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Instagram Reels Vs TikTok: What’s the Difference?

Updated on November 24, 2020
10 minute read

Not sure if you should be using Instagram Reels or TikTok for your brand or business? We’re breaking down the top 7 differences in this blog post.

Published November 24, 2020

Instagram’s latest video feature, Instagram Reels, is strikingly similar to TikTok, with users being able to share and record videos set to music.

The similarities beg the question — is there a difference between Instagram Reels and TikTok?

The answer is yes! From demographics and editing tools to why some business accounts don’t have access to music on Instagram, we’re breaking down the top 7 differences.

The Difference Between Instagram Reels and TikTok:

  1. Video Length

  2. Music Options for Business Accounts

  3. Video Editing Tools and Features

  4. Algorithm

  5. Paid Advertising and E-commerce

  6. Demographics and Content

  7. Analytics

Instagram Reels Vs TikTok: The Battle of the Video Apps

With the rising popularity of TikTok, Instagram introduced Instagram Reels — a new way for users to record 15 to 30-second videos set to music.

While this video feature is a new realm for Instagram users, it isn’t new to the social media space!

From similar explore pages, video editing interfaces, and the overall concept, it makes sense why people are comparing Reels to TikTok.

Both Instagram and TikTok do have their differences — which platform you choose depends on your audience, brand, and marketing goals.

If you’re looking to reach a Gen Z audience, TikTok may be the place to be. If you’re looking to buffer up your Instagram strategy and grow your following, Instagram Reels is a great place to start.

Looking for more information on Instagram Reels and TikTok? Check out our complete guides:

So, what is the difference between Instagram Reels and TikTok? Let’s get right into it.

#1: Video Length

On TikTok, users can record videos up to 60 seconds, and on Instagram Reels, users can record videos up to 30 seconds.

Even though it’s only a 30-second difference, users were quick to point it out.

Depending on the content you post, the 30-second max on Instagram Reels could feel short. While longer content may work better with TikTok’s timestamp,  you can still be creative on Reels.

See how clean and conscious beauty brand @cocokind takes full advantage of Reels’ 30-second time stamp by offering skincare tips and diving deep into popular skincare myths.

As Instagram Reels is still in its early stages, we predict they’ll roll out a longer video option in the future.

See how these 12 brands are creatively using Instagram Reels (and already going viral doing so!).

#2: Music Options for Business Accounts

One of the main differences between the platforms is the music feature. Currently, on Instagram Reels, many business profiles are unable to access Instagram’s music feature.

This means if you have a business account and want to share a Reel with music, you have to create your own audio or film and edit it outside of Instagram.

Instagram has yet to make any comment about business accounts getting access to the music feature anytime soon.

So, if you’re looking to use music for your videos, TikTok may be the standout choice.

On TikTok users have access to all of TikTok’s Sound library — which is a huge deal on the platform where sound matters.

Take for example the trend of creating TikTok videos with Original Sound that can then be used by other TikTok users.

The trend is fun, engaging, and a way to potentially go viral!

While Instagram users can also create videos using other people’s audio, it isn’t as widely used as on TikTok.

Another difference? When you save a TikTok to your camera roll, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, the video saves with the music and watermark included.

But on Instagram, when you save a Reel to your camera roll (you cannot save other people’s Reels, only your own), the video does not save with music or a watermark.

Get exclusive early access to visual planning and scheduling for TikTok on web and mobile.

#3: Video Editing Tools and Features

While both the Reels and TikTok editing interfaces may look similar, they are quite different from each other.

On TikTok, filters are super popular — users can choose from a number of effects, templates, and filters.

On Instagram, the video effects are more limited — users can only select effects from the Instagram Effects library before they film each video clip.

Some other fun editing tools on TikTok are the voice effects and voiceover tools. While Instagram users can record a voiceover on Instagram Reels, they can’t add any special effects to the audio.

Another major difference between the platform’s video tools is TikTok’s Duet, Reaction, and Stitch features.

These features are a fun way for brands and businesses to creatively interact and engage with users in their community (and grow their reach even further!).

Currently, on Instagram Reels, there is nothing like the Duet or Stitch feature — users can only record their own footage or upload content from their camera roll.

#4: Algorithm

TikTok’s algorithm was a question mark for a while until TikTok finally let us in on the secret. The TikTok “For You” Page (FYP) is very customized to your interests, whereas the Instagram Reels Explore Page is a melting pot of content.

According to TikTok: “The system recommends content by ranking videos based on a combination of factors — starting from interests you express as a new user and adjusting for things you indicate you’re not interested in, too”.

