Instagram Reels, TikTok or Shorts: Which is Right for You?

Written by
Jessie Mae Lambert
Internal Marketing Manager
Friday, March 15, 2024
Friday, March 15, 2024

In today's fast-paced digital world, short-form video content has taken centre stage as an effective means of capturing the attention of audiences. With platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube offering their respective short video formats – Instagram Reels, TikTok videos, and YouTube Shorts – brands are presented with exciting opportunities to engage with their target audiences. But with multiple options available, how do you choose the right platform for your brand? In this article, we'll explore the unique features and advantages of each social media platform for short form content to help you make an informed decision into which ones to choose for your business.


In a digital landscape where attention spans are shorter than ever, brands need to find innovative ways to capture and retain their audience's interest. This has led to the rise of short-form video content as a popular and engaging medium. 

Understanding Short-Form Video Content

Short-form video content refers to videos that are typically under one minute in length. These videos are designed to deliver quick, captivating, and often entertaining information to viewers. They are easy to consume and share, making them ideal for social media platforms.

Instagram Reels

Instagram Reels offers users the chance to create 15 to 60-second videos set to music or original audio. With a user base already accustomed to visual content, Reels provide a seamless way for brands to connect with their audience.

TikTok Viral Content Quick

TikTok's immense popularity stems from its ability to make content go viral in minutes. With a wide range of effects, filters, and sounds, brands can unleash their creativity and take part in trending challenges to increase their reach and make quick yet compelling videos that tend to have an amateur feel to them.

YouTube Shorts: The Power of a Giant

As YouTube's answer to short-form video, Shorts leverages the platform's extensive reach. With over 2 billion logged-in monthly users, Shorts allows brands to tap into a vast audience base and utilise YouTube's sophisticated content discovery algorithm. 

Comparing Reach and Audience 

In the realm of succinct video content, each platform boasts a unique appeal, capturing specific demographics and wielding varying degrees of influence. Instagram Reels has carved a niche primarily among the younger generation, allowing Gen Z and millennials to unleash their creativity through concise videos that align with their ever-evolving preferences. TikTok, on the other hand, has cemented its status as a cultural phenomenon, drawing a predominantly youthful audience seeking quick bursts of captivating entertainment. Its algorithmic finesse curates an immersive feed of dance routines, lip-sync performances, and relatable sketches, creating a virtual playground where teenagers and young adults can showcase their talents and connect globally.

Meanwhile, YouTube Shorts emerges as a potent contender, leveraging its parent platform's expansive and diverse user base to transcend generational boundaries. Appealing to both the youth and older age groups, Shorts accommodates various interests, offering succinct yet enriching content, from rapid tutorials to insightful skits. Collectively, Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts form a symphony of short-form videos, each platform contributing a distinct note that resonates with different audiences, providing content creators with a spectrum of opportunities to engage meaningfully and contribute to the evolving digital landscape.

Content Creation and Editing

When it comes to crafting and refining content, Instagram Reels and TikTok step up by furnishing users with in-app tools tailored for video creation and editing. Meanwhile, YouTube Shorts takes a slightly divergent approach, permitting users to upload vertical videos directly. Across all platforms, a suite of features, including text overlays, stickers, and filters, is on offer, empowering content creators to infuse their videos with engaging visual elements and personal flair. Whether it's the snappy tools within Instagram Reels and TikTok or the vertical versatility of YouTube Shorts, these platforms collectively provide a toolkit that transforms ordinary moments into captivating, shareable stories.

Engagement and Interactivity

TikTok establishes a remarkable standard for user engagement, propelled by its distinctive "duet" and "stitch" features that facilitate seamless collaboration between users. Instagram Reels, on the other hand, fosters engagement through familiar interactions like likes, comments, and shares, sparking conversations and interactions around the content. Meanwhile, YouTube Shorts leverages its integration with the expansive YouTube community, tapping into an existing ecosystem of engagement tools such as likes, comments, and subscriptions. Each platform, from TikTok's collaborative prowess to Instagram Reels' interactive simplicity and YouTube Shorts' extended reach, offers a distinct palette of engagement options, transforming passive viewers into active participants in the evolving realm of short-form video content.

Hashtags and Discoverability 

Hashtags, which are essentially keywords with a # symbol in front of them, act as powerful tools for helping people discover content on social media platforms. Think of them as digital signposts that guide users to content, they're interested in. TikTok was the trendsetter in making hashtags popular for grouping and categorising content. Similarly, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts also heavily rely on hashtags to help people find relevant videos. 

