Instagram Reels vs. TikTok: Which is Better for You?


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  • Currently, marketers interested in creating short, simple video content for social media have two options: Instagram Reels and TikTok. 
  • The more you study both platforms, the more you begin to notice how different they are. 
  • Video length may be one of the most notable differences — TikTok’s current video length is 30 to 60 seconds while Instagram’s Reels length is limited to 15 to 30 seconds. 
  •  TikTok’s audience demographics are notorious for skewing younger than most of the social media platforms out today, while Instagram skews slightly older. 
  • Instagram doesn’t offer any type of analytics dashboard, while TikTok’s analytics dashboard provides an in-depth look at the performance of your videos.

It seems like every day you hear about a new social media platform that users are flocking to or a social media giant copying another platform’s features. Twitter’s Spaces happens to be the most recent copy-cat feature of the social newcomer, Clubhouse. As digital marketers, we’re used to this fast-paced and rapidly changing marketing landscape. For us, it’s nearly as common as the sun rising every single morning. And, it’s almost evident that a tech giant like Facebook would soon enough be replicating TikTok’s entire platform (and maybe now Clubhouse). 

In this blog, we’ll cover the basics on TikTok and Instagram Reels, their similarities and differences, which platform is best for you, and how to create Instagram Reels and TikToks.

TikTok vs. IG Reels

The more you begin to study both platforms, the more you begin to notice that both platforms are vastly different. Though the two platforms are identical at their core, the in-app features differ dramatically. Therefore, depending on your current social media workflow and strategy, these differences could make or break your decision to use one over the other. The good news is that this could make your decision relatively easy. Below we’ll list a few of the main differences between TikTok and Reels so you can make an informed business decision. 

Video length

Video length may be one of the most notable differences when you compare both platforms. TikTok’s current video length is 30 to 60 seconds while Instagram’s Reels length is limited to 15 to 30 seconds. The length limit set on Reels could make creating valuable or “in-depth” content a bit more difficult for creators and business owners since you’re forced to be concise.

Even TikTok’s 60-second limit doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time to record a video but it makes a world of difference when comparing it to Reels. If you generally keep your video content short and straight to the point, then Reels time-limit may not be a huge barrier for your social media workflow. 

Audience

If Instagram was the app of millennials, then TikTok is definitely the app of Gen-Z. TikTok’s audience demographics are notorious for skewing younger than most of the social media platforms out today. It’s said that approximately 60% of TikTok’s 80 million monthly active users (MAUs) in the United States fall between the ages of 16-24 years old.

Instagram’s audience demographics on the other hand are slightly older, with about 33% of their 500 million daily active users (DAUs) falling between 25-34 years old in the United States and 23% of users falling between the ages of 18-24. What does this mean? Well, if your business is looking to target a slightly older demographic, then focusing on TikTok might be a less effective means of doing so at this moment in time. 

Analytics

If social media analytics are extremely important to you then say goodbye to Instagram Reels. Currently, Instagram does not have any dashboard for tracking the performance of your Reels. Though, we’re positive an analytics dashboard will be introduced as soon as the feature’s in-app usage increases.

TikTok’s analytics dashboard provides a more in-depth look at the performance of your videos and provides metrics like total views, total time watched, audience activity, etc. However, to access this post data you must convert your account to a Pro Account. 

Paid advertising

With the rise in popularity of TikTok, many brands have been looking to advertise on the platform. TikTok’s beta advertising program released in 2019 so it’s still a relatively younger advertising platform. Currently, there are only a handful of paid placements available and they aren’t as appealing for small businesses because of the cost. Another limitation of the platform is its skew towards a younger audience. As we mentioned earlier, about 60% of their 80 million U.S. users are between the ages of 16-24.

Instagram’s more diverse audience will allow you to target different audiences all in one single platform. Additionally, with Instagram, you’ll be able to leverage Facebook’s world-famous ad targeting platform to reach exactly who you need to. 

Interactive features

What keeps retention rate and usage rates high with social media applications are the interactive features. For example, the ability to chat with other friends via direct messages or the ability to host live chats. If we’re being honest here, Instagram is like the Frankenstein of social media that incorporates a mix-mash of other app’s features (R.I.P Snapchat).

