Audiences gravitate toward quick video clips that entertain or educate. A handful of social channels offer short-form video features. Instagram and Facebook have Reels, YouTube has Shorts, and TikTok’s focus is short video clips, but what are the similarities and differences among, Reels, TikToks and Shorts?
Reels, Shorts, TikTok: Similarities
In truth, all of these options allow users to create and share short videos and provide many similar features. All three channels:
- Allow users to add music, filters, and text to videos
- Have an aspect ratio of 9:16
- Accept MOV and MP4 file formats
- Allow comments, likes, shares, and follows
- Recommend videos based on a follower’s interactions and behaviors on the channel
Reels, Shorts, TikTok: Differences
What sets these short-form video options apart? There are differences. Some are minor, like video length, but others are more significant, like monetization options, engagement rate, and audience makeup. Take a look at these differences:
Length of video
Each platform allows a different length of video.
While you probably associate TikTok with short, snappy clips of 10-15 seconds, users can upload videos up to 10 minutes long. Reels and Shorts have a 60-second limit for uploaded content. Users can also record a video using the YouTube Shorts tools; the length caps at 15 seconds.
TikToks and Reels allow creators to add shopping links to their videos. Followers can browse the products and purchase without leaving the app. YouTube Shorts does not have this feature.
There are ways to earn money through each one of the platforms, but the programs differ.
TikTok and YouTube offer ad revenue sharing, meaning creators get a cut of the revenue from ads shown alongside their content. Instagram does not offer this option.
Instagram and YouTube allow creators to set up paid subscriptions, which means they can charge users a monthly fee to access exclusive content. To leverage subscription features, each platform has its own eligibility requirements and set-up procedures.
TikTok users can put content behind a paywall, but it’s not subscription-based.
All three allow live donations. TikTok’s version is called Live Gifts, YouTube uses Super Chats and Stickers, and Instagram offers Badges. You must have at least 1,000 followers on TikTok to host a live.
As you evaluate each short-form video channel, you might wonder which one users tend to engage with more. The answer: TikTok.
Research shows TikToks earn an average engagement rate of 5.43%, much higher than its two counterparts. Instagram Reels see a 0.93% engagement rate, and YouTube Shorts see 0.51%, according to Socialinsider.
The platform you choose should tie to your target audience. If you cater to the younger crowd, say those between 10 to 29 years old, TikTok is your likely choice. Instagram Reels trend a bit older, focusing on those 15 to 35 years old, and YouTube Shorts reach 18 to 34-year-olds, according to AndroidAuthority.
Popularity for brands
TikTok isn’t just popular with the younger generation; it’s also more popular with brands.
Besides being the fast-growing social media platform, the number of videos uploaded outpaces Reels and Shorts. Research shows brands post an average of 16 videos to TikTok each month, which is double the post frequency of other short-form video platforms, says Socialinsider.
TikTok’s uncertain future
While TikTok’s popularity and engagement may set it apart from others, so does its unsecured future in the U.S. In recent months, some lawmakers have pushed to ban the Chinese-owned TikTok, citing security concerns, according to The New York Times.
Lawmakers say they’re worried sensitive information, like location data, could be shared with the Chinese government, which can request such information from companies.
Many government agencies here and abroad have removed the app from government-issued devices, Montana passed a statewide law prohibiting the app, and several colleges, including Boise State University, for example, block it from campus Wi-Fi networks, but there isn’t a nationwide ban. And, experts say a ban is unlikely. Why? Banning the app faces legal challenges under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech.
Still, TikTok’s future is tentative. As a brand, you can take precautionary efforts to plan for possible problems. Consider:
- Leveraging another short-form video channel and cross-posting content
- Auditing your target audience and re-aligning platforms to correspond
- Diversifying content to include types other than video
- Looking for alternative ways to reach the same audience, like influencer marketing
Reels, Shorts, and TikToks allow users to share short videos, which are popular now. If you’re trying to pick the best fit, explore each channel, along with its features and audience, to select one that aligns with your goals and target market.