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TikTok vs. Meta: Which Platform Reigns Supreme for Advertisers?

Meta vs. TikTok: Which Platform Reigns Supreme for Advertisers?

With over 100 million users in the United States and 1.5 billion globally, TikTok is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms. TikTok will likely surpass Meta in just a few years at its current growth rate. It boasts almost 200 million users in the US and 3 billion globally. For advertisers, this is an opportunity to leverage a new channel with a massive number of users and one of the highest engagement rates (54 minutes/day) out of all other social media apps. 

Because of its meteoric rise, clients consistently ask us to activate digital advertising campaigns on TikTok and, sometimes, to reallocate budget from ad platforms like Meta and Google.

When comparing TikTok and Meta head to head, there are eight key considerations: 

  1. Ease of Setup & Support: 

TikTok is a newer channel, and it's clear that they are still "building the airplane" while flying a million miles an hour. You must set up a TikTok page, a TikTok business manager, a TikTok ads account, and a TikTok shops account. To leverage influencers on TikTok, you must set up an account on the TikTok creator marketplace. Each account requires you to fill out an invasive amount of business and user information to activate the account. Additionally, the workflow for setting up each account changes, and it takes time to find up-to-date documentation online. Some specific steps (like adding a billing source to an ad account) are full of bugs and can be highly frustrating when set up. 

TikTok support was beneficial only a few months ago, but now their account representatives seem overwhelmed with the volume of advertisers on the platform. Getting a rep is challenging (unless you're spending seven figures a month), and the more automated chat and support features are almost worthless. TikTok is more aggressive with ad disapprovals and it can be harder to find reasoning why certain ads were disapproved. 

Meta still requires a Facebook/Instagram page, a business manager, and an ad account, but they change their workflow less frequently, and generally, there is good online documentation to follow and Meta is more user-friendly and has a more robust user interface that changes less frequently. Meta representatives are also few and far between, and it will take a lot of work to get one unless your account is spending seven figures a month. Meta outsources chat support to the Philippines and is unhelpful (raise your hand if you've ever been in an escalation doom spiral). Meta has looser restrictions around ad approvals, but Meta is equally opaque with reasons for the disapprovals. 

  1. Platform Performance Metrics:

We've seen that TikTok has lower average CPMS ($10) and lower average click-through rates (0.5%), while Meta has higher average CPMS ($18) and higher average CTRs (1%). This calculation nets out to TikTok cost-per-clicks of $2 and Meta CPCs of $1.80. However, this heavily depends on the objective, spending rate, brand advertising type, audience targeting, and ad creative. 

Generally, TikTok traffic is slightly lower quality, so website conversion rates will also be lower for TikTok than for Meta. 

However, some unique tactics (covered later) can create significant advantages for TikTok when running conversion-based campaigns. 

  1. Audience Targeting & Ad Delivery:

TikTok's audience targeting is very similar to Meta's advertising platform. It's the same with the ability to target interest groups, Smart audiences, geography, lookalikes, and pixel-retargeting audiences. 

However, Meta appears more sophisticated with its Advantage+ broad audience targeting and can drive more efficient CACs faster. We assume this is because Meta has been around longer, has more historic conversion data, and a better machine learning process for understanding customer behavior. 

Both platforms are heavily creative-driven. When optimizing campaign performance, the better you do at optimizing ad creative, the better performance you have. Sophistication around audience target doesn't have as big of an impact, and it's best to run Smart Performance campaigns (TikTok) or Advantage+ campaigns (Meta) and leave the targeting to the ad platforms. 

  1. Creative: 

TikTok is a video-first platform that favors ads 9 to 15 seconds long. Hook rate (2-second video view/impression) is the most critical metric for optimizing video creative. TikTok creative burns out quickly, and you must refresh ad creative once a week. You don't have to launch entirely new ads; what we found works best is to edit sections of videos (like hooks or the call to action) and relaunch the same creative with a slight edit. 

Meta creative lasts longer once it's determined a winner, and you can run a winning ad for months without seeing ad fatigue. You can also significantly scale ad spending behind a single ad in Meta, which is much harder on TikTok.

However, we recommend running dynamic ads for both platforms, where you bundle all the best-performing creatives into a single ad unit and allow the platforms to dynamically serve combinations of creatives and copy to users they deem most receptive to a specific combination. Time after time, we've seen dynamic ads outperform single ads even though we knew the particular ad isolated was a historic best performer. 

  1. Scalability: 

TikTok fundamentally does not have the same scale potential as Meta. There are three reasons why this happens: Meta still has significantly more users on the platform , Meta has a greater variety of audiences and a higher number in each audience group, and Meta has collected more historic data in terms of purchase behavior (which allows for faster algorithmic learning and better  ad delivery for conversion-based campaigns). 

  1. Reporting, Attribution & Analytics: 

In the post-iOS 14.5 world, TikTok has struggled to keep up with the newly modeled attribution approach. Its pixels are generally much less accurate than Meta's, and it collects significantly less data from a purchase behavior standpoint. 

As of today, TikTok functions more as a brand awareness and discovery (see TikTok search) advertising channel and is still improving its direct-response advertising algorithms. It's hard to determine the last-click impact of TikTok due to users making their purchases on other channels like Google Search. Measuring TikTok more like a top-of-the-funnel ad channel and less like a last-click direct-response channel is essential.

Therefore, if measuring TikTok performance on UTMs or last-click alone, it will always underperform compared to Google Search or even Meta. However, that doesn't mean that TikTok isn't driving a significant amount of revenue relative to ad spending; it's just harder to attribute its impact on revenue directly. 

  1. Learning & Optimization:

TikTok campaigns learn much faster in terms of ad delivery. TikTok can understand user behavior and interest based on video engagement alone and quickly start delivering relevant content. This learning process is radically faster than Meta.

However, from a conversion perspective, Meta learns potential purchase behavior much faster and can generate better CAC and ROAS and you can rely on Meta to remain consistent week after week without any changes to the account. 

TikTok also quickly churns through ads, and performance is much more volatile week over week. TikTok campaigns require constant maintenance (typically in the form of launching new video ads) to maintain the same consistent levels of performance seen in a Meta campaign.

  1. Unique Advantages: 

TikTok has two critical advantages over Meta that are almost required to scale the ad account effectively: 

Spark Ads 

  1. You take top-performing organic posts (video views and engagement) from the TikTok organic channel and promote them in a paid advertising campaign. Sparks Ads has outperformed every campaign we've launched when we have uploaded creative content directly into the ad campaign (the typical approach).

TikTok Shops

  1. TikTok shops are a much more seamless experience than directing customers to a Shopify product page. This user flow is highly optimized to reduce as much friction as possible and makes it extremely easy for a customer to make a purchase. It's also much faster because the user doesn't need to leave TikTok. TikTok shops are hard to set up and TikTok has recently increased fees, but they radically improve conversion rates and are worth the extra time, effort, and cost to activate. 

Key Takeaway

Since we are a performance agency laser-focused on customer acquisition cost and revenue, this analysis will be based on each platform's performance related to customer acquisition cost, revenue, and return on ad spend. While our general recommendation is to test scale TikTok as long as it's profitable, we've generally found the following to be the optimal budget distribution to maximize return on ad spend and maintain profitable customer acquisition costs for direct-to-consumer advertising:

Meta: 40%

Google PMAX: 20%

TikTok: 15%

YouTube Shorts: 10%

Google Search: 10%

Bing Ads: 5%

Due to Our Focused Approach, We Only Work with Ten Clients at a Time.

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