Instagram Reels vs TikTok: Pros and Cons of Each

When it comes to making an impact on consumers, social media video is a winning strategy. But it can get a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of platforms out there, not to mention all the cross-pollination (and imitation) between them. So it can be challenging to keep track of what’s what. For example, lots of folks might not be aware of the difference between Instagram Reels vs TikTok videos. 

Both formats are incredible ways to reach your audience, so they’re essential to at least consider for your digital marketing campaigns. Here, we’ll break down the differences between the two, so you can find out if TikToks, Instagram Reels, or a combination of the two are right for your video marketing strategy. 

What Are Instagram Reels?

Instagram, as you likely know, is Meta’s photo and video-driven social media site. It’s favored by industries like fashion and travel — and any other industry with a strong visual component. Instagram video marketing used to focus on flawless spreads and aspirational content. But with the introduction of Reels, the strategy has shifted. 

Instagram Reels are short, shareable, often funny videos designed to be easily and quickly consumed. Reels has its own Explore page, which allows you to see content the Instagram algorithm thinks you might like, rather than the content exclusively from people you follow. 

While essential, Reels are just one element of the Instagram app. These videos are different from Stories, which appear as little circles at the top of your home page. Typically, these videos are from people you know, with Stories ads included in between. Reels tend to be a lot slicker, as the goal is to go viral, and they can be up to 90 seconds long, though many are far shorter.

Introduced in 2020, Reels are now an integral part of Instagram’s current strategy, and marketers, in turn, need to pay attention to their impact on the broader world of video marketing. Though Instagram and Facebook are both owned by Meta, Instagram Reels, and Facebook Reels are different. Primarily, they’re different in how they’re served to you and whose Reels you can see.

Like TikToks (more on those in a minute), Instagram Reels surf trends like popular music tracks and sound effects. They also play continuously, though swiping, liking, and commenting can all change the nature of the Reels you are shown. That brings us to the Instagram algorithm.

Reels are also an excellent way to build community on social media. If you craft a Reel that’s funny or insightful enough, Instagram is more likely to share it widely across the platform. This engagement helps grow support for your brand. If you get enough likes and supportive comments, your Reel will organically expand its reach among the 675.3 million users worldwide who enjoy Instagram Reels.

Instagram Reels Algorithm

The Instagram Reels algorithm is actually a series of algorithms. Instagram uses formulae that take your inputs — signals that indicate to the app what you like, based on your past likes and the sort of content you consume — and turn them into outputs. That means serving users the content most likely to keep them scrolling the app as long as possible.

The Instagram algorithm also takes into account what’s more broadly popular, like movie trends and current events. But if you actively show you’re not interested in this content, the algorithm will reduce how often it comes across your screen. 

Pros and Cons of IG Reels

Instagram Reels are entertaining and can be visually engaging. They often feel like direct appeals to the consumer, so cooking Reels are one very popular subgenre. If you’re looking to build your brand’s relationship with consumers, then Reels are an excellent choice. Before you get started, you need to consider what content your ideal viewers are likely to be interested in and what time of day they’re likely to be watching. Once you know more about them, you can share content at the best time to post on Instagram to reach as many people as possible. 

Instagram Reels are often short. While this makes them easily consumable, it also makes them easily skippable. If you don’t engage someone in the first few seconds, there’s a good chance they’ll just swipe through, hurting your chances of making it to someone else’s Explore page. 

What Are TikTok Videos?

TikTok is a popular app for social media users of all ages, but Gen Z audiences are likely to consult it for both entertainment and information. The platform’s global reach has made it an essential part of video marketers’ overall strategies. 

TikTok videos are short and shareable, and they play in a seemingly endless stream of content. They may make use of trends and hashtags, as well as popular music and memes. While you can follow influencers, personalities, and friends on TikTok, the TikTok app is mostly notable for its For You Feed, which serves videos based on its algorithm’s (often uncanny) understanding of what you like. 

TikTok is, in short, a powerhouse with billions of users worldwide. By adding TikTok marketing to your strategy, you’ve got limitless potential for expanding your audience.

