Is TikTok Trying to Become YouTube?

As Instagram Retreats, TikTok Emerges As a Shopping Destination

It was spotted this week that TikTok is testing a sizable update to its core media format: longer videos. Specifically, it’s toying with a max upload length of 60 minutes. This would mark the fourth change to its format after increasing the max from 15 seconds to 30 seconds, then to 3 minutes, and 10 minutes.

So why the moving target? TikTok continues to angle itself to appeal to creators and users, but this move is more about the former. In both cases, longer videos boost and broaden the types of videos and use cases for TikTok. The app is all about creativity, so a broadened format opens the door wider.

This move is also demand-driven in some ways, and follows signals from the TikTok community. For example, many creators produce longer videos, then break them up as “part 2, part 3, etc.” Longer videos keep things more cohesive and user-friendly, avoiding friction and finger taps for users.

But most of all, we believe this is about becoming increasingly competitive with YouTube. As the king of the creator economy, at least when it comes to video, YouTube is famously forgiving when it comes to massive video files, including long-form formats as well as high frame rates and resolution up to 8K.

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Start Small

Another question this video-length evolution raises is what are the implications for SMBs? This question is top of mind for TikTok as it’s increasingly used by local businesses to tell their stories and gain awareness and visibility. Indeed, this is a big part of TikTok’s lobbying efforts to stay alive in the U.S.

How do longer videos factor in? They can only help these SMB efforts given fewer restrictions. Anyone who has ever produced video knows that the biggest challenge is post-production editing. SMBs can now include more footage to capture their business vibes… which is the whole point of TikTok marketing.

In that light, as we’ve examined, the name of the game for SMB marketing on TikTok is to lean into the medium’s raw and organic persona. Best practices examples include things like kitchen walkthroughs, delivery ride-alongs, or videos that play up the craveability of food, such as BBQ wings preparation.

Not only does longer video offer fewer restrictions, but it opens the door for SMBs to repurpose some of the stuff they may be doing on YouTube. Though TikTok videos have a certain language and style (again, time-lapses, rapid jump-cuts, etc.), there could be room to repurpose as the lines continue to blur.

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Carrying On

And that brings us back to the increasing competition with YouTube. The longer TikTok videos get and the more they resemble YouTube’s videos (think: long stretches of narrative without all the rapid jump-cuts), the more YouTube-savvy SMBs may feel comfortable extending their efforts to TikTok.

Stepping back, this move also represents a certain agility for TikTok. As tech and media products evolve, the biggest success stories aren’t afraid to pivot as the ground shifts. Sometimes these changes are larger and more controversial than others – like Twitter expanding to from 140 characters to 280.

Perhaps a better example is YouTube itself. You may remember back in the early Web 2.0 days that it imposed a 15-minute cap on uploaded videos. That slowly ratcheted up, just like TikTok is doing now. And eventually, YouTube removed the cap altogether and increasingly unlocks things like 8K, as noted.

Meanwhile, don’t be surprised to soon see TikTok’s longer format on a smartphone near you. Of course, this all hinges on the elephant in the room: TikTok’s impending ban in the U.S.. Much of that will become clear as its deadline to divest or deport rapidly approaches. Until then, product evolution carries on.

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