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  • Josefin Snihs

TikTok vs. Instagram Reels – Short Form Video Features Compared

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

Earlier this month, Instagram launched reels, a new feature that allows users to upload short-form looping videos to the popular social platform. Reels are clearly designed to compete with TikTok, but how do the two actually compare? We decided to take a closer look and review them side by side.


TikTok has an organized Discover tab that features trending hashtags and challenges, making it easy for users to find interesting videos. While watching a video, users can scroll down to see the next one in the same category.

Reels are found in Instagram’s Explore tab. In order to view publicly available reels, users must click the reel at the top of the screen and then scroll through each video one by one, without any clear categorization.

In addition to the discovery section, Instagram reels are shared with followers in the Home feed if the uploader chose to share the reel to the profile grid. TikTok’s Home section also displays videos from a user’s followers and includes a “For You” tab with algorithmically suggested videos.


Data available to viewers is more or less the same on both platforms. In addition to the video and its metadata, users can like, comment, or share the video and follow the account.


TikTok videos can be up to 60 seconds long, while reels are limited to 15 seconds. Both apps offer similar features to users when recording a video, including filters, video speed control, effects, sounds, and a timer. Reels also allow users to align the camera with a previous clip before recording. While both apps give access to a sound library, TikTok has a more organized library with clear sections like ‘memes,’ ‘dance,’ and ‘playlists,’ making it easier for users to participate in current challenges or popular dance routines on TikTok.

Video clips can be recorded on the spot or uploaded from the user’s device. TikTok lets users upload multiple clips at once while reels is limited to selecting a single video clip at a time. TikTok also has a library of templates that can be used to quickly put together a professional-looking video.


When it comes to video editing, TikTok has the upper hand. The editing features for Instagram reels are similar to those available for stories: users can add stickers, gifs, drawings, or text on top of the content. It’s not possible to edit the video clips themselves at this point, though Instagram may add support for this in the future.

TikTok offers the same editing features as Instagram and more. On TikTok, users can also edit the raw video and add sounds, visual and voice effects, and transitions between clips.


Finally, TikTok offers creators much more in-depth reporting on content performance than Instagram reels. In addition to the publicly available analytics like views and engagements, TikTok also shares several private video metrics with creators, including reach, watchtime, traffic sources, and audience territories.

Instagram, on the other hand, does not share any deeper insights for reels yet, though it’s likely they will add support for impressions, reach, and actions for reels given they already report on these metrics for timeline posts and stories to users with Creator or Business accounts.


All things considered, TikTok certainly provides a better experience for both content creators and viewers today. They have stronger content creation tools, discovery, and reporting. But don’t count reels out! Instagram has proven time and again that it’s a fierce competitor, and the scale of its 1B+ user base, combined with TikTok’s regulatory challenges and political distractions offer Instagram a chance to iterate on the recent launch and improve reels over time.

What do you think? Let us know if you prefer TikTok or Instagram reels and what you predict for the future of the short-form video space in the comments below!


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