Sep 15, 2023

TikTok vs. Reels: Who’s The Real Winner?

Charlotte Pearse

The TikTok app launched in 2016, and has skyrocketed in fame in recent years. Instagram created their Reels feature in 2020 so they could compete with the demand for short form video content.

Both platforms are popular among influencers and audiences both, but which one is the real winner when you weigh all the pros and cons?

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of TikTok versus Instagram Reels, and discuss what to do to make sure your content gets views on either platform.

Background: Content Creating

For starters, if you’re looking to step into the world of content creation yourself, there are some important things to note before you debate whether you should do so on TikTok versus Reels.

Countless brands are switching to short-form videos as a way of advertising their products, because it’s far and away the most popular social media marketing strategy right now.

Why is short-form video such a popular media right now, though? TikTok is the most downloaded app at present, 91% of Instagram users report that they watch Reels daily, and 73% percent of consumers have been found to prefer short videos for product information.

It’s not just Instagram and TikTok, either. YouTube and Snapchat, two other social media giants, have come out with Shorts and Spotlight in recent years to cater to shorter attention spans.

An image of two people sitting next to each other on a couch and scrolling on their phones.
With so much content to choose from, we all spend a good bit of time scrolling on our phones. Short-form video content is all making sure viewers stay engaged.

Content is more accessible and engaging today than ever before, and viewers do not need to make a big time commitment to consume this type of media. People can watch TikToks or Reels on the go, and they’ll also see videos that are specifically directed at their interests via an algorithm. 

It’s also much cheaper and easier to produce shorter-form content, and the videos can subsequently be shared and watched on any device. 

So for influencers who may have previously put out longer content on a platform such as YouTube, TikTok and Instagram Reels may in fact prove a more lucrative option due to their popularity. Going viral has never been easier.

Depending on what you want to create or advertise, though, the decision of which platform you want to use is still very important. You can of course choose to use both,  but you’ll definitely want to know which option is best suited to you so you can pay special attention to cultivating your audience there.

Pros of TikTok

TikTok is an app entirely created around the basis of sharing short-form, vertical video content via social media. The platform quickly rose to fame due to demand for that type of content, especially in the absence of the wildly popular Twitter-affiliated video sharing app, Vine.

Videos on TikTok started out with a limit of 15 seconds, and would primarily involve dancing and lip syncing to popular songs. While these trends are still very present on TikTok, hence the music note logo, the app has since evolved.

One of the biggest pros of TikTok has to do with its evolution. Currently, TikTok videos can be up to ten minutes long, while Instagram Reels still have a ninety second limit— a pretty big differential. 

This development has made TikTok bigger competition for YouTube, so if you’re looking to post both short-form and longer videos, it might be the best place for you to do so.

The content style on TikTok is more experimental as well, with lots of different niches. People have more freedom in terms of what they can create, not just video length.

As a result, there’s also just more content available on TikTok, which means that users may choose it in the interest of having more options. The number of TikTok videos on the app is around double the amount of Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.

An image of two smartphones propped up against a potted plant. One displays the TikTok logo while the other is open to the TikTok app.t
TikTok is undoubtedly the first app we think of when you think of short-form video content. But does that make it the winner?

Another advantage when it comes to using TikTok is that you’ll have more sophisticated means of editing your videos. While Instagram Reel users have a lot of editing tools at their disposal, many TikTok features are unique to that platform— such as specific screen filters or voice changing effects.

Oftentimes influencers will repost already edited videos from TikTok onto their Instagram accounts so that they can capitalize on trends via both platforms. The Reels algorithm won’t favor videos with the TikTok logo visible, however, so people will usually cover it with an emoji.

TikTok also has far more options available in its audio library. Users on Instagram Reels may run into issues with copyright when trying to use songs in the background of their content.

Most TikTok users fall between the ages of 10 and 19 years old, so the platform is most popular among Gen Z audiences. This can definitely be a big advantage if this is the age group you want to gear your audience towards.

On the subject of audiences, TikTok also typically generates more engagement than Instagram. Out of all the competing apps, TikTok has the highest rates for people interacting with the content they see, with users leaving two times more comments on average.

An example of this— the same dance video made by popular music artist Justin Bieber received close to ten million likes on TikTok, while not even surpassing five million likes on Instagram.

