Tiktok vs. Instagram Reels vs. Youtube Shorts

tiktok vs reels vs shorts

Written by Daniel Willmott

TikTok vs. Reels vs. Shorts: Which Short-Form Video Platform Reigns Supreme in 2023?

Short-form video content has exploded in popularity over the last few years, with platforms like TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts leading the charge. As a marketer in 2023, understanding the differences between these platforms is crucial for determining where to focus your efforts.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll compare TikTok, Reels, and Shorts across several factors to help you decide which platform is right for your brand.

An Introduction to Short-Form Video Platforms

First, let’s quickly define each platform:

  • TikTok: Launched in 2016, TikTok is a social media app focused on short videos up to 3 minutes long. It’s known for its fun music and dance trends.
  • Instagram Reels: Reels launched in 2020 as Instagram’s short video feature. Reels can be up to 90 seconds long.
  • YouTube Shorts: Shorts rolled out in 2020 as YouTube’s short video option. Videos can be up to 60 seconds.

While their formats are similar, each platform has unique features that set it apart.

Comparing Key Metrics: Popularity, Demographics, and More

When deciding where to invest your marketing dollars, it’s important to look at key metrics like monthly active users, demographics, and more.

Monthly Active Users

In terms of total monthly active users worldwide:

  • TikTok: ~1.2 billion
  • Instagram: ~2 billion
  • YouTube: ~2 billion

TikTok has a smaller but highly engaged user base, while Instagram and YouTube have much larger global audiences.


The platforms also differ in their target demographics:

  • TikTok: Mostly Gen Z users aged 16-24
  • Instagram: Millennials and Gen Z users aged 18-29
  • YouTube: Broad appeal, ages 18-49

So TikTok skews younger, while YouTube has the widest demographic range.

Ad Options

Here’s a quick rundown of the advertising options on each platform:

  • TikTok: In-feed video ads, branded lenses, branded hashtags
  • Instagram: Photo and video ads in the feed, stories, Reels
  • YouTube: Video ads, masthead ads, bumper ads

TikTok has fewer ad formats since it’s focused just on short video. Instagram and YouTube offer more ad placement options.

Unique Features of Each Platform

While TikTok, Reels, and Shorts may seem interchangeable at first glance, they each have unique features that set them apart.


  • Super addictive and fun vibe
  • Powerful recommendation algorithm
  • Lip syncing, duets, stitching, and more
  • AR lenses and effects
  • Hashtags and challenges

TikTok’s algorithm is excellent at serving users relevant and engaging content. The app makes it easy for videos to go viral.

Instagram Reels

  • Leverages Instagram’s existing user base
  • Can reuse feed content as Reels
  • Remixing and collab features
  • AR effects
  • Can embed Reels in Stories

Reels taps into Instagram’s huge community. And any content you’ve already created for Instagram can be repurposed into Reels.

YouTube Shorts

  • Quick editing tools right in app
  • Can use audio from YouTube library
  • New Shorts feed to help discovery
  • Can upload existing short videos
  • Access to YouTube creator tools

YouTube Shorts makes it simple to get started creating short videos optimized for mobile viewing.

Marketing Potential: Pros and Cons of Each Platform

Now let’s compare the marketing potential of TikTok, Reels, and Shorts.

TikTok for Marketing


  • Core platform for Gen Z users
  • Culture of virality and trends
  • Powerful algorithm amplification
  • Creative ad formats


  • Limited analytics
  • Still emerging ad platform
  • Less brand safety controls

Instagram Reels for Marketing


  • Established ad platform
  • Can repurpose Instagram content
  • Large existing user base
  • More brand safety controls


  • Less viral content amplification
  • Cluttered with other Instagram features

YouTube Shorts for Marketing


  • Massive built-in audience
  • Familiar YouTube tools and analytics
  • Brand safety for advertisers


  • Not as optimized for short video
  • Less viral content amplification
  • Can’t link to products/websites


Best Practices for Each Platform

To find success on these short-form video platforms, keep these best practices in mind:

TikTok Best Practices

  • Jump on trends and challenges early
  • Use popular songs and audio clips
  • Encourage audience participation with duets and stitches
  • Post consistently to stay relevant

Instagram Reels Best Practices

  • Reuse your best Instagram content
  • Employ popular IG effects and filters
  • Make behind-the-scenes and “how to” content
  • Use relevant hashtags and tag creators

YouTube Shorts Best Practices

  • Optimize vertical video for mobile
  • Add captions for sound-off viewing
  • Include strong calls-to-action
  • Cross-promote with long-form YouTube videos

Which Platform Is Right for Your Brand?

So which short-form video platform is best for your marketing goals? Here are some key questions to consider:

  • Where does your target audience spend their time?
  • Do you want to launch trends or jump on existing ones?
  • What types of video content does your brand create?
  • How much time can you devote to short-form video?
  • What marketing objectives are you trying to achieve?

The ideal platform for your brand depends on your audience, content strategy, and goals. But it’s worth experimenting across TikTok, Reels, and Shorts to see what resonates.

The world of short-form video continues to evolve rapidly. As you craft your social strategy for 2023, focus on the platform where you can create authentic connections with your core audience. Lean into the culture and features unique to each platform.

With strategic and creative short-form video content, your brand can thrive on TikTok, Reels, or Shorts this year!

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