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Short video platform TikTok has been in the news for some time for all the wrong reasons. Love it or hate it, there is no denying the popularity of the Chinese app among the Indian youth, especially in tier 3 and 4 towns and rural areas.

If one brand says TikTok users are of no use when it comes to ROI, another will vouch for its effectiveness with billions of views for a challenge it throws.

Recently, TikToker Amir Siddiqui and YouTuber CarryMinati (Ajey Nagar), also known as influencers of the respective platforms, fought charges of plagiarism and the fight went very far. Brands and influencers became a part of a debate over which platform is better in terms of content quality and brand collaboration. The battle is still underway, and no one can draw a line to it.

As brands continue to struggle to choose the right platform between YouTube, Instagram and TikTok to engage with their TG, they still prefer to opt for a platform that is cost-effective and has brand-friendly policies.

Not to mention, brands have undoubtedly gone into a cost-savings mode amid the Covid-19 outbreak. As the pandemic has rightly given major opportunities in the influencer-led marketing space, the platform that will help brands to save even a single penny will be favoured.

In the last piece, a few experts argued why the primary lens should be that of finding the correct influencer, irrespective of the platform the person is active on. A few successfully proved how the reach on TikTok and YouTube might be the highest, but YouTube and Instagram provide better ROI.

Finding a suitable platform on the basis of brand category, the right set of influencers and ROI is a wise decision, but what and how much does it cost? One also has to ensure such an influencer-marketing initiative is as cost-effective as it can be, as influencer marketing does not always have to be expensive.

There are a plethora of great creators out there with a range of commercials on all three platforms.

Sujot Malhotra

Sujot Malhotra, Chief Business Officer of Beardo, said that while most of these platforms are evolved enough to help one play his/her cards right as long as he/she is clear about the objective and content, there is no one answer here. It depends on the task and the kind of association.

Echoing the same view, experts agreed that the cost is directly dependent on the reach one is targeting, the influencer one ropes in, along with the kind of brand and its budget and objective.

Kartik Kala

Kartik Kala, Business Head, TopSocial India, explained that when it comes to brand awareness, TikTok is highly cost-effective as it has significantly higher rates of engagement and low investment in terms of time and production. Influencers on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, charge more in ascending order, according to the efforts deployed and credibility attached to them.

Kalyan Kumar

Adding, Kalyan Kumar, CEO and Co-founder, Social Catalyzers, said, "TikTok could get you more traction, but the depth of it will remain a question. We have all seen great TV ads that were hilarious, but we don't quite remember the brand cracking it. Also, the quality of influencers and their brand relevance is stronger for higher 'involvement' brands on Instagram than TikTok."

Pawan Sarda

Pawan Sarda, Group Head, Digital, Future Group, said the cost is comparatively higher on Instagram as it gives better profiles of the customers.

Apart from the cost, each of these platforms has its charm. As technology, innovation and creativity are booming at this time, an increasing number of audience and creators are joining the wagon and contributing to the success of influencer marketing in many forms.

TikTok, which was nowhere three years ago, has now become the massiest platform. One might also argue that YouTube, which has been hailing on its quality and in-depth content until now, will see audiences migrate to different platforms as it increasingly becomes stricter for influencers and brands due to the policy changes.

So how does the future for each of these platforms look like given their challenging and sometimes hostile policies?

Prashant Sharma

Instagram by far has been most brand-friendly, according to Prashant Sharma, CMO, NOFILTR Group, but at the same time; he sees a lot of Gen Z and the next generation moving towards TikTok as a medium to consume and create content.

Karthik Nagarajan

"I used to believe that social platforms will die, but over the last five to six years, by the sheer brute force of investment, they have ensured that they will probably outlive us in all probability. While each of them is unique in their own way, there is always scope for newer platforms to replace/complement them," said Karthik Nagarajan, Chief Content Officer, Wavemaker.

As spotting fake followers and adapting to changing algorithms is a major concern when it comes to influencer-led campaigns, Kala feels that finding relevant influencers that align with the brand is the key to a successful collaboration. This is easier on platforms like YouTube where influencers have a particular area of expertise and, in turn, their audience are interested in a specific niche. Though there is mass reach and deeper penetration on TikTok, unclear insights on audience demographics make it challenging to choose influencers pertinent to a brand.

He said with advertisements relatively new on TikTok, and record-breaking no. of users on the platform, brands would bet big on it shortly. However, the rise of one platform doesn't necessarily lead to the demise of another. The three mediums will cut each other’s share of marketing but will co-exist.

There is space for all platforms to co-exist; however, each of them will continue to find deeper roots with select psychographics of consumers.

While Sharma of NOFILTR said that the recent change in the policy of YouTube has made it difficult for brands to opt for its collaborations, Kumar of Social Catalyzers thinks the opposite.

Kumar said, "Google is known to be working hard with content creators and showcasing their use to brands. But their content is the longer format. For an influencer, traditionally, you had to make great or likeable content to grow your base on Instagram/YouTube. The same is not so true with creativity being the only requirement on TikTok (with humour/entertainment as a prime leg), and production is not a deterrent. Consumers increasingly want to watch shorter durations — the brain works like that."

YouTube in January this year had announced the policy that required users to declare whether their content is explicitly for children; they also have the option to designate their whole channel as "always" for kids or "never" for kids, which concerned video creators as their revenue may be adversely affected.

Even Nagarajan thinks YouTube is clearly not what it used to be.

"I think YouTube has been impacted by policy changes on other platforms as well," he said.

With YouTube's vague policy of terminating content creators if they are not commercially viable, TopSocial's Kala commented that the platform has limited the scope of influencers to put forth their content on the platform. The new policy of 'marking videos made for kids' restricts them from being displayed to the majority. With stricter vigilance, anything deemed objectionable: ranging from cyberbullying to the derogatory portrayal is pulled down. However, it can't be denied that the avenues on the platform are immense, he added. Creative content finds its way to flourish.

One should not forget that anyone working in the digital space has to be open to adapt to changes. Policies change, algorithms change and creators have to mend their ways to survive. Policy changes will happen with all platforms and brands, and influencers will have to evolve accordingly.

The only thing that will make brands stand out, irrespective of the platform, is the content quality. Content speaks for itself, and if people enjoy it, then they will share it.

Bhavya Sharma

"If your content is not getting enough traction you can't blame the platform for it," said Bhavya Sharma, Head, Communications and Brand Partnerships, Urban Company. 

Content@BuzzInContent.com