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Instagram Reels vs TikTok: Discover the Differences

Instagram Reels vs TikTok: Discover the Differences

TikTok and Instagram are two of the hottest social media platforms out there, with a combined 1.8 billion active users. Beyond that, they might just be the two most popular social media platforms for today's youth. Pop culture celebrities flock to Instagram, and TikTok has ushered in a new type of internet celebrity culture.

When it comes to marketing, Instagram realized that TikTok has an advantage over them when it came to the length and scale of their video content, so they created "reels". Instagram reels has rivaled TikTok. But in the battle of Instagram reels vs TikTok, which one is better to use?

This article will walk you through the advantage of TikTok, the advantage of Instagram reels, to a brief comparison of the two platforms, and try to provide you with some answers.

TikTok Overview

TikTok is an extremely popular social media. It's relatively new. When it comes to the ratio of "newness" to popularity, TikTok certainly has every other platform beat.

Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok is based in China, and originally was advertised as a dancing-based platform called "" The idea was that people could create quick 15 second clips of them lipsyncing. This is most likely due to the fact that you're allowed to use up to 15 seconds of a song without paying rights for it.

This is still the bread and butter of TikTok content, but people have evolved a whole creative culture out of it. The mimetic/viral nature of pop songs and internet content led to trends developing and spreading quickly. Rather than Instagram and Facebook, which focus on original content, creators on TikTok are encouraged to copy popular trends and post things in line with them.

You can use pretty much any "sound" you want as a TikTok "song". This has led to many people lipsyncing to various viral clips or movie scenes to create shocking, funny, or just downright bizarre content.

Generation Z Driven

You might have heard that generation Z is known for its strange humor (here's some proof). Since most TikTok users are a generation Z, and the platform is practically designed for mimetic humor, TikTok has become a breeding ground for strangely humored concepts. It can be tough for older people to relate to, but it means that if a marketer can crack the contemporary sense of humor, they can truly shine.

One of the reasons TikTok became so popular is timing. The COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020 when TikTok was still experiencing its initial buzz of popularity.

This drove many people online. A huge part of adolescence and young adulthood is going out and seeing friends, trying out fashions, and figuring out who you are. TikTok allowed young people to do this in an age where going outside and seeing friends wasn't really an option.

A culture of fashion developed on TikTok as well, the "eboys" and "egirls" fashion trend. Most subcultural fashion styles develop out of people meeting up and attending music concerts or other artistic endeavors. The e-person style and culture is perhaps the first example of a subculture that completely flourished online.

Many musicians — such as pop star Doja Cat and folk-punk rockers AJJ — experienced surges in popularity after their songs became popular trends.


TikTok has also generated a great deal of controversy. Because it's owned by a Chinese company, many people have worried about the safety of their information. Donald Trump even made plans at one point to ban TikTok entirely, causing waves of his supporters to despise the platform.

TikTok has also received controversy for its close link to the rise of OnlyFans. The customization of TikTok, combined with the emphasis on physical beauty and outfits, combined with TikTok's boom during the COVID pandemic led to many content creators using TikTok to advertise their OnlyFans.

Influencer Marketing

Advertising on TikTok mainly comes in the form of influencer marketing. Influencer marketing is, in essence, paying a popular TikTok user to endorse your product or service, and advertise it to their followers.

This is a new and unique way to advertise because it gives you aspects to a particular niche. If you know the type of people your product applies to, all you need to do is to find a TikTok user that those people are fans of.

This is in line with another popular form of digital advertising in the contemporary world — SEO. SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of using specific keywords on your page to boost your website to the top of search engine results, therefore driving traffic to your site. These two are similar because they're indirect forms of advertising — you're not saying "hey, come try this", as much as you're putting yourself in the way of success.

People enjoy influencer marketing because it allows creators the freedom to adapt their message to their own sense of humor, and their own style. Rather than spending money trying to figure out what the kids are into these days, you can instead deputize someone who is immersed in that culture.

Consumers enjoy influencer marketing more because they're far more likely to trust someone they already are fans of than a company they don't know. Use influencers as a way in, so that they can develop that trust in you.

Paid Ads

While you will be paying influencers for advertisements, it's not quite the same as "paid ads". "Paid ads" usually refer to a company paying for ads that appear on someone's social media page, whether they follow a particular person or note.

With paid ads, you'll show up on people's reels in-between content they did subscribe to, almost as if you were a commercial on TV. These are a bit risky since you're interrupting people's flow. You have to work extra hard to make these ads work.

It should be noted by any advertiser that these sorts of ads are the most similar to ads you'll find on other social media platforms.


Instagram, in contrast, has been around longer than TikTok and is U.S.-owned. It's more popular than TikTok, but its rise was also a lot slower than TikTok, which seemed to have shot up overnight. Though it's had its fair share of controversies, it's not as much of a breeding ground for strange generation Z humor and is considered a mainstay of social media.

While Instagram has options for video content, it's almost entirely based on images. This has made it much more popular for women aged 18-24, even creeping up into the millennial generation, rather than TikTok, which is connected significantly with youth culture.

Unlike TikTok, which has stars popping up for any reason, most of the big stars on Instagram are celebrities who are otherwise famous. This is no doubt due to the fact that posting on Instagram doesn't have a strange specifical culture that's tough to understand.

Instagram, as stated earlier is largely focused on image, which is why many "Instagram models" have risen to prominence. Unlike TikTok, which promotes authenticity and filming people in their natural habitats, Instagram promotes a culture of editing and putting your best foot forward.

Instagram, while often a platform for sexual and political content, is generally considered the safer, more conservative option when it comes to advertising.

Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing is popular on Instagram as well as TikTok, but it works a little differently. Popular influencers on Instagram are more likely to have a wider appeal, and not have such a quirky sense of humor. If you're trying to engage people of all ages, you might do best to reach out to an Instagram, rather than a TikTok, star.

Paid Advertisements

Paid advertisements are popular on Instagram as well. People are more used to getting "edited" and "less personal" content on Instagram, so they don't mind having their flow interrupted as much.

When you pay for Instagram ads, you usually pay on two axes, distance, and time. If you pay more in one direction, your ad will stay around longer. If you pay more in the other direction, the ad will reach a wider distance.

Instagram Reels

While Instagram is firm in its culture of the still image, it realized just how popular videos were getting on TikTok and tried to fire back. This led to the creation of "Instagram reels", savable videos that are easy to access.

Instagram reels can also feature music, in a similar way to TikTok. However, many people have noted that Instagram reels are half as long as TikTok videos, only coming in at 30 seconds long.

For more information on this topic, check out this article.

Instagram Reels vs TikTok

At the end of the day, the battle of Instagram Reels vs TikTok comes down to who you're trying to reach. If you want to capture the heart and mind of the younger generation, and don't mind a bit of controversy, go for TikTok vs Instagram. If you want to stay more middle-of-the-road, and shoot for a wide audience, go for Instagram reels.  

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