Instagram Reels came onto the scene in 2020, in a bid to rival TikTok. But which should you use, is one better than the other, and is there value in using both? Or is there one clear winner when it comes to Reels vs TikTok?
What’s the difference between TikTok and Instagram Reels?
TikTok and Instagram Reels are super similar in many respects. Both are short-form, vertical video platforms that allow users to browse, share, and interact with each other. Here’s what they do and how they differ.
When you’re talking TikTok vs Reels, one of the most obvious comparisons is split-screen, side-by-side video. This means you can record your video alongside another user’s content, so you can film yourself reacting to, or adding to the original clip.
TikTok offers its famous Duets, while Instagram Reels does the same thing with a feature it calls Remixes.
However, TikTok Duets was the original, and for that reason, it has the edge – the engagement and editing options are much broader. That’s not to say Reels Remixes are bad, though. Insta’s side-by-side video function still lets you:
- Add your own original audio, or music from Instagram’s catalog
- Add your own local files, meaning you can use pre-edited footage
- Film with a host of different filters
- Change the speed, layout, volume, and length of the original clip
- Track who’s remixed your content
While TikTok Duets wins in a straightforward Instagram Reels vs TikTok bust-up, Reels Remixes are worth checking out.
If you’re not on TikTok and want something that replicates the Chinese social media giant’s buzzy, collaborative nature, Remixing on Instagram Reels is a solid replacement.
It’s worth noting that as of January 2022, you can now Remix any public Instagram video – not just Reels!
Can’t add music to Instagram Reels?
If you can’t find a particular song in Instagram’s catalog, it’s probably unavailable due to rights or licensing issues. While Instagram’s search function is great, it doesn’t include every song out there.
If you want to include a specific track that's not available in-app, you can manually place the song in a clip before adding it to your Reel. As long as you have the correct license and/or rights to feature it in your content, you should be good to use it.
At Epidemic Sound, we offer 40,000 tracks – all royalty-free, and cleared for global use.
Now, let’s keep digging into that Reels vs TikTok debate.
Instagram Reels are short, sharp bursts of video content. They can run for a maximum of 60 seconds, having first launched with a 15-second limit… which sounds familiar!
TikTok used to only allow 15-second clips. It soon expanded to 60-second videos, then three minutes. Now you can cram ten minutes of lip-syncing, cake-baking, bad dancing, or whatever else into your TikTok clips.
TikTok has the edge on short-form viral videos, purely because of the platform’s shareability. However, if you want super long videos, Instagram’s main video function allows hour-long files. But Reels are only currently rolling for one minute!
Stitching things up
TikTok has one trick up its sleeve in the Reels vs TikTok argument: Stitching. This is unique to TikTok, allowing content creators to include specific cuts of other users' videos and stitch them into new ones.
A TikTok Duet or Instagram Reel Remix lets two videos sit side by side. The Stitch function on TikTok is different, allowing five seconds of someone else’s video to take over the entire screen. This is currently something Instagram can’t do in-app; if you have permission to use someone else’s video, you could always create it in a third-party video editing app and upload it as a Reel.
Instagram Advertising works on Reels, and is easy to navigate. It’s basically the same as Facebook’s ad model, thanks to both being owned by Meta – you can pick up the basics very quickly and have ads running in no time.
TikTok ads are a little more complex, though. There are more variables to consider, so if you’re wanting to invest your money here, it wouldn’t hurt to invest a little time, either.
Instagram Reels and TikTok are both well-known for their editing capabilities. If you’re splitting hairs, though, TikTok has the advantage. It’s packing the usual stickers, filters, AR effects and more, but it’s stuff like GIPHY in Green Screen, bundles of top-drawer effects for TikTok voiceovers, and more that set TikTok apart.
That doesn’t mean Instagram Reels is lacking, though. You can still use it to create Boomerang videos, plus all the usual clipping, tweaking, and effects you’d expect.
There are subtle differences between the two. TikTok’s ‘For You’ homepage lends itself to a higher engagement rate than Reels, and Instagram has taken notice.
