Digital Marketing

TikTok vs Instagram: the battle of short video content 

Chloe Toogood
31st January 2023
4 minute read

In the past few years, using short video content for marketing like Tik Tok and Instagram reels, has become one of the most popular ways to showcase your brand. With other massive platforms cashing in on this trend, like YouTube and Facebook, as consumers we can feel inundated with all the content that is being produced.

However, it is clear that Instagram and TikTok are the most popular apps when it comes to creating this kind of video content, so which is better for your marketing strategy?


TikTok: A Breakdown

TikTok burst onto the scene in 2018, and very quickly became a favourite in the social media world. It’s no wonder why, creators can make incredibly engaging short content that sucks you in, and eats up your time without you even knowing it. One of the reasons that TikTok is so popular, is because it’s so addictive, you can’t help but scroll through videos one by one, all thanks to the mysterious algorithm.


It’s no doubt that TikTok’s reach is now worldwide. It’s user base seems to be dominated by Gen-Z, especially in the US, but its biggest demographic is actually in China, where the app originally came from.

  • As of 2021, almost 53% of users were aged between 18 – 25
  • The app boasts 1 billion monthly users worldwide
  • Almost 50% of US adults aged between 18 – 29 use TikTok regularly

This goes to show that if your brand is trying to appeal to teens and young adults, TikTok is a great starting point. This does not mean that older people don’t use the app, with more people turning to TikTok for entertainment, the range of people that view and use TikTok is becoming far more varied.


Video Length

Videos on TikTok are limited to 3 minutes long, but the best videos with the most engagement seem to last for between 21 – 34 seconds. It’s been rumoured that they will extend the total video length to allow up to 10 minutes of content in one video, but we can’t see this feature becoming more popular than its short content. While short video content can be limiting to brands who want to use TikTok as part of their marketing strategy, on the platform it’s important to keep your content as short and engaging as possible so that the algorithm works in your favour.

TikTok and social commerce

TikTok has become a hub for people to create and connect together, and has also become a place where people are persuaded to make impulse buys and is making waves in the ecommerce world for this reason. As of 2021, almost 50% of TikTok users had used the app to make a purchase, and almost 40% said that they had been introduced to a brand or product that they didn’t know about before. In fact, TikTok itself states that users are twice as likely to recommend a product or service that they have found on TikTok, compared to users on other platforms. Clearly, this can work wonders for your marketing strategy, as word of mouth is still one of the best ways to have people put their confidence in you as a brand.


Instagram Reels

Instagram has been one of the most popular apps since its inception in 2010. When its ‘reels’ feature was released in 2020, it served as a direct rival to TikTok, and became an incredibly well used feature on the platform.


Instagram’s audience is a little older than that of TikTok, but this hasn’t had an effect on the impact of reels, and the overall popularity of the app. In fact, Instagram was the most downloaded app in the final quarter of 2021, and the second most downloaded app in the first quarter of 2022. Not only this, but it is expected to reach 2.5 billion monthly active users by 2023.

  • The age group with the highest share of users is 25 – 34, making Instagram more popular with millennials
  • Advertisements on reels can reach up to 675 million people
  • 91% of Instagram users watch new videos or reels every week


Video Length

When the reels feature was first launched, you could only have 15 seconds of content, which is really not a lot at all. Since then, the limit has been upped to 90 seconds, so it’s far easier for brands to be able to show what they want to without feeling rushed to fit it all in.

Unlike TikTok, there doesn’t seem to be a set figure for the optimal length of a reel, however you should make the most of reels looping back to the beginning, as Instagram counts these as separate views which will help with the algorithm. No matter what length is chosen, it’s important to make the first few seconds of the reel interesting and engaging in order to keep people watching and increase views.

Instagram and social commerce

Instagram reels cannot be used to directly link to a product unlike TikTok, which is one downside. However, reels can be used to show a product more in depth, and with good use of a CTA there is no reason why you can’t direct people to the link in your bio or to check out the link in your Instagram story. You could, for example, create a reel that promotes an upcoming product launch, building up interest and suspense. This in turn, allows users to gain a better insight into what products you sell, and can convert into follows, and a better rate of engagement.


What’s the takeaway?

Overall, TikTok and Instagram reels are incredibly similar. They both serve the same purpose which is to boost creativity and engagement with users, and can be successfully used as a part of a marketing strategy. TikTok is a great platform to market on, especially if you want to target younger consumers, and is brilliant when it comes to linking users directly to products.

Instagram reels on the other hand, are more suited to a millennial demographic, and creators can focus more on how they can fit in with their existing feed aesthetic. It really depends on what you ae marketing, and who you are marketing to, but both of these platforms are incredibly effective when it comes to marketing, and there’s no harm in using both to make the most out of their features!

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