Which is Better for Brands? A Guide to Instagram vs TikTok

By Editorial Staff

Picture yourself in a boardroom. Your weekly meeting with your marketing team is about to begin and you take a look at the agenda and see that discussion item number one: Instagram vs TikTok. Knowing that there has been discussion for the past few months on whether or not to diversify strategy and budget, you think to yourself, “Instagram vs TikTok…that’s a very complex question.” 

Instagram vs TikTok is a complex concept because both apps are complex; equipped with very different features and functions, different audiences and usage stats, and different perspectives on which app has the greater capability to drive traffic, sales, and brand awareness.

What does that mean for your company? What does that mean for your competitors? Take out your notepad, jot down your initial thoughts, and listen as the presentation begins a little something like this… 

Instagram vs TikTok: Popularity

The last decade has seen Instagram become the most popular network of choice for brands to market their products. With around 32% of internet users on the app and 1 billion monthly users worldwide, its influence is unmatched. Instagram is credited for the beginning and subsequent rise of influencer marketing culture, and over 2 million brands advertise on Instagram on a monthly basis. 

While marketing strategies are typically driven by statistics such as these, the preferences of the up-and-coming generation are speaking volumes as many social media users are flocking to TikTok over Instagram. This behavior is justified by GenZ’s desire for brand authenticity, a less “perfect” aesthetic, and more relatable and genuine influencers. As a result, brands have to get creative when it comes to marketing, especially towards the younger demographic. 

NeoReach Tips Instagram stats show it is the most impactful channel

However, TikTok is still a big question mark for a lot of brands. With the rise in usage of this video-sharing app for everything from dance videos and comedic skits, to recipes and shopping hauls, brands are beginning to wonder whether TikTok is the new Instagram in terms of advertising and building a brand. It’s no question that TikTok has taken the social app space by storm since its launch in 2017 – doubling its number of downloads in just over a year. That alone is a clear sign of the app’s skyrocketing popularity that has only continued to surge during the coronavirus pandemic. 

As brands scratch their heads on whether to take the leap into the world of TikTok for business, there are many considerations to be made. While TikTok might be competing with the big players in the market, the app serves a different purpose than Instagram or the other social media apps. As social media platforms emerge and transform, brands should review the characteristics of their audience and their budgets to maximize their opportunity for growth. 

Instagram vs TikTok: Building a Brand 

In considering Instagram vs TikTok for your company, it’s worth noting the differences in each platform’s features.  

With Instagram’s 1 billion+ monthly users, it is a powerhouse when it comes to audience reach. Companies in many different industries have had major success with Instagram, especially those in the lifestyle, beauty, and fashion industries. Add in the reach of influencers, marketers are said to make on average, over $5 for every $1 invested in influencer marketing. Instagram’s use of its checkout program in March of 2019 has made it easier for consumers to purchase a business’s products without ever leaving the app.

Another feature that works in brands’ favor on Instagram is the opportunity to use stories, which are displayed prominently on the top of a user’s page, meaning people can see ads without being directly engaged with your feed. That said, indirect exposure to brands coupled with an over-saturation of ads and influencer content on Instagram leads to consumers who are less invested and less loyal to brands. 

As for TikTok, a component that makes it stand out among the competition is that it is more of an entertainment platform versus a lifestyle platform; at least for now. The attractiveness of this app is that it is aimed at content creators and encourages creation, which can be done by almost anyone due to the simplicity of the app.

The ease of creation gives TikTok a competitive advantage over Instagram, and the “new-ness” of the app means there is much less competition with other brands. Again, at least for now. Brands are able to capitalize on this characteristic if they are able to show their products or services in a way that comes off naturally and less serious. Another perk is that while Instagram’s “Discover” page entices viewers with appealing images, TikTok’s similar “For You” page has an even more advanced and engaging algorithm

Looking to run an epic influencer marketing campaign on Instagram or TikTok? NeoReach has the best experience in creating viral campaigns that convert on social media. Sign up here! 

Instagram vs TikTok: Types of Audience & Engagement

Overall, Instagram is a generally more demographically balanced platform.

  • 1 billion users 
  • Instagram users spend an average of 53 minutes per day on the app. 
  • Statistics show that  the highest proportion of Instagram users can be found in the 25-34 (34%), and the 18-24 (31%) age brackets
  • Women slightly outnumber men on the platform.

