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Instagram Reels vs. TikTok – Choose the Right Platform for Your Content

Published August 11, 2023

Instagram Reels and TikTok — so similar, yet so different. Content creators around the world swear by either one platform or the other, claiming that their preferred one is superior. But which one is actually better? And how do you decide which app suits your content or marketing endeavors?

To help you come to a conclusion, we will examine both TikTok and Instagram Reels and compare them in various aspects. Thanks to that, you’ll be able to quickly choose which to focus on.

What Is TikTok?

TikTok is a social media app that allows its users to create and share short-form videos, grow their audiences, and earn from content creation. Thanks to its superb algorithm and user-friendly interface, TikTok has quickly become the younger generation’s favorite app. Now, most trends and challenges that go viral on the Internet originate precisely from TikTok.

Although TikTok is known to appeal mostly to younger generations, brands have quickly recognized its marketing potential as well. Now you can find big companies, such as Starbucks and Gucci, promoting their products on the app alongside smaller businesses. After all, a carefully thought out marketing campaign on TikTok can have a rather powerful impact.

What Are Instagram Reels?

Seeing TikTok’s power and success, many other social media platforms introduced short-form video features. Instagram joined the trend in 2020 when it launched Reels, its answer to TikTok’s popularity.

In many ways, Reels are similar to TikTok — the short-form videos are filmed vertically, and you can apply various effects and filters to make your content more engaging. But unlike TikTok, which is a whole separate app, Reels are only one aspect of Instagram. As such, they also have to compete with other content the platform offers, such as photos and stories.

Still, since the launch, Instagram has heavily promoted Reels, making them one of the app’s key features. Nowadays, many brands and celebrities use them to promote their products or entertain their audiences, much like they would on TikTok. That’s especially true for beauty and lifestyle content, which frequently goes viral on Instagram Reels.

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok: 6 Key Differences

1. Content Style

Instagram is all about aesthetics, striking photos and stories, and polished profile grids. And though they can be slightly more experimental, Reels should also fit this model to gain traction and engagement.

In other words, if you want your Instagram Reel to go viral, take your time planning and editing the video. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece, but the final product should look professional, especially when it comes to brand promotion.

On the other hand, TikTok is all about exploration and fun. For the most part, the videos on this app are loud, casual, and creative, with less focus on aesthetics. That’s not to say you shouldn’t put effort into this area, but it’s more important to be original and stay aware of the trends among younger generations.

In addition, TikTok’s content is challenging to plan as the platform’s trends change rapidly. What was popular one week may fade into obscurity the next, so it’s vital to remain flexible. Sometimes, you’ll get better engagement if you post a video following a trend that’s come out on that same day. In such cases, any sort of storyboarding beforehand is impossible.

2. Audience Demographics

TikTok has a reputation for being a platform for younger audiences, predominantly teenagers. And though this can be seen as a stereotype, it’s not necessarily untrue in this case. Research has shown that the app’s largest group of active users, accounting for 39.91% of the user base, is aged between 18 and 24. After that come teenagers from 13 to 17, making up 27.37% of TikTok’s population.

As it turns out, Instagram’s user base doesn’t differ significantly from TikTok’s in terms of age. Namely, the largest age group on this app is users aged between 18 and 24, accounting for 30.8% of the user base. However, the group that directly follows it is aged between 25 and 34, making up 30.3%.

Ultimately, both platforms appeal to similar age groups, although TikTok seems to have a firmer grip on the younger demographic. That is, of course, reflected in the type of content that gains traction on this app.

3. Algorithm and Engagement

Both TikTok and Instagram have dedicated pages for discovering and watching short-form content. On TikTok, that’s the famous For You page, which you land on as soon as you open the app. Instagram also has the Reels feed, but you need to tap the video icon on your homepage’s bottom sidebar to get to it.

TikTok’s For You page is known to be particularly good at picking up on users’ interests and displaying related content. That’s all thanks to its sophisticated algorithm that takes into account which videos you viewed and liked first, as well as which comment sections you participated in. As you consume more content, the algorithm’s recommendations become increasingly better.

Instagram Reels has an algorithm that works similarly to TikTok’s, but it might not be quite as polished since Reels are a newer feature. Also, Instagram pays much more attention to your interactions with other users. As a result, it will always prioritize content from those you follow, message, and regularly engage with.

So, when we take both algorithms into account, which leads to higher engagement and discoverability? TikTok enjoys a landslide victory, with all types of influencers gaining more attention than their counterparts on Instagram with Reels. The numbers are particularly impressive for micro-influencers, whose engagement rates peak at 17.96%, as opposed to Instagram’s 3.86%.

In other words, if you’re a new creator, your chances of getting discovered and building an audience are higher on TikTok. Of course, Instagram influencers also benefit from posting Reels, but it may be tougher to break through if they don’t already have a significant following.

4. Built-In Editing Features

Both Instagram and TikTok come with video editing tools, allowing you to create content without using any third-party apps. And in this regard, the platforms share many similarities, especially when it comes to basic editing tools. You can trim and sync your videos and add audio, effects, transitions, filters, and stickers.

However, TikTok puts a wider range of trending tools at your disposal. Its versatility is especially evident in its massive library of voice effects, which is constantly being updated. Not to mention, the platform picks up on what video editing styles and challenges are trendy among the users and adds them to its built-in features regularly.

As TikTok’s number one competitor, Instagram Reels are quickly catching up, but its editing features may not be quite as versatile and polished yet. After all, TikTok had years to perfect its craft before Reels appeared. Still, you’ll find that Instagram has everything an average creator needs for filming and editing a short video.

5. Music

Adding music to your short video is a foolproof way to set the tone and capture the viewer’s attention. In fact, a well-chosen song or soundbite contributes to the storytelling and makes your content more relatable and engaging.

For that reason, both Instagram Reels and TikTok have extensive music libraries, allowing users to quickly search for and add appropriate audio. However, we can see that TikTok has a slight advantage in this area, too, as it offers more songs and allows users to upload their own sounds.

In addition, TikTok is far more lenient about copyright issues than Instagram Reels. If Instagram detects you’ve used a copyrighted song in your content, it might remove it from your video entirely or even block and delete the Reel. On the other hand, TikTokers don’t report experiencing such restrictions on TikTok.

6. Video Length

Both TikTok videos and Instagram Reels initially had a 15-second duration limit. Over time, their length has increased, and nowadays, it stands at 10 minutes for TikTok videos and 90 seconds for Instagram Reels.

Although short-form content is still the most popular kind, neither of the platforms is so restrictive anymore. In fact, TikTok videos can now easily reach the average length of a YouTube video, and Reels might follow in the same footsteps.

Use Both for Maximum Effect

Ultimately, you don’t have to choose only one app to post your content. Instagram Reels and TikTok are similar enough that you can post the same video on both platforms, casting a wider net. Just make sure to edit your content in a third-party app. That way, you will avoid having issues with Instagram ranking your videos lower because of the TikTok logo.

If you do post the same content on both apps, you will see how TikTok and Instagram audiences react to your videos. Then, focus on the platform that brings you more engagement or tweak your content according to the viewers’ feedback.

If you master both Instagram Reels and TikTok, you’ll have two powerful content creation and marketing tools at your disposal. And that’s every content creator’s dream!

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Written By:
Jessica is a writer who specializes in social media, marketing, and digital strategy. She is a graduate of Antioch College and earned her MBA at Boston College’s Carroll Graduate School of Management, specializing in STEM Management. Her work has been published in numerous academic journals and mainstream publications. She lives in New England with her husband, two children, and three dogs.
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