What Is the Most Valuable Social Media Platform? 2023 Analysis by Climbers Crag


Authored by Sam Van Boxtel

Social media is crucial for brand building, yet trying to make the most of it can feel disorienting. It’s easy to waste your time/budget/focus by making these 5 common Instagram mistakes or simply choosing the wrong platform. But when it comes to choosing which platform is best for your goals, there are some core considerations you can lean on for guidance that will help you get the most bang for your buck.

In this article, I’m going to evaluate the two most prominent platforms, Instagram (IG) and YouTube (YT), through the lens of content creation and paid partnerships. (To keep the article brief, I’ll skip paid advertising through these platforms.) The most valuable platform will be different for each brand based on a few simple factors, and the goal of this quick article is to help you get the best return on your investment of time, focus and budget.

Sam Van Boxtel
Instagram and YouTube are considered the most prominent social media platforms for climbing brands. Which one can help you the most? Sam Van Boxtel and the Climbers Crag team have the beta that’s backed by experience. (All images courtesy of Climbers Crag)

This probably isn’t the first article you’ve read from a “social media marketing expert,” but here are four reasons I’m a bit different:

  1. I founded Climbers Crag, a social media agency for the climbing industry, with Tom Randall in 2021 because I could see that there was a huge opportunity for better practices in this area of the industry—practices that weren’t just fancy marketing speak with big budgets behind them. I wanted to create cost and time effective systems that deliver real business results.
  2. Now ~2 years later, our team is managing and growing 22 brands on Instagram and YouTube by handling everything but holding the camera (strategy, editing, design, coordinating with athletes and brand partners, publishing, etc.).
  3. In Q1, our Instagram clients averaged 8.4x higher follower growth than the climbing industry average (calculated from the data on Socialblade.com on the top 100 climbing brands on Instagram).
  4. I’ve been climbing all my adult life and in a short space of time have ensured that I’ve been hands-on in almost every aspect of a climbing gym (Front Desk, Head Routesetter, Digital Marketing Manager, etc.).

Curious who we work with? Here are some of the accounts we mange.

Instagram vs. YouTube paid partnerships


First, let’s start with some terminology. I define “paid partnerships” as any creative partnership between a brand and creator that includes compensation and has the goal of promoting your brand/product. For example, a paid partnership could be a 30-second ad-read on YouTube or an Instagram story with a link.

Also, to avoid any confusion, by “climbing brand” I mean any business in the climbing industry (gyms, manufacturers, etc.), and by “creators” I mean athletes, ambassadors or other well-known individuals with a large following on social media.

Paid Partnerships on YouTube

There’s no doubt in my mind that YouTube is currently the king of paid partnerships for climbing brands working with athletes/ambassadors or other creators. There are several YouTube creators who have built massive communities that know, like and trust them. That is the main reason why these creators can provide you 4-13x ROAS and significantly better ROI than Instagram creators of the same size.

YouTube partnerships can be great for…

  • Boosting brand awareness.
  • Immediately increasing your website sales. (Our clients typically see 4-13x ROAS in the first 7 days.)
  • Highlighting your brand/product for ~5 minutes (much longer than IG content).

YouTube partnerships are less appealing if…

  • A minority of your revenue comes through your website.
  • You can’t set up discounts/coupon codes.
  • You don’t have at least a ~$2,000/month budget.

Paid Partnerships on Instagram

For the last 2-4 years, Instagram has been home to the majority of paid partnerships between athletes/ambassadors and brands. It’s still an amazing place for creative, brand boosting partnerships. However, for our clients, it’s proven difficult to accurately determine ROI on Instagram compared to YouTube.

Instagram partnerships can be great for…

  • Boosting brand awareness.
  • Engaging your community in creative ways (stories, challenges, comments, etc.).
  • Highlighting your brand/product for ~5 seconds (much shorter than YT content).

Instagram partnerships are less appealing if…

  • You want to drive immediate, attributed revenue.
  • Your current goals aren’t connected to brand awareness.
  • You want your product highlighted for longer than ~5 seconds.