In looking at Instagram vs TikTok, TikTok has really hit the nail on the head when it comes to engaging the youngsters of the world. 

User Stats in Context

As Taylor Lorenz points out in the New York Times, since the primary TikTok audience is very young, the TikTok stars that brands must partner with also “have to be young”. Take Connecticut-based Charli D’Amelio, for example, who has more than 15 million followers, is just 15 years old. In comparing that fact to Instagram, the average influencer on that platform is older, with the majority being aged 18 – 24, giving companies a slightly larger range. 

Instagram vs TikTok statistics broken down by age Another key difference in the audience on Instagram vs TikTok is that since TikTok has targeted a younger audience from the start, they’ve been able to better understand the habits and preferences of their audience, helping them to design the app in a way that gives them exactly what they’re looking for: inspiration to create their own content. For brands, this means that influencer strategy must be paid closer attention to as content creators on TikTok would prefer to promote products that they either already use or fit naturally into their personal brand. 

The fact that users report spending nearly an hour a day on both apps is huge for marketers because the more time people spend on the app, the higher is the chance that they will see advertisements. How users are spending their time on the app is interesting for marketers as well. A study observing the behavior of TikTok users in the span of one month shows that 68 percent of TikTok users watch someone else’s video and 55 percent upload their own videos. This means that brands have several different routes in engaging with TikTok users vs Instagram users. 

Behaviors of TikTok users within the app

When Brands Should use Instagram

  1. If your demographic is broad; The Instagram demographic is slightly older and more varied than TikTok, and older users have more purchasing power.
  2. You want to increase direct clicks; Shoppable posts can increase sales easily by allowing users to make purchases directly from the app. 
  3. Instagram is a well-established space for lifestyle experts – giving brands in the beauty, cosmetic, fashion, fitness, travel and cooking industries a natural fit for the business. 
  4. Brands have been using Instagram for paid promotions and Influencer marketing for some time, so the platform has a reputation of being an ad space in the eyes of the users. 

LuLulemon is a popular brand among many, that has had major success on Instagram. For starters, they take full advantage of Instagram checkout to provide exclusive product announcements, live shopping, and shopping with creators. They have gained a large following of over 3.4 million followers and encourage feedback and customer conversation with their product-centered posts. Using Instagram allows them to reach young adults as well as older generations, all with the intent of inspiring customers.

When Brands Should use TikTok: 

  1. Your company is looking to expand brand awareness to a younger audience. 
  2. You are open to experimenting with this relatively new advertising platform; taking the risk could pay off as fewer brands are on TikTok right now than other social media channels. 
  3. You can find a way to produce light-hearted, “real” and inclusive content; TikTok is perceived as more relatable compared to the influencers and celebs of Instagram. 
  4. Your products or brand can be easily portrayed in video

Another fitness brand, GymShark, has taken a calculated risk on TikTok and it’s sure paid off big time. Since joining the app in 2018, GymShark has built an audience of over 2 million followers. By taking part in hashtag challenges and partnering with popular TikTok stars, Gymshark has made a name for itself in this space – especially after many recreations of its viral videos. 

It is worth noting that while Gymshark has found success on TikTok, they have continued success on their Instagram account with nearly 4.8 million followers. While they take a slightly different approach on Instagram vs TikTok, it goes to show that for many brands, incorporating a diversified strategy on both apps could bring unexpected success. 

The Verdict

The potential of using both Instagram and TikTok should not go unnoticed. Other brands such as Chipotle, Elf Cosmetics and several others have built their strategy on both platforms –  increasing the opportunity to reach different audiences by sharing a variety of content in different ways. 

The established reputation and proven lasting appeal of Instagram make for a great strategy for short-term campaigns and even long-term brand awareness. As for TikTok, introducing brands and building loyalty with a younger audience would be an effective long-term strategy. If a company can truly understand each platform and its users, both can be great low-cost ways to reach business goals. 

So, when it’s time for you to speak up at your meeting, hopefully, you’ll have confidence suggesting designing strategies for both social apps. After all, keeping up with and capitalizing on trends in either space could really pay off in the long run. 

This article was written by Maddie Ernzen

Want to build your brand through campaigns on Instagram and TikTok? Get started with us today!

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