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January 27, 2021 Last updated on February 9th, 2021
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With TikTok growing in popularity, Instagram launched Reels in August 2020 hoping to attract some creators away from the platform. Instagram Reels is very similar to TikTok. Both apps allow users to create short-form videos set to music.   

While both apps have similar features, they are not exactly alike. 

From the editing tools, audience demographics, advertising options, e-commerce opportunities, and analytics, there are key differences between IG Reels and TikTok. 

In this article, we will see the features of both apps and how they differ from each other. 

Let’s get started.

1. Video Length

TikTok users can record videos that are up to 60 seconds long. On Instagram Reels, users can record videos that are 30-seconds long.

The extra 30-seconds record time on TikTok can be attractive to creators. Users on Reels will have to find creative ways to pass their message within the time limit. 

Some brands have found creative ways to take advantage of Reels’ 30-second time limit.

Brand #1: Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton posts beautiful, high-quality videos showcasing their brand and new collections. Their Reels are very popular with each post averaging 5M views. 

Brand #2: Sephora France

Sephora France uses Reels to share product demos, makeup tutorials, and user-created content. They even encourage user engagement using their captions. 

The caption in this post reads – “Tag a person who dreams of shopping like this!”. 

Using captions will increase user engagement on your posts. You can use this strategy on your TikTok videos too. 

 2. Editing tools and features 

While both Reels and TikTok have similar editing tools, the latter comes with a lot more features. 

On TikTok, users have access to a ton of filters, templates, and effects for editing their videos. 

On Instagram, users can only choose effects from the Instagram Effects Gallery before they can record videos. The effects available are also limited when compared to TikTok. 

Both TikTok and Instagram Reels allow their users to create voice overs for their videos. TikTok takes it a step further by allowing its users to add special voice effects to the audio.  

TikTok also comes with other unique features that allow creators to interact with other users on the app. These features include Duet, Reaction, and Stitch. 

@charlidamelio

##duet with @andiesjourney ! i love you!!! 💕💕

♬ Better When I’m Dancin’ – Meghan Trainor

Instagram Reels do not have the Duet or Stitch feature. Users can only record directly on the app or upload videos from their camera roll. 

3. How the algorithm works 

We know for sure that TikTok serves videos on the ” For You” page based on the user’s interests. They rank videos based on a combination of factors – starting from the interests you choose when you first join the app and adjust it as you start interacting with videos on the platform. 

Some of the factors that affect the algorithm include:

  • User interactions: TikTok will show you content depending on the kind of videos you like or share, posts you comment on, content you create, and accounts you follow. 
  • Video information: Details like sounds, hashtags, and captions also determine the videos the algorithm shows users.
  • Device and account settings: Your language preference, country setting, and device type might affect the videos you see on TikTok. 

The TikTok algorithm uses a “For You” recommendation system. This means that each page is unique to the user. Your interests determine what you see. 

On the other hand, it isn’t clear how Instagram Reels algorithm works. We are not sure whether videos are served to users based on their interests, location, device type, the content they interact with, or who they are following. TikTok has come out with an official statement on how they recommend videos for users. Instagram hasn’t. 

The only statement from Instagram is regarding Reels that are featured on the Explore page – “If your Reel is featured in Explore, you’ll receive a notification. Featured reels are a selection of public reels chosen by Instagram to help you discover original content we hope will entertain and inspire you.”

In the statement, they do not say how they select the Reels that are featured on the Explore page. 

Personally, the featured Reels on my Explore page are usually from accounts with thousands of followers. So Reels with a lot of engagement may have a high chance of featuring on the Explore page.

You will increase the chances of your content showing up on the Explore page by increasing your engagement rate. You can do this by increasing your Instagram following and posting consistently. The same goes for TikTok. Learn how to get more followers on TikTok

4. Music options on TikTok and Instagram Reels

Currently, on Instagram Reels, businesses may not have access to Instagram’s music library due to commercial music rights restrictions. This means that if a business account wants to share a Reel with music, they will have to use their original audio. 

If a business account wants to use a particular music in their Reels, they will have to edit the video outside Instagram and then upload it from the camera roll. 

This restriction only affects business Instagram accounts. Personal accounts can use the music library freely. 

On TikTok, both personal and business accounts have access to the songs in the Sound library. 

TikTok and Instagram users can create videos using the Original Sound created by other TikTok users. Although, this feature is used mostly by TikTokers. 

Also, you can save any TikTok video to your camera roll. Any video you save will have the music and the creator’s watermark included. On Instagram, you can only save your Reels. The videos won’t save with music or a watermark either.

5. Audience demographics

The audience on TikTok is much younger than IG Reels. As of June 2020, teens aged 10 – 19  accounted for 32.5 percent of active TikTok users in the US. 