Summary: YouTube currently crushes Instagram in paid partnerships ROI

I firmly believe that most climbing brands would be able to get a much higher ROI through paid partnerships on YouTube compared to Instagram. It really boils down to the watch time comparison: Would you rather creatively integrate your brand in front of your target audience for roughly 5 seconds or roughly 5 minutes? It can be slightly more expensive to run a longer video, but it’s well worth it to drive meaningful and attributable revenue from the partnerships.

The best example of this ROI is one partnership we coordinated for our client Crimpd. The partnership was with Emil Abrahamsson, and the one YouTube video with the brand that was creatively integrated resulted in Crimpd having the most downloads and revenue generated in a single day across the Crimpd app’s 5-year history.

If you’re interested in Climbers Crag coordinating a test campaign with YouTube creators for your brand, just shoot an email to me at Sam@climberscrag.com with “YouTube Test Campaign” in the subject line.

Instagram vs. YouTube content creation


In 2023, both brands and content creators share content on YouTube and/or Instagram to build and grow their audience and revenue. But which platform is the best for each party to invest in?

Creating Content for YouTube

YouTube is hands down the best platform for content creation because it delivers great reach, long watch time, and massive revenue potential. However, YouTube is the hardest platform for creating content consistently.

Creating content for YouTube is valuable because…

  • You have a much higher revenue potential compared to other platforms. (Nearly all our clients make $1,000/month in YouTube AdSense alone, not counting the significant increase in product sales, Patreon memberships, paid partnerships, etc.)
  • You can receive massive watch time with your audience, allowing you to build robust trust and authority.
  • YouTube is amazing at recommending your content directly to your target audience when you create valuable and optimized content.

YouTube probably isn’t right for you if…

  • You don’t have hours of long-form video content.
  • You don’t have at least a $1,000/month budget to pay for the editing/design/strategy support that it takes to be successful.
  • You don’t have the resources to devote 3-6 months of consistent content creation before becoming established and profitable.

Creating Content for Instagram

When it comes to content creation, Instagram is still the right choice for most brands and the one I recommend to nearly all our clients. It delivers great reach and several different methods to connect with your target audience. However, Instagram can easily become a waste of money if you don’t have clear goals and a social media manager who’s keeping up with your content performance and the platform’s latest best practices.

Creating content for Instagram is valuable because…

  • You can effectively reach your target audience with content that’s much easier to create than YouTube content.
  • You can engage your audience through several different methods (stories, raffles, DMs, etc.).
  • It’s where a majority of your target audience interacts every day.

Summary: Instagram beats YouTube for most brands; however, YouTube destroys Instagram for content creators

For brands that already have long-form content and the team in place to create it, there’s massive reach and revenue potential with YouTube. But if you don’t have hours of long-form video content already created, I don’t think starting a YouTube channel is a worthwhile investment. It will only drain your team’s time/budget/focus from more valuable tasks, such as coordinating creative paid partnerships with YouTube creators.

For creators, it’s basically the opposite. I’ve seen countless amazing Instagram climbing creators come and go due to the lack of revenue potential. YouTube is worth the grind and hard work, since there’s meaningful revenue potential if you can consistently create valuable and optimized content.

Instagram vs. YouTube conclusion


I hope you now have a better understanding of which social media platform is most valuable to your brand. If you’re still unsure or have some questions, just email me at Sam@climberscrag.com with “CBJ Article” in the subject line and I’ll help out however I can!

For Brands:

Paid Partnerships = YouTube > Instagram

Content Creation = Instagram > YouTube

For Creators:

Content Creation = YouTube > Instagram

Want to work with Climbers Crag to grow your brand on Instagram or YouTube? Check out our website or email me (Sam@climbercrag.com) for a 100% free consulting call.


This story was paid for by the sponsor and does not necessarily represent the views of the Climbing Business Journal editorial team.

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Our whole team at Climbers Crag is obsessed with climbing, and we currently only work with brands in the climbing industry. We’ve also built some of the largest climbing accounts on social media before working with clients. We grew the @climbers.crag Instagram account to 300k followers in less than a year, from 0 views to the second-most-viewed climbing channel on YouTube in 10 months, from 0 to 60,000+ followers on TikTok in 3 months, and created one of the largest climbing Facebook groups (30,000+ members). Through those experiences, we developed our proprietary processes and best practices and now want to use them to help grow your brand.