Social Media

Best Short Video Apps: When to Choose TikTok, Instagram Reels or YouTube Shorts

Which short video app will provide the best marketing results? Learn the perks of TikTok, YouTube Shorts, and Instagram Reels to decide for yourself.

Melissa King Melissa King on July 22, 2022 (last modified on August 24, 2022) • 21 minute read

If you pay attention to social media trends, you’ve likely seen short videos all over your feeds. With this format rising in popularity among internet users, now businesses are wondering how they can get in on the trend.

You have a choice to make if you work for one of those companies — which platform should you share your short videos on? The three most popular options, TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts, have different features and audiences to consider.

To help with your decision, we polled 59 experts from a wide range of industries about their preferences. Here’s what you’ll learn today:

social-media-databoard-databox-template

Most Popular Types of Short Videos Businesses Make

Let’s break down the three most popular types of short video:

  • TikTok: TikTok is an app dedicated to short video. Its videos range from 5 to 120 seconds in length.
  • Instagram Reels: Reels are the short videos that appear on Instagram profiles and feeds. Unlike Instagram Live videos, which the creator broadcasts live, Instagram Reels are pre-recorded like other short videos. They can last up to 90 seconds.
  • YouTube Shorts: YouTube Shorts are YouTube’s take on the short video trend. The YouTube app has a Shorts-specific camera for creators to make these videos. They can run up to 60 seconds long.

When we asked respondents what short video app works best for their businesses, 50.85% — just over half — chose TikTok. Instagram Reels received the second-highest number of votes at 27.12%, and YouTube Shorts came in third at 15.25%. The rest of the poll participants (3.39%) reported that another app worked best for them.

Most Popular Types of Short Videos Businesses Make

But while TikTok was the expert favorite in our poll, you might not get the same results if you default to that app. Since each platform has a unique audience and angle, we recommend weighing each app’s pros and cons before dedicating yourself to one.

TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts: Which One Should You Choose for Your Business?

We asked respondents to share the reasons why they chose their preferred video app over others to discover the advantages of each platform. For context, here are the types of videos they prefer to create, in order of popularity:

  • Educational videos such as tutorials and instructional videos: Over 92%
  • Humorous videos aiming for relatability and engagement: 80%
  • Influencer partnership videos: Over 72%
  • Trendy videos related to social media challenges or popular hashtags: 70%
  • Locally relevant videos: Less than 50%
TikTok vs. Instagram Reels vs. YouTube Shorts

These topics include a combination of subjects relevant to business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) creators.

Now that you know the poll participants’ approaches to creating videos, here are the reasons they gave for choosing each platform:

TikTok’s Strengths

TikTok

With TikTok dominating our poll, respondents had plenty to say about the app’s strengths. They mentioned four benefits to using TikTok:

  1. Broad Reach
  2. Wide Influence
  3. Budget-Friendly Advertising
  4. Cross-Platform Visibility

1. Broad Reach

Many of the experts we consulted who prefer TikTok cited its wide reach as its biggest benefit.

As First Day’s Alice Li puts it, “The reason I chose TikTok as the main short video app for promoting and marketing my brand is simple: Tiktok is everywhere, and everyone is on TikTok.”

Li continues, “What better way to engage a huge number of loyal customers to keep them coming back and entice even a larger number of potential customers through our content and paid ads to increase our customer base and multiply our revenue manifold, than using TikTok, you may ask. The answer is that this is the best way available, in my opinion, when it comes to all short video format platforms. You can engage your viewers by using the latest viral sound while talking about the benefits of eating healthy, taking better care of themselves, and utilizing the best product on the market for better health of their family and an improved lifestyle overall.”

You can see TikTok videos’ visibility in action through the respondents who reported their reach booming once they switched over.

Lauren Keys from Trip of a LifeStyle says, “We started posting Reels on Instagram last February because the algorithm was heavily favoring sharing them with a broader audience. Because we were making these short videos already, we cross-posted them on TikTok and found even more traction there. TikTok is now our largest audience, even though we put the same videos on Instagram, Facebook, and now YouTube shorts.”

For Sunny’s Drew Jarvis and Cindy Belardo, TikTok became the driving force behind the brand’s visibility. “Sunny started off the year as a small period care start-up. In 2021, we only had about $2,500 in sales. This year, we started marketing on TikTok, and our business went viral. We drove over $130,000 in preorder sales in the first 5 days of our first viral video, got coverage in BuzzFeed, and so much more! TikTok is amazing!” Jake Yablonski recounts.