These factors include things like:

  1. User interactions: such as the videos you like or share, accounts you follow, comments you post, and content you create.

  2. Video information: this might include details like captions, sounds, and hashtags.

  3. Device and account settings: like your language preference, country setting, and device type.

And it doesn’t stop there.

Each of these factors is individually weighted by TikTok’s “For You” recommendation system, meaning that each page will be completely unique to a user and their level of interest.

As for the Instagram Reels algorithm, it’s not as clear cut as TikTok’s just yet.

It’s unclear whether the content you’re being served on the Instagram Reels Explore page is based on location, interest, who you’re following, or what content you’re interacting with.

Instagram Reels also has a “Featured” video feature.

According to Instagram, “If your Reel is featured in Explore, you’ll receive a notification. Featured reels are a selection of public reels chosen by Instagram to help you discover original content we hope will entertain and inspire you.”

There’s no further information on why or how Instagram selects the featured content. But, if your Reel does become featured, there’s a very high chance your video (and profile) could go viral!

Just like on TikTok, it’s important to keep consistently posting on Instagram Reels because the more you post, the more likely your content will show up on the Explore Page.

And, what’s different about going viral on Instagram Reels compared to TikTok? While going viral on TikTok is a great opportunity, Instagram Reels is already connected to your Instagram account.

If you’re using Instagram for your business or brand, you likely have an Instagram Shop, story highlights, a feed full of content, and so much more. If your Instagram Reel goes viral, you’re opening up your profile to thousands of potential customers.

And, while there are ways to get more Instagram followers from TikTok, using Instagram Reels is an awesome way to do it without leaving the app.

#5: Paid Advertising and E-commerce

While TikTok ads aren’t as popular for small businesses as they are on other platforms, they do offer paid advertising options.

TikTok currently offers In-Feed Ads, Brand Takeovers, TopView, Branded Hashtag Challenges, and Branded Effects.

As of now, brands and businesses cannot roll out any paid ads on Instagram Reels, but they can work with creators and influencers to create branded content.


Instagram recently introduced new branded content tags for Instagram Reels as a way for Instagram to ensure creators clearly disclose when they’re creating branded content, increase transparency, and to make it easier for creators and brands to create, share, and amplify branded content.

While Instagram is shifting to the e-commerce space, TikTok isn’t too far behind! TikTok recently announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Shopify, aimed to make it easier for Shopify’s over 1 million merchants to reach TikTok’s younger audience and drive sales.

Image credit: Shopify

Merchants who get access to the program will be able to connect their TikTok for Business account with their Shopify account and sell products on TikTok via in-feed shoppable video ads.

The best part? Everything is managed via Shopify’s dashboard, including ad creation, targeting (gender, age, user behavior, and video category), optimization, and tracking.

This is a huge game-changer if you’re a brand or business that sells products. Learn more about the TikTok x Shopify partnership here.

#6: Demographics and Content

It’s important to note that while both platforms offer the same type of content, the demographic on TikTok seems to skew younger than Instagram Reels.

And while you have the opportunity to be as creative as you want on both platforms, TikTok is more “anti-aesthetic”.

Brands, businesses, and influencers are more selective on Reels and share more on-brand and aesthetically pleasing content.

That’s not necessarily the case on TikTok — users aren’t as concerned about their feed looking a certain way.

If you’re looking to reach a millennial audience and share videos that align with your Instagram aesthetic, you can try out Instagram Reels.

And, if you’re looking to take part in viral trends and reach a younger Gen Z audience, you may see more success on TikTok.

Another option is asking your audience where they’re spending their time — Instagram Reels or TikTok? You can do this by using Instagram Stories stickers.

#7: Analytics

If you have a TikTok Pro Account, you have access to all of TikTok’s analytics.

With TikTok’s built-in audience and content analytics, you can target the right audiences and really understand what they’re interested in.

And, even better? You can actually see when (and if) your video was trending and where the specific traffic sources came from.

TikTok also shows you Sounds your followers listened to, which can help you decide what Sound to use next.

Currently, there aren’t any insights for Instagram Reels. Right now, users can only see the number of views, likes, and comments.

And that’s it! The 7 main differences between Instagram Reels and TikTok.

If you’re still not sure which one to use, we recommend trying both! It doesn’t hurt to test your content on both platforms and see which performs better.

Share the same video on each platform at the same time and see what unfolds.

With TikTok Planning and Scheduling by Later, you can visually plan your TikTok content in advance – along with all of your other social content! Get Early Access today!

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