The Difference Between Instagram and TikTok and Why You Should Leverage Both

We’ve come full circle since the beginning of the year. While the TikTok vs. Instagram battle was all the rave at the beginning of the year, we’re coming closer to realizing that you could and should consider both. 

But before that, let’s break down what the fuss was all about in the first place. 

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TikTok vs. Instagram

Before TikTok was introduced, Instagram was a go-to platform for fun, entertaining, and awe-inspiring photo and short video content. Naturally, the age demographic most interested in this type of entertainment consisted of teenagers and young adults. As the home of influencer marketing, Instagram is the number one platform for brands that want to get discovered by their target audience fast and super cost-effective. 

As TikTok exploded in early 2020, the rumors of the new Instagram began to circulate. The platform is centered around short videos that allow creators to express their funny, creative, or talented side in a home setting without relying too much on professional editing or perfect background. Addictive dance choreography and fun challenges lured millions of dance enthusiasts, teenagers, and young adults into showing off their talent and creativity. 

Aside from many differences in the platforms’ algorithms and features, the two main similarities include the age demographic and short video format, which were reasons enough for the massive press coverage of the battle between the two most popular social media platforms. 

However popular it may be to pick a side, we’re going to take a more realistic approach and actually show the main differences between the two platforms and why you should choose both.

Digital presence is significant nowadays for any size brand, influencer, artist, or agency. Sure, not all channels and social media platforms are for everyone, but it most certainly takes a more diversified social presence to reach more and better audiences

With TikTok entering the scene in 2017 and exploding in 2020, soon the predictions of it dethroning Instagram began. Aside from the sensationalist element, it had no basis in reality, mostly because the two platforms didn’t actually have a lot in common. Therefore, they could coexist in perfect harmony. 

Enter Instagram Reels, and the battle reached new momentum. 

Is TikTok the new Instagram

Reels vs. TikTok.

What’s better?


Where to spend your marketing budget?

How to advertise on TikTok?

How to monetize it?

So many questions and so few facts. 

To help you get a clearer picture of the two platforms and their most essential features, we’re diving deep into the main differences between Instagram and TikTok and explaining why you actually need both. 

  • What are Instagram Reels
  • The three main Instagram TikTok similarities
  • Four main differences between Instagram and TikTok and why you should leverage both


What are Instagram Reels?

First things first, let’s quickly break down Instagram Reels to better understand the main reason the two apps are constantly being compared.

As Instagram’s answer to TikTok, the Facebook app introduced Reels in August 2020. The audio-based feature was cleverly designed to allow 15-second videos, which is the length of almost 50% of all videos uploaded to Instagram. 

  • Instagram Reels are short videos that allow users to get super creative within 15 seconds by adding different audio, filters, and all sorts of fun content. Don’t worry about overrunning the time limit; there’s a timer you can set to make sure everything is perfectly timed. 
  • They live on the Explore page in the Reels tab, which is another smart move since it allows brands and creators additional discoverability and better ROI. The sheer entertaining element of the format keeps the users on the platform for longer. It will simultaneously enable brands and creators more opportunities to improve engagement, brand awareness, and ultimately, boost conversions. 
  • To access a particular user’s Reels, go to their Instagram profile, and you can find Reels in the separate tab, next to their IGTV tab.
  • The cross-promotion to feed or Stories is another reason to consider adding Reels to your Instagram strategy, as it means more promotion opportunities. 
  • You can choose from a library of songs (free from copyright) or use recycled audio to create the best background for your creative endeavor.


Now that we understand Reels a bit better let’s dive into the main similarities and differences between the two platforms and their features and how they translate to your specific brand or creator needs. 

The three main Instagram TikTok similarities

For the sake of argument, let’s first break down some major similarities between the two platforms that caused all the competition battles in the first place. 

Instagram and TikTok are both highly entertaining, primarily mobile apps. It doesn’t come as a surprise then that both have exploded upon their introduction and have the highest growth rates. 

With the introduction of IG Reels, both now support short, audio-based videos that keep the audiences hooked like no other. 