If your target audience is Gen Z (people born between 1995 – 2010), then create a lot of content for TikTok. 

On the other hand, most Instagram users are aged between 18 to 34 years. According to statista, half of the global Instagram population are aged 34 years or younger.  If you want to target a millennial audience, create more videos for Instagram Reels.

6. Paid advertising

Currently, there are no paid advertising options on Instagram Reels. Although brands can work with influencers and celebrities to promote their products or services. 

Instagram introduced branded content tags for Instagram Reels so that creators can disclose to their users when they post branded content. This will ensure transparency on the platform. 

TikTok offers brands with paid advertising options. There are 5 main options for TikTok. They include:

  • In-Feed Ads: They appear as the user scrolls through the For You section on TikTok’s homepage.
  • Brand Takeover ads: They appear immediately a user opens the app. The ad would appear as a full-screen video on the user’s screen.
  • TopView ads: They are similar to Brand Takeover Ads. The only difference is that TopView Ads appear 5 seconds after the user opens the app.
  • Branded Hashtag Challenges: These are sponsored hashtag challenges that are featured in TikTok’s Discover Page.
  • Branded effects: This ad format allows brands to customize their ads using AR filters, lenses, and branded stickers.

Read this article to learn more about TikTok ads

7. E-commerce 

Instagram has a strong e-commerce presence. Using a menu shortcut on the homepage, users can discover shoppable products straight from Instagram. This feature makes it easy for people to discover products and shop from brands.

According to a report from Facebook for Business, 130 million Instagram accounts tap on a shopping post to learn more about products every month. 

As of Dec 10, users can now shop using Reels. The update is still rolling out globally. Creators will be able to tag their products in Reels. Viewers who are interested in a product can click the “View Product” button to learn about a featured product, buy, or save for later. 

TikTok also has plans to introduce e-commerce shopping to the platform by 2021. 

TikTok announced a partnership with Shopify in October 2020. The partnership aims to make it easier for Shopify merchants to reach out to their TikTok audience and drive sales. 

In an interview with TechCrunch, Satish Kanwar, Vice President of Product at Shopify said “TikTok is one of the world’s fastest-growing entertainment platforms with over 100 million highly engaged users in the U.S. alone…. The TikTok channel means Shopify merchants — even those without a strong TikTok following of their own yet — can connect with these new audiences using content that feels authentic and genuine to the TikTok experience.”

Merchants will be able to connect their TikTok Business account directly to their Shopify account. This will allow them to sell their Shopify products on TikTok via in-feed shoppable video ads.

Unlike Reels where you manage the shop from your Instagram dashboard, TikTok users will manage their shop via a Shopify dashboard. This will include ad creation, targeting, optimization, and tracking. 

In the past, TikTok had experimented with “Shop Now” buttons for video ads and allowed TikTokers to add ecommerce links to their bios. This partnership with Shopify will make it easier for users to shop on the platform. 

8. Analytics

Currently, there is no way to view analytics for your Instagram Reels. Hopefully, Instagram will make an update for this soon. 

To view analytics on TikTok, you will have to open a TikTok Pro Account. It isn’t difficult. I have detailed how to go about it in this extensive guide to TikTok analytics

TikTok analytics has three main sections:

Profile Overview: This analytics page will give you insights into the overall performance of your TikTok account. In this section, you can analyze your video views, profile views, and follower count.

Content Insights: This section offers insight into the overall performance of your TikTok videos. You will be able to identify the videos your followers engage with the most, your trending videos, and more. 

Follower Insights: This tab will help you analyze your follower demographics. You can break down your audience by gender, top territories, followers’ activities, videos your followers watched, and the sounds your followers listened to. 

Benefits of Using Instagram Reels

The main benefit of using Instagram Reels is that most brands already have an established following on Instagram. It is easier for brands to connect with their audience on the platform. Brands that already have an Instagram content marketing strategy can simply add Instagram Reels to the mix. 

Also, IG Reels has a broader user base than TikTok. A lot of older adults use Instagram, unlike TikTok where the main demographics are teens and young adults. So brands that want to attract the older demographics should have a strong Reels presence.

Benefits of using TikTok

The main benefit of using TikTok is that you can attract the next generation of social media users (Gen Z). In the US, Gen Z is the largest subgroup accounting for over 26% of the total population. Also, Gen Z has tremendous buying power. In the US alone, their purchasing power is estimated to be $143 billion

Even if your brand is not currently targeting Gen Z users, you should still build a strong presence on TikTok. Gen Z users will grow as they use the app, and eventually, they will become your target audience. As TikTok grows in popularity, older demographics are starting to use the platform.

Conclusion

Both platforms are great. Most brands will be inclined to choose one over the other. The best strategy for brands who want to grow is to leverage both platforms. This will help you diversify your audience and increase your brand reach. 

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