Since Instagram officially launched its video platform Reels in August 2020, most users have viewed Reels as Instagram’s version of TikTok. And, in many ways, that assessment checks out. However, there are some key differences between Instagram Reels and TikTok that not only impact the interface of the platforms, but also how they end up being used for content sharing.
Sure, toe-to-toe, Reels vs. TikTok are pretty fairly matched. Much like TikTok (and the original video app Vine, RIP), Reels allows users to post bite-sized video clips that end up on a seemingly endless feed of other clips for viewers to scroll through. Features like TikTok’s “Duet” are mirrored by Reels’s “Remix” feature. And, more recently, Instagram has even implemented a “Take a Break” feature, which many users will find to be very reminiscent of TikTok’s wellness check-ins. (Does the phrase, “Hold on, you’ve been scrolling for way too long!” mean anything to you?)
However, there are some fundamental differences between the platforms that can significantly impact the way content is shared on the platforms, as Reels and TikTok creator Rubina Bernabe, known as @rollercoastinrubes on Instagram and @rubinatalks on TikTok, tells Bustle. “People aren't afraid to try more variations of content [on TikTok] since it is strictly a video-sharing app,” says Bernabe. Reels, on the other hand, “feel a little more curated and people are having to open themselves up to the idea of video content, rather than still shots.”
Here are some of the key differences between TikTok and Instagram Reels, from technical features to how creators feel about each platform.
TikTok Vs. Instagram Reels Features
When you get down to the nuts and bolts, most of the technical features of TikTok and Reels are the nearly identical. Where TikTok has “Duets,” the option to post a TikTok side-by-side with another user’s TikTok, Instagram has “Remix,” which functions exactly the same. TikTokers can choose from a library of “sounds” to add to their video, and Instagrammers can choose an “audio” to add to their Reel. Both platforms offer Effects that can act like facial filters or video edits. And both Reels and TikTok allow users to record their video at different speeds.
However, there are some technical differences between Reels and TikTok. For one, TikTok lets you record for longer. Where Reels offers user to record clips in 15-second, 30-second, or 60-second intervals, TikTok offers users to option to record in 15-second, 60-second, or 3-minute intervals.
TikTok also has an edge over Reels with its “Stitch” feature, in which users can include certain cuts of other TikToks in their own, responding or reacting to them in real time. So far, Reels does not offer this feature.
Reels Vs. TikTok Content
Beyond the technical differences between Instagram Reels and TikTok, the way content is shared on each platform differs.
Bernabe’s point that TikTok is more experimental than Instagram Reels seems to ring true with other creators. Creator Brigette Muller, also known as @hummusbirrd on Instagram and TikTok, echoes these sentiments. She tells Bustle that TikTok is a “safe space” for people to try out new content. (Think about how absurd trends like “berries and cream” TikTok took off on that platform, for example.)
Meanwhile, just as people like to keep their Instagram grids curated, they may also be more reserved in their Reels content. Muller has been cultivating a following for 10 years on Instagram, whom she says are used to a certain kind of content. What’s more, family and friends are more likely to see their content if they follow them on Instagram, while TikTok’s For You page mainly serves up total strangers. (Not that people don’t find their friends or family members — or, uh, exes — on their For You pages.)
Muller uses TikTok as a drawing board for her video content, re-posting her more successful and polished TikTok videos to Reels. Muller typically posts any “off-the-cuff” video content on Instagram to her story, saving her more refined Reels for the grid.
With a more experimental vibe on TikTok, creator Crystal Tan, who posts as @itscrystaltan in Instagram and @crystaltan_ on TikTok, says that viewers are much more open in their approach to engaging with content than Instagram. “People want to engage with TikTok content and want to feel a lot more casual as if they're your friend,” Tan tells Bustle, “whereas Reels are more about educating and aesthetics.” Like Muller, Tan says she posts video content more freely on TikTok, and saves videos for Instagram that she knows will resonate with her community of followers.
So, while at the end of the day, the logistics of posting on TikTok versus Instagram Reels might feel the same, there are some major differences in the kind of content and communities that form on each video platform. As of right now, TikTok seems to be the best place for creators to test out their ideas, while Instagram Reels have stayed true to the “grid-worthy” hierarchy of content.