Instagram Reels are viewable in the ‘Explore’ tab, and some folks would have you believe that the Instagram algorithm is prioritizing Reels to outdo TikTok. Sneaky!
Both Instagram Analytics and TikTok Analytics are robust tools, allowing users to gain extra knowledge about their content’s performance, their audience, and more. There’s generally a larger engagement rate on TikTok than on Instagram, meaning you might be able to drill into more details with the former’s analytics model.
However, Instagram’s been around the block a few times. On average, payouts from the Gram are higher than TikTok, but that gap’s closing!
Both TikTok and Reels get a big tick for their digital wellness efforts, which users can activate themselves. TikTok has its own Wellness Hub, which connects users to physical and mental health resources within the app.
Instagram, and by extension Reels, boasts the Take a Break feature: the app alerts you when you’ve spent a certain amount of time on Insta, giving you a nudge to put your phone down, reflect, rest, and do something else.
TikTok’s Screen Time Management tool works the same as Take a Break, and was in the pipeline for years. In 2020, users were targeted (seemingly at random) with videos saying, “Hold on, you've been scrolling for way too long now.” There was no official Screen Time Management tool back then, but it’s clear that users’ wellness has been high on TikTok’s agenda for a while.
Will Reels Replace TikTok?
It’s not likely. While Instagram is an established force and part of Meta, TikTok does its thing extremely well. Many influencers enjoy the smooth, integrated experience of TikTok when it comes to short-form snapshots, and casual users love its lightning-fast, never-ending scrollability.
Reels has taken the chance to boost its capabilities even more. Some of Instagram’s 2023 updates are TikToky in nature, while others offer even more exciting features. They include:
- A new ‘Reels Trends’ section, making it easier for creators to find hot hashtags and, more significantly, songs
- Simplified Reels editing tools, aligning clips, audio, text, and stickers under one editing screen
- Updates to Reels Insights, including total watch time and average watch timeImprovements to Instagram Reels Gifts, letting creators react to viewers who’ve spent their hard-earned money on gift tokens
Why is TikTok more popular than Instagram Reels?
It’s hard to pin down, but many users enjoy TikTok’s more organic feel. The platform is partnered with Shopify, which allows smooth in-app purchases.
On Reels, you don’t have the same freedom and opportunity as you do with the rest of Instagram. So, while the actual Instagram platform is excellent as a complete package, Reels itself can’t compete with TikTok when it comes to convenience.
Both Instagram and TikTok have more than one billion active monthly users, but people use Instagram for more than just Reels. That short-form, snappy content is TikTok’s bread and butter, while Reels is just one smaller feature within Instagram. For that reason, TikTok is more popular for those kinds of videos.
Is it easier to go viral on TikTok or Instagram?
Most videos you see on platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter are usually downloaded straight from TikTok. Follower count doesn’t really matter on TikTok – if someone sees your video and spreads the word, that can be all it takes!
On Instagram Reels, virality is still possible but less frequent. Reels often focus on maintaining and growing a current audience, compared to TikTok, which can make anyone an overnight sensation.
Which is better, Reels or TikTok?
The Reels vs TikTok debate depends on what you’re aiming for. TikTok is a quick, effective, versatile platform that can result in your content reaching huge audiences. Instagram Reels is a little more curated, and is best suited for content creators with an established following.
Each platform has its merits, and as a creator, it’s worth exploring both to tap into those different uses.
If you're looking to level up your TikTok content, check us out. We're an official Sound Partner and our music is available over there, so you’ll always be able to find the perfect song.
Royalty-free music is music that you can use in content without having to pay royalties to artists or rights holders every time it’s played. But royalty-free music companies aren’t always alone in owning the rights to the music in their catalogs. This means you might still get copyright claims from other rights holders and lose the right to monetize your content when you publish it on digital platforms. Confusing, right?
Let us take care of it. We exclusively own the rights to all music in our catalog. This lets us offer you a subscription with a license including all necessary rights to use the music and sound effects from our catalog in your content. You can publish it anywhere online, without having to worry about problems with copyright. Additional fees or royalties? Forget about it.
It’s more than royalty-free. More like worry-free. Check out the 30-day free trial and start soundtracking the world today.