TikTok vs Instagram: Who’s Winning at Social Media

The impact TikTok has had on the social media landscape is undeniable. This year, it is projected to reach 2.1 billion users, and its success hasn’t gone unnoticed by other key players, most notably Instagram.

From Instagram Reels to a vertical feed for Stories, it seems like every other week there’s news of Instagram adding TikTok-style features to its platform. As these apps become more and more similar, you may be wondering what actually sets them apart.

Here’s a look at two of the most popular platforms on social media and how they compare to one another.

What Is Instagram?

Instagram is a social media app that first launched on October 6, 2010. It is owned by Facebook and has over 1 billion active users every month. This mobile-friendly platform is known for its photo and video sharing capabilities. Users can easily capture, edit, and publish visual content that their followers can then interact with through shares, likes, and comments.

In recent years, Instagram has been focusing more on its video-sharing capabilities, thanks, in part, to the popularity of TikTok. There are now three video-sharing features available to Instagram users – Stories, IGTV, and Reels. Stories are Snapchat-like short-form videos that disappear after 24 hours, IGTV is designed to be more YouTube-esque with long-form content, and Reels, in-feed, short-form video content that music can be added to, is Instagram’s answer to TikTok.

The rise of influencer marketing can largely be attributed to Instagram. Many users have gained large followings on the platform in the lifestyle, food, and fashion space. Now that TikTok is making a name for itself in the social media space, however, many influencers are moving over to the app.

What Is TikTok?

Formerly known as Musical.ly, TikTok is a video streaming and sharing app that was founded in 2014. It was initially used to create and share 15-send lip-sync music videos. In 2017, Musical.ly was acquired by Bytedance, and by 2019, it was rebranded as TikTok.

Today, TikTok is well-known for its short-form, 60-second videos where users dance to music, do comedic skits, make commentary videos about society at large, and participate in viral challenges. It is especially popular among Gen Z and is now a staple of internet culture.

As of January 2021, TikTok had been downloaded over 2.6 billion times worldwide. It experienced meteoric growth in 2020 when the global pandemic took over the world and many of us were forced to stay indoors due to lockdowns. In the first quarter of 2020, it was downloaded a whopping 315 million times across Apple and Android phones, making it the most downloaded app in the world.

TikTok VS Instagram: Differences to Note


Music Options & Video Editing Features

TikTok has a wide selection of music that can easily be accessed by all users via TikTok’s Sound Library. Instagram Reels, on the other hand, doesn’t allow business profiles to access its music feature. Business accounts that want to include music in their Reels have to resort to recording their own audio, using someone else’s original audio, using royalty-free music or pre-producing their Reels outside of the app.

TikTok also has more effects, templates, and filters than Instagram Reels does. The video effects in the Instagram Effects library are more limited and users can only select them prior to filming each video clip.

Other major differences between the platforms include TikTok’s Duet, Stitch, and Reaction features. None of these capabilities is available in Instagram Reels.

The Algorithm

TikTok’s “For You” page is the equivalent of Instagram’s “Discover” page, except it has a more advanced and engaging algorithm. It is much more customized to user’s interests and its full vertical screen experience keeps users scrolling. Instagram’s “Discover” page, on the other hand, is a melting pot of content.

Paid Advertising

Since Instagram has been around much longer than TikTok has, it is more established in the paid advertising space. TikTok does, however, offer paid advertising options including Branded Hashtag Challenges, Branded Effects, Brand Takeovers, In-Feed Ads, and TopView. In late 2020, Instagram introduced branded content tags for Reels. The platform has also long been facilitating the creation of branded content for static posts.

Even though Instagram seems to be transforming into some alternate version of TikTok, there are still vast differences between these apps. TikTok’s unique video content gives it a competitive edge in the ever-evolving social media landscape, but Instagram has the advantage of being owned by one of the biggest technology conglomerates in the world. It also hasn’t faced the same scrutiny and political barriers that TikTok has.

As to the question of whether Instagram or TikTok will come out on top – only time will tell. You can also check our Ways To Use Pinterest to Drive Traffic On Instagram article as further reading.