Gabby Ianniello of Corporate Quitter has a similar story to share: “When I first started my business a year ago, TikTok was the predominant channel for short-form content because of its ability to go viral and organically grow an audience. Within 6 months, I was able to build a brand and grow my community to over 30k, helped me rack up 50k downloads on my podcast, sign 4+ figure brand deals, and gain global media coverage (I’m even going to be filmed in a Documentary too!). This would’ve never happened through another platform, I’m sure of it.”

Ianniello also shared the results of testing she did among TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts. She found that TikTok had the best organic reach out of the three, but viewership has gone down in the past six months. Meanwhile, Instagram Reels can work well with a well-thought-out strategy, and YouTube Shorts didn’t bring her much return on investment at all.

Related: 12 TikTok Marketing Tips and Best Practices

2. Wide Influence

As the driving force behind the current short video boom, TikTok also brings a lot of influence on the industry. It introduces many of the trends in the short video space and, as a result, has many creators available for collaboration.

Couch Fame’s Sammy Shayne says, “TikTok is the reason that Youtube and Instagram adopted short videos, and is the best short video app for every business. We recruit streamers from there regularly. Any successful TikTok personality can take their audience to streaming and monetize their online personality with our coaching. Nearly all of our talent has come from TikTok or referrals from other streamers.”

3. Budget-Friendly Advertising

If you want to include paid advertising in your short video strategy, ad costs will be a major deciding factor behind your platform choice. According to Harry Hughes of Dangler.co.uk, TikTok offers reasonably price advertising rates.

Hughes says, “Many brands are still hesitant to spend time and money on TikTok advertising because they believe it will be too complex to build up campaigns and track data from yet another app. But one of the best things about using TikTok for business is that it can work with any budget.”

4. Cross-Platform Visibility

Platforms that encourage you to share your presence on other apps support a successful multi-channel or cross-channel marketing strategy. TikTok’s bio allows you to share links to other websites, while Instagram and YouTube require a few extra clicks to send visitors to your other channels. This small difference makes a huge impact.

For Crissy Conner of The Visibility Queen, TikTok promotes reach and engagement across all short video channels. “Although I post on all of these platforms, and they each do something different for my business, I start with TikTok. I love that TikTok gives your audience the option to go to your YouTube or Instagram channel, so I find my audience finds me on TikTok and then consumes more of my other content on YouTube or Instagram,” Conner explains.

Conner continues, “TikTok can take a cold lead and warm them up fast because the platform isn’t afraid of your audience going to another platform to learn more about you. This has helped turn views into leads which has helped them become clients.”

Randy Soderman from Soderman SEO has a similar experience with TikTok: “As a small business owner, the result of posting content on TikTok was positive. I created content that effectively showcased our products and how they could help improve the lives of our target audience. Before using TikTok, we relied on conventional advertising methods such as billboards. This limited the scope of our operations, and we weren’t seeing a decent return on investment.”

Soderman continues, “But since we made the switch, our sales have skyrocketed. On our TikTok profile’s bio, we have also added a link to our website, making it easier for prospective customers to reach us without manually typing in the URL. We were able to double our sales through this technique and were even receiving orders from abroad.”

PRO TIP: Did you know that Databox integrates with TikTok Ads? With the new TikTok Ads Integration, you can connect 400+ metrics and get deeper insights into your TikTok marketing campaigns. Learn more about how you can track and visualize TikTok Ads performance with Databox here.

Instagram Reels’ Advantages

Instagram reels

Instagram Reels offer short videos on a photo-centric platform, giving them a unique position among the three platforms you’re learning about today. Respondents named these perks of using Instagram Reels:

  1. Advanced Product Marketing Tools
  2. Good Reach to New Audiences
  3. Accessible Creation Features
  4. Ideal for Specific Niches

1. Advanced Product Marketing Tools

As a Meta platform, Instagram has a wide selection of features that connect your customers to your product in-app. It makes it seamless for e-commerce viewers to browse and buy items.

“While we certainly have more followers on TikTok, Instagram has more tools that connect potential customers to our product,” says Mad Rabbit’s Oliver Zak. “Instagram Stories allows us to share relevant video content to tattoo aficionados using Instagram Reels, which we also share to TikTok.”

