TikTok vs Instagram Reels

A new social media battle has emerged between the established giant, Meta’s Instagram and underdog TikTok.

By Andrew Allen

TikTok v Reels - Platform Media

While Meta updates its products to ‘innovate’ existing products from other companies, their Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp platforms adopted Stories in 2016, three years after the highly popular Snapchat had pushed a similar feature. Meta set its sights on ‘innovating’ on the back of a relatively new kid on the block, TikTok. 

Short-form video sharing has been an integral part of the evolution of all the established social media platforms. For Instagram, it has been a sequence of trial and error in their numerous updates and rollouts related to video content, initially extending the length from 15 seconds to 60, and more recently up to 4 hours. Instagram videos played on a loop, with no option to pause or scrub through the frames, these features have also been recently added. 

Social media platforms haven’t been able to successfully fill the creative void left by the shutting down of Twitter’s Vine platform in 2017. The hilarious 6-second ultra-short form thumb-swiping application ran for four short years before discontinuation. Vine amassed thousands of influencers with tens of millions of views throughout its short time but the lack of monetisation and a ban on in-content advertising and marketing led over half of Vines top users, to a mass departure of influencers to other platforms. Over half of Vine’s top users stopped posting or closed their accounts, subsequently killing Vine.

This marketing mogul exodus let influencers explore new horizons but left platforms scrambling to update their services to ensure they wouldn’t meet the same demise as Vine. Meanwhile, the Chinese video-sharing platform TikTok was off to a comfortable start, but it was restricted to the continent. By 2017 TikTok had penetrated the western market allowing not only the ability for influencers to advertise but paid advertising and the creative ability to licence music for free on the platform.

As TikTok grew across the UK it was clear that thousands of people were engaging in this new wave of short-form video and it was time for other social media platforms to adapt and get a slice of the benefits. Instagram failed to capture an audience’s attention in the same way as TikTok due to the inability to quickly swipe between videos. In 2021, Instagram retracted IGTV and launched Reels. Reels is almost an emulation of TikTok, situated directly into the Instagram app, and Reels can be added to an Instagram grid, exposing an already audience-saturated platform with TikTok style content.

Instagram Reels and TikTok, share many similarities, short-form, full-screen video content, can be shot and edited easily within the app, the ability to use licenced music for free on platform, add written copy including hashtags and the ability for the audience to engage with the content through likes, comments and sharing. Another very important element that both platforms share is analytics. The ability to see the reach of the content and how well the audience responds through engagement.

The main difference between these two platforms is how they operate. TikTok’s audience was cultivated from the ground up, and only subtle changes to the overall concept have been made since its launch. As Instagram is an established platform that has seen many changes in its lifetime, it has amassed just as much of a following but has a strong band of loyal users,  as well as a more established advertising service, linked to Meta’s other products.  

As Reels is a relatively new feature of Instagrams platform, the potential for the reach is massive, as they are still figuring out exactly how it functions on their platform. As TikTok is more established and has been running for a longer time, their algorithm is refined, meaning that growing the reach takes a little more time to build a larger reach. In my own research, I saw my post on TikTok reached 60 people as my post on Reels reached 3500 people in a shorter period, a 5733.33% increase by using Instagram Reels over TikTok.

This does not mean you shouldn’t use TikTok to reach your audience, it is a balance of the two, as TikTok may be able to target your specific audience better than Instagram as Reels may target a broader demographic but appear more to followers or those who follow pages related to the content. Marketing on both of these platforms is essential in today’s social media landscape, especially when both platforms are still finding their feet.

At Platform Media, we manage social media and all of the content associated with it, from video, photos, graphics and written copy. Using a data-led approach we can see what is working on your Instagram and TikTok and what is not. Platform Media’s tailored social media strategy can help grow your reach and introduce your brand services and products, to new and existing customers, which may lead to a significant increase in conversions.