TikTok vs Instagram Reels: Which video platform is right for your brand?
In surveying the current social media landscape, it’s clear that video continues to be a dominant force. There is no clearer example of this than looking at the growth of TikTok and Instagram Reels — two platforms that are solely dedicated to short-form social video. The questions then arise: What are the key differentiators between TikTok vs Instagram Reels? How do you determine whether your brand should be activating on one or the other, or both? It’s time to demystify these social video opportunities.
TikTok: Younger and Highly Engaged
While many social media platforms saw their user bases grow during the pandemic, TikTok saw particularly rapid expansion in the U.S. market. In 2020, the app was the most popular downloaded app globally, with 89 million downloads occurring in the U.S. alone. Currently, there are 732 million active monthly users.
Of those users, TikTok’s audience composition skews heavily toward a younger demographic: 25% of users are age 10-19, and 22.4% of users are age 20-29. As a whole, 44% of TikTok users fall within the 20-39 age range, an audience segment that currently holds much of the purchasing power.
The audience on TikTok is also highly engaged — micro accounts (fewer than 15,000 followers) drive almost an 18% engagement rate on average, while mega accounts (more than 1 million followers) still achieve close to 5% engagement.
TikTok has captured the attention of a large volume of users that engage frequently and for long periods: on average, users spend 850 minutes per month consuming content on the app, and 90% of users use the app multiple times per day. As the platform’s offerings and audience continue to grow, more and more brands are considering the opportunity that TikTok offers to reach new and young consumers.
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Instagram Reels: Familiar Platform, Older Demographic
Since 2019, Instagram has seen 16% growth in active monthly users and currently boasts 1.4 billion active monthly users. 71% of the Instagram audience is made up of users age 18 to 29, leaning slightly older than TikTok’s audience demographics.
Audience engagement skews lower than on TikTok, with smaller accounts (fewer than 15,000 followers) producing an average of 3.9% while mega accounts (more than 1 million followers) drive 1.2%.
Reels can be discovered in a variety of locations in app: on one’s feed, in the dedicated Reels feed, as well as in the Explore tab. The videos are integrated into the existing Instagram app, making Reels an easier transition for users already on Instagram but wary of joining a new app like TikTok.
For brands that have a well-established presence and strong engagement on Instagram, Reels offer them the opportunity to connect with consumers in an additional format without having to expand to new platforms.
TikTok vs Instagram Reels: Pros and Cons
While both TikTok and Reels have many similar characteristics, there are unique pros and cons to each.
TikTok’s editing suite is much more robust than Instagram’s, offering users a wider variety of filters, video templates, and collaborative opportunities like video stitches and duets. The audio library is also larger than what Instagram offers.
If a brand is aiming to reach a younger and highly engaged audience, TikTok is an excellent choice. TikTok has a significantly more engaged audience, with average engagement rates across all account sizes more than four times Instagram’s engagement rates. It continues to be a hugely popular social media platform amongst Gen Z consumers, who are rising into their own purchasing power now.
Additionally, if a brand is able to tap into a viral moment, there is an opportunity for wide exposure and engagement with an audience far beyond the brand’s followers on the app. Identifying and creating content in line with trends and other popular videos is a great way to leverage this aspect of the platform.
There are, however, some drawbacks to the TikTok offering. The app has little differentiation in terms of placements, offering fewer opportunities for consumer touchpoints. While viral content is an excellent way to reach a broader audience, those engagements don’t necessarily drive brand followers and loyalty, and virality is never a guarantee.
At this time, TikTok does not offer a shopping integration like Instagram does with shops for organic content, however, the platform is a Shopify partner so it is likely that this capability will be rolled out sooner rather than later.
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On Instagram, Reels have fewer editing tools available for users to develop their content, which can be helpful in shortening the learning curve but may hold brands back from creating more dynamic content.
For brands that have an established Instagram presence, Reels are a great way to diversify their feeds and leverage a new placement that is currently being elevated by the Instagram algorithm. Reels can also be shared in additional places, like Stories and in-Feed, allowing for easier consumer discovery.
Instagram’s slightly older audience also carries more purchasing power, allowing for brands on the app to reach consumers more likely to convert. The Shoppable capability of Reels facilitates conversion even more so, simplifying the process to purchase. Younger generations are not creating accounts on Instagram, though, so brands may face a challenge as the Instagram audience begins to age out.
It is important to note that simply cross-posting videos from TikTok to Instagram is not necessarily the perfect solution brands might envision. Instagram has warned users that video content with watermarks overlaid will be less visible on the platform, preventing users from directly posting TikTok created content to Reels. On the flip side, with stronger video editing offerings on TikTok, Reels may feel like they have a lower production quality when syndicated to TikTok — something consumers quickly notice which may cause users to disengage.
TikTok vs Instagram Reels: How to make a decision
While both TikTok and Instagram Reels offer brands additional opportunities to engage with consumers on social media, it is not necessary to activate on both platforms to drive audience engagement.
The main factors for consideration are where a brand’s target audience is consuming content and whether the brand can commit to posting consistently, either on one app or both.
For brands that have already cultivated and built their audience on Instagram and that have higher price point products, Reels are a great way to reach followers in an engaging format while also playing into the Instagram algorithm.
If a brand’s goal is to reach a younger, highly engaged audience or establish a social presence, TikTok is an excellent platform to drive brand awareness with target consumers.
It is always important to consider asset creation, because TikTok and Reels content requires dedicated video production. Though content does not have to be premium — in fact, lower-budget, entertaining clips often perform better — video development is a component that all brands must think about when considering testing on Reels or TikTok. For this reason, influencer partners can be a good option for brands to tap into for dedicated Reels and TikTok asset creation in order to offer additional exposure to a broader audience.
This report on is part of a series of updates that provide data-driven insights and experience-based anecdotes from our social media team. If you have feedback or questions, please send us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.