Digital, Social Media

Reels vs. TikTok: What’s the Difference?

By: Tiffany Brandon, Social Media Manager

In 2020, the launch of Instagram Reels was probably the biggest shake-up on social media. Instagram Reels is strikingly similar to TikTok, with users being able to share and record videos set to music. As these apps continue to evolve, it will be important for brands to stay up-to-date on the newest features and trends, as well as how to implement them.

When you take features, best practices and marketing goals into consideration, Instagram Reels and TikTok have some pretty stark differences and similarities. From demographics and editing tools to why some business accounts don’t have access to music on Instagram, we’re breaking down the top 6 differences between TikTok and Instagram Reels:

#1 Video Length

On TikTok, users can record videos up to 60 seconds, and on Instagram Reels, users can record videos up to 30 seconds. While longer content may work better with TikTok’s timestamp, you can still be creative on Reels or cross-promote on both platforms. See how fashion brand Pink Lily takes full advantage of Reels’ 30-second time stamp by showing followers 3 ways to style a midi skirt. Notice how they shot the video in TikTok first and reposted it to Reels. Since Reels is still in its early stages, we predict they’ll roll out a longer video option in the future!

#2 Algorithm

TikTok’s algorithm was a question mark for a while until the platform finally let us in on the secret! The TikTok “For You” Page is very customized to your interests, whereas the Instagram Reels Explore Page is a melting pot of content.

TikTok shows content to users based on factors like:

1. User interactions: such as the videos you like or share, accounts you follow, comments you post, and content you create.
2. Video information: this might include details like captions, sounds, and hashtags.
3. Device and account settings: like your language preference, country setting, and device type.

Each of these factors is individually weighted by TikTok’s “For You” recommendation system, meaning that each page will be completely unique to a user and their level of interest.

As for the Instagram Reels algorithm, it’s not as clear-cut as TikTok’s just yet. It’s unclear whether the content you’re being served on the Instagram Reels Explore page is based on location, interest, who you’re following, or what content you’re interacting with.

#3 Music Options

One of the main differences between the platforms is the music feature. Currently, on Instagram Reels, many business profiles are unable to access Instagram’s music feature. Instagram has yet to make any comment about business accounts getting access to the music feature anytime soon. So, if you’re looking to use music for your videos, TikTok may be the best option.

On TikTok, users have access to the sound library — which is a huge deal on the platform where sound matters. Take for example the trend of creating TikTok videos with Original Sound that can then be used by other TikTok users. The trend is fun, engaging, and a way to potentially go viral!

#4 Editing Tools & Features

While the editing interfaces of both Reels and TikTok may look similar, they are quite different from each other. On TikTok, filters are super popular — users can choose from several effects, templates, and filters. On Instagram, the video effects are more limited.

Another major difference between the platform’s video tools is TikTok’s Duet, Reaction, and Stitch features. These features are a fun way for brands and businesses to creatively interact and engage with users in their community. Currently, on Instagram Reels, there is nothing like the Duet or Stitch feature — users can only record their own footage or upload content from their camera roll. Here’s an example of a duet on TikTok showing Charlie D’Amelio dancing side by side with one of her fans:

#5 Demographics

It’s important to note that while both platforms offer the same type of content, the demographic on TikTok seems to skew younger than Instagram Reels. And while you have the opportunity to be as creative as you want on both platforms, TikTok is more “anti-aesthetic.”

Brands, businesses, and influencers seem to be more selective on Reels and share more on-brand and aesthetically pleasing content. That’s not necessarily the case on TikTok — users aren’t as concerned about their feed looking a certain way. For example, notice the differences between Matt & Abby’s TikTok aesthetic versus Whitney Rife’s Reels aesthetic:

If you’re looking to reach a millennial audience and share videos that align with your Instagram aesthetic, you can try out Instagram Reels. And, if you’re looking to take part in viral trends and reach a younger Gen Z audience, you may see more success on TikTok. Regardless of which you choose, it’s important to have fun with it, post content that your audience cares about, and stay true to you and your brand. Authenticity will continue to reign supreme in 2021!

#6 Analytics

If you have a TikTok Pro Account, you have access to TikTok’s analytics. With TikTok’s built-in audience and content analytics, you can target the right audiences and really understand what they are interested in. You can actually see if (and when) your video was trending and where the specific traffic sources came from.

TikTok also shows you the sounds your followers listened to, which can help you decide what sound to use next. Currently, there aren’t any insights for Instagram Reels. Right now, users can only see the number of views, likes, and comments.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs in One Basket

If you’re still not sure which one to use, we recommend trying both! It doesn’t hurt to test your content on both platforms and see which one performs better. Analyze what your goals are, who you’re trying to reach, and determine which platform is most ideal for your business.

TikTok is a relatively new platform that will allow you to engage with an entirely untapped audience. This can be a great opportunity to maximize a brand’s reach digitally. Meanwhile, the Instagram user has been around for much longer. Reels presents an exciting new opportunity to engage your followers with fresh and entertaining short-form video content!

Keep in mind, that you also don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. When Vine launched, a lot of creatives put their content only on Vine and gained massive popularity on the app. When the app lost steam, a lot of those creatives had nowhere else to reach a built-up audience.

The same thing has the potential to happen to any brand or influencer on Instagram Reels or TikTok. The best thing you can do for your business is to build a comprehensive strategy that encompasses both. If you need help developing a strategic TikTok or Reels strategy, contact us today.

[wp_live_search target="#searchResults" type="posts,pages" results_style="inside"]