Platform War: TikTok v/s Reels

TikTok and Instagram Reels have become a go-to marketing strategy in social media.  Which platform is winning? Vines, Snapchat, and Spotify. Put the three together, and what do you get? TikTok. If you are wondering what happened to, well, it was purchased by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance. They did not want the competition. Four […]


  • TikTok and Instagram Reels have become a go-to marketing strategy in social media.  Which platform is winning?

    Vines, Snapchat, and Spotify. Put the three together, and what do you get? TikTok. If you are wondering what happened to, well, it was purchased by TikTok’s parent company ByteDance. They did not want the competition.

    Four years later, Instagram Reels hit the market. Being called TikTok’s clone and copycat, Reels had to work harder to prove its uniqueness with better features and reach. Despite the backlash, the two platforms have taken the global online community by storm. One of the popular past times, consider them as the social media versions of “Take a KitKat Break.” 

    Meanwhile, the business industry began to take advantage of the billions of TikTok and Instagram users. Using the platforms to create creative content for product advertising, brand awareness and brand marketing, marketers have begun to indulge in short video marketing. Should they choose TikTok or Reels? Which platform can produce better ROI? Which platform holds their target audience? To deliver better insights on their efficiency, we compared the two platforms on a variety of factors.

    The Showdown 

    Video Length: The most obvious difference is the video length on the two platforms. While Reels only allows 30 seconds of content, TikTok offers double the time. Is this difference a big deal? While it should not affect the goals of marketers, it does affect the flow of content. Reels push marketers to develop crisp and creative content, while the long duration of TikTok videos can create lazy content. Some argue that the 60 seconds paves the way for deeper and complex stories compared to TikTok, but keeping the attention span of millennials in mind, Instagram has got it better. Moreover, while brands can post the same Reel on TikTok, they cannot possibly do it the other way around unless the video is cut short. The flow of content is lost then, isn’t it?  

    Reels: 1

    TikTok: 0 

    Music Library: Audio is the most critical factor of these short videos. Brands might assume that musical options wouldn’t be a problem on either of the platforms. It turns out, Instagram locks out several business accounts from their music library, possibly due to the commercial issues of copyright. However, TikTok has its music door open to all, and it allows customers to download and save videos they enjoy. Instagram restricts reel downloads of other users, and even if a brand wants to save their reel offline, the audio clip is restricted. Instagram is working on this complication, but for now, TikTok wins the round.

    Reels: 1

    TikTok: 1

    Editing Surplus:  Both platforms allow users to add clips from their camera roll, and they have similar editing interfaces. Their primary difference is the depth of their editing features. TikTok is popular for its filters, effects, and templates. Instagram reels, however, have a comparatively limited box of fun editing features. Because they are still new to the game, Instagram reels offer voiceovers, but unlike TikTok, brands cannot add special effects to the audio. While Tiktok’s stitch feature is exclusive, their Duet editing tool has been recently adopted by Instagram Reels as Remix. Instagram is catching up to its Chinese counterpart, but it’s still a few steps behind with its editing features.

    Platform War_ TikTok v_s Reel1

    Reels: 1

    TikTok: 2

    Influencer Partnerships: The top TikTok influencer with over 102 million followers is Charlie D’amelio, while Cristiano Ronaldo is the top Instagram influencer with over 275 million followers.

    Instagram is in the lead when it comes to big celebrities and social influencers account for most followers. But are all these major influencers ready to work with brands? Not really. TikTok has smaller influencers but ones who are willing to partner and sponsor products. A study from Upfluence reported higher engagement rates on TikTok, with micro-influencers generating over 17 per cent engagement rates as compared to Instagram’s 3.8 per cent. 

    For instance, TikTok influencer Addison Rae partnered with American Eagle for a hashtag challenge for brand awareness. Her video generated over 25 million views. A job well done. TikTok also developed a Creator Marketplace where brands can directly collaborate with creators and influencers. Nevertheless, Instagram celebrities cannot be sidelined as some of them generate viral content keeping brands happy.

    According to a report by Influencer Marketing Hub, 96 per cent of brand campaigns portrayed Instagram influencers by the end of 2020. Only a shocking 6.8 per cent included TikTok influencers. At the end of the day, brands always desire a high profile influencer partnership, so Instagram Reels takes the point.

