TikTok vs. Reels: What's the Difference and Which One is Better?

We live in a digital world filled with booming apps that connect us to a growing global community and erase the distance between us. 

The proliferation of apps like TikTok and Instagram have shaped how we use social media, how we create content, and how we communicate with others not just via messaging and texting, but through emerging forms of media such as videos and live-streams. 


It’s time to find out who currently reigns as a champion between the two: the sensational and ever-growing TikTok, or the newbie in the industry, Instagram’s Reels. Let’s find out below! 

TikTok vs. Reels: What's the Difference and Which One is Better?
Image Source: Time

TikTok: The App That Changed the World

TikTok is an application that has taken the world by storm with over 800 million users worldwide. Launched in 2017 by Chinese company ByteDance, the fastest growing-app of 2020 enables users to create short video clips, edit them with filters and effects, and share them with the world, all in one place. 

TikTok vs. Reels: What's the Difference and Which One is Better?
Image Source: Endive Software

The “For You” page is a unique feature that uses revolutionary technology to make the app even more appealing and engaging to users. The content shown on each user’s account is tailored to the style or theme of the videos the user has liked, interacted with, or searched for so far. 


This is made possible by the app’s artificial intelligence (AI), which generates and recommends content for the user, making it feel like the app “knows” you. 

The app includes a live feature where people can go live in real-time and broadcast their stream to their followers, although this is only available for users with 1,000 followers or more. 

Other Features

Through direct messaging, anyone can send their friends videos, messages, or emojis. They also have the liberty to choose the audience to whom their content is intended, may it be to the public, friends only, or just them. 


TikTok had also added a feature where you can create a video based on the user’s comments, which is useful if you are responding to comments, challenges, or requests made by the people who interact with you. 

Most importantly, you can follow certain people on the platform and keep tabs on their uploads and activities. 

TikTok and Trends

One of the reasons why TikTok rose to fame is because of the trends which were made popular by content creators and influencers through the app. Because the bite-sized videos only last for around 15 to 45 seconds, it allows people to scroll through more and more. 

TikTok vs. Reels: What's the Difference and Which One is Better?
Image Source: The Verge

Many influencers have been known for their accounts on the platform and have earned the moniker “TikTokers” to refer to someone who is a popular users of the app. 

Viral Trends and Influencers

Notable TikTok influencers or TikTokers include Charli D’Amelio, TikTok’s most-followed person with over 70 million followers, Loren Gray, Baby Ariel, Kristine Hancher, Zach King, Lisa and Lena, Jacob Sartorius, and many others. 

TikTok also allowed music to flourish since most of the videos made on the app make use of bite-sized pieces of music as well. These pieces of music end up going viral and increasing the song’s retention. 

Some of these songs were “Lottery” by K Camp to which the “Renegade” dance was set, and “Relationship” by Young Thug, which was made popular by the “Number One Baby" Trend. 

The Rise of Reels

Instagram, owned by social media giant Facebook, introduced their feature called “Reels”, which is set to compete head-to-head with Tiktok. First launched in 2019, it was tested in Brazil, Germany, France, and India for months before its global reveal. 

TikTok vs. Reels: What's the Difference and Which One is Better?
Image Source: Business Insider

Because Instagram has already established its presence as one of the top social media apps, adding a feature instead of creating a whole new platform seemed like a smart move for them. 

Reels allows Instagram to tap its one billion existing users into eventually migrating from TikTok back to Instagram. 

Tiktok Clone?

Although it is often branded as a “TikTok clone,” Reels’ video-editing interface is a little bit different from TikTok, but it is no secret that the app heavily inspired it. 

However, Instagram is optimized for linking with Facebook, something which TikTok misses - a huge difference as Facebook still remains the number one social media platform today. 

Reels is a rising star in the social media industry, just like TikTok’s humble beginnings, and is set to be a marketplace mainstay just like many other platforms such as Tumblr, Vine, and Twitter. 

How To Create A Reel 

So how do we create a Reel on Instagram? There are three ways in which you can do this: through the home screen, the Reels tab, or the Stories camera. 

