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TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts: Which Tool is Best for Marketers?

TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts
Written by Chad Buleen

Younger audiences are shifting away from traditional social media platforms into newer platforms like TikTok might be categorized by some as a trend, but it is much more than that — it’s a revolution.

  • In 2020, TikTok increased its user base in the United States by a full 83.5 percent. – Statista
  • Among Gen Z consumers, TikTok is now more popular than Instagram. – Marketing Charts
  • More than 62 percent of TikTok users are 29 or younger. – Omni Core Agency
  • Nearly 70 percent of teens in the United States are on TikTok – Statista
  • A full 90 percent of TikTok users use the app every day.  – Omni Core Agency

Like any revolution, major social media brands are not going to simply sit back and allow TikTok to take their thrones. Think about how “stories” revolutionized sharing on Facebook and Instagram. Twitter and Youtube began the process of adapting.

YouTube and Instagram have both started to fight back against TikTok with short-form video tools of their own. YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels are both quickly expanding their presence and functionalities in an effort to not relinquish ground to the current TikTok juggernaut.

In the competition of short-form videos, it can be difficult for marketers to understand which platform is best for their brands. Truth be told, you have to develop a reasonable hypothesis about which of these platforms are most effective for your brand and test it out. After reading this article, you will have a better understanding of what a multi-shot short video tool can do for you as a content marketer.

TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts: Which Tool is Best for Marketers? #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

TikTok

TikTok

TikTok at a glance

Although TikTok has been banned in some countries (and was threatened to be banned in the United States in 2020), the app has exploded in the last couple of years in ways unrivaled by any previous social media app in such a short period of time. The app has now been downloaded more than 2 billion times — making it the most downloaded app of 2020. According to eMarketer, It already has more users than Pinterest and Twitter and is poised to overtake Snapchat by 2023.

TikTok is different than some of the other popular social media apps because the app is largely driven by influencers and creators. Connection with “friends” through news feed content or messaging tools (such as those that are popular on Facebook and Instagram) is not a major part of TikTok.

The other thing brands would be wise to take notice of on TikTok is that the content is often humorous, not heavily polished, and often uses TikTok’s own filters and tools to enhance the user experience. Any brand that is planning to develop TikTok content must have a social media tactician who is well versed in using TikTok’s own tools.

TikTok audiences

TikTok stats

Some of the recent TikTok data shows the app’s global impact, including:

  • Nearly two-thirds of engaged TikTok users have liked a video in the last 30 days.
  • Half of engaged TikTok users commented on another’s video in the last month.
  • Nearly 70 percent of U.S. teens are active TikTok users.
  • Roughly 60 percent of TikTok users are female.
  • The majority of TikTok downloads have been made on Android devices, indicating the popularity of the app globally.
  • TikTok is available in approximately 150 countries and is one of the top 25 most-used apps in 139 of these countries.
  • Roughly 25 percent of internet users in the United States have seen a TikTok video.

TikTok tools

  • Audio—specifically music—is an incredibly important feature in TikTok. Many TikTok creators use audio from the app’s extensive library to help tell their stories.
  • Hashtag challenges are also important on TikTok. Written content (like post text) is kept to a minimum on TikTok, so using hashtags is one of the best ways to have your content found.
  • TikTok is constantly rolling out new video and audio effects and filters that allow users to share their content in unique ways. These effects—combined with music—often drive trends on the app.

TikTok advantages

  • Brands that are focused on aggregating or encouraging the development of user-generated content have many opportunities to do so on TikTok since the content on the app is less polished and more authentic than what might appear on other social media apps.
  • Storytelling and reach. TikTok is the ideal platform to reach all audiences and captivate minds with storytelling.
  • User engagement is high on TikTok, so good content has a great opportunity to spread.
  • Many brands don’t fully know how to best use TikTok, so if you are part of an organization willing to do your homework, you may have a better chance of standing out than you might on Facebook or Instagram.

TikTok disadvantages

  • TikTok’s overall tone is one of humor and entertainment. It can be difficult for a brand to find its place on TikTok because the kind of content that is most prevalent on the app doesn’t align with a company’s initiatives.
  • Whereas social channels like Facebook can provide brands endless data about audiences and marketing efforts, TikTok has not matured to that level of sophistication with its data.
  • Trends move so quickly on TikTok that brands may find they can’t keep up if there are extensive approval processes to follow before their content can be published.

