Reels vs. TikTok: What You Need to Know
If you’ve had the feeling of déjà vu over the last year as you navigate around Instagram, the culprit is likely the new Reels feature. It’s either that or all your friends are posting “photo dump” slideshows so you’re seeing a lot of those on your feed. Reels looks so familiar because it follows the same formatting as TikTok – in terms of orientation, dimensions, and duration- so they do seem incredibly alike on the surface.
So, what’s the deal with having two such similar video platforms? First, and quite simply, TikTok owns itself and Facebook owns Instagram, which, in turn, owns the Reels section of Instagram. Facebook is a big company and has a history of not wanting competitors to encroach on their business territory. As such, it appears that they created a direct competitor to TikTok simply to take market share and increase their chances to maintain market dominance.
Beyond that background, the questions you also may want to be answered are related to understanding the nuances that differentiate the two platforms, which is best for your business, and how to capitalize on each. So, let’s discuss everything Reels vs. TikTok…
1. The Tunes
TikTok’s success is rooted in its usage of audio- which is fitting, since its first incarnation was as Musical.ly, an app ridiculously named, and specifically designed, to create, and share lip-sync videos.
The audio options have only grown with TikTok’s popularity, and most trends you see on the platform are dependent on the audio circulating. Because of its emphasis on music and audio, TikTok has made it easy for all users to access its audio library- all music and audio clips are available for people to re-use on their own videos, and users can turn their own original posts’ audio into a sound to be spread around in more videos.
Reels offers a much smaller selection of music options, limiting users to royalty-free music clips, but otherwise follows the same design of linking music and original audio to your videos. Though it’s a little behind right now, as Reels grows and develops, there’s no reason to think it won’t be expanding its music options in the future.
2. Video Length
For a platform dealing exclusively in video, it’s important to know what kind of timeframe you’re working with. Reels has just increased the time limit for their videos from 30 to 60 seconds, whereas TikTok has recently expanded its own maximum video length to a whopping three minutes. While it’s undoubtedly nice to have options, most videos have remained on the briefer side, as audiences have become accustomed to the shorter videos and have shortened their attention spans appropriately.
Early on, our view, here at iScreamSocialMedia was that the algorithms realized that attention span was short and so quicker videos were prioritized. Today, we still believe shorter videos tend to be better bets, but longer form content, if well-structured and engaging, can thrive on both TikTok and Reels. Depending on what kind of videos you tend to scroll through on TikTok, three minutes might feel incredibly long. (Tip: did you know you could fast forward videos on TikTok by dragging your finger along the bottom of the screen?)
On the flip side, Reels was (until very recently) confining their video content to half a minute. Since Instagram- and by association, Reels- is typically home to more polished and informative content, longer videos would likely be utilized more fervently on that platform as opposed to TikTok.
3. Bells & Whistles
There are incredible options available on Reels and TikTok to dress up your content that you just won’t find on any kind of Instagram Stories addition or a permanent photo post. These include filters, audio, and ways to interact with followers. TikTok is the master of adding cool features, and almost all the fun trends and challenges you see between the two apps start there before they make their way over to Reels.
Features can be added to TikTok videos during and after their creation- as opposed to Reels, where they can only be added after- and there are many more editing tools available on TikTok than on Reels. The result of this imbalance has been for many creators to make content on TikTok and repost it on Reels.
There is also a feature on both Reels and TikTok- called Remixing and Duetting respectively- that allows users to take a posted video and play it side-by-side along with their own video as they react, respond, or just play along with the first video. TikTok has a leg up in this section with its Stitch feature- another way to respond and react to other posted videos.
The features aren’t limited to content creation, though! Both platforms offer ways to advertise products in a way that makes it easy for users to shop as they scroll. TikTok also includes different ways for you to interact with your audience through questions and comments which can be used as links to videos that respond to them.
4. So, which platform should you use?
Both! The phrase “less is more” very rarely applies to marketing on social media, and this is no exception! While the two platforms are similar, their differences can be utilized to fine-tune your content and target different audiences. They can even drive people back and forth between your accounts.
In truth, the main difference between Reels and TikTok is that Reels is an interesting feature on a larger platform, and TikTok deals exclusively with a specific type of content. By engaging with both apps, you can tailor your media to fit your audience and meet your engagement expectations.