TikTok vs. Instagram Reels

Bangkok, Thailand - August 22, 2019 : iPhone 7 showing its screen with TikTok and other social media application icons.

The past couple of months have been a whirlwind for avid TikTok users. We know that President Trump is not a fan of the Chinese-owned company and so the future of TikTok is in limbo. Last week, we were under the impression that by Sunday, September 20th, the application would be unavailable in all app stores but on Saturday, Oracle Corp. and Walmart Inc. were in talks with Trump to agree upon a tentative deal. Since then, there still isn’t much clarity other than the fact that TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance Ltd., and Oracle Corp. are still negotiating the structure and who will have majority control of the company.

But, fear not short-video dance lovers, there’s a new way to enjoy this same content! Tested in Brazil, France and Germany in 2019, Instagram released Instagram Reels on August 5th, 2020. The new feature lives right inside your Instagram app and is described as, “a new way to create and discover short, entertaining videos on Instagram.” Sounds like TikTok right? Sort of. We’ll break down a few slight differences below:


Instagram allows you to record up to 15 seconds of content whereas TikTok allows up to 60 seconds. Because of TikTok’s success with the longer formatted videos, it will be interesting to see over time if Instagram extends its quick videos. We’ve seen several influencers we work with express that they wish they had more time to record their content, as 15 seconds can fly by!


One feature of TikTok is that you can have a split screen that lets you record with another user. This popular function has made for some hilarious reaction videos where users post a copycat of another’s viral TikTok. Instagram has yet to incorporate this into its app or comment on if it is a part of the future.


TikTok is known for better understanding its users’ likes and dislikes. The company crafted an easy way for users to click on hashtags to discover like-minded videos. The hashtag function of the application also allows for more engagement because when a hashtag goes viral, more people are inclined to use it. When you click on a hashtag for Instagram Reels, it takes you to, not just Reels, but static posts and IGTV posts that also use that hashtag. 


Instagram Reels lives within the Instagram app and there are a few pros and cons to that. Some users have complained that Reels doesn’t stand out enough and it’s harder to get to because they sit on the “Explore” page of Instagram. For TikTok, you don’t need an account to access the videos. You can send content to non-users via text or messenger and then they can easily click on the video and watch it from a browser. 

Which is Better?

While the above may put TikTok ahead, time will tell on which application will prevail. TikTok’s fate is up in the air and one thing we do know is that people do know and love Instagram. With each feature update, users have adapted and continued to use Instagram. Each app allows audio overlay, AR effects, timer and countdowns, alignment of videos and speed control.

We encourage you to get your creative juices flowing and test out the new Instagram feature. Chipotle, Burger King, and Xbox are just a few brands seeing soaring engagement with their first couple of videos. You can also check out our first attempt here

By Miranda Carpenello