TikTok vs Instagram Reels

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Predictions are showing that 2022 will be the year TikTok dominates the social media space, could this be true?

TikTok, formerly known as Musical.ly has rapidly risen to be one of the most popular platforms worldwide, set to surpass 1.5 billion users in the next 12 months. This means it will be up there with the likes of Facebook and Instagram, both of which have been around for much longer.

It’s easy to overlook the app’s advertising potential given most of the content is humorous, featuring trending dance moves or hilarious animal videos, however, the potential of the app can’t be underestimated.

The question this sparks now is if it’s the right move for your business to create on the platform, or if your focus should be directed more on Instagram’s reel feature?

Continue reading to learn the basics of creating content across both platforms and which platform you should focus your attention on in the advertising space.


Let’s talk platforms

Instagram introduced Reels in August 2020 with the function showcasing 15 to 60-second clips which, if on a public account, can be shared amongst the wider Instagram community. Despite the Instagram Reel feature being nearly 2 years old, over time it has been adapted to convey a TikTok style by introducing shorter videos, music and the recycling of TikTok sounds.


TikTok is the fastest growing platform in the world, rising to fame in 2018 after Western and Eastern music apps Musical.ly and Douyin merged. Smart marketing tactics on opposition apps such as YouTube and Snapchat assisted the exponential growth of 59.8% in 2020 and 40.8% in 2021, which was no doubt propelled as a result of the 2019/2020 global pandemic (Perez, 2021). TikTok allows users to post 30 second, 60 second, 3-minute and now 10-minute long videos. The importance of short, snappy and engaging content in lieu of the pandemic is clear as 96% of users stated the pandemic boosted their consumption of video content (Sarika, 2022).


It’s important to know why these styles of content are necessary. Studies have shown that video advertisements have generated 38% more impressions and 60% of ‘viral’ videos were less than 2 minutes long (Essien, 2021).  It’s also been proven attention spans are decreasing by the year (currently at just over 8 seconds!) pushing the need for users to be grabbed quicker than ever before. Consumers also can’t get enough, with 54% of people stating they want to see more video content from advertisers (Kolowich Cox).


Let’s talk editing

TikTok offers a wide variety of filters and editing features, resulting in more comedic and choppy content, whereas Instagram Reels presents a more curated, aesthetic effect.

TikTok also provides users with the opportunity to stitch, duet and react, providing greater interactive and engaging opportunities for audiences. Despite having mirrored every other TikTok setting to date, Instagram is yet to provide a stitch feature.


Let’s talk algorithms

The algorithm of Reels is slightly different to that of TikTok. If you’re trying to increase your reach (and who isn’t?) the TikTok algorithm is based on user interactions, video information such as hashtags, and device settings such as language preferences and location.

This means the ‘for you’ page is specifically catered to your interactions. The user can then swap to their ‘following page’ which presents content from profiles they have selectively followed.

The Instagram algorithm is similar but can show greater unpredictability compared to TikTok. If there is a loyal follower base, it can be more beneficial to creators. Following an account who post Reels makes the content available to view on their newsfeed, whereas to seek Reels from new accounts the ‘explore’ page must be utilised as it presents multiple videos that are streamlined into particular interests.

Both apps allow you to save your content, providing you with the ability to sort your content more efficiently and re-visit links at any time.


Let’s talk sounds

TikTok has a variety of sounds to browse, and unlike Instagram, you can create your own to make more comedic styled content. TikTok also has more lenient copyright laws, allowing trending songs to be used more freely as opposed to Instagram, which are more closely monitored. This differentiates on business accounts, as TikTok have much stricter monetisation laws, and trending songs that are more likely to gain traction are not allowed to be used.

Many sounds used on Reels are from TikTok, indicating that the Reels audience is familiar with the trending sounds across TikTok as well.


Let’s talk audience

Another point of difference between the platforms is the demographics.

Both audience users are primarily women with  60% of users aged between 16-and 18 years on Tik Tok. Instagram has a slightly older demographic, with 33.1% of users aged between 25-and 34 years.



Let’s talk advertising

TikTok incorporates both advertisements and sponsored content. Sponsored content is utilised by larger businesses, showing greater benefits for influencers than companies themselves. These advertisements are catered to particular feeds. Reels don’t offer this feature, therefore making scrolling more user-friendly and uninterrupted, however, Reel users must disclaim if their post is sponsored.

A study was conducted with the same ad being run on both TikTok and Instagram, with the target market set between 25-and 44. Instagram Reels outperformed TikTok, with more engagement. It was also more budget-friendly, costing $2.60 to reach 1,000 people, as opposed to $5.03 on TikTok.  Cost per click was also high on both platforms with $35.72 on TikTok and $28.08 on Instagram Reels. Instagram outperforming TikTok may be due to the existing follower base and the fact that TikTok’s target market is younger, therefore the ad didn’t reach its audience.

Further studies conducted a comparison of 80 influencers and 10 brands and discovered that engagement on TikTok was better for influencers, whereas Reels was better for businesses, once again reiterating the follower base (Wood, 2021).

This doesn’t mean TikTok should be dismissed altogether though, as the reach of the app is growing rapidly. Overall users are expected to rise by 15% in 2022 along with the potential for greater growth for influencers on the app.


So, which one should you be using?

Choosing between TikTok and Reels ultimately depends on your business. It’s clear the best feature of TikTok is multiple length options and a much more comedic, personal style of content. Whereas, on the other hand, Instagram already contains a follower base and can provide cleaner and more plateable content that’s proven to perform better when advertising.

It’s evident that both of these apps have different styles and can be used for different mediums of content and for different intentions. However, as they both contain similar sounds and algorithms; it could be beneficial for content to mirror each other on the apps.

If you are still unsure whether your business could use TikTok or if you are wanting to create more Reel styled content, reach out to us today to find out how Purple Giraffe can help guide you in the right direction with your social media strategy.


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Ella Fielke

Ella is currently undertaking an internship with us here at the Purple Giraffe Tower for 10 weeks over the Summer. As a recent journalism graduate from Uni SA, majoring in Social Media, she will be dedicating her time to working on social media strategy and content creation.

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