instagram reels vs tiktok

Instagram Reels vs. TikTok vs. YouTube Shorts: Which Is Best?

Do you feel overwhelmed by all the social media platforms where you need to promote your business? Between Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Linkedin, and Twitter, how do you create a robust social media marketing strategy and still have time to run your business?

These days, short-form video content is all the rage, so the debate comes down to TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts. But which platform reigns supreme?

Let’s get into which channel is best for reaching your target audience.

Quick Overview of Instagram Reels

Instagram initially launched Instagram Reels in 2020 to compete with TikTok, and Meta subsequently launched Reels on Facebook in 2021.

Creators can record and edit short-form videos using Instagram’s tools and filters, as seen in this Instagram reels tutorial. Then users can view Reels on their newsfeeds and in stories. If you get featured on the Explore page, you could go viral!

Unlike Instagram stories which disappear after 24 hours, Reels stay on your Instagram profile under the Reels tab.

Quick Overview of TikTok

TikTok is the social media app responsible for making short-form videos so popular. Launched in 2017, users can only create and view videos on the app. Users just scroll through the videos and close the app when finished.

Quick Overview of YouTube Shorts

Traditionally known for long-form content, YouTube wanted a slice of the “short-form video content” pie that TikTok and Instagram were cashing in on, so they launched Shorts in 2021. YouTube Shorts allows users to film, share, and watch short-form, vertical video content.

The Biggest Differences Between TikTok, Instagram Reels, & YouTube Shorts

You may be thinking these platforms are pretty similar, and they are. However, there are some key differences to see where you should focus your marketing efforts.

Video Length

Think about how long your audience typically sticks around.

TikTok videos can be up to three minutes long.

YouTube Shorts can be up to 60 seconds long.

Instagram Reels,  can be up to 90 seconds long when you record in the Instagram app. However, if you film a video without using the app, say with a video production team, it can be up to 15 minutes long. Then, when you post the video on your profile, it will automatically go to your Reels tab.

Music Options for Business Accounts

Not all platforms are on equal playing ground when it comes to leveraging some music to engage your audience.


All TikTok creators can access the TikTok sound library. Or you can create an original sound and allow other TikTok users to use it. This helps your video potentially go viral. A similar feature is available on Reels, but to be frank – it isn’t popular.


Instagram doesn’t allow business profiles to access most of its music features. So you have to record original audio and sound effects, or you need to record the video off of the app.

Note that when you save a TikTok video to your phone, the video will save with the music and watermark. This is ideal for cross-posting. However, saving a Reel on your phone will remove all music.

YouTube Shorts

YouTube Shorts has a music library similar to TikTok’s. Plus, users can remix samples from existing YouTube videos. This helps more users see your content.

Video Editing Features and Tools

All three platforms have their own editing tools and filters. However, TikTok has the most editing options, including voice effects and voiceover tools, not readily available on Instagram or YouTube. Plus, TikTok boasts several additional features the other platforms don’t have, such as:

  • Duet
  • Reaction
  • Stitch

For Reels, users can only use effects from the Instagram Effects library.

Third-party apps are available to add new features to YouTube Shorts videos, but it doesn’t compare to TikTok’s built-in tools.


TikTok’s algorithm centers around the “for you page” (FYP). The page shows videos customized to each user’s interests based on these factors:

  • Account settings (i.e., language preference)
  • Interactions (i.e., likes, shares, follows)
  • Video information (i.e., captions, hashtags)

It’s unclear how Instagram’s algorithm operates. What metrics does the Explore page use? Is it location, interest, your followers, or the content you interact with? We don’t know.

YouTube’s algorithm separates long and short-form videos because many users have a viewing preference. Thus, many creators make a new YouTube channel for Shorts to appease a different audience. Having an established audience helps the Shorts algorithm display your content to more viewers.

Content and Demographics

All three platforms offer similar content. Yet, the demographics are slightly different when considering YouTube Shorts vs. Instagram Reels vs. TikTok users.

Many Instagram users are millennials. However, you’ll find this generation active on all three platforms.

Conversely, TikTok tends to draw in a younger audience. After all, it was Gen Z who popularized the platform. And now, TikTok has the highest organic engagement rates, a title Instagram used to hold. So if you’re looking to go viral, following TiKTok trends is your best bet to make that happen.

YouTube has a healthy range of views across both generations.

Paid Advertising & e-Commerce

TikTok ads are growing in popularity because it offers several paid advertising features. As a result, more and more businesses see the value in TikTok marketing.

Reels and Shorts don’t have paid ads, but companies can work with influencers to create content. Additionally, on February 1, YouTube announced partners could earn money from ads viewed between Shorts.

All three video platforms are quickly moving into the e-commerce space to make it easier for users to shop directly from each app.


To view all of TikTok’s metrics, you need a Pro Account. This will help you create the best TikTok content.

Instagram analytics aren’t available for Reels. You can only see the following:

  • Comments
  • Likes
  • Number of views

You can view similar analytics for your Shorts videos in the “Analytics” tab.

Do You Really Need to Choose One or the Other?

Since each social network boasts more than one billion users, it makes sense to post on all of them. You don’t need to create individualized content for each platform, however.

Instead, focus on cross-posting. Content creators already cross-post their videos to reach a broader user base. It saves time and money while allowing you to create high-quality content.

Work With Us for Your Social Media Needs

When it comes to choosing between Instagram Reels vs. TikTok vs. YouTube Shorts, one platform isn’t better than another. They each offer consumers something a little different, which is why they are all so popular.

If your business needs help navigating short-form video content, start a conversation with our team at Slice. We can build your brand awareness across these platforms to help your business succeed.

Interested in learning more? Feel free to read our article comparing Twitter and Instagram.