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What are the differences between Instagram Reels and TikTok?

Simon Lebrun
April 13, 2022
Last modified on
May 17, 2023
Differences between Instagram Reels and the TikTok platform

In early 2020, TikTok's popularity exploded. Indeed, during the lockdown, the network offered a constant stream of entertaining short videos customized to each user's tastes. 

TikTok first caught on with Generation Z, and then expanded to more diverse age groups. In response to this phenomenon and to counter the competition, Instagram launched its Reels in August 2020.

So we can legitimately ask ourselves what is the difference between TikTok and Reels?

TikTok, Reels... definitions

Before we get into this debate, let's start by going over the basics and understanding how each platform works.

What is a TikTok?

TikTok is an application that allows users to share videos of up to 3 minutes in length. Content creators can tap into the platform's vast catalog of audio, music, filters and effects to create TikToks. These short videos are considered "snack content," meaning they are instantly consumable . Users can find any type of format and video content on the platform, whether it's playback on songs, tutorials, reviews, even, challenges...

What is a Reel?

Reels are a built-in feature of Instagram. Users do not need to download a new app to benefit from them. They were launched to compete with TikTok.

Reels allow Instagram users to create videos of up to 60 seconds in length that can be made with custom music or sound and have filters and effects applied to them. Reels can be shared on the Explore feed using the right hashtags, but also on the News Feed, the dedicated Reels tab and Instagram Stories.

Reels are a simple creative content format to implement. If you're struggling to come up with Instagram post ideas, just follow one of the many Instagram trends that have emerged with Reels. Plus, this new format is being promoted a lot by Instagram and can help creators grow by engaging new audiences. 

TikTok vs Reels: The comparison

Now that you know what Instagram Reels and TikTok are, it's time to compare the two to find out which network does a better job of leveraging this short video format. 

1. Reels vs TikTok : Views and engagement

Statistics from the launch of Reels revealed that Instagram's short video content works. Indeed, 61% of TikTok users said they used Reels and spent more time on Instagram as the features are so similar. (According to Tommy Walters, director of research at the company Whistlewhich specialises in content on social networks).

Furthermore, on average, both platforms have roughly the same number of views on videos, 1.2 million for Reels and 1.92 million for TikTok. However, with an average of over 200,000 likes and 2,000 comments for TikTok, compared to 100,000 likes and 800 comments for Reels, it is TikTok that generates the most engagement.

2. Reels vs TikTok : Video content

Both Reels and TikTok started with 15-second videos beforeexpanding the length of their content. At the time of writing, TikTok is offering its users 3-minute videos, compared to Reels' one-minute videos. Recently, TikTok also added a scrolling feature to some of its videos, allowing users to skip parts of a TikTok.

Additionally, the style of video content differs on each platform. On Instagram, the tone is slicker and the videos are more professional in quality. TikTok lends itself to more spontaneous and authentic content.

3. Reels vs TikTok : The audio

TikTok has a large library of sounds, which includes trendy music among others. Users can also create their own sounds. These sounds often become new trends and have helped independent artists break into the charts. Music and audio trends on TikTok are one of the fastest ways to gain virality.

While the Reels have a wide range of audios,most are imported from TikTok. This is because Instagram is not a music platform, but a platform for sharing artists' original works, and is therefore subject to stricter copyright restrictions.

4. Reels vs TikTok: In-app editing

TikTok offers a wide range of editing possibilities. Many TikTok trends stem from specific video effects. That's why the platform recently launched a new TikTok Effect Studio that gives users the tools to create their own augmented reality effects.

Instagram only offers users filters used in Instagram Stories. In addition, in Reels, users can only choose one filter per video, whereas on TikTok it is possible to use several in the same video.

TikTok also offers greater editing capabilities than Reels, including the ability to create a voiceover.

5. Reels vs TikTok : Analysis

Instagram has a pretty tricky algorithm to understand. It's still unclear how the Reels algorithm works. It's likely that using the platform's most popular hashtags can help creators get exposure.

The main attraction of TikTok is that it is easy to create a viral video, as all videos have a chance of appearing on the "For you" page thanks to its algorithm. TikTok also offers in-depth analytics to its creators and brands to help them understand their audience and how best to target them.

6. Reels vs TikTok : The commercial

Besides partnering with influencers on TikTok, there are other ways for brands to advertise on the platform. The most common is advertising in the "For You" feed, but the platform offers various advertising features such as:

  • Brand Take Over
  • Top-View
  • Hashtag Challenge
  • Sponsored effects

Advertising on Instagram is powered by Facebook. Reel ads are displayed in full screen and appear in the Reels tab, on the Explore page and natively in the feed.

Conclusion: will Instagram's Reels replace TikTok?

Instragram Reels ' formatis very similar to TikToks: they are both short video formats that include infinite scrolling and a responsive algorithm. Instagram's demographic is also very similar to TikTok's, so the two are fierce competitors.

However, while Reels have been shown to improve Instagram's growth, TikTok remains the most downloaded app for over a year. While Reels are very popular with Instagram users, they will not instinctively log into Instagram to view short videos. Also, TikTok remains the leader in its field and Instagram in its own.

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