Things you need to know about TikTok and Instagram Reels as a marketer

Since the launch of Instagram Reels this August in UK, marketers are thoroughly speculating the benefits of this new kid on the block. While Instagram already has both photos and video in the form of stories – which are short form videos that disappear after 24 hours and IGTV – which are long form videos, it makes me think what prompted the creation of Instagram Reels. I cannot help but wonder if this is another attempt towards social media domination by Facebook against the Chinese newcomer TikTok that has found itself amidst a political storm with the US threatening to ban it. 

Well, let’s leave that to the speculators and political pundits. As marketers how does this fit into the already crowded marketing mix ultimately giving better ROI on all our efforts, time and money. 


From a video creation perspective, both apps have huge similarities in the way video is captured, filters added and music layered on top before publishing the final cut. 

Customisation is easy and sometimes the amount of options blow your mind. It can be slightly overwhelming for a beginner but nevertheless extremely entertaining and engaging. Some TikTok fans are arguing that Reels hasn’t matured yet to give it the sophistication that TikTok has. I think it’s just a matter of time. 


TikTok allows video content for upto one minute whereas Reels is 15 seconds.

Another big difference between the two is how one discovers all this wonderful content. On Instagram, there is a dedicated place, a tab called ‘Explore’ where you can store all your Reels giving you an option to share them in your main feed. All the Reels you create will be available in this section just like the IGTV posts. So here you get to see Reels, IGTV as well as sponsored content. A bit of a mish mash or a good variety do you think? 

The user feed is populated based on an algorithm determined by what the user has liked and watched along with some videos picked by the Instagram team. Someone wanting to become an influencer on Instagram, could spend weeks and months gaining followers trying to work out their ‘Explore’ algorithm. The product team at Instagram have suggested that video recommendations on rest of Instagram will be different to those in ‘Explore’ focusing on a ‘creator centric’ approach to ranking. Instagram agrees that they have NOT been good at helping creators find audiences, and they intend to change that via Reels. How? Is yet to be seen. The HOPE is to allow organic discovery of great video content. 

On the other hand in TikTok, video recommendations are via an algorithm that populates content in the ‘For You’ tab based on a wide range of signals that make it so addictive. In feed ads are native ads that are often placed at the bottom of organic videos or as part of the video queue. Not to mention it provides creators immense inspiration to put out a variety of content that has the potential to go ‘viral’. TikTok insists that the size of an account’s followers does not influence the ability of its content appearing in a user’s ‘For you’ tab. This certainly gives newbies a fair chance to feature in their TAs feed without being overshadowed by big names in that niche.

Advantage Tiktok

Plays big on the creativity of the creators. The authenticity, craziness of catchy music and quirky hashtags often have a potential to get trending within minutes of being posted – but could this be because of the sheer popularity of the app? Quality of content is certainly high, it is surprising how much educational and informative stuff you can find via this channel, be it researchers, doctors, teachers and not just people recording videos due to quarantine boredom.  TikTok almost represents a huge community that feels and behaves like they are part of a cult. It also benefits from a low barrier entry point as you can scroll through tons of clips well before installing the app. It does actually have a web version as well. (If you are 17 do not roll your eyes!).

Advantage Reels

If you are already an Instagram user, it is a cakewalk to get on Reels and publish your first post. It is very similar to putting out Instagram Stories. Quite rightly as the name suggests it’s as easy as creating, editing and posting a set of videos like a movie reel. It does appear a tad bit sophisticated as you can speed up or slow down your videos as well as align with jump cuts. This could truly highlight product features within those 15 seconds. Who has more time right? If you are an Instagram influencer, well you don’t even need to think of TikTok, keep calm and carry on! 

Not-so-much advantage Reels

There are some features that need polishing, like the ‘Sound sync’ button on TikTok allows you to add music and trim it automatically to suit your clip, whereas on Reels, you got to manually select where the track needs to start for your clip. In their defence, Reels is still in its infancy, but knowing it has the fast and the furious Facebook team behind it, it will learn soon. It is important to remember that the overall audience and content on TikTok is different to that on Reels, but one cannot ignore the fact that brands will now feel a stronger need to have a presence on Instagram and will build an affiliation for Reels. All this without really having to be on TikTok, especially with a threat of the app being banned in some countries (already has in India!). 

It will be interesting to see which of these apps succeed in convincing creators to generate authentic content while being able to add to their number of followers. If Instagram is able to keep more users to stay in their app they could give TikTok a hard time.

Oh, just a heads up – the good ol father of video sharing – YouTube is also testing 15 second video formats. Let’s wait and watch!

To find out more about advertising on TikTok, click here