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YouTube vs. TikTok – Which Is The Better Educational Platform?

YouTube is the world’s favorite teacher

We’ve all been there: you need to fix something, cook something, build something, or understand how the heck something works and the last thing you want to do is read a manual or a lengthy blog post. So, you hop onto YouTube for a tutorial or explainer for the problem at hand. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. According to Think with Google, 7 in 10 YouTube viewers use the platform to help with a problem they’re having with their work, hobbies, or studies. 86% of US users say they often use the platform to learn something new. Especially now, consumers are flocking to YouTube for how-to’s and classes while stuck at home. 

But there’s a new educational platform in town – TikTok. A growing number of consumers are leveraging TikTok for inspiration and lessons in every area, using #TikTokMadeMeDoIt to track their results. The platform is even looking into baking this behavior into their interface, testing a dedicated “Learn” tab to host snackable educational content. 

Putting platforms to the test

The benefits of quality explainer content go beyond helping people with day to day tasks. Brands can leverage this content to educate consumers about their products or related topics, engaging and helping their targets to build a deeper connection. But a major question still remains: what platform is the better teacher? 

We decided to put them both to the test by trying out tutorial videos on both YouTube and TikTok from two of the most popular categories: cooking and crafts. Each of us took a week to try a tutorial from each platform in our respective categories. Along the way we learned the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, implications for brands who want to dip their toe in the educational waters, and whether or not that viral ramen dish tastes as good as it looks. 

Shelby’s Tutorial Head-to-Head: Cooking 

TikTok Tutorial

One day while scrolling through TikTok, I stumbled upon a video of someone making ramen. The yellow noodles were covered in a miso peanut sauce and made a satisfying squishing sound – a sign of any great noodle dish. Completely entranced, I watched as the cook broke down how to create this comforting meal in ten easy steps, most of which were just combining the sauce’s ingredients in a white ramekin. While watching the cook make the ramen dish reeled me in, it was the simplicity of the recipe that truly sold me on trying to make it myself. 

Luckily, I already had most of the ingredients lying around, but I needed to get some ramen. Running to Whole Foods, I was a little disappointed in their slim selection of noodles. Most of them looked a little too healthy to actually taste good, but then I remembered the TikTok cook saying that any ramen noodle would do; so I grabbed a box and checked out. This was my first mistake. 

After getting home, I gathered all of my supplies and returned to the TikTok video. Even though the measurements showed up on both the screen and in the voiceover, I was having a hard time getting them right because the video moved so quickly. After missing a crucial step (I didn’t reserve some of the ramen water, which the cook deemed essential) and having to listen to the same audio play over, and over, and over again, my boyfriend recommended that I screenrecord the video so I can pause, rewind, and play with ease. Brillant. 

I followed the cook’s suggestion of adding bok choy and sautéed bell peppers (he used mushrooms, but I can’t get past their texture) to the finished product. Did it look as enticing as the bowl featured in the video? No. I have the thin, healthy, organic ramen noodles from Whole Foods to thank for that. But, did it taste good? For the most part, yes. The flavors were amazing, and the texture was fine. However, not having the right noodles really put a damper on the whole dish. The TikTok cook led me in the right direction with the sauce, but the “any noodle will do” bit was my ramen’s downfall.

YouTube Tutorial

Discovering a recipe on YouTube was not nearly as organic as it was on TikTok. YouTube’s algorithm shows you videos on your homepage that you might be interested in based off of other content you’ve watched. This makes sense. However, all of my suggested videos were either related to yoga, drag queens, or makeup tutorials - not very helpful in this particular instance. I knew that I wanted to bake something, but I really didn’t know where to start. Relying on my previous baking and cooking knowledge, I decided to search for some well-known chefs to get the ball rolling. 

After skimming through a couple of Ina Garten videos (the Barefoot Contessa), I was served suggested videos that might interest me along the right side of the screen. That’s when I saw videos from the Bon Appétit YouTube account. BA’s YouTube channel, and the company in general, has recently come under fire for numerous reasons (foodies will know), but these recommended videos reminded me of a recipe that I have always been dying to try: Claire Saffitz’s Blood Orange and Olive Oil Cake. Reinspired, I took to the search bar to find a video that would help make my citrus confectionary dreams come true. 

Not being picky, I clicked on the first suggested video and followed an amateur’s baking journey. Interestingly enough, he decided to also bake a version of Saffitz’s cake with more pedestrian ingredients along with the original recipe. This off-the-cuff element was surprising and transformed the once-traditional tutorial format into an exciting experiment. 

The video was definitely longer than your typical TikTok video, but I didn’t mind the extra time since it included helpful tips and tricks pulled straight from Saffitz’s book. I’m a visual learner, so the close-ups of how the batter should fall off the whisk when it’s done and other visual cues were extremely helpful. I also was thoroughly appreciative of being able to easily pause, rewind and play the video – something that definitely tripped me up while trying to follow the TikTok recipe. 

