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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Hardcastle

Instagram Reels | Explainer + Comparison to TikTok

Instagram Reels - Andrea Lopez Comedy

If you got on Instagram yesterday and your feed was flooded with TikTok-eqsue videos, you're not alone! Say hello to Instagram Reels. So what are Reels, and what do you need to know about them, especially as a marketer? Let's dig in.

According to Instagram, "Reels invites you to create fun videos to share with your friends or anyone on Instagram. Record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and new creative tools". If you're thinking that it sounds incredibly similar to TikTok, it 100% is, and is a direct answer to the app's soaring popularity. Both offer users the ability to create and edit snackable content to share with your audience. But there are some key differences in features and functionality. First is the max video length. TikTok videos can be up to 60 seconds long, while Instagram Reels are capped at 15 seconds. And the way users see and discover content is also different -- we'll explore that more below.

Instagram Reels Impact on Marketing

While TikTok has become incredibly popular, it still skews very young when it comes to its user base. 69% of TikTok users are in the 13-24 year old age range (source: Hubspot) -- which A. has me questioning my addiction to the app, and B. is a very narrow range when it comes to a target market for many businesses. If that is your target demographic, great, but we know that this is not the group with the strongest buying power for most businesses.

Gen Z also uses Instagram more than any other age group does, but the number of millennial and Gen X users is much higher. And across all age groups, 14.3 million people in the US use TikTok, while 116 million use Instagram. This means that it's more likely your audience is already on Instagram, and more likely that your brand has a presence there.

Instagram Reels are built into a user's profile, making them easy to find and easy to incorporate into your brand's presence on the platform. Users know that to find IGTV videos for an account, they head to their profile -- it's the same for Reels. There is also an explore page SPECIFICALLY for Reels. This is where the addictive, TikTok-like scrolling comes in. If you open the Reels explore section, you'll be shown a video, and if you swipe up, it will go to the next video and so on. These are accounts you may not follow, so this will be a tool beyond hashtags and geotags that gives users/brands additional exposure and reach.

How Brands Can Use IG Reels

As soon as I saw influencers posting Reels, I started thinking of all the ways brands could use them, to engage their existing audience and to grow their following. Here are a few ideas to get the wheels turning:

  • Product demos: how to use, open, recycle a physical product

  • Leadership/staff intros: do a quick day-in-the-life montage of your CEO or someone in the field

  • FAQs: answer a common question, show how to troubleshoot a minor, but typical, issue customers have

  • Before and afters: especially relevant for service providers, whether it's make up artistry, house painting or website redesign

Are you excited for Reels? Could you care less? Either way, I'd love to hear your thoughts. This has me thinking back to how much resistance Instagram Stories got when they first launched -- and how now they're the most popular feature on Instagram. You never know what's going to be the next explosive thing, so educate yourself now, consider if it's a good fit for your brand, and go forth with your quality content creation!


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