As you all know, TikTok was here first then came Instagram Reels. However, they have both come a long way with many tools and feature updates. Both started with 15-sec videos before expanding to 3 mins and 1 min respectively. Both formats allow users to create short videos with music or custom audio and even add in-app filters and effects. Trends and challenges normally can be found on both platforms although they mostly start on TikTok and then shift to Instagram. Both are shoppable with either built-in tools or via a third party like Shopify, which has partnered with TikTok to allow brands to promote their products.
Lastly, the ultimate feature both platforms share is that both users can scroll through an infinite number of videos on their discovery page without having to follow any of the creators. Users have access to any type of content from tutorials, dances, music covers, reviews, memes, gaming, and the list just goes on.
Even though perfectly curated Instagram feeds are declining, users more or less still pay attention to aesthetics in comparison to TikTok’s entirely raw and unpolished content.
TikTok offers engagement, reach, demographics, and behavioral insights for their videos while Instagram only offers engagement insights for their Reels.
Despite both feeds allowing users to scroll endlessly for content, the respective algorithms are very different. TikTok consists of two separate feeds. The first one is the For You Page (FYP) which recommends content based on user interactions with who and what type of content, hashtags, songs, one's default language, and location. The second feed is the Following Feed which shows the content from the accounts a user follows. Whereas Reels only has one Reel feed that shows content from creators the user may or may not follow. The Instagram algorithm pushes content from accounts one interacts with the most. (NB: Reels from creators they follow will show up in their normal Instagram feed too).
When it comes to virality, which is fairly any creator’s goal, there are various takes on the subject. The Influencer Marketing Factory analyzed 60 profiles that are active on both platforms with followers between 50K and 50M followers. Results showed that TikToks gets an average of 1.19M views which is relatively tied to Reels with an average of 1.20M views.
On the other hand, TikTok surpasses Reels with newly opened accounts that have no audience or content yet. Even so, Eileen Kwok, Social Marketing Coordinator at Hootsuite, thinks that Reels is the superior platform for engagement, saying, “the competition on TikTok is high right now.”
In a nutshell, we can conclude that Instagram is ultimately a network-based platform despite their recent and ongoing efforts to push Reel content and slightly overstepping their original community-oriented algorithm. Contrarily, TikTok is a purely content-based platform.
Both have their pros and cons. So our advice is to stay up to date on how these platforms and their respective algorithms work. Always keep in mind your target demographic (audience), where you can find them, and try to leverage on your existing online community too. Finally, never underestimate the power of testing new opportunities!