Editors' Picks

Instagram vs. TikTok: App Battle

By Editorial Staff

There’s a new kid in town. TikTok, the video-sharing app, is the now the world’s most downloaded iPhone app. It features short 15 second videos, which are soundtracked by music clips. Content is comedic, on-trend, and interactive. It’s taken the internet by storm, surpassing Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat in app downloads. Compared to Instagram, TikTok is quickly dominating, particularly among younger users.


TikTok features short videos designed for sharing. Known as “Douyin” in China, the app launched overseas in 2016 and came to the United States in 2017. Its reach and scope are vast, as the app is hugely prominent in 150 markets and 75 languages worldwide. In 2018, TikTok merged with Musical.ly, a similar short video sharing platform. This merger brought TikTok to the next level, as it leads to creating a massive video database and combined all existing accounts to form a large community of users. In particular, a strong community of younger users was introduced to the platform.

As of 2018, TikTok was crowned the most downloaded iPhone app in the world. With 500 million global monthly users and a whopping 800 million app installs, TikTok is quickly dominating social platforms. In the United States alone, TikTok boasts 80 million downloads and 40 million active users. The app is also strong among Android users, reaching over 9 million Google Play downloads. In just the first half of 2018, TikTok surpassed all other social apps, including Instagram, with over 100 million downloads. And as of two weeks ago, the app has been downloaded worldwide over 1 billion times.

Tik Tok Monthly Downloads Worldwide 2018
Via Sensor Tower


Instagram, also known as “IG” or “Insta,” is a leading photo and video sharing app. The app launched on iPhone in 2010 and Android in 2012. Upon launch, Instagram was famous for photo filters and stylized profile feeds. Now, the app also features direct messaging, Instagram stories, and IGTV to combine photo and video services to an all-inclusive media sharing app. In the spring of 2012, Facebook acquired Instagram for approximately $1 billion.

Instagram has a massive 1 billion active users and 400 million daily active users through Instagram stories. However, once hailed as a leading social media app, Instagram is losing ground to TikTok. Compared to TikTok’s 100 million downloads in the first half of 2018, Instagram had nearly half, with 59 million downloads during that time. Moreover, in comparison to TikTok’s 9 million Google Play downloads for Android, Instagram’s downloads were nearly 4 times less, reaching just under 2.5 million downloads. This disparity among Android usage also highlights TikTok’s dominance in Asian markets as the popular “Douyin” app.

Tik Tok Monthly Downloads 2018
Via Sensor Tower


TikTok has a notably younger audience than competitive social apps. A majority of its audience (65 percent) is in their 20’s or younger. Of their audience as a whole, about 40 percent are teenagers. According to this data, TikTok’s users mostly belong to Generation Z. The app has a relatively even split of male and female users. TikTok users have a 28 percent engagement rate.

Tik Tok User Demographics
Via Linkfluence

In comparison, Instagram caters to a slightly older audience base of Millennials or Generation Y. The majority of users (64 percent) range from 18 to 29-years-old. Unlike TikTok’s seemingly even gender balance, Instagram users are slightly more female leaning. Instagram users have a 95 percent engagement rate.

Instagram User Demographics
Via Statista

Revenue Models

TikTok currently has a free model in place: free to use, without advertisements. This strategy has enabled the app to amass millions of users with a rapid growth trajectory. However, users are able to make in-app purchases, such as emojis and digital gifts. In October of 2018, TikTok made $3.5 million in just one month of in-app purchases. In just one year (October 2017 to October 2018), TikTok saw an enormous 275 percent increase in in-app spending.

Tik Tok Revenue Per Month 2018
Via Sensor Tower

Instagram is also free to use, but revenue is advertisement based. Advertisers are able to purchase ads, which run on user feeds and stories. These ads can be targeted by audience demographics, such as location, age, and interests. Instagram has huge success with this model, as its forecasted ad revenue for 2018 alone was $6.4 billion.

Instagram Annual Revenue 2015-2018
Via Statista

Creator Reactions

Instagram gained notoriety for propelling the influencer movement. Figures with thousands and millions of followers have risen to fame and reach a large audience of faithful followers. However, some notable creators have been moving over to TikTok and embracing this new, rapidly growing platform.

While Instagram’s “Discover” page entices viewers with appealing images, TikTok’s similar “For You” page has an even more advanced and engaging algorithm. With a full vertical screen experience, users are easily drawn into a rabbit hole of carefully curated content and suggestions. DreaKnowsBest, a popular TikTok creator with 2.4 million fans and 48.6 million hearts (or likes), attests to this powerful algorithm: “People get hooked  when they’re on TikTok…that ‘For You’ page is very powerful.”

Compared to Instagram, the TikTok community is distinctly palpable. The app allows users to easily connect, create friendships, and collab with others. Each week something new trends, which enables virality and increases the potential for popularity. Creators have identified this supportive environment to grow followers and have left Instagram for TikTok. For example, a popular creator Sssniperwolf has encouraged her followers to download TikTok and view her exclusive content on the app.

Why are creators and influencers flocking to TikTok? DreaKnowsBest explains that “TikTok is doing a lot when it comes to marketing” and helping creators in their efforts on the platform. Specifically, “Instagrammers are starting to come on because they realize that the activity is insane…You can build a large audience [quickly] if you’re talented.” In addition to Instagrammers, YouTubers are joining the movement as well. Because you can directly link your YouTube account in your TikTok bio, creators have used TikTok to gain subscribers easily and tap into TikTok’s young, active audience.

It’s clear that TikTok is making waves in the social app space. With an explosion of growth, TikTok is expected to continue a steep upward trend. Whereas this new app is enjoying its hockey stick trajectory, Instagram growth is slowly dropping from 13 percent user growth in 2018 to a projected growth of 8 percent in 2019. Watch out Instagram, TikTok isn’t here to play.

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This article was written by Carissa Brones.

This article was written by Editorial Staff

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