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6 min read

TikTok vs Reels vs YouTube Shorts: Get Started with Short Form Content

TikTok vs Reels vs YouTube Shorts: Get Started with Short Form Content

Short-form content has become one of the fastest-growing marketing trends of the last couple of years. In 2022, 85% of consumers say they engage with short-form content. So if your business isn't already doing it, isn't it about time you started?


Short-form content isn't something that's new, and maybe something your business has already been doing, social media posts, emails and blogs under 1000 words can all be classed as short-form content.

However, in the last couple of years, video short-form content has risen through the ranks and become one of the biggest ways you can engage with your audience. Short-form video is defined as videos of a minute or less, designed to be "snackable" and intended to be brief while still delivering its purpose.

The success of TikTok over the last couple of years is largely accredited to the rise of video short-form content. As the form became more popular, sites began to launch their own versions, Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts, to also reach success in the short-form video market.

So what are the differences between the platforms and how can you utilise them to get the most from short-form content?

Person holding phone on TikTok ShortForm ContentTIKTOK

TikTok is a short-form video-sharing platform where users post quick videos, often lip-syncing or using filters to create entertaining videos.

The platform was originally called before being bought by ByteDance Ltd in November 2017, which transformed it into TikTok. According to GWI, TikTok is now the third biggest social media platform (after Facebook and Instagram) and since 2020 has seen a 40% increase in users. 

TikTok allows users to create videos of max 10 minutes, but the most successful tend to be between 30-60 seconds long. TikTok has an in-app video editor so there is no need to edit before posting or invest in a video editor. The site allows for Stitches and Duets to help maximise interaction from the audience. The app features a range of filters and effects that can be utilised in recordings for entertainment. 

At first, TikTok was dismissed as a gimmicky platform for Gen-Z but now has truly established itself as a powerhouse among the social media platforms. TikTok's cross-generational reach makes it an ideal platform for businesses to post their video content to help reach potential customers. TikTok has dubbed their form of eCommerce as Shoppertainment, claiming that 61% of users on their site use their eCommerce services.

Brands are finding more and more success on the site. One great example is Duolingo. The language learning app went from 100,000 followers to 1.7 million in a few months after going viral with its content.


TikTok is a great place for your video content and is probably the first platform you'd think of when you think of short-form video content. Some benefits include:


It is a great platform for brand awareness, 55% of users say that they use the platform to discover new brands and products  Authenticity is key on the platform which aligns well with the priorities of a Millennial and Gen-Z audience if that is your intended audience, however, there are users of all ages. 36% of users are between 34-55 as of 2021.


TikTok works through hashtags and trends songs so it is easy to jump onto pre-existing trends and related topics to help boost your reach. TikTok offers the possibility for anyone to go viral with the right content. 


TikTok offers eCommerce potential with the TikTok Shop functionality. TikTok has been huge revenue boosts thanks to the shopper platform. There is also a relevant hashtag: #tiktokmademebuyit, which as of June 2022 had been used on 10.1 billion videos.


TikTok does come with some potential negatives to a business.


TikTok unlike other platforms is solely for video making it more difficult to utilise all your content such as photos.


TikTok needs to be reacted to quickly if you want to latch onto a trend before the next one hits. For some businesses, this instantaneous approach is difficult to manage.


TikTok is still perfecting its offering and compared to some of the other platforms has limited data to back up what it is offering. Businesses will need to experiment to see what works and what reaches their audience.



Reels is Instagram's addition to compete with TikTok. Debuted in 2020, Reels allowed Instagram users to post clips 15 - 90 seconds, in a similar style to TikTok and implemented in-app editing that included special filters and effects.

Reels have recently launched on Facebook, meaning your Reels could be seen on the two biggest social media platforms. Instagram is placing priorities on videos on user feeds over the traditional photo sharing the app is known for. In fact, using Reels over sharing videos as a post, can produce an increase in reach of 67%.

Instagram is seeing the value in short-form content and demonstrating that in the prioritising of it on the platform. Have a look at these great examples of how brands have used Reels to boost their profile, including Netflix and Sephora.


Instagram Reels offer a great range of benefits, especially if you are already utilising Instagram.


