Instagram Reels vs. TikTok vs. YouTube Shorts: Which Has More Business Potential?

Daisy Rogozinsky
By Daisy Rogozinsky
August 17, 2022 · 8 min read
  • Blog
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  • Instagram Reels vs. TikTok vs. YouTube Shorts: Which Has More Business Potential?

Making up the overwhelming majority of consumer traffic, and only growing year after year, video has long been an important marketing channel, with 86% of businesses utilizing video marketing to help meet their goals. 

Today, the new frontier of video marketing is short-form vertical video, ushered in by TikTok – the most downloaded app of 2021 for the third year in a row – and its immense popularity. And this popularity has led to imitation, with Instagram’s Reels and YouTube’s Shorts making an attempt to piggyback off of the success of the short vertical video format.

As a marketer, all of this leaves you with some questions, like: 

  • What is the deal with these platforms?
  • What differentiates them from each other?
  • Which platform should I be focusing my marketing efforts on?

This article will answer all of these questions and more to give you all of the information you need to get the best ROI – the best bang for your short video marketing buck. Let’s dive in. 

TikTok vs. Reels vs. Shorts At a Glance

Instagram Reels TikTok YouTube Shorts
Monthly Active Users 2 billion 1.2 billion 2 billion
Target Demographic 18 – 34 18 – 24 18 – 49
Internet Search Ranking 6th 46th 2nd
Max. Video Length 90s 10 minutes 60s


Released in 2016, TikTok is an app focused exclusively on short-form videos. Its maximum video length was recently increased from 15 seconds to 60 seconds to 10 minutes, but TikTok continues to be known for its short video length, appeal to Gen Z, ability to sell out products and skyrocket songs up the music charts, and “addictive” nature. In short, TikTok has proven to be incredibly popular and influential, especially for the younger generation. 

Important stats:

Marketing pros: 

  • TikTok allows you to link directly to products you are selling, helping make it easier to turn views into actual sales
  • Of the three platforms, TikTok is the best place to reach Gen Z if that is your target customer
  • With a reputation for creating new trends and fads (just check out how popular the hashtag #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt is), TikTok is great for Gen Z influencer marketing 
  • While it started out limiting video length significantly, TikTok now allows for the longest videos of all three platforms – up to 10 minutes
  • Of the three platforms, TikTok offers the most robust analytics tools 

Marketing cons: 

  • Of the three platforms, TikTok has the fewest monthly users 
  • TikTok reachers a more limited demographic than the other apps, making it a poorer choice for anybody whose target customer is older than their mid-20s

In a nutshell: If you want to reach Gen Z and ride the wave of the fastest-growing new platform, TikTok is a great choice. You’ll also get good analytics while you’re at it. 

Instagram Reels

Introduced in 2020, Instagram’s Reels is more or less a copy of the TikTok format that lives in the Instagram app. Reels lets users create and view videos of up to 90 seconds in length. They’re the Instagram platform’s fastest-growing feature and are favored by the Instagram algorithm over feed posts. 

Important stats:

Marketing pros: 

  • Like TikTok, Instagram Reels also allow product links to help you make sales 
  • Because Instagram has been a highly popular app since its release in 2010, it’s had the time to build a much larger audience than TikTok with nearly twice as many monthly active users on the app
  • If you’re already using Instagram but not yet Reels, you’ll be able to tap into your existing following rather than having to build a new one from scratch 
  • Conversely, getting your Reels seen on the Explore page will help you find a new audience for your Instagram account

Marketing cons:

  • Up from 15 seconds, Reels now limits videos to 90 seconds in length, significantly shorter than TikTok’s 10 minutes
  • The analytics offered by Reels is limited compared with TikTok analytics 
  • While Instagram as a whole is a highly popular platform, people don’t necessarily go to Instagram to watch Reels, meaning that we can’t assume that all 2 billion of Instagram’s monthly users actually care about or watch Reels

In a nutshell: If you want wider reach in terms of user base and demographics and can sacrifice a little street cred and some analytics, Reels is a good choice.

