You may be thinking about investing in Instagram Reels or Tiktok and wondering if you should do both or just focus on one. But it is so difficult to choose a side when it seems that no one can agree on which is better for engagement rates.
Some in the world of social media marketing believe that TikTok videos have more action because the TikTok algorithm is “better;” others argue that Reelima attracts more attention because Instagram is forcing the format on everyone all the time.
On the one hand, the TikTok For You (#fyp) page is very user-friendly. Instagram Reels Explore, on the other hand, is a melting pot of content. Is it better to reach a specific, targeted audience … or to put your amazing video in front of the largest possible eye size?
We decided to find out which format has the most engagement by doing what we do best here at the Hootsuite Social Media Lab: putting it to the test.
In this experiment, I posted exactly the same content on Reels and TikTok and measured its performance during the week.
Here’s what happened.
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Hypothesis: Reels work better than TickTox
There are some subtle differences between Instagram Reels and TikTok, but both apps basically serve the same purpose: allow users to quickly create, edit and share short video content. Both Reels and TikTok offer users a variety of fun filters and effects, as well as the ability to add music and sound effects.
But while they both offer the same basic functionality, we want to find out if one nurtures more engagement than the other … because no one really seems to know.
Even Hootsuite’s internal experts are torn! Eileen Kwok, social marketing coordinator here at Hootsuite, voted for Reels as a more powerful platform: “The competition at TikTok is fierce at the moment,” she points out.
Brayden Cohen, a social marketing expert, felt the situation was a little more nuanced. “If a brand has little or no followers, I think it’s much harder for their Real to go viral,” he says. “While with TikTok, I don’t think your brand necessarily has a big following for your TikTok to explode and go viral.”
Every good experiment requires a hypothesis (yell at my ninth grade science teacher!), So we’ll just pick a side here.
Let’s say … Reels. The reels are likely to perform better. After all, Instagram wants us to get into Reels so bad they will do it anything to make my content viral … maybe! Lets hope!
I decided to create and publish five short videos per platform that are as identical as possible.
What matters, I created each video fresh in the platform: they were no republished. So there are some subtle differences between them – like I couldn’t find a stupid pulsating TikTok filter on Instagram Reels – but they are as close as I could get.
Oh, and another difference. On Instagram, you can cross your Reel to your main feed as well as the Reels tab, so I did. It felt right.
♬ Boys – Lizzo
I avoided captions and hashtags on both platforms, in case this could distort the results in any way. It was exclusively about video content. It’s time for my directorial vision to shine!
♬ I’m so hungry – Carter Zaher
However, there was one problem with even reading between platforms: I have about 1,600 followers on my Instagram account, and zero on my TikTok account because I just signed up for this experiment. (Very bravely from Hootsuite, which allowed the Millennium to get involved in a TikTok-based project.)
This exceptional difference seemed to have pretty much disrupted the engagement, so I decided to start a new Instagram account to make sure the playground was nice and even. That would be a pure battle of algorithms!
What platform would dare to push my content to the masses, even though I seemed completely without friends and uninteresting to everyone? And would Hootsuite stop me halfway through this experiment and replace me with a cold 20-year-old? Only time will tell!
No sugar coating: TikTok threw the rolls out of the water.
I expected there to be less engagement on the Rolls I put on my recording account than I would have had if I had shared them with followers on my actual account, but I was disappointed that they basically didn’t arrive anytime.
I assumed Reels was pushing up to those who didn’t follow them and that I would get at least a few reviews, even if I didn’t end up with likes or comments.
After all, the Reels button is located right in the bottom center of the Instagram home screen and when I touch, I was fed up with a pointless parade of content from accounts I’ve never heard of. I see some guy trying to go down the stairs with the vortex filter on; I see cute twins dancing; I see an Indian bride putting on makeup. Who are these people and how did they get into my phone … but more importantly, how do I get nothing from this store with my own top content ?!
It is humiliating to share these figures, but science is primarily about transparency and truth. My Instagram Reels had a maximum of two views each. TWO.
Meanwhile, on TikTok, exactly the same content practically made me a star.
I mean, I’m not Charlie D’Amelio. But I’m still super impressed that my account, which had zero followers when I started this experiment, managed to shrink 450 views per video. I even got a few likes from strangers … and I follow them!
What do the results mean?
From this very scientific and exhausting experiment I conclude the following TikTok does a far better job of spreading content to the world than Reels… at least if you have a small (or non-existent) audience to begin with.
If you want to reach reach with your content and build an audience from scratch, TikTok is probably the best choice.
However, what is this experiment it is not The test was how much engagement the drums get if you have an already existing audience.
Would posting account reels with followers make Instagram appreciate my content more in its algorithm? Maybe my followers would comment, like or share my content themselves?
But until my TikTok grows following his current status (of one weird stranger) into something that matches the audience of my Instagram account, we’ll never know how they can really compare.
While I’m patiently waiting to become TikTok-popular, why not try this experiment yourself? The stakes are pretty low and the effort is small, and you’ll quickly find out what best suits your brand and social media strategy. And if you want to follow me while you’re at it … well, that’s a win for everyone.
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Friendly communicator. Music maven. Explorer. Pop culture trailblazer. Social media practitioner.