Reels vs. TikTok & their effect on Influencer Marketing

Kelsey Formost

10 Aug 2020 · 3 min read


There’s no denying that the creation and consumption of user-generated video content has soared in 2020.

Before the pandemic, all major social platforms were already seeing massive increases in user adoption and increased popularity of their video features. But after being forced to stay home with little “real-life” entertainment available, the world’s average daily social media consumption tripled. Platforms had to rise to meet the public’s increased desire for entertaining video content and creative features.

Enter: TikTok.

With its entertainment-based videos and mass appeal, TikTok quickly became a marketer’s Wild West playground. The short-form video platform spread like wildfire across multiple generations, populations, and markets, offering growth and engagement rates similar to the “old days” when Instagram first took off.

As 2020 progressed, similar apps like Byte and Triller emerged, throwing their hats into the ring. The popularity and widespread adoption of these apps has ultimately crowned short-form video as King in the social media space.

Enter: Reels.

Instagram, the social platform giant of influencer marketing, has just released Reels, a short-form video feature that appears quite similar to TikTok’s UI. Reels adds yet another way for users to film, edit, and post video directly to their Instagram and Facebook profiles, joining IGTV, in-feed videos, stories, and Live.

It’s unclear whether Instagram had been planning this announcement for some time, or if the release of Reels is directly related to TikTok’s increased market share in recent months. Either way, the public wins.

TikTok vs. Reels: Key similarities and differences

First, let’s look at some key differences between Reels and TikTok. The biggest difference is that TikTok is an entirely separate platform while Reels is an additional feature included inside an already-popular app. Reels is part of the Instagram experience. TikTok is the experience.

An additional differentiator is content length; Reels can only be up to 15-seconds long whereas TikTok videos can be up to a minute in duration because of the ability to string together multiple 15-second clips.

Certain popular TikTok features like background editors, beauty tools, and an exclusive search tab are absent from Reels. Also missing is the “duet” feature that allows users to react or join in with other user’s videos, though a Reels response may be in the works. All in all, one could argue that the editing features on Reels are pretty basic compared to TikTok, though all the key elements are there.

As far as similarities, both can be set to music or other external audio, or use the audio captured during filming. Both can also have the capability to incorporate overlay text captions that appear and disappear according to the user’s desired timing. Again, at the most basic level, the two short-form video platforms are very similar.

How Reels could affect influencer marketing

Reels will allow brands to partner with creators to reach a new kind of audience: those who prefer short, engaging videos over other forms of content.

It could also re-energize existing, ongoing influencer partnerships on Instagram as Reels is part of the overall Instagram experience. Many brands have longstanding relationships and strategies on Instagram, and Reels could allow for huge growth opportunities for new and creative forms of campaigns.

But don’t count TikTok out by any means. Last month, TikTok did a big push towards encouraging on platform advertising with the launch of TikTok for Business. With a goal to “help small businesses connect and grow”, the new self-serve advertising features allowed small and mid-sized businesses the opportunity to connect with TikTok influencers and “tap into the creativity of the TikTok community, reach new audiences and optimize their marketing campaigns with an easy-to-use platform”. With the arrival of Reels, there’s every reason to believe that TikTok for Business will double down on its efforts.

With regards to paid partnership opportunities via Reels, it wouldn’t be surprising if brands were rewarded for early adoption of the feature. Instagram historically rewards early users of features like Reels with increased engagement and reach. Brands can potentially capitalize on this by partnering with creators on Reels right away, thereby increasing campaign exposure and efficacy.

What’s next for Reels?

For now, there aren't a lot of opportunities for marketers to directly advertise via Reels, which could lure users away from TikTok and onto Reels instead. But after making the decision to monetize IGTV earlier this year, it could be that Instagram is biding its time, waiting for wider user adoption of the Reels feature before introducing paid ads or content boosts.

With influencers around the globe adopting the Reels feature and the social buzz surrounding its release, updates and additional editing capabilities can’t be far behind. What’s still unclear is how the arrival of Reels will (or won’t!) affect user downloads and adoption of TikTok, Triller, Byte or other similar apps in the space. Time (and ROI) will tell!

Want to see how Tagger can help you discover and connect with the perfect influencers for your campaigns? Book a free demo & we’ll walk you through the platform.

You might also like