Analytics and Insights 

When we talk about analytics and insights, we're referring to the valuable information you get about how your content is performing. On Instagram Reels, you can get insights into things like how many people have seen your video, how much they've engaged with it, and an overall idea of how well your video is doing. Over on TikTok, if you have a Pro Account, you can access analytics that tell you which of your videos are trending, and details about the people who are watching them. And if you're exploring YouTube Shorts, the information about how your videos is doing is seamlessly integrated with YouTube's larger analytics system. Many agencies also use a tool called Sprout which enables you to schedule content for times that suits you, as well as to get in-depth analytics into the performance of the content.

Sprout Social Product Image of Analytics Instagram Competitors Report
Sprout Instagram Analytics

Monetisation Opportunities

Now, let's dive into making money! Both TikTok and YouTube Shorts have opened doors for people to earn money from the content they create. So, if you're someone who's good at making interesting and engaging videos, brands might be willing to pay you to showcase their products or services in your content. Instagram Reels is also getting into the money-making game by testing out ways for creators to earn from their videos, which means more possibilities for income generation.

Brand Identity and Tone

When we talk about brand identity, we're talking about how a brand presents itself to the world – its personality, style, and values. Different social media platforms have different "vibes." Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts are platforms where you'd want to put on your best suit or dress – they're great for showing a polished and professional side of your brand. On the other hand, TikTok is a place where you can let your hair down and have fun; it's more about being playful and less formal.

Choosing the Right Platform for Your Brand 

Now the big decision – which platform should you choose for your brand? Well, it depends on who you want to reach, how you want to present your content, and what your brand is all about. If your target audience is young and you want your content to spread like wildfire, TikTok might be the platform for you. But if you're looking for a platform where you can build a solid presence and connect with a wider range of people, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts could be your go-to options. 

Getting Started: Tips for Success

Understand the Platform's Culture

TikTok: TikTok is known for its energetic and creative culture. Users on TikTok are drawn to short, attention-grabbing videos that are often set to popular music tracks. The platform encourages trends, challenges, and creative interpretations of those challenges. The culture leans towards quick humour, authenticity, and relatability. Embracing memes, dance challenges, and using popular sound tracks in your content can help you align with TikTok's culture. Additionally, using hashtags and participating in trends will help your content gain visibility within the TikTok community.


YouTube Shorts: YouTube Shorts, like TikTok, emphasises short-form videos. However, Shorts is an extension of the broader YouTube community, so you'll find a range of content here. The culture is more diverse, catering to various niches like tutorials, comedy sketches, vlogs, and more. It's important to adapt your content to the shorter format while staying true to your niche. Utilise catchy intros, clear storytelling, and engaging visuals to capture viewers' attention quickly. Incorporate popular YouTube trends and challenges if they align with your content theme.


Instagram Reels: Instagram Reels aims to capture the essence of TikTok-style content within the Instagram ecosystem. The culture here is about showcasing creativity, lifestyle, and trends. Instagram users often appreciate aesthetically pleasing visuals, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and personal stories. Reels often feature a mix of choreographed dances, lip-syncs, DIY tutorials, fashion showcases, and more. Embrace visually appealing shots, use Instagram's filters and editing tools, and incorporate relevant hashtags to increase discoverability.

Embracing Trends and Challenges on Each Platform

TikTok: To find the latest trends on TikTok, you can explore the Explore Page, where trending hashtags, challenges, and popular content are showcased. The Discover tab is another valuable resource for discovering trending sounds and music tracks that creators are using in their videos. Pay attention to trending hashtags and challenges, as participating in these can make your content more relevant. The TikTok Creative Center is a helpful tool that provides insights, tips, and resources to assist creators in understanding and capitalising on trends. A great example of businesses using TikTok trends for brand awareness is Ryanair. Ryanair have made themselves known for keeping up with the latest trends to make viral content that resonates with customers (B2C) and other businesses on TikTok (B2B). This has led to other big companies commenting on their posts, and their videos going viral with millions of views!

For YouTube Shorts, stay updated by exploring the dedicated Shorts tab on the app or website, where various creators' Shorts are highlighted. The Trending Page also features popular Shorts content, offering insight into ongoing trends. Engaging with the community through comments, likes, and subscriptions on YouTube Shorts can help you gain an understanding of emerging trends. Given that YouTube Shorts is still evolving, don't hesitate to experiment with different content formats to find what resonates best within the short-form video style.


On Instagram Reels, you can discover trends by exploring the dedicated Reels section within the Explore Page. This section showcases popular Reels content and keeps you in touch with the latest trends. Following influencers and creators who specialise in Reels content can also offer insights into current trends and creative approaches. If you have a business or creator account, you can use Instagram Insights to gather data on how well your Reels are performing. This data helps you understand audience engagement and tailor your content accordingly.

By actively engaging with these platforms and consistently exploring trending content, you'll stay well-informed about the latest trends and cultural shifts.This knowledge, coupled with tools like the TikTok Creative Center, will empower you to create content that effectively resonates with your desired audience.

Book a call