Battle of the Shorts – TikTok vs Reels vs Shorts

Short-form video content has taken over the internet. Data shows that the average TikTok user spends 1 hour and 27 mins a day watching content — that’s close to a film worth of TikTok daily. Over 40% of the time we spend on Instagram is now spent watching Reels and Youtube Shorts rake in 15 billion views every day. 

These three players: TikTok, Instagram Reels and Youtube Shorts are in a seemingly endless race to win the short-form video game. While these services appear similar from the outside, when it comes to marketing, which one is right for your business? 

We’re here to break down which platform is right for your business, budget and campaign goals. 


As the original inspiration for many platforms to adopt short-form-centric feeds, TikTok has grown into a video-sharing giant. With over 1 billion monthly active users, they’re clearly doing something right. Self-described as an entertainment platform, rather than a social media platform, TikTok is designed for users to connect with niche communities online, rather than with friends and family. 

With the For You Page, trending sounds and hashtags, TikTok has been designed as a kind of virality machine. They want you to blow up. For brands, TikTok offers huge potential for reach, brand awareness and discovery. Positioning your product or services as part of a larger conversation and showing up authentically in front of your audience is what separates winning brands on TikTok. 

Whether you’re looking to adopt an organic or paid strategy, brands need to be prepared to step out of their comfort zone when it comes to content. With a finger steady on the pulse, jumping on the right trend at the right time can be your ticket to going viral. 

TikTok is also attracting new users at a faster rate than any other platform. And when it comes to its marketing offerings, TikTok is by far the furthest along in developing high-quality ad services. With Instagram reporting a decline in engagement, many creators and brands alike have been making the move over to the ‘Tok. We know this new app is powerful… but is it where your brand needs to be? 

To make the most qualified judgement, we suggest getting on the platform yourself and exploring. It’s important to look internally and see if your content is suited to the platform. It’s also important to investigate if your target audience is active on the platform. If your only goal is to drive purchases, your advertising dollars might be best spent somewhere else if you’re lacking a conversion-ready target group on TikTok. 

IG Reels 

After introducing Reels in 2020, their popularity has been steadily growing. As of 2021, Instagram reported 2 billion monthly active users and earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg stated that 20% of users’ time on Instagram is spent scrolling through Reels. 

This is thanks in large part to the platform’s own championing of Instagram Reels. It’s clear Meta knows the future of the internet lies in short-form video content and has been making change after change to further push Reels. The IG algorithm is designed to push reels and encourage users to create their own, and because of this, it’s an industry favourite for UGC. Both polished and on-the-fly branded content can perform well on the platform, however, it’s widely accepted that more raw and authentic content does better over on TikTok. 

Being well-established, with billions of engaged users is a large reason one might argue Reels has an edge on TikTok. Many brands are hesitant to start from scratch on a new platform. For consumer brands and B2B companies alike, having a socially-proofed and established profile plays a huge role in their success online. 

When it comes to their campaign offerings, Meta is (of course) a key player. For brands, it’s a huge advantage that Ads Manager offers control over two key platforms. Instagram and Facebook remain the go-to platforms for digital campaigns for many brands, with many finding success in adapting to vertical video format. Instagram currently offers more refined targeting and retargeting options than its competitors, however, each platform has their strength and weaknesses when it comes to its respective business platforms. 

Youtube Shorts

Shorts started to gain global popularity in 2021 after its initial launch was a huge success in India in 2020. It’s clear Youtube, a traditionally long-form video sharing platform, was feeling the pressure from new players like TikTok and decided to push Shorts. 

Youtube’s got some incredible viewing stats: (source

  • 2 billion people use Youtube every month 
  • Shorts get 15 billion views daily 
  • More than 70% of Youtube watch time is via mobile 

This makes it the ideal platform for brands to leverage in their digital strategy. As the slightly younger of the bunch, brands that get in early have a significant opportunity to shout loud and be heard, with less effort. 

Thanks to the uptick of users in 2022, Youtube has been working to seriously up its advertising capabilities on Shorts. They now offer similar shoppable features to TikTok and have recently announced that 40% of ad revenue generated will go back to creators. The goal of this is to attract more talent to the platform. 


Let’s take a look at the key difference between the platforms when it comes to marketing. 

Monthly Active Users 1.2 B2 B1.5 B 
% Gen Z42.9%30.1%14.5%
% Millennial31.2%31.5%20.2%
Engagement Rate 8.9%2.0%0.64%
Female Users57%49.3%46.1% 
Male Users43%50.7% 53.9%
Ad Reach884.9 million 675.3 million2.56 billion 
Ad Reach as % of total population 11.2% (18+) 10.9% 32.4% 

CPM is another key metric to monitor, however these stats vary greatly depending on the country and how many advertising dollars were initially invested. 

So, who wins? 

If only it was that easy. When considering which platform is right for your brand, it’s best to take a holistic standpoint and consider what is most important to your specific needs. Each brand and each campaign is different and can show different results depending on the platform.

With strengths and weaknesses on all sides, it’s worth investigating the respective Ads Managers on each platform to see for yourself their capabilities. At The Graygency, we promote taking an omnichannel approach. With more channels, there are more opportunities for your voice to be heard. That being said, it’s important to assess where your voice will be the most valuable in the cluttered online marketplace. 


Creatopy developed a killer case study, diving into the intricacies between Instagram and TikTok, to see which performed better. 

They ran two seemingly identical ad campaigns on Instagram and on TikTok. From the creative, to copy and CTA, they kept everything the same. They measured both exposure and brand awareness. 

Here’s a breakdown of the key stats they offered:

While the numbers show Instagram Reels as the clear winner, it’s important to note that the Creatopy team were working from scratch with a new TikTok profile, however already had an established presence on Instagram. That being said, Instagram Reels clearly beat out TikTok in the battle for reach and impressions.

It’s also important to note that they were marketing a B2B service. As this was not a conversion-focused case study, it would be interesting to investigate a similar case with a D2C brand. With TikTok’s and Short’s new inbuilt shopping features, it would be interesting to track if this impacted performance. 

There’s also something to be said for running the exact same ad on both Instagram and TikTok. We would discourage brands from doing this, as each platform’s intricacies and relevant audience need to be taken into account. 

You can take a look at more insights from their case study here

Thanks again for tuning into another weekly roundup with The Graygency. Check out our blog for more Midweek Media Breakdown posts.

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