TikTok vs. Instagram Reels – Short Form Video Features Compared

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.

Discovery

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.

Viewing

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.

Recording

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.

Editing

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.

Analytics

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.

Conclusion

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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What are Instagram Reels, and What Do They Mean for TikTok?

Instagram Reels Versus TikTok

Instagram grabbed headlines this week with the announcement of Reels, a new short-form video feature aimed at its newest rival: TikTok. 

How Instagram Reels work

The new format allows creators to record 15-second videos with access to editing tools, music overlays, and visual effects. Reels can be shared privately with friends or publicly: in the creator’s feed, grid, stories, and in a new section of the Explore tab. 

The dedicated Reels section in the Explore tab lets users easily scroll through popular Reels from Instagram accounts they don’t yet follow, giving creators a chance to be discovered by a wider audience. Reels play as looping videos, allowing them to easily rack up high view counts given the short-form, snackable nature of the content.

What data is available for Instagram Reels?

Analytics for Reels seem to be limited to basic public metrics such as views, likes, and comments at the moment. It’s possible that Instagram will add more reporting data for Reels in the future, especially for Creator and Business accounts, which already have access to more robust private analytics for Stories and IGTV videos. TikTok, by comparison, offers creators more metrics, including views, likes, comments, shares, watchtime, traffic sources, and an audience overview.

What do Instagram Reels mean for creators?

Like any new creative format, Reels offer another way for creators to express themselves and share engaging content with their audience. The 15-second video length for Reels may be a limitation relative to TikTok’s 60-second format, but Instagram seems to be banking on user’s preference to watch extremely short, snackable videos on loop (a la Vine) or scroll through a never-ending feed of popular clips.

We recommend creators experiment with Reels to see if they like the format and can create fun content their audience will enjoy. Reels won’t be a good fit for everyone, but for short-form video influencers that are already creating content for TikTok and similar apps, Reels are a natural extension of your content distribution strategy.

What do Instagram Reels mean for TikTok?

All of this comes while TikTok’s fate hangs in the balance. President Trump signed an executive order to ban the popular social media app in the U.S., citing national security concerns. Whether or not he has the authority to do so, or if such a move will result in an outright ban remains to be seen. But it is likely his executive order will make it very difficult for TikTok to operate within the U.S. and allow similar services, so called “TikTok clones” like Byte and Triller, to gain traction.

TikTok’s Chinese parent company Bytedance has repeatedly claimed that it does not share user data with any foreign government, including China, but that hasn’t done much to alleviate policymakers’ concerns about the app. Meanwhile, TikTok is exploring an acquisition by a U.S. company, with Microsoft appearing as the frontrunner. It’s unclear whether a change in ownership will satisfy President Trump or what additional regulatory hurdles may lie ahead. Congress, for example, seems to be increasingly worried about the far-reaching power of American tech giants, particularly Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google, all of which testified in a six-hour antitrust hearing last week. 

As a result, Instagram Reels comes at an especially bad time for TikTok and poses yet another threat to the company’s survival. Facebook and Instagram have a history of copying popular features from other social platforms, from live streaming and long-form video to Stories, which have now become the primary way users share content on Instagram. 

We predict that TikTok will be able to overcome these political hurdles, but it’s going to face a much more competitive landscape going forward. While TikTok has been distracted by these regulatory and PR challenges, Byte and Triller have had more time to grow, not to mention a lot of free press. And Instagram, which already has a massive user base and more monetization options for creators, is now in a good position with Reels to prevent influencers and audiences from defecting to other social platforms, much like they did with Snapchat after the launch of IG Stories.

Ultimately, Reels is yet another signal of Instagram’s continued push into video and its ruthless approach to competition. IGTV hasn’t been the runaway success Instagram was hoping for, serving more as an outlet for premium content publishers and traditional media companies than the platform’s native creator community. Audiences seem to prefer the casual content offered via Stories and timeline posts, so Reels presents an opportunity for Instagram to play more heavily in the UGC video space, which delivers even more time on site and better monetization.

What do you think of the new Reels feature? Are you enjoying the content or finding that Instagram feels more bloated as they continue to add more features to the app? Do you think Instagram Reels is a TikTok killer? Let us know in the comments below!

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