Social media is one of the most powerful tools brands can use to reach customers. Platforms like TikTok and Instagram let companies interact with their audience directly. They also give brands a chance to expand their reach through engaging, viral content.
TikTok and Instagram are two of the largest and most popular social media platforms today. Both heavily focus on video content, so it might be difficult to see the differences between the platforms and decide which one your brand should focus on.
We’ll break down what you need to know.
What is TikTok?
TikTok is a short-form video platform that lets its users post videos ranging from 15 seconds to 10 minutes long. It’s one of the top social media platforms amongst Millennials and Gen Z and has become well known for trends like TikTok dances.
The platform is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. It has come under fire from some groups, including the U.S. government, due to concerns about misinformation, censorship, and a lack of user privacy.
What is Instagram?
Instagram has been around for far longer than TikTok, with its initial release coming six years earlier in 2010. The platform focuses on photos and video content, though it has greatly expanded its video focus through Reels and Instagram TV (IGTV).
Like TikTok, the platform relies on user-generated content. It operates as a social media platform that allows users to connect not only with each other but with brands as well.
Instagram is owned by Meta, the owner of Facebook. Like TikTok, Instagram has faced criticism, largely focused on its impacts on mental health, misinformation, and user privacy issues.
How is TikTok Different from Instagram?
Given the similarities between TikTok and Instagram, it’s easy to think they are the same. However, there are essential differences that can have a significant impact on how your brand should approach marketing on each platform.
One of the most important things to consider when deciding which platform to focus on is its user demographics.
In general, TikTok tends to have a younger user base. According to Statista, 25% of TikTok’s users are under 20 years old and 22.4% are between 20 and 29. In comparison, 31.7% of Instagram’s users are between 25 and 34, with just 8.9% under 18 years old.
If your brand wants to engage with Gen Z and a younger audience in general, TikTok is the option for you. If you’re targeting slightly older Millennials, Instagram could be the better platform to focus on.
Instagram and TikTok both host similar content, but it’s important to consider the subtle differences between the two.
TikTok is exclusively video-focused, so you cannot host other types of content on the platform. Instagram, on the other hand, hosts photos in addition to videos.
The style and characteristics of the content on each platform are also important to evaluate. TikTok videos tend to be spontaneous and casual, and the content often has a significant focus on trends. There might be some editing, but the edits are usually limited.
Instagram often has more polished, highly edited content, making photos and videos on Instagram seem higher class and more eye-catching. However, it can also give them a less authentic feel.
User behavior and engagement
How people use TikTok and Instagram can differ despite the platforms' similarities.
Instagram started as a platform for posting photos and videos of yourself. Many people used it to post photos of vacations, fun activities, and adventures. While people are often more willing to post on Instagram, they don't spend as much time on the platform seeking out content created by other people.
TikTok was designed to encourage users to interact and engage with other creators on the platform. Though a smaller percentage of TikTok users may post on the platform, users are far more likely to seek out new and entertaining content. This gives brands more opportunities to connect with TikTok users looking to discover content than Instagram.
TikTok was seemingly built from the ground up to promote viral content. It's the home of well-known TikTok dances and makes it easy to incorporate popular sounds or music into the content. Its algorithm effectively picks up on popular content and promotes it through its For You Page.
On the other hand, Instagram content does not seem to go viral like popular TikTok videos and trends. Companies that want to generate viral content or use influencer marketing to get their product's name out there may want to focus on TikTok.
TikToks vs. Reels
TikToks and Instagram Reels are both types of video content that users post on the respective platforms. Though both use videos and hashtags to reach audiences, the content of those videos and how people engage with them are quite different.
TikToks tend to get much more engagement than Instagram Reels. According to SocialInsider, there are on average 44% more comments on TikTok videos than on Instagram videos that have similar levels of reach.
However, TikTok is also far more crowded, with nearly twice as many videos uploaded than Instagram each month. This might be one of the reasons that smaller Instagram accounts see higher watch rates than smaller TikTok creators.
TikToks tend to have content that appeals to younger demographics, such as news, entertainment, apparel, and gaming. Instagram Reels cover similar subjects but may have more of a focus on unique experiences and topics that appeal to a slightly older demographic.
How to Choose the Best Social Media Platform for Your Brand
Choosing between TikTok and Instagram takes some thought. You must consider your target audience, the type of content you plan to create, and how you want to engage with your audience.
In general, if your target audience is teenagers or college-aged people, TikTok is the way to go. The platform has a massive reach among Gen Z. On the other hand, Instagram’s user base is a bit older and could be better if you are targeting people between 25 and 35 years old.
If you're looking to make highly viral content and engage with your potential customers, TikTok's algorithm and platform can help your content get seen by millions. You could create or join in popular trends to interact with your audience.
Alternately, Instagram is better if you want to create more polished content for your audience. It also offers slightly more campaign flexibility because it supports non-video content.
TikTok and Instagram are essential social media platforms for brands to use in their digital marketing strategy. Many brands can benefit from both. However, if you can only choose one, look at user stats and your company's goals to determine the right platform for your needs.