As mentioned above, Reels has now also been integrated into Facebook,  meaning by posting on Instagram you are reaching your audience on two platforms.  Reels enable you to amp up your social media presence and reach.


Reels offer a lot of potential for reach and engagement, in fact, accounts with smaller followings perform better on Reels when compared to other short-form platforms. This reach can be accredited to the algorithm favouring Reels over traditional Instagram content, and the Instagram Explore page.

50% of users browse the Explore page daily, which pushes content targeted to the interests of the individual. This opens up a lot of potential to reach new customers.


Reels can still be gaining traction weeks after they are posted. The average lifespan of a traditional Instagram post is 48 hours or an Instagram story which disappears after 24 hours. Investing time into making Reels instead can have more long-term reach as opposed to the previous uses of the platform.


Reels does come with some potential challenges:


Due to licensing agreements, business accounts on Instagram are limited on the audio they can attach to their videos and can't use the library of music available to personal accounts.


Like Instagram Stories, Reels currently cannot be scheduled via the Meta Scheduler. Flexibility can be key for a marketer so the lack of scheduling can be a difficulty if doing marketing for other timezones or wanting to drop content or holidays.


Until recently Reels couldn't be boosted at all as Instagram wanted them to be a tool solely for organic traffic. As of July 2022, Reels can now be boosted but with heavy guidelines meaning Reels including third-party IP which does include music, are ineligible for paid boosts. You can read more about the rules here.

Youtube logo on phone for youtube shorts short form content


YouTube has been the long-term dominator for video, but boasting the traditional landscape orientation for videos, the portrait style of TikTok and Reels did not easily lend itself to the platform. That was until YouTube Shorts.

YouTube Shorts offers the user a separate area to upload videos, which are stylised in the same way as TikTok and Reels. YouTube Shorts also offers the same in-app video editors and features its own filters and effects. YouTube Shorts offer the strictest rules in terms of time, videos can only be 60 seconds or below. Shorts feature on the individual's YouTube profile separate from traditional YouTube videos, and have a layout similar to TikTok and Reels.

With the size of the platform, some large brands have really invested in the use of YouTube shorts, for example, TV show The Voice has created behind-the-scenes and preview videos to promote new seasons of the show.



YouTube is pushing Shorts and investing in influencers and content creations using their platform and initiated a $100 million fund payment plan to help encourage the use of Shorts. As they continue to push and prioritise that part of the platform, your business can benefit from increased engagement and reach.


YouTube Shorts offer some great potential for discoverability when creators use tags and titles effectively. Shorts are displayed in search results on the platform meaning you are not as reliant on existing hashtags or trends for your short to reach the right audience.


Whilst YouTube doesn't suffer from poor compatibility with mobile, YouTube Shorts adds a mobile-focused aspect to the site. This has the potential to increase the reasons why an individual may go onto the app and then boost reach and engagement.



Whilst YouTube in its own right is a huge platform, Shorts is still relatively new to the platform and so far most used by 15-25-year-olds with limited data on other age ranges usage, so depending on your audience and product, this may not be the platform for you.


YouTube Shorts does not have the monetisation options that standard YouTube videos offer. Whilst for some this won't be a negative, for those already monetising their YouTube content, it is worth knowing that there is not currently a revenue stream from Shorts.


YouTube Shorts are going to have a harder time converting viewers into followers and then customers. Unlike TikTok and Instagram, there are fewer ways to create simple CTAs to try to attract a viewer to your website. Shorts tend to be watched and enjoyed in the moment and unless they see real value in your offering, the viewer will continue to scroll rather than engage in your additional content.


There is no one-size-fits-all solution for choosing a platform for creating short-form video content. Consider your buyer personas, which platform are they most likely to use? Outline your goals for this content, which platform aligns best with your current content strategy? Is eCommerce a desired feature or is cross-platform potential more beneficial? There is no reason you couldn't upload to all of them to experiment with what works for your business and gets results!

That's one of the biggest benefits of short-form content, it's quick. Whatever you decide to do, short-form content is set to be a key part of content strategies moving forward and showing no signs of slowing down. 

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