If we put things this way, the constant competition becomes obvious. More importantly, if you’re a brand or a creator, you may think you should just pick the one you find more exciting and focus all your efforts there, as there’s no point putting all your eggs into two pretty much the same baskets, right?

Not so fast. 

Stick with us while we list out the major differences between Instagram and TikTok. It will make you realize you actually need both

Three main differences between Instagram and TikTok and why you should leverage both platforms

Although the similarities between the two platforms are pretty stark, you still better start planning two different strategies if you want to boost your social presence. Here’s why. 

Different demographics

Instagram is for older Millennials, while TikTok’s audience mostly consists of GenZs. Nothing ground-breaking here. 

The latest numbers show that the largest Instagram age group that makes up more than 33 percent of their users is aged between 25 and 34. TikTok, on the other hand, is most popular among 16 to 24 year-olds.

These stats clearly indicate the popular trend among brands to choose the platform according to their target demographic and stick to it as it brings the largest ROI. In most cases, this means sticking with Instagram, as its demographic has the upper hand in purchasing decisions.  

This logic can work well for super niche businesses that have products with specifically older Millennials in mind. However, all the other brands can find mixing the two platforms much more beneficial due to teens’ and young adults share in the family buying decisions

Diverse features equal double the audience

Nothing like a good ol’ healthy competition between the two largest social media platforms to better scale your audience. 

As the two giants are introducing different new features, formats, and fantastic entertainment options to keep users longer and lure in the new ones, brands can leverage this competition to improve their ROI. With Reels entering the scene, you can now basically take one piece of content and double down on it by presenting it to two different audience groups

The difference in reach

Probably the most important difference between the two social channels lies in the organic reach opportunity. While the Instagram landscape is becoming more challenging to navigate without the help of ads, along with LinkedIn, TikTok is still the place where organic content rules.

Although it’s probably a matter of time before TikTok introduces some form of promoted content opportunities, for now, all it takes is good quality content to reach TikTok stardom and reach millions. 

This is especially important for social media beginners. If you’re a brand crafting your social media journey, you could find a ton of benefits from entering TikTok. You can later direct the audience you reach organically on TikTok to your other social accounts and kill many birds with one stone. 

Unfortunately, the organic growth potential heaven of TikTok won’t get you places if your ideal customers are not among the platform’s key demographic. If you’re trying to get the attention of  50-year-olds, TikTok can’t do much for you. That’s where LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook advertising options can come in handy. 

And, again we come to the conclusion that it’s beneficial to focus your marketing efforts on both (and more) platforms at the same time. 

The regulation question

As we have witnessed so far, there’s no shortage of legal and security scandals surrounding the Chinese app.  

The U.S. government isn’t really fond of TikTok due to some speculations about the Chinese government’s involvement in spying on U.S. citizens. 

Moreover, several data privacy issues have led to serious safety concerns. The censored videos, the 2019 children’s privacy scandal, and similar affairs have been surrounding the platform from the start. 

So far, we’ve seen the restrictions for transactions with TikTok and ByteDance (TikTok’s parent company) in the U.S., while India has banned TikTok entirely. 

On the other hand, Instagram has already been banned in China, which definitely doesn’t predict a bright future for TikTok in the U.S. 

This is why it’s vital for brands to keep multiple options open and secure their efforts. In case one of the apps gets banned, you’ll still be able to see a nice ROI from the other one, and vice versa, whereas if you keep all your marketing eggs in one basket, you pretty much risk losing everything in case something changes regulation-wise. 

No matter how many differences and strategies you can think of when it comes to popular social media platforms, one thing will always remain a priority – your audience. As the competition in the market gets fiercer, it’s becoming more challenging than ever to reach that ideal, targeted audience organically. To help you get there faster, we’ve created a stellar Flock Social solution that works like a charm. Get started today and grow your super-targeted organic list of ideal followers. 

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TikTok and Instagram (Reels especially) are getting the attention of the largest audience worldwide. Short music-backed videos are the jackpot of entertaining digital content, and the world doesn’t seem to get enough. Although somewhat similar, the two platforms still differ when it comes to some pretty important stuff, so it’s best to start leveraging both to give your brand a massive head start.

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