[STUDY] TikTok vs. Reels vs.  Shorts: Which Is the Best Short-Form Video Platform?
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[STUDY] TikTok vs. Reels vs. Shorts: Which Is the Best Short-Form Video Platform?

An in-depth study about Reels vs. TikTok vs. Shorts showing performance stats and reveals insights marketers interested in trying out short-video content should know. Read further here!

Elena Cucu
Elena Cucu
Table of Contents

TikTok’s reign as the best-performing social platform in terms of engagement is old news by now. And so is the fact that, despite not coming any near TikTok’s high engagement levels, Reels make for the most engaging content type on Instagram.

But where do YouTube Shorts stand in this short-form video content landscape?

To ensure they have the upper hand in riding the wave of video marketing, social media managers should go full circle and not leave out this important player when looking for TikTok vs. Reels data analysis.

Let’s get to the bottom of it and look at some TikTok vs. Reels vs. Shorts performance stats!

TikTok vs. Reels vs. Shorts - performance comparison


A. Summary
B. Key insights

1. TikTok is the short-form video platform with the highest engagement rate
2. TikTok registers 2x more comments than Reels and Shorts
3. The number of TikToks posted is double compared to Instagram Reels & Shorts
4. Instagram Reels score the highest watch rate
5. Pro tips for creating a top-notch short-form video content strategy

C. Methodology


A. Summary


Here’s a sweet taste of what’s in this report:

What’s the average engagement rate per post (by followers) on TikTok vs. Reels vs. Shorts: we uncover people’s level of interest and interaction in TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts.

Which platform has a higher watch rate - TikTok vs. Reels vs. Shorts: we show which type of content is more successful in making people watch more videos on social media.

How many videos are posted monthly on average on TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts: we look into this metric to discover which platform has the highest posting frequency to see where the people’s focus is at a particular moment.

B. Key insights


  • TikTok makes for the most engaging short-form video content platform, while YouTube Shorts for the least-performing one.

  • TikTok gains double the comments Instagram Reels and Shorts get.

  • Brands have a similar posting frequency on Reels and YouTube Shorts while posting 2x more content on TikTok.

  • Reels score the highest watch rate, and YouTube Shorts the lowest.

1. TikTok is the short-form video platform with the highest engagement rate


Depending on the audiences they’re trying to reach and their targeted marketing objectives aiming to accomplish, some brands might get a higher ROI from their TikTok marketing efforts.

At the same time, for other businesses, Instagram could undoubtedly remain the best-performing social media channel.

While TikTok is massively popular among Gen Z’s users, according to data, Instagram still remains a more appealing platform for Millenials.

As for Youtube Shorts - the last big player in the short-form video content industry - it has recently surpassed 15 billion views daily and reached 1.5 billion monthly active users. That’s a lot of visibility potential that should not be overlooked by brands leveraging video marketing.

Obviously, creativity is the catalyst for achieving success on any social media network - there’s no doubt of that.

However, when considering switching their social media strategy and focusing more on TikTok, brands should do their due diligence and research whether TikTok vs. Reels will likely offer more marketing potential for a particular industry.

Or, who knows, in some cases, it might be more productive to turn to YouTube shorts instead when leveraging a short-form video content strategy.

In the end, what matters the most is choosing the platform where your target audience is.

This is a quote from Malene Priebe Hold - a TikTok marketing expert regarding best practices for TikTok marketing in 2022.

What’s also important to be kept in mind when choosing a platform at the expense of the other is that while all three channels compete for the users’ attention on quite similar content, their algorithms work in pretty different ways.

Ultimately, this is why the same piece of content can record very different results when cross-promoted on TikTok, Reels, and YouTube Shorts altogether.

From an engagement rate perspective, in this TikTok vs. Reels vs. Shorts performance comparison, TikTok sets itself apart as the undisputable winner.

Compared to YouTube Shorts, which scored the lowest engagement levels, of about 3.80% on average, or Reels’ average engagement of 4.36%, TikTok reaches an engagement significantly higher.

This is a chart indicating TikTok vs Reels vs Shorts engagement statistics over the past three years.

Undoubtedly, Tiktok is a great platform to leverage viral trends, being incredibly powerful for increasing brand awareness, thanks to its tremendous virality potential.

In addition, with a social media strategy centered around authenticity and adopting a humanized approach - like Duolingo, for example - Tiktok is unquestionably the most successful channel in generating rapid growth.

Considering Instagram’s algorithm, Reels, on the other hand, are a very effective type of content for brands that have already established a large audience within the network, as it keeps the followers hooked through intriguing and teasing videos.

What’s very important to be kept in mind is that while TikTok is a rather views-oriented channel, Instagram remains a follower-based channel.

In YouTube’s case, Shorts work more as a discovery tool, with most of Shorts’ views coming from the homepage. Once people watch some of your Shorts, they are going to be recommended some long-form content from your channel as well.

Ultimately, this feature can, first and foremost, help you increase your channel’s subscriber base but also gain more views and traction on your long-form videos.

When it comes to video marketing, this battle is best to be fought on multiple fronts, as different audiences require different approaches.

For this reason, using TikTok, Reels, and Shorts complementarily and creating unique content for each, aligned with the individual’s platform audience and design, is the best approach marketers and brands alike could have.

2. TikTok registers 2x more comments than Reels and Shorts


As mentioned earlier, engagement is probably the number one metric marketers look at when evaluating their brand’s social performance. Its relevance is based on the fact that it shows just how compatible a certain message and campaign was to a certain audience’s needs, which is, in the end, what matters the most.

Integrating several KPIs when being calculated, engagement includes plenty of interaction types social media users have had with a particular piece of content.

Usually, hearts make for engagement’s most significant share, being the easiest to earn.

