Instagram Reels vs. TikTok: Social Media Tips for Marketers

Learn to take stock of your brand’s messaging, your target demographic, and the short-form video content you are publishing to get TikTok and Reels working for you!

Hit the “Whoa!” There’s a New TikTok Rival?!

Anyone familiar with social media marketing has probably figured out that TikTok is much more than an app featuring dance tutorials for Gen Z. In fact, TikTok videos took off so much that social media giant, Meta, jumped on the trend with their own version – Instagram Reels. Now, both platforms play an important role in an overall social media strategy.

You know making and sharing short-form video content has been a cornerstone of the internet’s most viral content since the creation of Vine in 2012. So, in true internet fashion, you’re likely trying to keep up with the times by asking yourself, “what type of content should I be creating, and which video platform should I be posting on?”

Yup, we’ve been there – several times before. Maybe you even perfected your content marketing strategy on TikTok when suddenly Reels, the new kid on the block, entered the arena. A little background and breakdown of both social platforms will help get your content in front of your target audience on the TikTok “for you page” (fyp) AND on Instagram’s Reels tab.

Only a few months before Vine’s discontinuation, we saw the emergence of TikTok – a video-sharing social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance. Then TikTok merged with another Chinese social media service,, in 2018, which made the app available worldwide. Now talk about making a splash – TikTok currently boasts more than 150 million monthly active users to date, and that’s just in the United States.

Reels exists within the Instagram app as a feature for users to publish quick and quippy videos. At launch, Reels permitted a mere 15 seconds of video per post compared to TikTok’s 60 seconds. Since then, Reels has extended video length to a maximum of 90 seconds. Like TikTok, Reels offers content creators and business accounts the ability to create short video montages, which are set to copyrighted audios saved in an in-app sound library or original audio recordings that can then be embellished with effects like sped-up motion and text overlays.

Now you know the basics, so let’s explore the major differences between the two social media platforms.

This Video Is Going to Blow Up!

Going viral is a constant goal held by TikTok creators trying their hardest to please the elusive TikTok algorithm. It’s where all of the latest and greatest trends are born. Internet challenges, hashtag challenges, sound effects, music libraries, and creative vertical video templates are all there for you to use in your content creation and video editing processes. And if you hit a trend just right, you might experience the power of virality in the form of skyrocketed conversions, a significant boost in brand awareness, and exciting engagement rates.

Take advantage and hop on board — the sooner, the better! First, however, be sure these trends are specific to your brand and marketing needs. This is how the platform learns what your brand is really about, then trains the TikTok algorithm to push your content to the right audience who wants to engage with you.

Head over to So Yummy’s TikTok to see examples of viral TikTok content in action. Our most viral videos include bright and colorful clips from our favorite recipes. On August 20, 2020, we posted a step-by-step tutorial for frozen, chocolate-covered bananas. This video doesn’t have over 23 million views by accident—the fun and trendy sound “Bananas” by Conkarah ft. Shaggy was the perfect tune for the clip. It’s likely that using this sound on TikTok significantly boosted this post’s metrics!

You don’t get that same viral effect on Reels. The Instagram algorithm is vastly different. If you take a look at the Reels posted on Blossom’s and So Yummy’s Instagram accounts, you can clearly see the best-performing videos are the ones that also made an appearance on the main grid. Reels gives you the option to “also share to feed,” meaning when you post a Reel, it will publish the content on the feeds of all of your most relevant followers as well as the Reels explore page if your account is set to public.

Where is Your Target Audience?

When it comes to reach, the number one benefit of posting to Instagram Reels is that it’s a new feature on a widely popular platform that most social media consumers are already using. If you have a large audience on Instagram, your audience is already there, and the reach is practically built in. Reels become another way for brands and businesses to engage with their target demographic. Your insights and data are located under one roof, so it’s a singular destination for all your visual marketing needs.

On TikTok, even without followers, your content can gain exposure and amass incredible reach in a single video. And when you do gain followers, your followers do not directly influence the number of eyes that are fed your most recent post. TikTok serves your video to a small number of TikTok users and places it on the popular “For You” page. It’s a distribute-to-anyone-and-everyone type of functionality. Once there, the way that this group of viewers interacts with your content dictates how far it can go.

If your audience enjoys your content on Instagram, they have the ability to share your posts with their audience through Instagram stories and DMs. On TikTok, your audience has a chance to not only share your content with their audience but also provide their commentary and engagement in the form of a duet or stitch where they can post a split-screen video reacting to your original video.

Don’t forget to take age demographics into account. The user base on Instagram is currently a lot broader than on TikTok. For example, you can reach Instagram users in the 30 to 50-year-old demographic on Instagram, while you can target the younger audience of 16 to 24-year-olds on TikTok. Take note of this depending on what users you are trying to attract. Learn more about how to reach the right audience for your brand here.

Take What You’ve Learned ahead to our websitend Run with It!

TikTok can turn an underground musician into a Billboard Top 100 artist. Reels continues the movement pulling Influencer Marketing straight into the limelight of mainstream advertising. Even small businesses and lesser-known e-commerce brands can be seen by millions. There is a massive crossover between the two platforms, but understanding the nuanced differences between the two may be what it takes to get you where you want to go.

For example, singer-songwriter Thomas Rosenthal recorded a cover version of the single Home (Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros song) in 2015, and this went viral on TikTok in September 2020. At the time of release, Rosenthal’s “Home” had less than a hundred streams on Spotify. However, thanks to TikTok, it now has 19 million streams.

First Media is here to help you make sense of this new frontier for short-form video content that’s fast-paced and constantly changing. So if you’re ready to revamp your social media strategy, head to our homepage to learn how you can partner with us to help you create stand-out content worthy of a viral moment.