Instagram Reels vs. TikTok: What’s the difference?

Instagram Reels vs TikTok

In what may be considered one of the most competitive social rivals to date, Instagram Reels and TikTok have taken hold of social media and the power of short-form video. As a brand trying to utilize the trending format or platform that resonates best with its target audience, it’s important to understand the two, their similarities, and potential differences. Here’s our guide to Reels vs. TikTok! 

Instagram Reels 

As Instagram fast-tracks its strategy to follow TikTok’s lead, the platform has created a unique ability to keep people on the original photo-sharing app with the introduction of Reels. In short, Reels are vertical videos, anywhere from 15 to 90 seconds long, with the option to utilize templates, effects, on-screen text, trending sounds or music, and more. 

The top features: 

Length You can make anything from 15- to 90-second-long video clips, opting for either one long video or individual ones spliced together. 
Audio Reels, like TikTok, typically rely on the audio you choose to complete the full effect. You can choose from a variety of trending sounds, hit songs, and famous quotes to match up with your clips. 
Impressions/Engagement Users can like, comment, and share Reels, and even opt to post them to their individual Stories or feeds – furthering the chance for greater brand exposure and awareness. 
Captions Similar to what you may include on an Instagram post, Reels allow you to include captions on what the video is about, along with any associated hashtags to further its reach or views. These are essential when it comes to building your presence. 
Intended Use The best part about Reels – they’re for anyone, and almost any brand. Since the videos stay within the Instagram platform, which likely already carries your brand’s existing presence of photos, Stories, and more, Reels are the perfect addition. 

The greatest difference – your existing audience. 

With Reels, brands are able to take advantage of the audience they’ve likely already curated on the platform back when its focus was purely centered around photos and Stories. With this audience already so likened to a brand’s style of content, Reels will fit naturally within their feed and brand expectations, and only further ensure awareness and recall by utilizing one of the most preferred forms of media today.  


Not so arguably, TikTok is one of the fastest-growing video platforms to date. It has continued to rise and create a competitive landscape for leading platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even YouTube, and proven that the preference for video is not going anywhere. Similar to Reels, you can share vertical video clips on a range of diverse topics and formats, anywhere from 3 seconds to 10 minutes long with the help of text-to-speech, auto-generated captions, a massive collection of music and creator-made sounds, and more. As opposed to Reels, TikTok doesn’t carry an already existing following from before, so it’s important to make your mark through current trends and preferred content on the app at that given time. 

The top features: 

Length TikTok has a large range when it comes to video length, allowing you to upload anything from 3 seconds to even 10 minutes long. Though not always recommended, this allows each creator or brand to experiment with a diverse range of video content. 
Audio TikTok is most known for its audio. Compared to Reels, TikTok features an even larger collection of music, creator-made sounds, voiceovers, famous movie quotes, and more – and it’s ever-growing! 
Impressions/ Engagement Just like Reels, TikTok allows users to like, comment, share, and repost, but also Stitch or Duet a video – meaning that they can react to it in a way that lets their audience see the video they’re speaking to as well. 
Captions Captions on TikTok follow the industry standard and allow you to include what the video is about, along with any notable tags and hashtags. Here, hashtags are what can be essential in delivering your video to the right audience. 
Intended Use The one thing about TikTok is that it’s for everyone, but not necessarily every brand. Given that it lacks a photo-feed concept and only allows for video-form content that must be highly relative each time, it can be hard for every type of brand to be on the platform. Though most brands can utilize their advertising capabilities, building and maintaining a presence amongst a niche audience can often be the toughest part. 

The greatest difference – the algorithm. 

Although Instagram Reels has its own individually curated feed, one of TikTok’s most powerful features is the searchability, user relevancy, and general accuracy of its long-favored algorithm and ‘For You’ page. Through its complex system, TikTok is able to track the exact type of videos, topics, and general interests that each user interacts with, and deliver a highly curated page full of videos that they actually want to see. For brands, this means that each viewer has a higher chance of identifying with your brand’s message and content, resulting in a more meaningful connection for both sides. 

As we all continue to navigate the preference for short-form video content, Instagram Reels and TikTok will do the same through new features and capabilities for users, creators, and brands. No matter which platform you opt for, be sure to experiment with trends while continuing to stay true to your brand and target audience.  

If you would like help with marketing and advertising, feel free to contact us. We offer a variety of services like digital marketing & analytics, marketing & brand strategy, and more to small and large companies.

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