TikTok vs. Instagram Reels


TikTok, a social media sharing platform for creating, sharing, and discovering short videos, has become increasingly popular over the last couple of years. Not only is the app used for leisure, but businesses also use it to advertise and market their brands. Some of the great TikTok accounts by businesses include the NBA, Gymshark, and even small business beauty brand Contour Cube! Creators are even making money from brand deals on the app. When TikTok reached a point of high popularity in August 2020, Instagram released the “reels” feature, which is almost identical to TikTok. Advertising on TikTok is a great idea, even for small businesses, but do Instagram reels offer the same benefits? Let’s find out!

TikTok and Instagram Reels Overview

In short, Instagram (IG) reels are very similar to TikTok. They’re not the same as TikTok, though. TikTok was born first, and the reason IG reels were introduced was likely just to steal back some of the audience that moved from Instagram to TikTok. Editing on IG reels is a bit more challenging, considering there are not as many editing options offered. TikTok’s “for you page” algorithm is designed to show you content that aligns with your interests and what you like to see, whereas IG reels are sometimes very random and show users things they may not want to see. TikTok can base it’s content off of who you follow, what videos you press the like button on, and so much more. 

How to Advertise/Promote on TikTok

TikTok is less saturated with ads than other social media platforms, which is a main reason users will stay on the app for longer periods of time. There are a few different ways for your business to advertise on TikTok. They include pre-roll ads, in-feed ads, promoted hashtag challenges, and branded effects. 

Pre-roll ads appear as soon as users open the app. Just like YouTube ads, the ad plays before a user can continue to watch the video content.

In-feed ads are exactly what they sound like. When a user is scrolling through TikTok, ads pop up in video form as if they were just ordinary content. These ads appear when users are on their “for you page,” which is essentially a discovery page showing what is trending. 

It’s crucial to use hashtags when directing users to content that they like. Users click on hashtags and view specific content that is relative to their interests. Creating a hashtag challenge to promote a product or brand is worth the time and effort, but you must make sure you do your research and make the content memorable. The hashtag can be a branded hashtag, which means a business paid for it. These hashtag campaigns are widely popular. For example, when the song Blinding Lights came out, the #blindinglightschallenge accumulated almost half a billion views. 

Many TikTok users love creating content using new and different effects. Branded effects give businesses the opportunity to expand their audience and spread brand awareness through users being creative and using their branded effects. These effects can be interactive or even a green screen effect. Whether you’re a beauty brand or offer consumer packaged goods, there are many different types of branded effects you can create.

How to Advertise/Promote on IG Reels

Since IG reels are quite similar to TikTok, what you see on your feed looks the same as well. These ads are full-screen and vertical (just like the ads you see when viewing IG stories). Ads can be posted to IG reels with the intention of brand awareness and reaching potential audiences. The ads on reels will loop, just like any other content on the app when watched for the duration of the video. You’re also able to add audio tracks to your advertisements. IG reels ads can only be 30 seconds, and you can only create them on a desktop. 

In order to create and manage your IG reels ads, you must log into your Facebook Ads Manager. The system will ask you what your objectives are (similar to other social platform ads systems). It helps you get the most from your money by reaching your intended audience based on your objectives. You also set up A/B testing to figure out exactly what you are doing both right and wrong with an ad. Like always, you’re able to customize the demographics of your intended audience. 

When to Use One vs. the Other

It’s important to know when to use TikTok rather than IG reels and vice versa. One thing similar about the two is that you are able to offer sponsored content/paid advertising as a business on both platforms. One major difference between the two is that TikTok offers a much wider variety of effects. If you’re a creative user who prefers to use these types of effects and filters, TikTok may be for you. TikTok trends are often created from an effect specifically on the platform. 

Instagram doesn’t offer effects aside from what you can use on IG stories. If you just need to get your point across on a platform with your intended audience, or have already created a 30-second video ad, it might be good for you to use IG reels. The main thing to consider when deciding to use one of these platforms is who your audience is and where they spend their most time. Businesses should spend their time/effort on the platform that best matches where their audience is. 

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Marina Misitano
Marina Misitano is a content creator/blogger for HBT Digital. She is a recent graduate of Saint Francis University, located in Loretto, PA. She holds a Bachelor's degree in digital media and strategic communications.