Short Form Video Guide: TikTok vs Instagram Reels vs YouTube Shorts

John Beaton
August 19, 2022
Last Updated On

It has not gone unnoticed by marketers how most social channels have introduced their own short-form video format. To date, static images and text have defined the social media landscape, and acclimatizing to the rapid shifts in the industry is a challenge that social media managers now face. Brands must understand two things about short-form videos:

  1. Audiences now come to social media in order to be entertained. The days of aspirational, unattainable, out-of-reach aesthetics are over, and audiences now want the content they consume to feel relatable and authentic. Creators have taken on a more prominent role in how brands market to audiences.
  1. No two short-form video formats are the same. What works well on Instagram may not work well on TikTok, and what works well on YouTube is very different from what works well on the other channels. Adopting short-form video as a format is complicated enough, but understanding the nuances in how each platform works and what types of content do well on each adds another layer of complexity.

The three standout platforms in short-form video to date are TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube. To help you build out your strategies for these three channels, we’ve written comparisons between them in order to help you understand where they differ from each other.

TikTok vs Instagram Reels

In short:

  • TikTok is entirely based on video, while Reels is a feature of Instagram
  • The platforms have different algorithms, and the same content may not work on both
  • Instagram is integrated with Facebook’s marketing tools

It’s no secret that TikTok was the original short-form video channel, and Reels was Instagram’s response. Although Reels are a feature, rather than a channel of their own, their integration with Instagram comes with several benefits. For starters, platforms owned by Meta have an integrated advertising structure, which social media managers and agencies are well-accustomed to. Using Reels for ads is less of a pivot, and more of an extra step, while TikTok is a whole new channel.

TikTok’s newness may make it challenging for brands to adopt, but end users do not have the same hurdle. TikTok is where trends are set, across all industries, from cosmetics, to home goods, to fashion. No matter what industry you’re a part of, a trend could emerge at any moment that propels your content to millions of users’ For You page, which is what makes TikTok such an interesting channel for marketers. If you want to learn the ins and outs of how to be successful on TikTok, be sure to read our post.

Tip: Make sure you don’t repost TikToks to Instagram with the watermark. Instagram’s algorithm suppresses reposted content. Try to keep Reels in mind as you film TikToks, and vice versa.

YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels

In short:

  • Both features are a part of established channels
  • YouTube was already based around video, while Instagram was mostly known for static images
  • Reels are a departure from the types of content you’ve previously seen, while Shorts tend to be clips from the content you’ve already been watching

YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels share a similar backstory––they are both features built into existing social channels that address audiences’ appetite for short-form entertainment. YouTube has a bit of an edge in that it was already built around entertaining video, and in many ways was a precursor to the social entertainment era that we see now. Shorts are less of a departure, and more of an additional feature for creators to find viewers and earn more ad revenue. The existing trends for YouTube still apply––viewers ‌gravitate towards creators, and brands make a foothold in the channel through sponsorships and advertisements, rather than organic content.

Where Instagram Reels have the advantage is the “social” part of social entertainment. Your content is visible to the followers you’ve already accumulated during the era of static images, and the influencer strategies you’ve built still put you at an advantage. You may need to readjust your plans to prioritize video, but Instagram remains a top destination for brands to market to users through organic content.

TikTok vs YouTube Shorts

In short:

  • YouTube is primarily for long-form video
  • YouTube Shorts are integrated with Google’s sophisticated ad infrastructure
  • TikTok has a greater emphasis on trending hashtags and sounds

TikTok has a very different approach to video than YouTube. While YouTube has prioritized longer videos in recent years in order to compete with Netflix, TikTok went in the opposite direction and focused on serving users an infinite scroll of short-form entertainment. The current landscape has YouTube moving towards short-form video with its introduction of Shorts, while TikTok is actually introducing long-form video into its platform by allowing users to post TikToks that are up to ten minutes long.

Similar to Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts do not have the focus on trending hashtags and sounds that many consider to be TikTok’s secret to success. The advantage YouTube has is its comprehensive advertising infrastructure, including monthly payouts to creators. The TikTok Creator Fund, which we’ve written about, is still relatively new, and YouTube gives users control over how many and what types of ads are shown in their videos, which means that business-savvy creators benefit from sticking with YouTube.

Is Short-Form Video The Future?

The shift to short-form video is already here. Audiences are now attuned to the infinite scroll of short clips, and many of your competitors are meeting audiences where they are. The best way to future-proof your social media strategy is to incorporate video content now and plan for a future where video takes precedence over static images. Dash Hudson comes fully equipped with all the tools you need to take your video strategy to the next level, including creative intelligence for TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, actionable insights, and measurement for influencer relationships.

Short-Form Video FAQs

Why are short videos better?

Short-form video is easily digestible, and the infinite scroll of short-form video channels allows users to find entertainment at their own pace, and for as long as they want. This infinite scroll also offers better discoverability for content, as an algorithm recommends content from accounts that a user may not already follow, which means that anyone can be successful.

Can you duet on Instagram Reels as well?

Instagram Reels allows you to “remix” a Reel, which is a similar feature to TikTok’s Duets.

How long are IG Reels supposed to be vs TikTok?

Instagram Reels can be up to 60 seconds long, while TikToks can be up to 10 minutes long.

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