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Reels vs TikTok: Top 10 Differences You Should Know

Video is rapidly becoming the go-to content format for marketers due to its high engagement, inclusivity, and the easy in-app editing features provided by popular social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. Most recently, TikTok's extreme popularity pushed Instagram to increase creator visibility through their competing Reels platform. While TikTok and Reels both feature short-form, often trend-driven content, they differ quite a bit when it comes to their audience. This includes how users engage with the post and the overall content vibe. Marketers who wish to succeed on both platforms need to consider these differences and tailor their video content accordingly. 

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What are Instagram Reels and TikToks? 

Instagram Reels are short, entertaining videos that allow brands to flex their creative muscles, participate in cultural trends, and collaborate with their communities. TikTok's are also short videos, but they focus mainly for entertainment purposes. 

Below are the 10 most relevant differences between TikToks and Instagram Reels: 

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 Reels vs. TikTok #1 Video Duration

Both platforms require video to be short-form, but they differ when it comes to how short. TikTok's can be up to 3 minutes long whereas Reels are limited to 60 seconds. Because Reels are so short, they often feature concise messages and simple tutorials. 

Reels vs. TikTok #2 Sound Libraries

TikTok has a vast sound library filled with user-generated sounds as well as trending music. A lot of the trending sounds from TikTok get carried over to Instagram. Instagram business accounts are a bit limited when it comes to using existing music to create sounds, as Instagram has tighter copyright restrictions and requires users to share original content. However, if you have an Instagram creator account, you can share popular music. 

Reels vs. TikTok #3 Purpose

TikTok was created more as a form of entertainment and a place for creators to connect with viewers casually. On the other hand, Instagram was created as a space for artists and creators to share original content that would advance their influence and brand. Reels content tends to be more aesthetically driven and information-focused. This could change, though with more Instagram Reels updates and advancements to the overall Instagram video experience. 

Reels vs. TikTok #4 Audience Age

TikTok's audience is younger than Instagram's but we suspect that is projected to change as TikTok continues to garner mass appeal among older age groups. Brands wishing to market to Gen Z and beyond will want to build a TikTok presence. 

Reels vs. TikTok #5 Engagement Rates

A study by Social Media Today shows that while views are pretty similar on both platforms, engagement is higher on TikTok. The general consensus so far is this: new accounts posting to TikTok and Reels will get significantly more engagement on TikTok, but established brand accounts may have more success on Instagram Reels.

Pro-Tip: By posting more Reels content on Instagram, you'll have a better chance of more users seeing your content because Instagram's algorithm boosts new features like Reels to encourage user adoption. Instagram's algorithm also prioritizes content with the most engagement. Since it takes users longer to engage with video content versus a test or image-based post, your content will most likely perform better. 

Reels vs. TikTok #6 Editing Features

TikTok and Instagram Reels have pretty similar editing features at this point in the game. Both platforms allow you to record live reactions to other users' videos in a side-by-side format; the feature is called Remix on Instagram and Duet on TikTok. TikTok has an additional feature called Stitch that allows users to add a cut of another video to the beginning of their own. 

PLANOLY Pro-Tip: Upload and visually plan your Instagram Reels content using our Reels Planner. Our Reels Planner also allows you to schedule notifications to remind you when to post your Reels to Instagram. 

Reels vs. TikTok #7 Where Videos Show Up/Discoverability

While Instagram Reels views mostly come from existing followers, TikToks are more likely to discover users who don't follow the creator. Data shows that TikToks average 24.86% views per number of followers, while Reels average 144.03%. Considering that views are pretty similar across both platforms, this indicates that the bulk of Reels views come from the creator's existing audience. If you want to grow an audience, you will benefit from starting on TikTok. If you are creating Reels for your existing audience without the need to grow quickly, Reels will do the job. 

Reels vs. TikTok #8 Reels Tab Vs. TikTok Placements

Instagram Reels pop up all over the place. They can show up in the Reels tab (like the Instagram Explore tab for Reels), the Reels tab on a user's profile, a user's grid, and the newsfeed. TikToks show up in two places– the For You Page (FYP) and the Following tab. The For You Page is like Instagram's Explore page. It's where the TikTok algorithm feeds users videos tailored to their interests. Videos from accounts the user follows will show up here and content from other relevant accounts. 

Reels vs. TikTok #9 Algorithms 

TikTok's algorithm tends to get new eyes on content better, while the Reels algorithm succeeds more in pushing Reels to existing followers. However, be aware that both algorithms are constantly changing. It's suspected that the Instagram algorithm will hide content with a TikTok watermark and that videos edited with IG's native editing tools perform better than those edited in a third-party app. 

Reels vs. TikTok #10 Analytics 

Instagram Reels analytics measures Plays, Reel Interactions, Reach, Likes, Comments, and Saves. On TikTok, you get Profile Overview Analytics, Content Insights, and Followers Insights. Content Insights on TikTok are pretty detailed, including metrics like views, number of shares, time spent watching each video, the traffic source type and more. Profile overview analytics show how many times videos are viewed in a certain period, profile visits, and follower count. 

Most brands will benefit from posting unique content on both platforms when it comes down to it. The content has the same main idea but should differ slightly considering each platform's different purposes, sound options, audience demographics, etc. 

The Washington Post has done a great job with this. Their Reels content is much more polished and education-focused, while their TikTok content is entertainment-driven.

Washington Post on TikTok vs. Instagram Reels 

Now, you know the top differences between TikTok and Instagram Reels. If you only have the capacity to post on one platform, take a hard look at the differences above to decipher which will work best for you and your audience. 

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Aurora Sanchez

Aurora Sanchez is the SEO Specialist at PLANOLY. When not optimizing the PLANOLY website, she spends her time creating beauty content and loves the intersection of beauty, creativity, and character play.

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