The short-form video trend appears to be here to stay. In 2020, 73% of videos clocked in at two minutes or less and we’ll likely see videos get even shorter during 2021.

Study shows that 15 years ago, the average attention span for watching videos was 20 minutes and now it is 2 to 5 minutes. By creating bite-sized, snackable videos that are highly consumable, companies can get their message across quickly before audiences lose interest. 

As TikTok, a platform strictly for micro-video content, skyrocketed in popularity, Instagram quickly worked to introduce its own version—Instagram Reels. 

Now the question is, which one should businesses use? To help answer that, below we break down the similarities and differences between Instagram Reels vs. TikTok. 

Overview of Instagram Reels vs. TikTok

Increased consumption of video on social media isn’t anything new, neither are platforms dedicated to short-form video. Anyone remember, Vine? 

But TikTok changed the game by becoming the most downloaded app of 2020 and remained the most downloaded app in Q1 2021. The app currently has more than 689 million monthly active users, up from 500 million in 2019. 

The folks at Wired nailed it when they described TikTok as “fast-paced and chaotic, combining elements of Spotify, Snapchat, Vine, and Twitch into a single social network.” 

Sure the global pandemic certainly contributed to its booming popularity, but despite the controversy surrounding the app’s Chinese roots, it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. 

TikTok caused such a disruption in the social media industry that other platforms worked quickly to create similar versions. 

The most successful to date has been Instagram Reels which launched in August 2020. Rather than create an entirely separate platform, Instagram opted to add the functionality to its existing app which has been wildly successful in its own right with over 1 billion people using Instagram every month.

Instagram itself was among the top five most downloaded apps last year. The app scored roughly 13 million downloads in Q2 2020 alone. As of January 2021, Instagram was second only to TikTok in the App Store in terms of downloads. Since the launch of its Reels feature, downloads of the app increased by 11.4%. 

Audience Demographics

While both platforms offer the same type of content, the demographic on TikTok seems to skew younger than Instagram Reels.

TikTok’s largest user age group remains 18-34-year-olds (42.7%), however, the platform is seeing a notable increase in use among middle-aged adults. Its user base is dedicated, with the average user spending a staggering 21.5 hours per month in 2020 (compared to 12.8 hours in 2019).

The younger user-base presents challenges in terms of ad-targeting but helps explain the boom of influencer marketing.

There are not currently audience demographics just for Instagram Reels, but for Instagram as a whole, 37% of adults in the U.S. use the platform. The largest user age group is adults ages 25-34 (33.1%) followed closely by the 18-24-year old age group. In terms of gender, 57% of its users identifying as female and 43% male. Of its total users, 62% log in at least once a day. 


Instagram users can record and edit together 15 to 30-second video clips set to music and share them to their Stories, Explore Feed, and the Reels tab on a user’s profile. Users can also choose from a variety of creative editing tools including: 

  • Audio / Music: However, the music feature may not be available to business profiles
  • Augmented Reality (AR) Effects
  • Transitions
  • Stitchable Takes
  • Timer and Countdown
  • Align: To help create seamless transitions 
  • Speed: Choose to speed up or slow down part of the video or audio 

TikTok offers all of these features and more such as filters, templates, and the ability to “duet” with other users. 

It’s evident TikTok wants to hold onto its top spot with the amount that has been invested into creating new features. Already this year, TikTok has added:

  • Auto-captions to improve accessibility
  • Comment review option
  • ‘Playlists’ to group clips into themed collections
  • A new video editor to help brands create more native-looking TikTok clips
  • Small Business Resource Center to help small and medium-sized businesses
  • Video scheduler to plan TikToks in advance

Plus with a TikTok Pro account, users can access valuable audience and content analytics to target the right audiences and really understand what they’re interested in.

Currently, there aren’t any insights for Instagram Reels. Right now, users can only see the number of views, likes, and comments.

Creating Posts

User interface aside, creating an Instagram Reel or TikTok is fairly similar. You can either choose to film video clips on the spot or upload a pre-edited video from your camera roll.

TikToks can be up to 15 seconds long, but users can also connect multiple clips together for up to 60 seconds of total recording. You can also upload longer videos that have been recorded outside the app itself. 

Reels are limited to 15 or 30 seconds in length, but you’d be surprised at what you can squeeze in a 15 or 30-second spot. 

The beauty of producing a short-form video for your business is that you don’t typically need a lengthy script or elaborate setting. Often, videos that aren’t overly produced perform best as they feel more authentic. 

Some of the types of content that perform well on TikTok and Instagram Reels include: 

  • Educational (ex. recipes, how-to videos, hacks) 
  • Behind The Scenes (ex. workspace tour, meet the team, how it’s made)
  • Product Highlights
  • User-Generated Content

But keep in mind, if you want to save time by repurposing content, Instagram has confirmed that content that’s visibly recycled from other apps (containing logos or watermarks) will be less discoverable on the Reels tab. In other words, DON’T upload videos with TikTok (or other app watermarks) into Reels.

Which Is Better for Businesses?

When it comes to Instagram Reels vs. TikTok, there’s no clear winner when it comes to which is better for businesses. 

For those who already have an established and engaged audience on Instagram, its Reels feature is a great way to jump on board with the growing short-form video trend. With fewer features, it has a shorter learning curve and those who already use the app are more likely to post consistently which is a key to finding social media success. 

Using TikTok is a great way to show another side of your brand, build a niche community, and target a younger generation of buyers. Plus, there are a lot of different opportunities that brands and businesses can explore when it comes to advertising on TikTok such as in-feed ads, branded effects, sponsored hashtag challenges and brand takeovers. 

If you’re not ready or have the resources to use Instagram Reels and TikTok, ask yourself two questions: where is your audience and which one can you commit to using consistently?

Want to learn more? Follow TargetMarket as we take our own advice and by sharing helpful marketing tips and insights on Instagram and TikTok @TargetMarketCHS.

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