Reels vs TikTok – which is right for your brand?

Instagram Reels and TikTok – same same but different.

They’re both platforms for the creation and discovery of short-form videos. Both have simple-to-use editing features for adding music, changing speed and adding filters. Both are geared towards easy discoverability and are so quick and easy to use that anyone can be a ‘creator’. Where they differ is their audience, functionality and advertising opportunities.

So, how do you decide which platform is better for your brand, or if you should use both? Here we break down everything you need to know about TikTok and Instagram Reels.

What brands need to know about TikTok

TikTok exploded in popularity back in 2018 and has remained as one of the most downloaded apps since then. When TikTok first launched, it appealed mainly to the Gen Z audience, but has since expanded, with Millennials now making up a greater percentage of the TikTok user base.

Its success is partly owed to its discovery mechanism and shareability. 

TikTok’s discovery mechanism is unique, in that it allows new videos to gain traction regardless of the user’s follower count. When a new video is published on TikTok, it will surface on a small number of TikTok users’ ‘For You’ page and if it performs well, it will be exposed to more people. 

TikTok videos can also be easily downloaded and shared across other social media platforms, with music credit, user credit and the TikTok logo featuring in the corner of the video. 

From a brand’s perspective, TikTok is a highly appealing platform for building brand awareness, as you can reach new audiences without needing an established following, with the added potential to go viral.

In terms of advertising and marketing, TikTok has the following formats available for brands to use to reach and connect with its user base:

  • Brand takeover ads
  • TopView ads
  • In-feed ads (reach, traffic, app installs, video views, conversions)
  • Branded hashtag challenges
  • Branded effects and lenses

We talk more about these in another blog called, Should TikTok be a part of your Marketing Strategy?

What sets TikTok apart from other platforms is that their sophisticated video creation and editing tools also extend to the TikTok ads manager platform – allowing brands to easily and quickly make ads. 

Brands can choose to either upload their edited videos and images, or leverage TikTok’s creative tools which analyse the uploaded media, automatically cut the video clips, add video transitions and sync it to the rhythm of the applied music. This is great for small brands on a budget that are managing their marketing, as it helps save on time, production costs and know-how. 

Another great feature of the TikTok ads manager platform is the Automated Creative Optimization tool, which helps brands identify winning creatives and saves effort by automatically optimising well-performing ads and discontinuing poorly-performing ads.

Something new from TikTok is the Creator Marketplace which helps connect brands to high performing TikTok creators. With this tool, brands can analyse creators’ performance metrics with authentic data insights, get directly in touch and start discussions for a brand collaboration.

What brands need to know about Instagram Reels

Reels is not a stand-alone app, but rather an additional feature of Instagram introduced to help diversify and grow the platform. It’s still relatively new, having only been launched back in August this year, but thanks to Instagram’s use of influencers to boost the launch, Reels is rapidly gaining popularity. 

With the latest Instagram update, Reels is now featured front and centre on the main navigation, directing users to a feed dedicated to Reels, similar to the For You page on TikTok. While the algorithm hasn’t been locked down yet, the Reels that show in this feed are likely influenced by who you follow, the content you interact with, and your location. Reels also gets its own dedicated space on users’ profiles, separate to the photo/video grid feed, and also appears sporadically throughout the Explore page.

^Image credit: Later

Video content creation has been on the rise through social media platforms over the last few years and Reels now provides users on Instagram with a way of creating engaging videos that are shorter than IGTV, but more permanent than Stories. This move from Instagram demonstrates that they’re listening to the wants and needs of their users and that the future of the app will be more video focused. 

Compared to TikTok, Reels does not have as extensive a range of editing tools available, at the moment. However, given its growth over the last few months, this could change over the next few years. 

The appeal for Reels is that brands already on Instagram with an established reach and following won’t need to start from scratch with their marketing strategy or with trying to build an audience. Additionally, the demographics of Instagram are currently a lot broader than TikTok with the ability to reach more users in the 35+ years range.

Reels is a great opportunity for brands to partner with influencers to create fun and engaging branded Reels as well as boost User Generated Content campaigns. Currently, the only analytics available for Reels are view count, likes, and comments, but more in-depth analytics are likely not too far off. It’s also likely that Reels will eventually bring in features like shoppable stickers and swipe-up links.

What do Creators think about Reels?

There are mixed feelings about Instagram Reels at the moment. In surveys and interviews conducted by Mediakix and Time Magazine, a range of top and upcoming TikTok influencers shared their thoughts and experiences on Reels, how it compares to TikTok and how they plan to use both platforms.

Most expressed their preference for TikTok and its wider range of editing tools and its discovery mechanisms, but many also see Reels as an opportunity to reach new audiences.

“My job as a creator and filmmaker isn’t to focus all my energy on the platforms I’m creating on or whether TikTok, Instagram or any social media will be shutting down, but rather what I am creating…I’m much more excited about the culture and community on TikTok. I have my doubts that Reels will be able to capture the full essence of what TikTok is…That being said, Reels is a great opportunity for creators to jump in and have a higher likelihood of being featured within the Instagram app which still has a strong and unique community as well.” – ZACH KING, TikTok creator

“Just as brands shouldn’t advertise on only one platform, I can’t put all of my eggs in one basket either…if I did that in 2014 with Vine, I wouldn’t be around today.” – AMANDA CERNY, TikTok creator

“…as I was uploading travel content on Reels, I quickly learned that the organic reach is actually higher than it is on TikTok for travel influencers. – JON MIKSIS, TikTok creator

The Takeaway

Figuring out which platforms are best suited to your brand ultimately comes down to who your target audience is and how people engage with your content. TikTok is great for targeting a Gen Z/Millennial audience and is better for raw, authentic, in-the-moment style content. With Instagram, you can reach a broader audience and content tends to be more cinematic and highly stylised. You can use both Instagram Reels and TikTok to show products or services in action, share tips, demos and how-tos, create a time-lapse of a project, or even ask followers to create videos on your behalf for a User Generated Content campaign. The business areas that are most suited to using both platforms include – but are not limited to – retail, travel, art, music and food. Have a go on both and see what sticks. 

For Instagram Reels inspiration, check out the following accounts.

Retail: @louisvuitton, @sephorafrance, @balmain

Travel: @travellingthroughtheworld

Art: @sergiogomezart

Music: @universalmusicgroup

Food/Beverage: @morganhipworth, @__cookingwithkate__, @redbull


For TikTok campaign inspiration, check out our blog Should TikTok be a part of your Marketing Strategy?


Need help with your social marketing strategy? We’re here for you. Get in touch at [email protected] or call us on 07 3003 0722.

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