It seems that every two or three years a new social media platform catches everyone’s attention, and YouTubers are quick to jump on board. Years ago it was Vine, then Snapchat, then YouNow and now it’s TikTok. While establishing a foothold on these platforms can be a good way to get attention, it’s taught us something about how best to use our time.
Warren Buffet famously said the following about time: “It’s the one thing you can’t buy. I mean, I can buy anything I want basically, but I can’t buy time.” Many business owners can get around this unfortunate fact by hiring employees to get things done for them, but online creators have a specific problem with this: they rely on themselves to be the driving creative force of their content. As such, it’s exceptionally difficult to scale content creation.
But it doesn’t end there. A YouTuber making more YouTube videos is one thing — it uses a specific set of skills — but a YouTuber making TikTok videos is another. Making TikTok content requires different skills than those used to make YouTube or Twitch content. That means that while a creator may be able to make content that resonates on one platform, they may utterly fail at another. The legions of Vine super-stars who couldn’t gain a foothold on YouTube post-Vine are evidence of this.
And even if they do manage to succeed on a new platform, there’s a good chance that platform will either not be able to meaningfully contribute toward their bread-and-butter business, or the platform will simply shut down. Vine was an incredibly popular platform that shut down practically overnight. Snapchat continues on, but it never emerged as a platform for building an audience, as many YouTubers thought it might. Today, TikTok is exploding in popularity, but its ability to operate in the United States is threatened by a national security investigation into its Chinese parent company.
There are three reasons for a creator to join a new platform and invest time and money in building an audience there. First, it could help build an audience elsewhere; for example, posting on TikTok may make your YouTube channel grow faster than it would normally. Second, it could be lucrative on its own. Finally, it could be super fun. If none of these are true, my advice is to focus on what works and leave the experimentation to others.