Home > Blog > What’s the difference between TikTok and Reels for Brands?

Reels… TikToks… whatever next?! What’s the real deal-breaker between the two?

Marketers and owners of small businesses trying to do all their marketing themselves have a lot to stay on top of these days. Tired of keeping up? We’ll keep it simple.

Reels is Instagram’s answer to TikTok. It’s basically the same format but utilises Instagram’s platform and current user base. You also get to use Instagram’s filters. The only real difference from a brand’s perspective is the platforms’ audiences.

Wait, but what’s TikTok?

Well if you’ve been under a rock for the last year – and I don’t blame you considering the whole pandemic situation – TikTok is a social network where users create, share, and engage with videos between 15 to 60-seconds long. Remember Vine? No? Erm, basically the same thing but shorter. Vine became hugely popular among teens for its immediate, often hilarious videos. Easily created, quickly experienced, and quickly shareable videos were a mixture of success.

TikTok was initially released in 2016 in China and became available worldwide in 2018 when it merged with Musical.ly. It started with users sharing lip-sync videos but has since grown to host all sorts of videos. These are often funny, often stupid, as is generally the case with the internet.

What’s not stupid is how large TikTok’s user base has become in such a short period of time. Despite only being released worldwide two years ago, it has around 1.9 billion installs to date. To put that in perspective, that’s a quarter of the entire population of the world. 

And, of course, it’s what those darn kids are up to these days.


69% of TikTok’s user base are between the ages of 13 and 24, with a significant portion (27%) being between 13-17. 

The bulk of the usership on Instagram, on the other hand, is between the 18-34 range, with a significant (15.9%) portion into their mid-50s.

So why does this matter?

Well, imagine trying to sell a gold leaf-coated, hand-carried, diamond-encrusted ostrich egg in Aldi. It’s likely going to be more of an ornament than a best-seller. Take that beast to Harrods, however, and some lonesome traveller with more money than sense is likely to spend the few hundred pounds on it. Just for a treat.

And I don’t mean this as anything against the respectable patrons of either Aldi or Harrods – it’s a case of horses for courses. (I maintain my anti-gold-leafing-food stance, though)

One demographic is going to be interested in a product, another isn’t. It’s the marketer’s job, in essence, to find which demographic is interested, and where they like to hang out.

How this impacts brands

If you’re a small business owner, then having a really clear idea of what your brand is, and who your target audience is, is super important. Coca-Cola don’t need to worry whether their £100m ad has had much of an impact on sales in a particular region – their main goal is to maintain a reputation (which in turn makes them a first-choice on a supermarket shelf, and they’ll see sales rise later on). You don’t have that kind of money.

So every penny counts, and if you sell a product primarily aimed at 13-17-year-olds – say, secondary school revision guides – you’re going to be throwing money in the bin if you’re focusing your advertising efforts on Facebook ads. Yes, you can target by age on Facebook, but if the majority of the time that young people spend is on TikTok then you’re showing ads to nobody.

In short, if you’re aiming to establish your brand and sell your products to 18-36 year-olds, focus on Instagram and make use of the new Reels functionality to engage with these prospects. If you’re aiming to establish a brand among 13-17 year-olds (or at least primarily 13-17 with some spillover), shift your focus to TikTok. Not only will your ad spend get better results, but you’re more likely to see better organic efforts. After all, you’re already part of the in-crowd.


Want to use social media & content to attract more business?

Get in touch and let us know you read this blog. Someone will get back to you in a jiffy.


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