However, while likes are always nice to get, comments are the ultimate indicator of the audience’s interest in an account’s posts, showing a deeper implication and connection with a particular entity.

If, at a more general level, Tiktok tops Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts in terms of engagement with quite a significant proportion, it’s interesting to see where all three platforms stand from a comment rate perspective.

Although the numbers may seem pretty small when looked at separately, the extensive takeaway data has revealed that TikTok equally outshines Instagram Reels and YouTube Shory when it comes to more active involvement.

From a comment rate perspective, TikTok registers an average of 0.09%, while Reels and Shorts score the same levels of 0.05% on average.

Here is a chart indicating what's the average comment rate on TikTok compared to Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.

3. The number of TikToks posted is doubled compared to Instagram Reels & Shorts


Besides its ingenuity in encouraging video content consumption, especially given its creative video formats leveraged, TikTok’s newness is one of the key factors that attract social media users’ attention and interest.

Thanks to a desire to keep up with the trends, there’s an appetite for learning how this unconventional social channel works - that applies to both content creators and brands.

Since this can be achieved only through experiments - with different video concepts and posting calendars - that imply constant, active involvement and changes coming from the users, it's only natural for TikTok to record a significant activity level.

In Reels’ case, on the other hand, despite that Instagram has been a familiar network for a long time now for most social media enthusiasts, its new feature, even if similar to TikTok, does not stir up the same high curiosity peaks. And neither do Shorts.

With a posting frequency of 16 videos per month on average, brands post on TikTok double the content they leverage on the other short-form video platforms.

Here is a chart indicating the posting frequency for TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.

However, as data shows, 2023 may to be a year with multiple changes when it comes to TikTok marketing, its best practices, and results, considering the number of videos posted by brands leveraging the platform has started to lower.

Comparing brands’ posting frequency for Reels and YouTube Shorts, the activity on both platforms seems to be pretty similar, with an average of nine Reels and eight Shorts posted per month.

What’s interesting here is that opposite to TikTok, for these two platforms, the posting frequency is continuously increasing.

Could this be a sign that in the future, Reels and Shorts may gain a higher priority in the content creation process? Truth be told, it’s quite possible.

This is a quote from Jackie Benjamin -  a social media consultat - about best practices for social media marketing in 2023.

4. Instagram Reels score the highest watch rate


For a video platform, the average watch rate is an equally important metric to track when analyzing an account’s performance.

According to data, while TikTok is the most successful platform in attracting people to engage with the videos posted, Instagram Reels record the highest average watch rate.

Compared to TikTok, which overall registers a watch rate of 9.06% on average, Instagram Reels score an average watch rate of 13.08%.

As for YouTube Shorts, they come third, with a 2.52% watch rate on average.


This may partly happen because of the posting patterns we uncovered earlier and partly because of the way the platform’s algorithms work.

With lesser Reels posted, there’s less spam and, therefore, increased chances for the users to discover and watch more qualitative, tailored-to-their-preferences videos, ultimately leading to a greater number of views gained per Reel.

Here is a chart showing what's the average watch rate for TikTok vs Reels vs Shorts.

5. Pro tips for creating a top-notch short-form video content strategy


For any business that wants to succeed in the fierce competition of social media marketing, staying on top of the trends is crucial.

And when it comes to social trends, the one with the biggest impact on brands’ social media strategies is the growth of short-form video consumption.

If we take a look at how a couple of brands’ social reputation has skyrocketed since leveraging TikTok - like Ryanair, for example - there can’t be denied that short-form videos are an absolute must for a successful social media strategy nowadays. This means they should make their way into your content calendar as soon as possible.

Obviously, when deciding to leverage video content, social media managers must first choose the social platform that will help them achieve their brand objectives.

To put it simply, here's what I mean by that - if you're interested in getting a higher watch rate on their videos should create more content tailored for Instagram Reels.

However, if your goal is to get higher engagement, should go for TikTok instead, as for higher values for this KPI, TikTok is the best-performing platform.

When creating your strategies for both TikTok and Instagram Reels, keep in mind that:

  • TikTok is great for more entertaining content;
  • Instagram Reels can be leveraged for more educational content, such as product videos, thanks to its higher watch rate.

Furthermore, as a marketing manager, if you’re thinking about creating a content calendar for various short-form video platforms (or even only one), there’s very important to keep at your industry’s average posting frequency. Or at least at that platform’s overall posting calendar.

You know, that’s just to make sure, you’re not falling behind on your competitors and the platform’s algorithms.

As a starting point, here are our recommendations based on the data:

  • on TikTok: post about 15 videos per month
  • on Reels: post about 10 videos per month
  • on Shorts: post about 8 videos per month.

Now you have these starting points for integrating short-form video content into your social media strategy, just unleash your creativity!

Methodology


The findings of this study are based on the analysis of Shorts, Reels, and TikTok videos posted between February 2021 - February 2023.

TikTok’s engagement rate per post (by followers) is calculated as the sum of likes, comments, and shares on the post divided by the total number of followers that page has. The result is then multiplied by 100.

Instagram’s engagement rate per post (by followers) is calculated as the sum of posts' likes and comments divided by the total number of followers that the profile has. The result is then multiplied by 100.

Youtube Shorts’ engagement rate per post (by followers): is calculated as the sum of posts' likes and comments divided by the total number of followers that profile has. The result is then multiplied by 100.

The average watch rate represents the count of views in a given timeframe divided by the total number of profile followers multiplied by 100 to get a percentage.

The average posts per month metric is calculated as the total number of posts divided by the number of days in the interval of the selected time period.

Elena Cucu

Elena Cucu

Content Manager @ Socialinsider

Content & SEO Manager @ Socialinsider with 8 years of experience in marketing. I like to describe myself as a social butterfly with a curious mind, passionate about dancing and psychology.

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