ASMR content saw huge growth on YouTube, but now creators are flocking to TikTok instead
ASMRis a type of content that aims to soothe viewers and trigger pleasant, tingly sensations.
- It was popularized on
YouTube, but now more and more creators are moving to TikTok.
On TikTok, videos that have been tagged as "ASMR" by their creators have been viewed over 370 billion times. Popular videos include a one-minute series of short clips of a creator making pasta carbonara entirely on an outdoor fire (28 million views), 14 seconds of another creator applying blue skincare products (39 million views), and a compilation clip showing unspecified "chemicals" being dumped into a pool (13 million views).
What these videos have in common is that they claim to stimulate viewers' autonomous sensory meridian response — known as ASMR — a sensation some people experience when hearing certain "trigger" sounds such as scratching, whispering, or the physical sensation of soft touch.
@menwiththepot Carbonara on Steroids #menwiththepot #foodporn #asmr #fyp #foryou #nature #forest #cooking #food #fire #pasta #karen ♬ original sound - menwiththepot
Dr Giulia Poerio, a psychology lecturer and researcher at the University of Essex, UK, told Insider the sensation can be described as, "A tingling in the scalp which can spread throughout the body, almost like something fizzy under your skin; a pleasant relaxing sensation," and said she'd estimate around 20% of people are able to experience it.
ASMR was initially popularized on YouTube. BuzzFeed reporter Scaachi Koul, who wrote about the phenomenon in 2018, said in an episode of Netflix's "Follow This" filmed during her reporting that ASMR content had "exploded in a bigger way" over the prior three years. Google trends data for the term shows that searches date back to 2012, but saw a sharp uptick in 2016 and continue to increase up to 2021.
On the face of it, YouTube seems like a perfect platform for ASMR creators — who often refer to themselves as "ASMRtists" — given it lends itself to longer-form content, with some ASMR videos of over three hours being exceedingly popular.
But more recently, ASMR content is seeing a revival on TikTok, both in short-form content and longer livestreams. Creators say TikTok allows them to reach a broader audience, and connect with their viewers in new ways.
TikTok's livestream feature has become particularly useful for ASMR creators
Poerio told Insider her research has found that "it is possible for people to experience ASMR within a three-minute mark." However, many TikTok users flock to ASMRtists' livestreams, which typically last between one and two hours.
TikTok user Ashley Uzer told Insider she typically watches TikTok ASMR livestreams, rather than standard posts as "three minutes is not enough time to relax me."
She said, "I definitely prefer to watch it for a longer sitting, and in that case only the lives really do the trick."
@darceyangel light blue ✨ #skincare #asmr #skincareroutine #asmrskincare ♬ original sound - Youngcouture
One of the benefits of live videos as opposed to the more traditional pre-recorded YouTube format is that it allows viewers to interact with creators. On live videos, ASMRtists may mention the names of specific commenters to enhance the experience, or allow viewers to request specific actions that trigger their ASMR response, such as tapping, scratching, or hair brushing.
According to Poerio, this can create a bond between viewers and creators, and a personalized experience of ASMR can lead to a sense of security and comfort for the viewer, potentially increasing the benefits of the experience.
TikTok allows ASMR creators to reach a wider audience
While YouTube has its own livestream feature, some ASMRtists believe that TikTok's is more accessible. Davis told Insider that a YouTube livestream would gain her around 200 viewers, as it will likely only be shown to subscribers, while on TikTok she gets anywhere between 300,000-500,000 viewers on a 40-minute livestream.
She said she thinks this is mainly because her livestreams will "randomly show up" on her followers' feeds even if they're not following her.
Lucy Davis (@Lucy1ASMR on TikTok) is an ASMR content creator who posts across a range of platforms. In the two years since she's been posting on YouTube, she's grown to just under 100,000 subscribers, while in her 15 months on TikTok she's racked up almost six times the number of followers.
@lucy1asmr Love you guys. so sorry about vid on YouTube that was taken down. Will explain in video today. Will upload this afternoon xo #fyp #asmrfy #lucyasmr #youtube #linkinbio #myfam #mydiamonds ♬ original sound - Lucy ASMR
Davis believes ASMR content is less well known to TikTok users than to a YouTube audience, making it more compelling. She said she regularly receives comments from baffled viewers asking what her ASMR TikTok content is all about, and she thinks the high volume of comments asking about her videos may be encouraging the algorithm to push her content to more users.
Uzer told Insider she first discovered the genre when a livestream by @healingwithraquel came up on her feed in January which she found "therapeutic." She suddenly found herself seeing a lot of ASMR content on TikTok.
TikTok ASMR creator Kellie Atkinson, who currently has 3.9 million followers, primarily posts videos refilling containers with food or household supplies, which followers say trigger an ASMR response.
@kellie_atkinson Restocking the bathroom #restock #asmrrestock #bathroomrestock #asmrrestock #restockday #restockwithme #restockingasmr ♬ original sound - Kellie Atkinson
She noted that unlike YouTube, TikTok shows users a lot of content they haven't signed up for, meaning she can reach demographics previously unaware of ASMR.
"I'll get people that enjoy organizing, or enjoy home aesthetics, or enjoy the satisfaction of it being perfectly filled, or the ASMR," she said.
She said she built her following because on TikTok her videos are "put in front of people that don't already follow you," whereas on YouTube, viewers would likely have to search for specific keywords. This means her content is able to find an audience, rather than the other way around.
Some creators are using TikTok to funnel fans to other platforms
Uzer told Insider she assumed ASMR creators "can make a lot of money" from their TikTok livestreams (TikTok has a feature that allows viewers to purchase "coins" which can be given to creators in the form of "gifts" during a livestream, and can be redeemed for real currency) but Davis said this isn't always the case.
For Davis, TikTok is a way to direct people to her YouTube channel, as well as her Cameo (which allows followers to pay for personalized short videos) and Patreon, where followers can donate money to support her content.
@lucy1asmr Bits and pieces of a cameo for sweet Lauren! If youd like yours posted, let me know in your request xoxo link in bio #fyp #asmrfy #oddlysatisfying #lucyasmr #inabox #youresafe ♬ original sound - Lucy ASMR
These platforms are more profitable than TikTok for her, she said, but it's difficult to generate fans without a pre-existing audience. "You make money from TikTok by utilizing it to get yourself out there," she told Insider.
Atkinson has considered moving to YouTube to post long-form content but ultimately believes that the genre has more room for growth on TikTok.
In the long run, both Davis and Atkinson hope to pivot their content to focus more on other, more lucrative platforms, but they said TikTok will remain the backbone of their content.
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