If TikTok Gets Banned, Who Takes Over? Ranking the Successors.

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Last week, I posted a poll on my twitter as a thought exercise for the following question: What does a world look like without TikTok?

It’s been on the minds of marketers, creators, and brands alike.

In a span of weeks where many of its top Gen Z creators have been feuding and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has mentioned that the United States is considering banning TikTok (Ben Thompson has an excellent piece on Stratechery going over the context of the TikTok war here) — there is certainly some anxiety about that world.

But as the legality of a ban remains in question, stars are scrambling. Its star creators — many of whom are topping Billboard and Spotify charts, teasing reality TV projects, and signing on to talent agencies — are wondering how their distribution will size up with other platforms.

Brands similarly may have reason to worry — the NBA, Washington Post, and Chipotle are one of just many brands building distribution networks on TikTok that may have to axe that funnel entirely in the face of more competitive algorithms elsewhere.

But back to my question above — the Twitter poll ended up getting close to 500+ votes with the following results — a resounding victory for Instagram.

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I decided it might be fun to explore the case for each — rather than take the focus-group approach the way I normally would when evaluating a business opportunity (i.e. how many Gen Z users are on each platform, how many are on TikTok, trends in Gen Z consumption etc.), I decided to create a fun scoring system of my own, compromised of totally arbitrary metrics:

  • CC Score — Content Creation Friction Score: How easy is it to create a video just like TikTok? With text, music, and effects? (1–5)

The only caveat is that it doesn’t matter how well known they are now (assume they all become equally well-known in this new world) — it’s a hypothetical after all.

Now, let’s get started!

Instagram

Instagram is, of course, the leading candidate in the poll and for good reason — as a mobile and visual first platform with market dominance, it’s easy to imagine that they would take over the TikTok audience. They are currently preparing a TikTok type competitor called Reels, that is meant to be a content studio of sorts — a bit more refined than the standard Instagram story. But is this enough to make a 1:1 transition?

  • CC Score: While creating content on Instagram is easy and will likely be a bit easier with the Reels rollout — there is still an incredible amount of complexity to meet the needs of a standard TikTok. TikTok is binary — 15 or 60 second video — with Instagram, you can have photos, videos, stories, standard feeds, different points of creation etc. the simplicity of an off-the-cuff dance video is lost in the sheer optionality of content creation here. Stories integrate music well and Reels might be a step above — let us stay optimistic. CC Score: 3.

Instagram: 21/30

Youtube

If TikTok is seen as the pre-eminent art studio, think about Youtube as a museum. Whereas TikTok might have rough cuts and bloopers regularly making their way into the standard feed, Youtube has the ability to source and share full-length cinematic presentations. But does that mean it wins the war here?

  • CC Score: Similar to Instagram, Youtube has its own creation tool called Creator Studio. But the name is a bit of a misnomer — it doesn’t give you the same option for effects/music as TikTok does — if anything, it’s an easier way to upload videos you’ve created elsewhere and then manage and distribute them across Youtube. What happens if you search “Best way to create a video on Youtube?” — Adobe Spark comes up as the first option. Boo! CC Score: 1.

Youtube: 16.5/30

Byte

Byte is likely the one most people are unfamiliar with — it’s a short-form video hosting service where users can create 6-second looping videos a la Vine. It was founded by Dom Hofmann (co-founder of Vine) and has been referred to often as a direct competitor to TikTok. But is it though?

  • CC Score: This is where Byte really beats out the others in potential — the app allows you to make videos, add music, add text, and explore one or two effects with relative ease. The timing is still short and effects are a bit sparse — but nothing that Byte couldn’t build on top of. As far as I can see here, strong chance to rebuild TikTok’s creation tools. CC Score: 3.5.

Byte: 19/30

So there you have it — Instagram still wins, but there are definitely some areas where other platforms have an advantage. I look forward to seeing how Byte responds to the rise in its interest and whether Dom Hoffman has a playbook from growing Vine that will mold into what they’ve learned from TikTok — but for the time being, it doesn’t look like TikTok is going anywhere.

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I’m currently a growth marketer at Livongo based out of the Bay Area and enjoy sharing insights around growth, careers, and personal anecdotes. I also like meaningless controversies (check out ranking of the best fast food fries) and spending my days finding the best Super burrito in San Francisco. All opinions are my own. Get in touch here or via @kushaanshah on Twitter.

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Growth @Livongo • Bostonian • Fan of sports and quirky theatre • Marketing Nerd • Weekly reads http://mindmeld.substack.com ✍️

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