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TikTok has reshaped the landscape of social media. Today, almost every major social media platform has a short-form video feature. For creators and marketers alike, the debate is Reels vs TikTok: which is best?
While Instagram — owned by Facebook, now Meta — has been in the game for more than a decade, Reels is its newest feature. Reels is also a direct answer to TikTok’s success.
If you’re a content creator, brand ambassador, or even a curious social media nerd, you’ve likely asked: Reels or TikTok? The answer is different depending on your needs.
What is TikTok?
For those who keep their fingers on the pulse of social networking, you already know the humble beginning of TikTok. Otherwise, you may be wondering, what is TikTok? It’s actually a pretty short story.
In September 2016, TikTok was launched by Chinese startup company ByteDance, also known as Douyin. At first, the app allowed content creators to shoot, edit and post up to 15-seconds of content.
Continuing probably my favorite series
Within the last six years, TikTok has entertained billions of users and built celebrity careers. High fashion brands are marketing on TikTok. New features added within the last year offer greater opportunities to expand reach and profits.
Content creators, these days, can post up to 10 minutes of content to TikTok, in some cases. The app also recently made it possible for creators to set up shops on their profiles, and accept financial donations via livestream.
For a step-by-step breakdown of how to go live on TikTok, read more here.
Projections for TikTok’s future are also promising. The app is expected to reach roughly 755 million monthly users. If those predictions are accurate, TikTok is set to become the third-largest social network, right behind Instagram.
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How does Instagram Reels compare to TikTok?
In order to compare Instagram Reels vs TikTok, we must gain a deeper understanding of Instagram Reels and how they work. Although the concept is similar, there are distinct differences between the two platforms.
The major similarities between Instagram Reels and TikTok:
- Users can shoot, edit and upload content all within the app
- Shorter videos are encouraged
- Each app includes its own unique audio library
- Trending sounds can help content go viral
- Collaboration is encouraged with TikTok “duets” and Instagram Reel “remix”
- Analytics for each post are tracked within the app
- Each offers the option to create and promote ads in line with other videos
The major differences between Instagram Reels and TikTok:
- The process of posting. For Instagram, users must open the creator camera within the app and select “Reel” from the dropdown menu. For TikTok, users can start filming as soon as they open the camera in the app, for up to 15 seconds, or they can choose to record or upload a longer video.
- The maximum time length. TikTok has expanded its time limits far beyond its original 15-second boundary. Users now have the options to record 60-second and 3-minute videos within the app, or upload up to 10 minutes of long-form videos. On Instagram, Reels are limited to 60 seconds or less.
- The algorithm is different. On TikTok, videos are promoted based on a variety of factors, but follower count and account popularity are not determining factors. Instagram Reels, vs TikTok, promotes videos using follower relationships as the main criterion.
- Songs can’t be shared outside of Instagram. Where TikTok allows users to export and repost videos to other platforms, with audio intact, Instagram strips the audio from reels that are exported from the app.
- TikTok offers more collaboration with Stitch. The feature allows TikTok users the ability to include snippets of other TikTok videos on their own. Instagram does not yet have a feature like this, though that may change with time.
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Reels vs TikTok: which is better for creators?
While each app offers its own benefits to businesses and influencers, one app is far better for putting eyes on content. TikTok is, without a doubt, the best app for reaching a wide audience of non-followers.
Primarily, Instagram promotes content based on user relationships and preferences. TikTok does not consider whether a user is already following an account, or whether that account has previously gone viral or not, before sharing content with that user.
For this reason, creators and big brands alike can — and do — benefit from the opportunity to expose non-followers to their content. For those interested in creating viral content, or if a large number of views is the end goal, TikTok may be a more effective choice.
Instagram Reels, on the other hand, is just one feature on a well-established platform. For people who already have a loyal following on Instagram, Reels are a great way to generate more views and engagement. The structure of Instagram makes it more conducive to building relationships. Rather than share new and trending content, Reels prioritizes content from followed accounts. Plus, to compete with the attention-grabbing power of TikTok, Instagram is promoting Reels more aggressively than traditional content.
Is it easier to monetize Reels vs TikTok?
Once you understand the basics, the choice between Reels vs TikTok is simple. Really, the comparison is TikTok vs Instagram as a whole, and each app offers its own advantages.
For a full comparison of the apps, their algorithms, user profiles, and their place in the creator economy, read this blog.
Instagram is already frequented by a variety of users, between the ages of 13 and 64, with the average age range between 25 and 34 years old. There are plenty of well-proven marketing strategies that businesses and influencers can use to grow an Instagram account from scratch. Reels are but a part of that recipe.
The Instagram algorithm is also better suited for ensuring that content is seen by the right viewers. The app tracks user preferences in a variety of ways. Each person’s feed is tailored using criteria that are specific to that user. In other words, everyone’s Instagram feed works a little differently to bring them a unique, preference-driven stream of content.
For TikTok, growth strategies are newer but more direct. Creators who publish content consistently have an equal chance of increasing followers whether they are starting with 10 or 10k. Plenty of creators have also already proven the app’s effectiveness.
Since the app first launched, TikTok has made numerous changes to alter the platform in service to user preferences. Doing so has kept it relevant to users primarily between the ages of 16 and 24. TikTok is a fountain of youths — a holy grail for businesses hoping to target Gen Z consumers.
Eyeliner and lips are secret so I guess 6 products 😂
Having been in the e-commerce game for more than a decade, Instagram remains King of Monetization for now, but TikTok is making gains. After partnering with Shopify to allow users to integrate Shopify stores, TikTok is competing more with Instagram by the minute.
Ultimately, the choice for every content creator, marketing specialist, and brand ambassador will be different. Whether it’s Reels or TikTok, either app can serve as a valuable influencer marketing platform. Consider the needs and the goals of your brand before prioritizing one app over the other.