Instagram Reels vs TikTok: Which Should Your Students Be Using?

In August, Instagram announced a new feature called Reels. Many people weren’t sure how to react. Instagram, owned by Facebook, had already shown it was not above copying the popular features of other platforms when it released Stories, a disappearing content feature that rivaled Snapchat.

With Reels, Instagram took on competitor TikTok, a social media platform out of China that found popularity in the U.S. with short videos set to music.

Here’s your guide to the new feature so you can help your students determine if they should be using Reels and how it could benefit the book of business they should be using social media to build.

What are Reels?

This is how Instagram describes the feature for users:

“Reels invites you to create fun videos to share with your friends or anyone on Instagram. Record and edit 15-second multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and new creative tools. You can share reels with your followers on Feed, and, if you have a public account, make them available to the wider Instagram community through a new space in Explore.”

Any student who has used TikTok will be familiar with how Reels look and feel.

Here’s a chart comparing Reels to TikTok:
Chart showing the differences between IG Reels and TikTok

How To Make Reels in Instagram

If you’re new to the platform, here’s a brief tutorial on how to create your own Reel:

  1. Go to the Stories feature in Instagram.
  2. To the right, you will see “Reels.” Click this option.Screenshot of creating an IG reel
  3. You now can shoot a Reel in real-time, or select a past video clip.
  4. The icons to the left allow you to add music, speed up the video, add effects, and set a timer.
  5. Once you’ve shot your video and added effects, click the right arrow to add text, gifs or stickers. Hashtags and mentions can only be added in the caption when a Reel is posted.
    Screenshot showing the IG Reel button
  6. Click the right arrow again and write your caption. There is a toggle that allows you to share Reels to your Feed, or you can turn that off and have it only appear in the Reels section of your account.
    Screenshot showing how to shoare your reel and write the caption.

Should Students Use Reels?

The initial feedback on the user experience of creating Reels has not been overly positive. Many users have complained that the feature simply is not as good as TikTok. However, there are a few things to consider that work in Instagram’s favor.

1. TikTok is in trouble with the U.S. Government.

As of the writing of this article, TikTok is suing the government after President Trump signed an executive order banning the app in America. TikTok has long been under suspicion of posing a national security threat because it is owned by a Chinese company.

Some American companies, like Microsoft, have seriously considered buying the app. While this conflict continues, those building content on the platform should be aware of the danger of the app being shut down completely in this country and how that would impact their goals.

2. There is a huge audience of people who never used TikTok.

The Reels feature exposed a new audience of people to the fun and benefits of TikTok-like content. Many older Millennials never had the TikTok app and are excited to use the feature without having to download another app. There’s also a better chance of getting in front of people who are older than 25 on Instagram.

Students should consider this when they look at their goals. Who is most likely to pay you for a haircut and color? A 17-year-old or a 30-year-old? Which age range poses the best opportunity for revenue and where are they spending their time?

3. Most people have the largest audience of followers and have invested the most time on Instagram.

For many people, Reels simply allows them to avoid downloading another social media app to manage and spend time on. Most students will likely have the largest following on Instagram, and Instagram continues to see older users joining and being more active on the platform.

It can be daunting to think about starting from ground zero on a new social media app, especially if time, energy and effort have already been heavily invested in Instagram.

What Do You Think?

Social media is constantly changing and evolving. It’s important for students to get the right information and guidance when using these crucial and ubiquitous platforms to build their business as a feature beauty professional.

Beauty as a Business is an online, social media marketing curriculum designed for your students. They’ll learn about new features like Reels and the foundational strategies to help them be successful doing things like creating content for social media or getting reviews from customers on digital platforms.

Schedule your free demo today and get access to free lessons to share with your students by filling out a form on our website.