YouTube Shorts

Youtube’s version of a TikTok competitor, hosting short-form vertical videos. YouTube markets shorts as an easy way to make, edit, and upload videos using only a smartphone, lowering the barrier to entry into the content creation space. YouTube users can either create a separate channel for their Shorts or upload them directly to their existing YouTube channel.  

Important stats:

  • 11th most-downloaded app
  • 2nd most-used social platform
  • 2 billion active users every month

Marketing pros: 

  • Like Instagram, YouTube has a wider reach than TikTok to a total of 2 billion monthly users
  • Of the three platforms, YouTube reaches the widest demographic, making it a good choice if you have an older target customer
  • YouTube has the best internet search ranking score of the three platforms at #2
  • If you already have a YouTube channel you’re seeking to bring new subscribers to, creating Shorts can be a good way to widen your viewership

Marketing cons:

  • Unlike TikTok and Reels, Shorts does not allow product links
  • Only 60 seconds are allowed for YouTube Shorts, the shortest of all three platforms
  • Shorts on YouTube cannot be monetized, so you can’t make money from the content itself
  • Compared to TikTok, YouTube Shorts has limited analytics
  • Like we mentioned with Reels, people don’t necessarily go to YouTube to watch Shorts. There’s no guarantee that YouTube’s huge audience translates to a huge audience for Shorts in particular. 

In a nutshell: With Shorts, you’ll get the widest reach of all the platforms, but the most limitations in terms of product links, video length, and analytics.

Tips for Short Video Marketing Success

Regardless of which platform you choose as the one for you, here are some tips and best practices that will help you find success with the short-form, vertical video format. 

Add Captions

Did you know that 92% of viewers view videos with the sound off on mobile? This means that having a video that can only be understood with the sound on significantly limits your reach. To combat this, it’s highly recommended to add captions to all of your short videos.

Promo tip: Promo’s easy-to-use online video editor makes it easy for you to add captions to your videos in only minutes. 

Check your Specs

Each online video platform has its own technical requirements that allow for videos to display properly and look as good as possible. This means that you can’t just reupload a horizontal YouTube video as a TikTok and expect it to look right. Instead, make sure you’re always checking and meeting the specs each platform suggests.

Promo tip: With just a few clicks, you can use Promo’s video maker to automatically adjust your video’s specs to the recommended ones for each platform. 

Keep It Short and Sweet

While it’s nice that TikTok now allows for videos to be up to 10 minutes long, giving creators more flexibility, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all of your videos should be that long. One of the things that audiences love about the short-form video format is that it’s, well, short. So we recommend avoiding creating videos much longer than 60 to 90 seconds in length unless you have a really good reason to do so.  

Add your Branding

One unique feature about TikTok is that it allows viewers to download your videos to save them or externally share them. This means that people might be viewing your videos without realizing that they’re yours. To combat this, we recommend adding your business’s branding – including colors, name, and logo – to each of your TikTok videos so that they won’t lose their association with you and you’ll still benefit from them as a marketing tool.

Promo tip: Promo’s video maker easily allows you to add custom branding to your videos. 

Use an Authentic, Casual Tone

One of the things that these short video platforms are most known for is being all about relatability, authenticity, and humor. In order to thrive on TikTok, Reels, and/or Shorts, match this tone by sticking to a silly, light atmosphere. Creating videos that are too professional or stuffy will seem out of place and is unlikely to perform as well. 

Toks, Reels, and Shorts, Oh, My!

We hope that this article provided you with the information you need to pick the right short-form vertical video platform for your marketing efforts. There’s no reason you can’t post to all three and see which performs the best for your business. We’ll see you on our phone screens!


Want to engage your audience and grow your brand? Try Promo today.

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About the author

Daisy Rogozinsky

Daisy Rogozinsky loves to use the written word to educate, entertain, and tell stories. If she's not writing content, she's writing poetry, music, and screenplays.

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