Instagram Reel

Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels at a glance

If you have seen TikTok content, you should have a good idea of what Instagram Reels are. As Instagram has been known to do from time to time, it has . . . ahem . . . “borrowed” a winning format from another social media competitor and made it its own. Instagram Reels were first introduced in August 2020. Though these videos started as quick, 15-second multi-clip pieces of content, the maximum video length has increased over time. These videos now can be as long as 60 seconds. Like TikTok videos, Reels heavily relies on a music library and content creators who are seeking to entertain and make the “Reels” feed on Instagram a popular place for users to visit.

Instagram Reels audiences

  • Instagram has not released data specific to the demographics of those who use Reels. Because of its similarity to TikTok and because TikTok users skew younger, it could be safe to assume that Reels users are generally younger than all Instagram users as a whole.
  • Those between the ages of 25-34 make up the largest age demographic on Instagram; followed by those ages 18-24.

Instagram Reels stats

  • Brazil saw 4x as many new Instagram users as usual when Reels was first tested in that country in 2019. Similarly, when Reels was introduced in India, the time spent on the app increased by 3.5 percent in one month.
  • After the NBA started utilizing Reels, they achieved a 22 percent higher engagement on their Reels content than they received on their normal timeline content.

Instagram Reels tools

  • Reels users can select an audio clip from Instagram’s massive music library to accompany the video content they publish on Instagram.
  • Content creators can apply a number of effects or augmented reality filters to the video.
  • Creators can press and stop recording multiple times within a single video as they tell the story. They can also individually edit smaller clips that make up the full video.

Instagram Reels advantages

  • Instagram is already huge. If you have built up an Instagram presence and audience over the years, you will be able to publish Reels content that your audience will see immediately rather than needing to focus your efforts on building an entirely new account on a new channel.
  • There is reason to believe that Instagram is actively pushing Reels content to users more aggressively than normal timeline content.

Instagram Reels disadvantages

  • Just like once upon a time Instagram was the upstart that threatened Facebook, now TikTok is the upstart that is threatening Instagram. Because of this, Reels will never be seen as edgy or avant-garde as TikTok.
  • It takes some work and discipline to determine which content is best for your Instagram account—Reels, timeline videos, photos, and stories are all options and there is no clear “right” answer for what is always best.

YouTube Shorts

YouTube Shorts

YouTube Shorts at a glance

In a nutshell, YouTube Shorts is YouTube’s answer to the multi-segment video trend that was first made popular by TikTok and was copied by Instagram. Creators who want to develop Shorts content can do so by using the Shorts camera in the YouTube app. YouTube has developed a YouTube Shorts Fund, which is intended to entice creators to create short-form YouTube content. YouTube currently does not allow creators to monetize their Shorts through ad partners. As is true with TikTok and Reels, YouTube app users can simply scroll from video to video while using the Shorts section of the app.

YouTube Shorts audiences

YouTube Shorts stats

  • YouTube hasn’t released much data about the success of Shorts, but it did tout earlier in 2021 that the beta test of Shorts in India had brought with it 3.5 billion Shorts views per day.

YouTube Shorts tools

  • Creators who use the Shorts format can automatically add captions to their clips.
  • As is true with Reels, content creators can record video content up to 60 seconds long for a single video.
  • Creators can also add video clips from their phone’s gallery in addition to the content he or she may be filming in the moment.
  • Basic filters are available for features like color correction. YouTube promises more effects are on their way.

YouTube Shorts advantages

  • Any new feature already associated with a behemoth like YouTube is likely to get content creators and content consumers excited about viewing and developing content. As a creator, you likely already have an audience on YouTube who consumes your content.
  • YouTube is so committed to Shorts that it has added a “Shorts” button prominently on its app. It is easy for the 2 billion monthly active users to locate where Shorts exist on the app.

YouTube Shorts Disadvantages

  • YouTube Shorts have come along later in the game than TikTok videos and Instagram Reels.
  • Historically, YouTube is an app where users come for more “lean back” content — content that is more polished and often longer. Shorts don’t fit into what has historically been successful on YouTube, so time will tell if users will have a desire to view Shorts on YouTube.

About the author

Chad Buleen

Chad Buleen is a well-intentioned husband and father who loves to write about social media, digital marketing, and content strategy. His hobbies include competing in wrestling matches on the living room floor, being nominally effective at helping his kids with their math assignments, and spending time trying to convince people that working with social media is a real job.

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