This is largely due to TikTok’s  “For You” page, which provides users with content geared specifically towards their interests via the platform’s algorithm. Instagram’s explore page does the same thing to an extent in order to determine what Reels people will see, but we know a lot less about how that algorithm works.

Pros of Instagram Reels

On the other hand, there are many good reasons to use Reels as well. While Instagram started out as a solely image-sharing app upon its release in 2010, it has changed a lot over the past decade. 

One notable example of this was when Instagram created their stories feature in order to compete with Snapchat, another popular social media application that was gaining traction at around the same time.

Reels were created primarily to capitalize on the popularity of short video content, and Instagram has certainly proved itself as TikTok’s most formidable opponent.

While TikTok may have stepped into the short-form video space first, there are plenty of good reasons to use Instagram Reels whether you are an influencer or every-day user.

If you’re looking to build a platform for posting videos from scratch, TikTok may be your best bet. However, since Instagram has been around for far longer, it’s very possible you may already have a presence on the platform. 

That way, if you choose to go with Reels, you can keep all your content in one place! Additionally, depending on what kind of content you want to create, Reels could be better suited— lifestyle and aesthetic content do really well on Instagram.

An image of someone scrolling through an Instagram feed that's full of pictures of food.
One example of content that does really well on Instagram— whether we’re talking images or Reels —is food content! Some people post about what they’re cooking, while others show off what they ordered at a particular restaurant.

Tailored content generates a great number of views. Educational content in particular has been doing really well on Reels recently.

Most Instagram users fall between 25 and 34 years of age, so take that into consideration if you’re looking to create more mature content. Far less users on Instagram Reels have parental controls in place than on TikTok.

Another pro that is important to note is the fact that ads on Instagram Reels are more widely used and also more straightforward. There are a lot of different ways to advertise via TikTok and some might find it confusing.

Creators may also find Instagram Reels more cost-effective, as typically they will make a larger percentage of the profit from sponsored content.

Similarly, many influencers will want to look into their numbers, and analytics are very important for this purpose. On their Instagram Reels Insight dashboard, content creators can look at the Plays, Accounts Reached, Likes, Comments, Saves, and Shares on their videos.

Users of Instagram Reels can also look into demographics of their viewers, too. TikTok enables influencers to look at analytics, too, but not in as much detail.

Last but not least, the watch rate on Instagram is definitely important to take into consideration! While TikTok’s biggest strength is engagement, videos on Instagram Reels may generate more actual views.

This could be in part because of the smaller number of videos on the platform, which has another positive side effect— less spam! You have a better chance of finding content tailored towards you on Instagram Reels in a more timely fashion.

Do It Yourself

If you’re looking to create content on TikTok or Instagram Reels yourself, there are several things you should know in order to see the most success!

One of the most important things to keep in mind is that you should always stay up to date with what’s trending, because regardless of what platform you choose you want to make sure your videos reach the largest possible audience.

Work with other popular influencers and relevant brands so that others’ platforms can help to grow yours and vice versa. Stay on top of popular trends to boost your popularity! Additionally, if you have a sponsorship that involves promoting a product you should make sure you show yourself using it.

On that note— be authentic. You don’t want to get an audience by being anyone other than yourself, and more often than not your viewers will be able to tell if you’re not being honest with them.

You should also take care to make your content as accessible as possible. You don’t want to limit your audience in any way by making it difficult for people to consume your content. 

For example, high-quality audio and text captions on the screen are some ways that you might make your videos more accessible to people who are Deaf or hard-of-hearing.

You also want to make sure that your content is engaging. Many people will continue scrolling if the first few seconds of the video don’t grab their attention, so make sure you start with some sort of hook and keep your videos as concise and to the point as possible.

Even if the limit goes up to ten minutes on TikTok, people will very rarely watch something that long all the way through.

People will also be more inclined to scroll past videos that are horizontal on apps like TikTok and Instagram because most users consume short-form video content on their mobile devices. If you want people to watch your content, then you need to make it as easy as possible!

When it comes to TikTok versus Reels, there’s no one clear winner. Both are suited to different things within the world of short-form video content. Whichever one you choose as your platform of choice, the most important thing to keep in mind is putting effort into your content.

Neither platform is a guaranteed ticket to influencer fame. So, you should carefully consider which one will be better suited to the audience you want to reach, and then begin employing the above steps to give your videos a good chance!