Putting the right content before an audience starts with understanding who is watching. Just as you wouldn’t wear a baseball uniform to a job interview, horizontal, long-form YouTube content won’t work as well on TikTok. When planning video content for social media, the platform and format are as important as the content itself. Here’s a closer look at three high-profile social media video platforms, with insight into how higher education marketers can create videos that impress.
TikTok The Rising Star of Social Media Video
TikTok’s growth over the last few years has been staggering. This short-video platform shares vertical video primarily on mobile devices. Audiences spend hours swiping through their For You feed and watching videos ranging from 15 seconds to 10 minutes.
This platform works well to build brand awareness by creating authentic experiences that attract more students but may not excel as a direct conversion tool.
To succeed on TikTok, content needs to look organic. Anything that looks too polished or overly produced instantly stands out, and not in a positive way. The highest-performing content tends to be short and only lightly branded. Partnering with influencers and brand ambassadors is one way to achieve the authentic look TikTok users crave without spending huge amounts of time on content creation.
Keep in mind that sound matters on TikTok. The app started as a way to share lip-synch videos, and the audio element has remained core to video success. Trending sounds can help videos reach a wider audience.
In our Online College Students report, 84% of respondents said they watched social media videos with the sound on. That might seem strange since the prevailing wisdom is that viewers tend to watch social media videos with the sound off, but the word of the death of audio may be exaggerated. So music, voiceover and sound effects should be as carefully planned as the rest of the video.
TikTok vs Instagram Reels
Instagram Reels is similar to TikTok in many ways. Both are short-form, vertical format and mobile-first. Yet the differences between the two social media video platforms can impact video marketing results.
Although TikTok has been in the news for its meteoric rise over the last few years, our OCS report revealed that Instagram is actually the most popular social media platform among online college students, with more than 75% using the platform. By contrast, nearly 62% used TikTok.
Perhaps more importantly, 32% of OCS respondents said they followed schools on Instagram, while only 15% said they followed schools on TikTok. This may be partly due to the differences in platform styles. While Instagram is more profile-based, users are presented with a feed mainly containing content from accounts they follow. TikTok tends to revolve around the “For You” feed, where users are presented with videos that showcase accounts they don’t follow but can help them reach a specific type of prospective student.
When it comes to student ambassadors or employees in higher education, Instagram is a better platform for showcasing their work. Instagram allows users to post photos and videos with captions, which makes it easier for student ambassadors and employees to show off their accomplishments and share their stories. TikTok is great for creating short videos that are fun and engaging, but the main issue with using TikTok for this purpose is that there is little room for detailed captions or descriptions about what the person is doing in the video. This means that viewers may not fully understand what the person is doing with additional context.
YouTube As a Social Media Video Platform
Compared to these other social media platforms, YouTube has more differences than commonalities. YouTube content is longer and mostly horizontal in format. This allows creators to provide more detailed information about their topic or product and can help viewers understand the material better, and make them more likely to take action after watching the video. As a result, mobile is also less dominant on YouTube. In 2022, YouTube viewers spent more than 36% of their viewing time watching on connected devices.
However, YouTube does offer a vertical format known as YouTube Shorts. Designed to keep in step with TikTok and Instagram, Shorts act as a lead generator for a YouTube channel. They give viewers a glimpse at the kind of content a channel makes with a lower time investment than a full-length YouTube video.
But keep in mind that Shorts and regular videos often have different audiences. People who watch one type won’t necessarily watch the other. A mix of both formats might be the best way to reach the broadest range of viewers.
Although YouTube is sometimes classified as a social media platform, it’s also the second most popular streaming service, according to our Online College Students 2023 report, and 53% of respondents said they used the platform daily.
Where To Place Social Media Video for Maximum Results
In short, TikTok rewards quick and organic videos. It’s good for brand awareness, but users tend to move on quickly, so lead gen is lower. Instagram reaches the most students and may attract followers. Influencers and/or brand ambassadors can help on both platforms. For long-form videos and more cinematic content, YouTube should be the go-to.
All three platforms offer opportunities for both organic and paid content. The right mix will depend on the audience, brand awareness, and creative. For support in finding the right mix and creating quality content for all of these platforms, as well as streaming, traditional media, and other creative assets, contact the higher ed marketing experts at EducationDynamics. We know how to dress your marketing messages to match the venue.