PUBLISHED: Aug 17, 2020 4 min read

TikTok vs. Reels: The Summer Showdown on Socials

Time’s almost up for TikTok. Or is it?  

Its future in the United States seems to be hanging by a string: an executive-ordered ban is on the horizon:  

  • The app’s presence in the U.S. depends on being acquired by an American company 
  • There are growing concerns about the app’s usage of user information  
  • The U.S. Senate voted unanimously to ban the app from all government employees’ phones  
  • TikTok reportedly plans to retaliate and may this week file a lawsuit over the executive order. 

Facebook never misses a chance to hop on trends started by others (e.g., introducing stories to Instagram after Snapchat introduced the concept). Recently, they launched Reels, their own short-video platform.  

This begs at least two questions. 1) In the same way that Instagram’s stories quickly overshadowed Snapchat’s stories, will Reels outpace TikTok? 2) Will popularity be contingent on the demise of TikTok in the U.S.?  

The Similarities and Differences Between Reels and TikTok   

The look and feel of Reels is extremely similar to that of TikTok, and it’s clear that Facebook is doing very little to steer clear of TikTok’s proven formula of virality. Likewise, the content of Reels is familiar: many of the same faces pop up (more on that later), the style of videos is heavily TikTok-influenced, and even the editing tools, from audio tracks to jump cuts, have made it onto Reels.  

But there are certain differences, the most notable being: 

  • Reels is not an app but a new feature on Instagram  
  • There’s a video limit of 15 seconds compared to 60 for TikTok  
  • An addition of photo slideshows  
  • You must have an Instagram account to view Reels, whereas TikTok can be viewed without the app.    

Clearly, Facebook is pulling out all the moves to kickstart Reel’s popularity—like going after TikTok’s most popular content creators. Not much is known about the lucrative deals Facebook is giving to the influencers, but they are reportedly offering significant sums for them to post solely on Reels or to at least post their content on Reels first. Facebook is denying these deals are being made to overshadow TikTok. “We have a long history of reaching out to emerging creators, and of working to break new stars on Instagram,” a Facebook spokesperson explained to Forbes.    

TikTok’s Fight Back Against Facebook’s Reels 

It’s clear, though, that TikTok won’t go down without a fight.  

Most recently, they announced the launch of a $2 billion dollar fund to keep creators on the app and within the TikTok community. Some would see the move as an expression of confidence regarding their continued presence in the United States. Also, TikTok has recently pledged to hire 10,000 U.S. employees; they even hired an American CEO, Kevin Mayer (an ex-Disney executive) in July. This obvious effort to dilute their ties with China may or may not aid their case, but the facts remain that TikTok has proven to be a worthy adversary against media titan Facebook. 

Where Does TikTok Go from Here?    

TikTok is now in negotiations with Twitter, Microsoft, and Sequoia Capital. Twitter has expressed interest in partnering with, not acquiring, TikTok—an interesting move for the brand considering that their acquisition of Vine, a similar platform, ended badly. In any event, a partnership seems a long shot given President Trump’s adamance for the app to be bought.   

We’ll find out the fate of TikTok on September 15th. Until then, the showdown of the summer continues. If you’re not one to bet on these technological prize fights, you can always talk to one of our social media strategists and experts. They can walk you through a social strategy tailored to any platform.  

Bryant, an influencer on TikTok with 2.2 million followers, sharing a video of his friend Dixie D’Amelio (33.4 million followers on TikTok) on the new app Reels.

By: Anna Canino