TikTok Videos Algorithm

The TikTok algorithm works much like the Instagram Reels algorithm. It taps into what you’re interested in and feeds you content to keep you watching as long as possible. When you first log in, the app will give you a generic stream of content. Over time, your experience on the platform will drive changes to what you see. Some of these signals include:

  • User Interactions: If you like a video, comment on it, watch the entire video, or share it with someone else, the algorithm assumes you’ve enjoyed that video and will show you similar content in the future.
  • Video Information: This takes the form of hashtags and keywords. So if you search for smoothie recommendations, the algorithm will serve you posts with #smoothies and similar language in the caption. 
  • Device and Account Settings: Your geographic region and the language you speak will indicate you may like other videos from that region.

Separate from your personal video interactions, the TikTok algorithm will also usually filter out content it deems duplicative, content flagged as spam, and content it deems upsetting or problematic.

Pros and Cons of TikTok Videos

TikTok provides compelling access to a large global audience with many younger users. People often go to TikTok for entertainment, so they’re ready to enjoy your videos. But, similar to Instagram, TikTok videos are short and punchy. So if your campaign doesn’t catch viewers right away, it runs the risk of being lost in the digital sea. You’ll need to make sure your videos are driving attention immediately — or your potential audience might just keep on scrolling. 

Summary of Key Differences

While these platforms are similar, the user expectations are different for each, which means your strategy should be different too. 

Different Ad Specs 

One key difference between the two apps (along with other social media apps) is that they have different social media video ad specs. They’re not too different, though. Instagram is hoping you will watch Reels instead of TikToks, and vice versa. 

TikTok ads are all vertical, in the 9:16 format. When you take a closer look at the TikTok video ad specs, there are differences depending on whether you wish to appear on the For You page or as an ad within someone’s Following Feed. While ads can be up to 60 seconds, 15 is probably the longest most users will sit through. (There are exceptions, of course, like this 10-minute TikTok ad.) 

Instagram video ad specs vary depending on whether they are for in-Feed videos or Reels, Reels are also 9:16 in format. They can be shot in-app or edited and uploaded. They can also be up to 60 seconds, but, like TikTok, shorter is usually sweeter.

Different Demographics 

While each platform has users across all generations, you’ve got to keep an eye on the different demographics. Keep in mind there’s an overlap between social media audiences, including the audience you can reach through Instagram Reels vs TikTok. To ensure viewers don’t get ad fatigue, share different content across channels (even if you just make a small change or two). These small differences can make a significant impact on audience engagement.

If you’re not familiar with your specific audience quite yet, you can still learn about the users on each platform. Take a look at user demographics by social media platform to get a better understanding of who you’re speaking to on Instagram and TikTok. 

Different Functions

TikTok may be a better platform to introduce yourself to a wide swathe of users, while Instagram may be better suited to increasing conversions and direct prospects down the sales funnel. Instagram’s more easily navigable profile and compatibility with Facebook also make it simpler to establish a clear brand identity. Both platforms have built-in shopping features to help you reach customers with product marketing.

Importance of Using TikTok and Instagram

TikTok and Instagram are both important, allowing you to reach slightly different audiences and achieve different goals. Today’s social media users love video, so you need a strategy with channel diversification to get the attention of your audience. 

So don’t think of it as Instagram Reels vs TikTok — they don’t have to compete with each other. Instead, think of them as two different channels you can use together to reach more of your audience. 

Make Social Media Videos at Scale

These differences can seem like a lot to keep in mind and strategize around, but you don’t have to do it alone — QuickFrame by MNTN is here to help. 

As an Instagram partner and TikTok partner, QuickFrame knows how to make the most of your video content across the two platforms (and many others). Our end-to-end agile video creation platform connects your brand with leading video creatives from around the world so you can access the custom content you need. 

Ready to get started? Contact us today to learn more about Instagram video production or TikTok video production.

Reels vs TikTok: Final Thoughts

TikTok vs Reels doesn’t have to be a competition. The trick is to find an effective way to include both TikTok videos and Instagram Reels in your marketing strategy. With these platforms and the latest content trends, you can build a winning social media video strategy for your brand. 

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