The Similarities & Differences Between TikTok, Reels, & Shorts

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By: Anastasia Gassieva

February 25, 2022

The Similarities & Differences Between TikTok, Reels, & Shorts

You’ll need to look closely to spot any big differences between three popular social media short-form features: Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and TikTok.

With TikTok’s fast and steady growth—labeled as one of the fastest-growing social media apps ever—the short-form video app has influenced other prominent video platforms such as Instagram and YouTube to offer shorter and more digestible content options. 

While these three platforms have developed their own lanes for short-form video content, there are some key differences. Experts from BBTV’s Channel Growth team breakdown the key similarities, differences, and unknowns between Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and TikTok so you can strategically create or repurpose your content to reach and engage new audiences. 

Similarities Between Reels, Shorts, and TikTok

Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and TikTok are focused on sharing short-form video content:

  1. Feeds: Each platform offers a fully immersive experience with a wide variety of content to discover and follow. You have the visibility to endlessly scroll through catered content that fits your algorithm and interests aligning with your brand. 
  2. Tools: All three platforms offer similar features and tools such as performance analytics, music libraries, overlaying texts/captions, and engaging filters. 
  3. Watch-time: Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts all prioritize Watch Time. The top-performing videos are typically ones shorter in length and provide a hook, middle, and ending format. A well-formatted video will result in more views, regardless of platform. 
  4. Trends: All platforms showcase similar trends.. Typically, trends originate on TikTok and are repurposed across the board. Making sure that the trend aligns with your target audience’s interests should be considered prior to posting.

The Key Differences Between The Three Platforms

TikTok Tools

  • Music and Audio: TikTok users have access to an extensive library of viral tunes to help creators and brands share their stories in an engaging and trendy way.
  • Effects and Filters: This platform is raising the bar with new effects and filters in order to provide unique content opportunities for creators and brands. 
  • Challenges and Hashtags: If you are looking to go viral, consider adding a hashtag to your challenge video. Expand your reach with a trending hashtag like #FYP and #ForYouPage (hashtags vary week to week).
  • Time: You can record up to 5 minutes on TikTok 

Under the Hood: Tiktok 

TikTok Pros

  • Growth: TikTok is considered the most popular overall application downloaded globally in 2020 and 2021, pointing to the app’s unwavering growth and potential.
  • A majority of viral trends and challenges are created on the TikTok platform. The storytelling aspect of the platform is ideal to reach larger audiences and engage with trending content, which can then be repurposed to other major social platforms.
  • The platform is mainly made up of user-generated content and considered to be more relatable and fun.
  • You don’t need millions of followers to gain millions of views thanks to the For You Page.

Instagram Reels Tools

  • Similar to TikTok, Instagram Reels offers users countless options for music to accompany your videos.
  • Unlike TikTok, Instagram offers tool options such as polls and questions in order to prompt an engagement from your audience.
  • Instagram Reels has augmented reality abilities to diversify your content.
  • Instagram Reels has the ability to resume or pause within a single video. You can add multiple clips to make up a full length Reel. 

Under the Hood: Instagram Reels 

  • Users between the ages of 25-34 make up the largest age demographic on Instagram, followed by ages 18-24.
  • The Instagram algorithm rewards creators and brands that use Instagram Reels by further promoting their content  across the platform’s Explore Page. For example, after the NBA started adding Reels to their content, they saw a 22% increase in engagement on their Reels. 
  • Instagram Reels Analytics provides users metrics and insights such as total plays and saves. 

Instagram Reels Pros

  • Reels provides an opportunity to repurpose viral TikTok content, allowing creators to grow their audiences across platforms without any heavy lifting. 

YouTube Shorts Tools 

  • YouTube Shorts offer tools to automatically add captions to your content.
  • Creators and brands have the ability to upload content straight from their mobile devices.
  • Multiple filter and effects options are available, including color correction.
  • With YouTube Shorts you can record up to 60-second clips, similar to Instagram Reels. 

Under the Hood: YouTube Shorts 

YouTube Pros

  • Youtube Shorts offer users the ability to connect with new audiences through their mobile-only application. 
  • There is already an existing massive YouTube culture—whenever new features are added, creators entrenched in the platform will likely be first to experiment with the new formats in their content.
  • YouTube Shorts have included a ‘Shorts’ icon on the application, allowing the billions of monthly users to easily locate the app. 

TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts share a number of similarities when it comes to the delivery of short-form video content. However, some of its surrounding tools from editing, and analytics, to user experience and discovery vary depending on each platform’s makeup. 

With these tips, creators or brands like you can navigate each platform’s algorithm and breakthrough with impactful content that appeals to each platform’s user  consumption habits. This gives you the creative freedom to repurpose or revise your content from one platform to the next, without sacrificing the core of your content.

If you’re looking for more information on how to repurpose your content and to further extend your reach, partner with BBTV to get the help and support from our expert Channel Growth team.

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