    Also Read: Social Media News You Must Know 

    Reels: 2

    TikTok: 2

    Paid Advertisements: After a few TikTok scrolls, a sponsored ad is added to the mix. If a viewer scrolls for 15 minutes, he might be subjected to over 25 paid advertisements, and brands can achieve visibility. Instagram users find sponsored advertisements after every four posts on their news feed, but when the Reels tab is viewed, there is no single advertisement in the queue. 

    Instagram has not added the paid advertisement feature in their Reels section. There is an option for brands to hire a content creator or influencer to film brand content, but would they want to solely rely on the third party’s audience instead of capitalising on paid advertisements and sponsorships? 

    Reels: 2

    TikTok: 3 

    Demographics: SproutSocial research states that 75 per cent of possible customers aged between 18 and 24 years, 57 per cent aged between 25 and 30, and 47 per cent aged between 30 and 49 use Instagram. Instagram has a well-rounded audience viewership, but TikTok, on the other hand, attracts the younger generation – the Gen Z and millennials. While brands that cater to the younger crowd can use both platforms at ease, companies that sell services and products for the older generation are left with one option only.

    Reels: 3

    TikTok: 3 

    The Outreach: Facebook launched Reels in August last year, and since then, their success chart has only witnessed a climb. Statistics presented by The Influencer Marketing Factory shows that the average views acquired by TikTok is over 1.1 million, and Instagram views were at over 1.2 million. Views in terms of followers also reflected a massive difference with TikTok at over 24 per cent view rate and Instagram over 144 per cent view rate. Instagram has been around longer than TikTok, so brands can count on higher engagement and reach with Reels. 

    Reels: 4

    TikTok: 3  

    Monetisation: Monetisation from these platforms is not essential for brands but a motivating factor for smaller businesses and start-ups. TikTok allows users to monetise content with their TikTok Creator Fund. Depending on their number of views, users can earn money from the Fund. Instagram Reels does not entertain this option. 

    Reels: 4

    TikTok: 4

    Algorithms & Analytics: TikTok’s algorithm revolves around its ‘For You’ page. The ‘For You’ recommendation system suggests content based on interests expressed, user interactions, device and account setting, and the content pinned as “Not Interested” by users. 

    With customised content, TikTok is different from Reels, where content is explosive and not streamlined yet. Despite it, a clever feature of the Reels algorithm is to inform user brands when their reel is selected to be featured in the Explore tab. That is some inspiration that brands would welcome. Another exclusive analytics feature of Reels is that brands are informed about the number of website clicks through their Reels caption section, something TikTok does not include. A draw, perhaps?

    But wait, we found one other feature. TikTok’s algorithms can measure user behaviour every few seconds. With a record of tracking more videos than any other platform, micro-observation analytics can track over five measurements in a minute. The math reflects 300 data points a day and 9,000 data points every month per user. With spectacular algorithms, TikTok looks like the winner. Yet, from a brand’s perspective, the features offered by Reels are equally important. 

    Also Read: A Revolutionary Marketing Battlefield: #Instagram

    Reels: 5

    TikTok: 5

    ROI Expectations: TikTok shopping has raised bars with the recently popular #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt. With almost 2 billion views, the hashtag features fascinating and trending products that include smart plugs, dishwasher magnets, rechargeable lighters, and upholstery vacuum. Moreover, capitalising directly on the platform’s popularity, Dunkin’ Donuts partnered with TikTok star Charli D’Amelio to launch their Charli x Dunkin’ merch. Brands have started to believe that using these platforms for marketing is more of a strategy now than experimentation for ROI. 

    On the other hand, Instagram has been around far longer than TikTok, but Reels is a new addition. They might not have exclusive shopping hashtags or tools just yet, but Reels is here to stay. 

    Reels: 5

    TikTok: 6

    We Have a Winner

    TikTok, with its 689 million active users, has made a global impact. Brands like Chipotle, NFL, The Washington Post, Guess, Amazon, and Mountain Dew have effectively utilised the platform for brand awareness. 

    Relatively new, Instagram Reels is still in the race but a little behind TikTok in popularity, which is the seventh-largest populated platform, ahead of other popular social media platforms, including Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter.

    Instagram Reels has a high possibility of overtaking TikTok, which is banned in a few countries, including India and Pakistan. With the loss of India’s 200 million users, the platform has begun to stumble. Facebook made a calculating move by launching Instagram Reels a few months after the 2020 ban in India. 

    Time will reflect the growing marketing statistics of these two platforms. Meanwhile, TikTok holds the championship belt.


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