europe’s leading Influencer Marketing platform, a data-driven solution that allows brands to scale their KOL Marketing strategies and implement authentic partnerships with KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders). Kolsquare’s technology enables marketing professionals to easily identify the best Content Creators profiles by filtering their content and audience, and to build and manage their campaigns from A to Z, including measuring results and benchmarking performance against competitors. Kolsquare has built the largest community of influencer marketing experts in the world, and offers hundreds of customers (Coca-Cola, Netflix, Sony Music, Publicis, Sézane, Sephora, El Corte Inglés, Lacoste, …) the latest Big Data, AI and Machine Learning technologies to drive inspiring partnerships, tapping into an exhaustive network covering 100% of  KOLs with more than 5,000 followers in 180 countries on Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. As a Benefit Company, Kolsquare has been pioneering Responsible Influence by championing transparency, ethical practices, and meaningful collaborations to inspire change.

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