TikTok vs. Reels: What's the Difference and Which One is Better?
Image Source: Variety

To access the home screen, tap the “+” on the top right and scroll to the Reels tab at the bottom of your screen. To access through the Reels tab, tap the camera icon in the top right. 

Create a Reel through Instagram Stories

To make a Reel using Instagram Stories, tap the camera and find the Reels icon between the default Normal mode and Create Mode or on the bottom menu next to “Story”. Then, select your audio by tapping the music icon. To decide on the length of your video, tap the stopwatch icon. 

Similar to the Boomerang mode, you can apply effects or filters to your Instagram Reels video. Hold down the record button to start filming or upload a video from your camera roll. You can also start and stop recording multiple times by pressing the record button. 

If you want to trim or delete the clips you’ve filmed, tap the back arrow to the right of the record button and tap the clip you want to edit. Then you can add text, stickers, or drawings and upload your Reel to the world. 

Differences and Similarities

TikTok allows you to create videos that can last up to a minute, while Instagram only allows you to create a video that’s just 15 seconds long. Reels shared to stories will disappear after 24 hours, though not if posted to your feed, while videos uploaded on TikTok are always immortalized unless you decide to delete them. 

TikTok vs. Reels: What's the Difference and Which One is Better?
Image Source: Later

TikTok also allows you to choose whom you want to share your content with, while Reels does not have that kind of option. The same goes for direct messaging. On the other hand, TikTok does not have built-in advertisements, while Instagram might throw some in once in a while. 

Instagram’s version of the For You page is the Explore feed, which also uses AI to generate content from the user’s activity. Currently TiktTok’s AI is much more aggressive and Instagram says they are still developing how the app's AI builds an algorithm. 

TikTok’s Duet function, where you can use another person’s uploaded content and add yours side-by-side, is matched in Reels’ Remix function

How to Download

The good news is that both apps can be downloaded at the Google Play Store for Android users and the App Store for iOS users for free. To experience Reels, just download the Instagram app.

To download using the Play Store, type the app's name at the search bar at the top and once you've selected the correct search result, press “Install.” To get it on the App Store, hit the search bar at the top, type in the app’s name, and after locating it press “Get”. 

Editing Videos

When it comes to editing, Reels pales in comparison to TikTok, which is quite understandable given that Reels was just released last year.

TikTok vs. Reels: What's the Difference and Which One is Better?
Image Source: OneZero - Medium

For example, in using background music, TikTok has this feature called “sound sync,” which automatically matches and trims the audio to match the video. In contrast, you have to do this manually using Reels.

Brian Chen and Taylor Lorenz of The New York Times made a comprehensive comparison in their article under the Tech Fix segment. Lorenz claimed that it would only take her 15 seconds to post a snippet of her day on TikTok in what would take five minutes on Reels. 

For content creators, TikTok’s Analytics provides a built-in tool to monitor your posts' performance, engagement, and popularity, which is only available to TikTok Pro accounts. This feature is missing from Reels, or Instagram, in general. 

The Future of Advertising

Both social media platforms have been showing enormous potential to change the landscape of advertising. With the rise of the so-called “Instagram-famous” and “Tiktok-famous” users and influencers, Tiktok and Reels are great features to mobilize in the advertising scene. 

Especially for Instagram, which has a built-in synchronization with social media giant Facebook-- the future of advertising is just around the corner, waiting to be tapped. 

With the massive following of TikTok, advertisers are now using influencers to promote products through videos and trends.  

The Verdict

Reels is still new to the scene, and is but a feature of an already existing app. There’s still a lot to develop, but Reels might live up to TikTok, whose focus has allowed it to develop many strong, unique features that set it at the top of the two for now. 

Whether you’re using Instagram Reels, TikTok, or both, one thing’s for sure: social media platforms were made for people to enjoy. Whichever you prefer to use will surely bring you fun, entertainment, and connections with people. Keep it reel, or tiktokin’! 

Last updated on December 23rd, 2022 at 07:47 pm

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