TikTok, however, is the innovator in this space of vertical video. The app has also been around longer than Reels so it’s had more time to develop new interactive features to allow creators to interact, create, and produce valuable content.  For example, there are features like Duet on TikTok that allow you to react or collaborate with other creator’s content. On Instagram Reels, those interactive features that drive collaboration and virality between content creators and businesses are non-existent. Though, Instagram’s advantage is that it allows for more variety of visual content. 

Reachability (Network-based vs. Content-based)

Another subtle but considerable difference between the two platforms is the type of reachability. It’s been said that much of the reach users receive on Instagram Reels is network-based; meaning a user’s reach mostly comes from their current audience, family, or friends.

On TikTok, your reach is considered to be based on the content you produce which means TikTok users who don’t know you will be served the content you produce. With a content-based format, users are delivered content that is based on their interests and previous content they’ve engaged with. The benefit of this type of algorithm is that your content (if good) will introduce your account or brand to new audiences who may be aware of you.

So… which social platform is better for you?

Selecting the right social platform to focus your time on is a very important decision. So instead of just giving you the typical “it depends” response, we’ll give you a few things to weigh in your decision between Reels and TikTok. 

Before you decide on a platform, it’s important for your business to consider these three things:

  • Time: How much time do you have to consistently produce content? This is an important decision because you’ll want to select a platform that doesn’t cost you more time than anticipated. So, pick a platform that’s easy for you to use and one that allows you to consistently churn out content. 
  • Audience: Demographics is a major factor to consider because it’ll determine how effective your content will be. If one platform skews too much to a single demographic, you’ll have a harder time effectively reaching that audience through your posts.
  • Advertising options: If advertising is important to you, then you should also consider a platform that is easy to use and one that will allow you to effectively target your audience.

This could all be boiled down to one concept: effort vs. impact. Choose a platform that’s going to allow you to maximize your efforts and time spent on content creation. Remember, consistency is key in social media.

How to Make a TikTok

Making a TikTok is pretty easy, we’re not going to lie. If you decide to create one yourself here’s a quick step-by-step tutorial on how to create a TikTok:

  1. After opening the app, click the “+” button. This will open up TikTok’s camera feature.
  2. Next, hold the red button to begin recording your video. You can record in bite-sized chunks like 5 seconds, for example.
  3. Once finished, press the red check button and edit the video to your liking.

It’s that simple! But, there’s a bit more to it than just hitting the record button. TikTok has tons of camera features like filters, times, camera effects, video editing, etc. Each of these lets you take your TikTok to the next level by participating in trends or by making cleanly edited videos. 

How to Make a Reel

Making a Reel on Instagram somewhat follows the same process. It’s in Instagram’s best interest to make the process of creating a Reel very similar to a TikTok in order to garner some adoption from users. So, if you decide Reels is the way to go, here’s a quick step-by-step tutorial for how to use Reels on Instagram:

  1. Upon opening the Instagram app, tap on the “+” button that is located near the top. You can find the button next to your Activity feed and Messages which are represented by a heart and message bubble.
  2. After clicking on the “+” button, you’ll be directed to select the post type whether it’s a Instagram Post, Story, Reels or Live. Select “Reels.” This will open the Reels camera feature.
  3. In the Reels camera, you can select the music, face effects, timer and speed all on the left sidebar. 
  4. Once you are happy with your edits, click the record button that is represented by a clapperboard icon. Like TikTok, you can record in bite-sized chunks or shoot the whole thing in one take!
  5. Once you are happy with your recording, Instagram will let you add text and drawings to your video on Instagram. 

It’s your turn to decide

With social media platforms coming and going your decision will be important. So, hopefully, this article helped you weigh your options between Instagram Reels and TikTok. If it’s too big of a headache, just know the social media experts at RMG are always here to help.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jason is a Cal Poly Pomona Alum, extreme fan of marketing, and social media advocate. As a Brand Marketing Manager at Redefine Marketing Group, he is responsible for the development and execution of strategy for reputation management, link building, and social media marketing for both the agency and its clients.
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