Instagram Reels VS TikTok: Which is better?

June 17, 2021
Elizabeth Swain

We can’t deny the impact TikTok has on the social media landscape. Having first launched back in September 2016, the app has been installed on devices over 2.6 million times worldwide, with 9 out of 10 users returning to the app multiple times daily.

The app has become a huge place for generating trends from viral challenges, comedy skits, social commentary and more. With Tiktok making a name for itself in the social media space, it makes sense that Instagram would try to recreate that success. Reels is essentially Instagram’s attempt at this. Think Instagram launching Stories back in 2016. (R.I.P Snapchat.)

Now that Reels has been around for a few months and Instagram has had an opportunity to flesh out its tools and interface, we can compare the two and look at how we can utilise these platforms as digital marketers. Is TikTok the superior OG with Reels still trailing behind? (We all have that friend that will send you a trend on Reel that you saw months ago on TikTok.)  Or, is Reels something worth pursuing and adding to your marketing strategy? Let’s take a closer look.

Video Editing

While both platforms have similar features and interfaces, there are a few differences.

Instagram Reels VS Tik Tok Interface

TikTok features some fun editing tools like the voice effect and voice-over. While Reel users can record a voiceover, they can’t add any effects to the audio.

Another major difference between the video tools is TikTok’s duet, reaction and stitch features which allows users to engage with each other’s content by adding to users videos, making it easier to engage with users and create a community. It’s also a feature that creators can utilise in creative and interesting ways, often creating trends. Take this viral Tik Tok that consists of TikTok users’ duets or the ‘Stitch this with’ formula where users reply to a prompt with their own story or anecdote. 

In terms of length Reels has a maximum length of 30 seconds where the length of a TikTok can be up to 60 seconds, however, it appears that TikTok are rolling out 3-minute videos. This is important to keep in mind when producing content for Reels to make sure it fits within the time.

One advantage to Reels is that you can save this video to your camera roll without the watermark, unlike TikTok which will keep the music and watermark included. 
Something else to keep in mind is that TikTok’s trends often come from specific video effects. For content creators trying to keep up with trends, this makes TikTok super powerful. While Reels does utilise Instagram Filters, most trends do start on TikTok meaning Reels can’t utilise these in their in-app editor.

Audio & Music

When it comes to sound libraries, there is no comparison. TikTok is the winner.
TikTok’s sound library is not limited to music from the charts, users are constantly creating new sounds that can become part of new trends and we’re seeing smaller artists expanding their reach when their sound is used for a dance or trend. Artists like Doja Cat, Olivia Rodrigo and Lil Nas X all saw their songs hit the billboard charts after gaining popularity on TikTok.

Reels on the other hand doesn’t give business account holders access to their entire music library. Business account holders only have access to Reels’ library of royalty-free music, or they can upload their own sounds. 


TikTok and Reels work in the same sense that a user has a feed with an endless amount of videos lined up for users to watch and discover. The great thing about this is that the feeds are places for users to discover new content from creators they aren’t necessarily following.

TikTok’s ‘For You’ Page (FYP) is super customised to your interest working by ranking videos based on your previous interactions and device and account settings. Each of these factors is individually weighted meaning each FYP is completely unique to a user. We have seen users praise the FYP for “knowing them so well”.

Users have found the Reels algorithm will prioritise content from accounts you interact with the most, as well as the type of post you typically engage with. With Instagram Reels, they can appear in four places, the Reels tab which is selected by Instagram, shared to your Instagram Story, shared on to your feed and in the Reels gallery of your profile. If you have an existing following on Instagram this is great for engaging your audience. 

Can’t I just use the same content on both?

When Reels was first launched in August 2020, we immediately saw content creators repurpose their TikToks and post these onto Reels. Makes total sense, right? After all, don’t both platforms have more or less the same function?

A few months ago, Instagram posted some tips on how to create great Reel content, and within these tips, Instagram alluded that if your Reel is ‘visibly recycled from other apps’ it won’t be recommended in the algorithm as often. So while you can repurpose content and bounce ideas across from each platform, it may be worth thinking about how you can optimise your content to serve each platform.

So which is better?

The answer to this question is subjective. Arguably, TikTok has higher engagement compared to Instagram. However, Instagram Reels is catching up, winning some of its audience back, so it’s not something you should dismiss from your advertising strategy. It’s also helpful to look at your target market. If you’re looking to reach a Gen Z audience, TikTok may be the place to be. If you’re looking to expand on your Instagram content strategy and bring in a new audience to this platform, Reels can be of great use.






Elizabeth is a Social Media Manager at Milkbar Digital. She loved the creative side of digital marketing but has also become a self-confessed data geek. In her spare time, you will find her at Melbourne’s newest brunch venue or binging the latest true crime doco on Netflix.

Milkbar Digital is a Melbourne social media and content production agency, specialising in small to medium businesses. We also love video production and are experts in the area of social media video marketing. Get in touch with us today!

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