Monetization

TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts: Which Platform Makes You Money?

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The TikTok bug has spread — what used to be a short-form video app where teens dance to the latest trending sounds is now a platform worth copying. YouTube has Shorts, Instagram has Reels, and surely some other platform out there is trying to find a way to do it better than the rest. When you’re a content creator, it can be tough to determine where you should be putting your attention on, and how much you’ll get paid for doing so.

Let’s go over the three top players in the short-form video game: TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts. To figure out which platform you should focus on, read on to learn how each of them is rewarding creators for their hard work.

How to monetize TikTok

TikTok has single-handedly brought short-form video to the mainstream, with some of its top creators like Khaby Lame earning as much as $10 million in 2021. So you’d think that the platform has figured out the monetization problem, right?

Well, yes and no.

For many TikTokers, a large chunk of their income still comes from outside the platform, whether that’s from external brand deals or investing in completely unrelated ventures. In fact, that revenue diversification is often key to their success. That said, within the app itself, TikTok does offer a monetization program called Creator Next.

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Part partner program and part fund, Creator Next gets TikTok creators paid, while also giving them access to more opportunities. Here’s a quick overview of the program:

In 2022, TikTok also introduced TikTok Pulse, which features an advertising revenue share program with creators. However, this is currently only available to a small fraction of creators. Only those with a minimum of 100,000 followers are eligible in the initial stage of this program. Additionally, only the top 4% of all TikTok videos can be monetized through TikTok Pulse.

Want more tips on how you can get paid on TikTok? Download our guide to making money on TikTok here.

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How to monetize Instagram Reels

Instagram is coming for TikTok’s spot as short-form video top dog. The platform recently rolled out a number of changes to try and emulate its competitor, though it quickly rolled back some of those updates — like full-screen feed — due to user backlash. However, it’s probably only a matter of time before Instagram tries something else to close the gap.

So, as a creator, how can you make money off your Reels?

Unsurprisingly, the people at Meta are going out of their way to encourage creators to publish more Reels through its Instagram Reels Play bonus program. Currently being tested in the U.S. and India, the program rewards creators with money if their Reels reach a certain number of views. For example, this creator’s tweet reveals that, in October 2021, he had the opportunity to earn up to $8,500 if his Reels reached … 9.28 million views.

That’s a lot.

Instagram’s bonuses program isn’t always clear on these requirements, especially since they can only be accessed by people who have business or creator accounts. Even worse, the Reels Play bonus program isn’t available for many languages, meaning creators outside English-speaking markets might not even have access to it.

But if you have access to the program, it can definitely be an enticing way to monetize your Instagram Reels content. Just keep an eye out for those bonuses as they pop up, since you only have 30 days to capitalize on them.

Thankfully, bonuses aren’t the only way to monetize your Reels. Back in July, Instagram updated its Subscriptions feature so that you can share exclusive Reels content with your subscribers. While that doesn’t necessarily allow you to monetize the Reels directly, the energy you put into creating them will at the very least contribute to your overall income.

How to monetize YouTube Shorts

To make money on YouTube, the best way had always been to follow a two-pronged approach. First, you needed to grow your channel until it was eligible for enrollment in YouTube’s Partner Program — 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 public watch hours. Then, once you had some momentum, you would work with brands to create sponsored content and rake in some cash that way.

So, how do YouTube Shorts fit into this process?

With Shorts being one of YouTube’s newest features, it wasn’t exactly clear how it could contribute to a YouTube creator’s success. Sure, these bite-sized videos were a great way to increase engagement and broaden your audience, but they didn’t exactly bring home the bacon.

Well, now that’s changed.

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During the Made on YouTube live event on September 20, YouTube announced that it’ll allow creators to begin monetizing Shorts through ad revenue sharing. Ads will play between Shorts on a user’s feed, meaning the onus isn’t on creators to somehow introduce branded segments into their 60-second — or shorter — videos. Revenue made from these ads will be lumped together, then distributed to creators, who get to keep 45% of the revenue. How much money a creator receives will depend on how many views their Shorts get.

Not only that, but soon your Shorts can also help make you eligible for the YouTube Partner Program. While you’ll still need 1,000 subscribers to be a partner, you can apply to the program if your Shorts got 10 million views in the past 90 days.

Both of these changes will happen sometime in 2023. So in short, heh, there’s no direct way to monetize your YouTube Shorts quite yet, but that gap will soon be filled.

Which platform should you focus on?

Like many of life’s great questions, like whether you should get bangs or not, it depends. If you’re a content creator, no matter what that means for you, you’ll need to ask yourself a few questions before you make that call.

Is short-form video your best form of content?

Not all creators are created equal. If you love keeping up with TikTok trends and can put out quality content that capitalizes on them quickly, then you’ll probably be better served by that platform. However, if your niche is long YouTube video essays, you might not want to go all-in on TikTok.

What are your goals?

Is content creation your main game, or does it contribute to a larger business model? If you’re a photographer, for example, a platform that’s purely focused on short-form videos might not be your best bet. But if you’re a content creator through and through, then you’re free to pursue the platform that pays the best for what you do.

What revenue streams do you have?

Ask any YouTuber, and they’ll tell you that YouTube’s Partner Program isn’t exactly reliable. Videos can get demonetized, false copyright strikes are a plague, and ad revenue can be laughable. If you’re making a career out of content creation, then you’re probably already on the lookout for additional revenue streams. So ask yourself which platform has the best opportunities for building these diversified sources of income. For example, YouTube is working on a new feature that’ll allow creators to sell online courses within the platform itself.

Keep it short

No matter what kind of content creator you are, it’s becoming clear that short-form video needs to be part of your overall strategy. With each platform trying out new monetization systems to appeal to creators, it might be tough to know which one’s best for you. Just remember that this is just a part of your creative journey, and you should pick platforms that work for you. Not the other way around.

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Nicholas Bouchard
About the author

Nicholas Bouchard

Nick is a content writer and marketer with a passion for creation. His hobbies range from writing fiction to slamming folks around the wrestling ring. He can only be photographed in national parks and on mountains, and pictures of him usually come out blurry. Some wonder if he even exists at all.
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