Instagram Reels vs. TikTok: Which is the Best for Dancers?

September 14, 2020

Instagram’s latest video feature—Reels—has been rolled out to users over the past month and is now finally available to all. Similar to TikTok, the app’s new feature allows you to create short videos to showcase your skills, whatever they may be. And for us, of course, that means dancing. Despite that, the two apps feel very different to many within our community. So which is the best for dancers to use?

First off, let’s break down exactly what Reels is, and how it can be used.

Reels has a specific landing spot on the Instagram Explore page. Clicking on the preview reel available there will bring you into the Reels Feed, where you’re then able to scroll and find more reels of a similar interest. In terms of filming your own reels, you must go through the Reels Feed page or Instagram Stories and click the “Create” icon on the bottom of the screen. As opposed to TikTok, Reels can only last 15 seconds at most. When shared, your Reels won’t appear on your grid unless you specifically share the video there as well.

“In my opinion, Reels is really difficult even to access,” says Alex Wong. “It’s embedded on the Explore page, which is already cluttered with a mixture of posts, stories, and then the large window on top is Reels.”

He adds: “Reels is missing a lot of TikTok’s editing features, like duets, or even smaller things, like adding stickers or text for a certain duration of the video. TikTok really helps enable and encourage creativity for its users and it allows new users to go viral much easier than on Instagram.”

The possibility of going viral on TikTok, where most dance trends start, has been a huge draw for many creators—especially those of marginalized communities, who often don’t receive the same exposure in the dance world. TikTok’s algorithm allows anyone the chance to get on the For You page, regardless of race, body type or other identity factors.

“I like TikTok because it’s kind of controlled by the users rather than the platform,” says Amanda LaCount, “which I think is really amazing because it makes the creators who do well on there more diverse.”

Wong agrees, adding, “Social media has been an amazing place to showcase the talents of many different types of dancers. I don’t think Reels is really breaking any boundaries at the moment, as it’s just an extra ‘feature’ of Instagram right now. I would compare it like this: If TikTok was like walking into Disney World, Reels is like walking into a Disney store inside a mall.”

LaCount, for one, would like to see Reels not crop videos undesirably when shared to the feed, and also provide a better way to find sounds for videos. There are some positives to Reels, however. Wong explains how on Instagram, a following is usually more loyal and engaged than on TikTok.

“You cannot necessarily expect to get great video views on TikTok just because you’ve established a following,” he says. “People can randomly acquire 100K followers from one really viral video, but soon after, they might notice that their new videos only have a couple thousand views. This usually wouldn’t happen on Instagram. It’s much harder to acquire followers on Instagram, but the ones you do get, stay with you and see your content.”

Especially right now, dancers can take full advantage of Reels as Instagram’s algorithm seems to be pushing Reels videos out even further, given that the feature is still new. Both Wong and LaCount have noticed this, seeing their views on Reels explode over the past month as they’ve played with the feature.

“If social media is your thing, it’s going to be important to be on both platforms,” Wong says. “Instagram is seen as a more serious platform, and brands and advertisers trust Instagram a lot more than TikTok. But all the dance challenges start on TikTok at the moment. Nothing starts on Instagram, even though it may be ported over to Instagram because of multi-platform posting.”

As Reels continues to grow, new features are sure to be added to boost the platform. And while TikTok seems to remain the go-to for dancers at the moment, there’s no telling how Reels will expand, and whether or not it will be able to live up to the hype.

“It seems like Instagram has really only ripped off the outer shell of TikTok with an incomplete thought,” Wong says. “Unfortunately, what Reels is missing is the heart of TikTok.”