It’s no secret that short-form video content has exploded in popularity on social media over the past year. At the heart of this success are two beloved trailblazers: TikTok and Instagram Reels. Since the launch of Instagram Reels in August 2020, users have been curious about the differences between this new feature and the TikTok app, which many grew accustomed to in the early days of lockdown. Let’s start with defining the two video sharing platforms, shall we? 

TikTok is a fast-growing, short-form video social media app that allows users to create and engage with entertaining, educational and comedic video content across a multitude of genres. In 2020, TikTok was the most downloaded app globally, with more than 2.5 billion downloads. This makes TikTok the fastest growing social media app to date. Similar to TikTok, Reels is one of Instagram’s newest features that encourages users to create short-form video content within the app. These videos can then be shared to Instagram Stories, the Explore Feed and more importantly, the new tab made specifically for Reels. 

So, what sets TikTok and Instagram Reels apart? The answer may surprise you. Keep reading to learn five key differences between these two social media giants. 

1. Video Length

While both platforms offer short-form video content, the time durations vary between TikTok and Reels. On TikTok, creators can record up to 60 seconds of video. On Reels, users are limited to 30 seconds of video content. Having a firm grasp on the purpose and message behind your video content is crucial in determining which platform it will resonate with better. 

2. Tools and Features 

Many would argue that the biggest difference between the video sharing apps are the tools and features they offer. TikTok is known for its exhaustive sound library that is accessible by all users. Original sounds can also be added to the library, and users are able to incorporate them into their own content. On Reels, personal creator accounts have access to Instagram’s music feature and can add trendy songs to their videos. However, business accounts on Instagram are unable to pull from this library due to copyright infringement and must use original or copyright free audio when sharing. 

The editing process also varies between apps. Video and sound effects, templates and filters are easily accessible and highly engaged with by TikTok creators but are less integrated and somewhat limited on Reels. Each platform also offers a duet feature that allows users to interact with other creators’ content in a creative and personalized way. 

3. Algorithm 

If you’re an avid TikTok user, you probably know all-too-well about the For You Page’s (FYP) algorithm. According to TikTok, “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too.” This differs from the Instagram Reels Explore Page, which is a mix of curated content with no clear pattern. Content on the Explore Page could be served based on any of the information Instagram is able to pull from your activity. 

One aspect that rings true across TikTok and Reels is the chance of your video going viral if featured on the FYP or Reels Explore Page. While going viral on TikTok is a great opportunity to grow your online presence, Reels is connected to your Instagram account and therefore exposes your complete profile to a much larger audience. As a brand, this is important to keep in mind when planning where to post content. 

4. Demographics and Analytics

The demographics on TikTok and Reels are another interesting aspect to consider when comparing the two platforms. TikTok tends to attract and reach a much younger audience, while also serving as the more casual or “anti-aesthetic” video sharing platform for Gen Z. With Reels, it is much more common to reach Millennials who are already accustomed to using the app and appreciate a more polished, cohesive brand image. 

Built-in analytics have become common practice for social media apps, and that is no different for TikTok and Reels. TikTok provides detailed insights including content and audience analytics, traffic sources and popular sounds you should use next. For Reels, users are able to view metrics including plays, accounts reached, likes, comments, saves, and shares for each video. 

5. Advertising

Last but not least, advertising. Both platforms offer a variety of ads, but best serve different objectives. For influencer and celebrity marketing, the engagement rates on TikTok surpasses those on Instagram, but Reels outperforms TikTok when it comes to brand pages. As a result of this, determining the more suitable platform to advertise on should be a matter of content rather than platform advantages. 

Short-form video content has made its way to the forefront of social media, and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon. For those in the content creation, influencer or social media marketing space, staying up to date with online trends is a surefire way to see and maintain growth for your brand or platform. Whether you prefer sharing content on TikTok or Instagram Reels, understanding what sets them apart from each other ensures when you post your video, it’s going to reach the right audience.

Interested in adding TikTok or Instagram Reels to your social media plan, but not sure where to begin? We can help!