TikTok vs. Reels

If you keep up with the latest news in social media, or even if you don’t, you’ve probably heard of the most recent head-to-head rivalry that has emerged: TikTok vs. Instagram Reels. It’s no surprise that social media follows trends, just like fashion, design, music, and...basically anything else that people enjoy, honestly. So, once something goes viral and becomes a worldwide sensation, other people, or in this case- apps- want what they have. Why does everything have to be a competition nowadays? Whatever happened to just being happy for your peers' successes? We digress.

Before we get too carried away here, let’s go over some background info first.

What is TikTok, anyways?

TikTok is a short-form video streaming and sharing platform. It was originally a short-form video app called Musical.ly up until August 2018 when it was acquired by Chinese company ByteDance and its users were automatically moved to TikTok. It kept the same short-form video concept, but with a much broader scope. If you ever used Musical.ly, you’ll remember it was largely focused on lip syncing. Let’s be real, you can only go so far as a lip syncing platform...

TikTok now offers a large selection of song snippets and sounds for its users, plus the option to add special effects and filters to your videos. It’s promoted as a video-sharing social network and is used to create a wide range of videos like challenges, dance videos, magic tricks, and recipes. TikTok also houses a wide variety of niche communities, like BookTok and PlantTok! They have a reaction feature, called duet, that let’s users record their reaction to another person’s video and share. And, their digital well-being feature alerts users when they’ve spent two hours on the app. (Is TikTok the reason why we haven’t been getting a text back?)

Let’s talk about Reels. And, no, not the film kind.

Reels is the latest facet that has been added to Instagram. And if you’re having trouble keeping track of everything Instagram has going on, you’re not alone. Between Reels, Stories, Shop, and IGTV, they’re really becoming a one-stop app. But today is mostly about Reels, their latest short-form video segment. Instagram Reels lets users record and edit 30-second (60-second for some) multi-clip videos with audio and effects. These videos are shared with your followers on the Feed and are available to the wider Instagram community to discover if you have a public account.

“They sound just like Instagram Stories”

Yes and no. While Instagram Stories are also short-form video clips that let you add audio and effects, they disappear after only 24 hours unless you add them to a highlight on your profile. Reels can live on your profile forever! Plus, they’re discoverable on the Feed and a separate Reels Explore Page, whereas Stories can only show up in the Stories browser, or under location tags and hashtags if you added any. Stories do let you add a Swipe Up if you have at least 10k followers, which brings users directly to a URL of your choosing. Talk about convenience! This feature, or similar, isn’t available for Reels yet (womp womp). You can add the link to your bio but this creates an extra step for users.

“Isn’t that IGTV?”

While both use the same video specs as Stories and can live on your profile forever, they’re not quite the same thing. The main difference between IGTV and Reels is that IGTV has a minimum video length, while Reels has a maximum video length. To be able to post a video to IGTV, it has to be at least 60 seconds long. Plus, you can add a title and description to your caption and you can organize them into series. To be posted to Reels, videos can’t be longer than 60 seconds. The caption for Reels isn’t able to have a title, but you’re able to add audio from a vast library of songs plus text, filters, and effects.

With the background info out of the way, we can focus on the difference between TikTok and Reels

For starters, they are completely different apps and serve different purposes for their platform. Reels are limited to 30 seconds (or 60 seconds for some users, like we mentioned before) and are meant to supplement the content that already exists on Instagram. Essentially, Reels are just incorporating short-form video content into an app that was previously image based but is looking to lean into being a video and entertainment app. TikToks can be up to 3 minutes long and the entire point of the app is to create, share, react, and interact with short-form videos. There is literally no other medium that you can use on TikTok besides video.

Because Instagram and TikTok are different apps that started with different purposes, this means that their user bases will differ as well. 62% of TikTok users are between the ages of 10-29, while Instagram’s largest age group is 32% ages 25-34. TikTok users spend an average of 52 minutes per day on the app, while Instagram users spend an average of 28 minutes per day. It’s safe to say that TikTok appeals more to a younger audience who spends nearly twice as long on the app as Instagram users. However, Instagram Reels do make the short-form video format that’s taken the world by storm more accessible for “locals.” Because Instagram is the second most-used social media platform in the world with over 1 billion monthly users, people are already comfortable with Instagram. And, with Reels,they can enjoy an experience similar to TikTok without having to download and learn how to use an entirely new app.

Same same, but different

Both Instagram and TikTok are free to download and use (#ballinonabudget), which also contributes to their growing popularity. Did we mention that, although Instagram surpasses TikTok in overall downloads, Tiktok’s new user growth rate is substantially higher? In fact, Tiktok was the most downloaded app worldwide in the second quarter of 2021 reaching over 200 million total installs! What were we saying again? Oh right, both Reels and TikTok house short video montages with overlaid copyrighted music and can be embellished with things like filters and effects, emojis, text, GIFs, sped-up motion, slo-mo, etc. If you saw a Reel and a TikTok side-by-side, you might not even be able to tell the difference. In fact, some creators will repurpose their already popular TikTok videos as Reels. Because, why not?


Do you see now why Instagram Reels and TikTok are in a little bit of a rivalry? It’s like “who wore it better,” but apps instead of people and short-form video instead of outfits!

Are Tiktoks or Reels better for my marketing efforts?

Ah, the ultimate question… When marketing for your brand or business, it can be really tough to decide what content you should run and where. It ultimately comes down to what product or service you’re marketing, what your goals are, and who your target demographic is. Once you decide on all of that, then you can move forward with planning content, designing ads, and picking the platform that will best help you to reach your goals!

Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see significant growth right off the bat or if your first ad flops; it can take a little bit of trial and error before you get it right. If you’re impatient or just don’t have the time to spend on researching and strategizing your social media content and designing ads, check out how Team Vibe can help with all kinds of social media marketing initiatives.