All in all, my cake wasn’t as beautiful as Claire Saffitz’s,. But guess what? Neither was the YouTuber’s! As someone who has a hard time when my final products don’t match the original inspiration, this greatly comforted me. Following a video from a baker with a similar skill level as me and not stressing about having to play the video over and over again to view the ingredients really allowed me to have fun.

Julia’s Tutorial Head to Head: Crafts 

TikTok Tutorial 

My first experiment started unintentionally. While scrolling through TikTok, I was served a video showing a now-viral trend of a woman turning old glassware into chic faux ceramics using a coating of paint mixed with baking powder. That’s it. Mix, paint, done. No ratios, no specific recommendations for the types of glassware. I was skeptical that the project was that easy, but the results looked so good, I was eager to try it out. 

I took one more look at the video and grabbed the paint and baking supplies lying around my apartment, along with an old vase from a flower delivery. I added a heaping tablespoon of baking powder to the paint (let’s be honest, it wasn’t an actual tablespoon. I used a plastic spoon from the takeout I had forgotten to trash), and voila! I had a thick, foamy coating that looked exactly like the mixture in the video. 

Thirty minutes and a few decorative details later, I had a cute vase that looked as if I had discovered it in a small, beach town shop and not in the literal recycling bin. As the kids say, I was shook.

YouTube Tutorial 

My journey into YouTube crafts was not as organic. I stared at my homepage for a few seconds until I lamely typed “crafts” into the search. The first few videos I was served were from the much maligned 5-Minute Crafts series which featured explainers for gold plating your toilet (not really my style) and how to sneak food into a club by taping it to your body (not a craft; also, gross). There were also several supercuts of DIYs using items from stores like Dollar Tree, but clocking in at 30+ minutes, they seemed too long to sift through.

I figured I needed to narrow things down and searched “paper mache” to fuel my new upcycled-craft obsession, which gave me thousands of videos with different project ideas. I ended up choosing an intriguing yet approachable short video from DIY Mom titled “How to Make Papier-Mâché - Unicorn Head Paper Mache”. Luckily, the extra time was appreciated as I parsed out how to approximate the shape of a horse head out of newspaper. This is where pausing and rewinding came in handy as well, as I needed to take a second look at the example in the video, and quickly skipped over any filler monologue and the big reveal at the end. Overall, the format worked well with the more involved project. 



Platform Pros & Cons 

 

YouTube 

Pros

Cons

Unlimited time to dive into complex topics and details.

Creators will often pad videos with excessive and unnecessary information.

Users can easily pause, fast forward, and rewind to review specific notes.

The sheer amount of content requires some sifting to find the best choice.

Videos are easily searchable.

Limited discovery – users must have a rough idea of what they’re looking for at the start of a search.

Has a very personal feeling due to its blogging format.

Overly-polished influencers can be intimidating or off putting.

Best practice tips include featuring bloopers or outtakes. AKA, making mistakes is okay.

Recommended videos aren’t always as directly related to those you’re currently watching.

 

TikTok 

Pros

Cons

Content is quick and digestible.

Videos are difficult to pause and often have to be rewatched multiple times.

The For You Page adds an element of fun and discovery.

Searching for content isn’t as clear.

Tutorials are easy and straightforward for the most part.

The library of videos is more limited, especially if you’re looking for a specific answer.

The overall style of the platform is looser, more playful, and more relatable.

Format is limiting for more complex explainers.

Creators frequently respond to followers’ comments and questions.

Users are not able to organize saved TikToks, so it can take time to find a specific saved video.

By interacting with tutorial videos you’re interested in, the algorithm will make sure similar videos are featured on your For You Page.

Having to listen to the same audio over and over again can be irritating.

 

There’s a lag between tapping the video and it actually pausing.

 

Implications for Brands

  • Be where your audience – or potential audience – is
    Spoiler alert: There’s no winner when it comes to YouTube vs. TikTok tutorials. Instead, marketers should think about where their targets spend their time and how they search for information. 
  • Understand your brand’s social ecosystem
    Think about how you can leverage your other channels to drive to your video content, or vice versa, to boost engagement and create a holistic social experience. 
  • Deliver unique yet relevant tutorials that fit to your brand
    Think about how you can make your content stand out from the sea of videos while still being helpful. This could be achieved by showcasing a new recipe or a creative makeup look. 
  • Save more complex tutorials for YouTube, and lighter ones for TikTok
    If a tutorial can’t be simplified, leverage YouTube’s longer run time. Shorter tutorials should go to TikTok, rather than trying to stretch them out. 
  • Consider who is representing your brand
    If you choose to leverage influencers or talent for your videos, consider how well they deliver information and if they fit with your overall brand look and feel.
  • Make sure content feels native to the platform
    Content should fit with the look and feel of each platform. For YouTube, that means well-lit, quality videos that are clear and digestible. For TikTok, content can be looser and shot on a phone camera, using native editing styles. 

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