Zak continues, “By motivating users to click through to our profile due to the strength of our content, our Instagram page serves as a convenient hub to help us engage with customers directly and show off the benefits of our products. They can see testimonials created by our followers organized in Highlights for future viewers, see promotions, and be directed to where to purchase. These tools have increased our sales while building a reliable community of like-minded people.”

2. Good Reach to New Audiences

As you consider each platform’s potential for reach, it’s also important to think about the reach they provide to followers versus non-followers. Instagram’s content discovery features help non-followers become followers of your brand.

“Instagram content consumers do a lot of window shopping. Reels are a great way to reach non-followers of the brand. All you have to figure out is how to present your video content that suits your brand and be engaging as per Instagram audience behavior,” explains Pramathesh Borkotoky from Kraftinn Home Decor.

ClearPivot’s Ashley Parkinson adds, “We definitely started to see our Instagram audience grow from posting Instagram reels. We also had a client sign on with us after finding our content on Instagram which was pretty cool to hear.”

3. Accessible Creation Features

If you don’t have the means to shoot and edit video traditionally, a platform’s native video creation features will impact your choice. Instagram Reels brings its photo filters over to Reels and adds options like an in-app music library.

Sparkr Marketing’s Wendy Margolin praises Instagram Reels’ accessibility for creators, among other features: “One Instagram Reel can reach 10,000 people, even with a small following. A static post will only reach a fraction of that number of people. Instagram Reels provide an easy way for any business to reach a big audience. With a phone and creativity as the only necessary tool, Reels democratize marketing for everyone. Instagram itself prioritizes Reels as its favorite form of content, which expands users’ reach. And with new engagement stickers, it’s now even easier to move prospects along the sales cycle with Reels.

4. Ideal for Specific Niches

While you research possible short video platforms for your brand, keep in mind how much each app’s audience has an interest in your industry. Instagram can work well for businesses in lifestyle niches such as B2C e-commerce.

“We selected Reels as our products are related to lifestyle niche. Whereas, we believe TikTok is more towards fun instead of business,” Aviad Faruzon of Faruzo explains. “This is mainly because of the launch of Instagram Reels. We were able to add our own audio, timer, countdown, and AR effects into our short videos to facilitate our viewers resembling our brand design.”

Faruzon continues, “By using Instagram Reels for posting our short videos, we have successfully grown our website visitors and social media presence. This has led to an increase in our sales, which provides us with more resources to improve our marketing strategies and attract more customers. Instagram Reels also helps SEO with social signals.”

YouTube Shorts’ Benefits

YouTube Shorts

YouTube launched its Shorts feature to contend with competitors like TikTok and Instagram. Does its established success with longer videos translate to the short video format? Let’s see what our respondents had to say about this platform’s strengths.

  1. Large Existing Audience
  2. Older Audience and More B2B Viewers
  3. Ideal for Repurposing From Longer YouTube Videos

1. Large Existing Audience

YouTube has been around for much longer than TikTok or Instagram. As a result, you might already have a solid base of followers on the platform. It also has a large population of users ready to watch a new video format.

Katy Smith from Aigram says, “We decided to go with Instagram Reels and YouTube shorts for our short-video content. While YouTube shorts and Instagram may not hold much compared to TikTok, they still worked for us because we had an existing audience on both platforms.”

This strategy worked well for Smith. “Creating a new and engaged audience from scratch is more challenging compared to leveraging the power of your existing audience. As a brand, we felt that YouTube and Instagram worked for us because we didn’t have to start from zero. Short video content literally turbo-boosted our marketing numbers. We were doing 3000+ in terms of reach per post on Instagram and Facebook. With short videos, our reach went beyond 12000+ almost instantly. The conversions have also been great,” Smith says.

Sacred Space Organizing’s Erin Neumann experienced growth thanks to YouTube’s large user base. “YouTube Shorts have proved to be the best short-video app for our business. That’s because over 122 million active users tend to watch hours’ worth of content. Thus, it gives me the perfect opportunity to engage with my target audience as they’re actively using this app on a daily basis,” Neumann says.

“Ever since we invested in entertaining yet informative content, our brand reach has increased. We have managed to gain more potential leads, which has positively impacted our sales. That’s because our YouTube Shorts gain a lot of views and are constantly shared. Hence, we have the perfect opportunity to build a loyal customer base by offering them incentives and offers. It positively impacts consumer engagement, which further influences sales,” Neumann concludes.

2. Older Audience and More B2B Viewers

While Instagram and TikTok are geared toward younger users, YouTube has a more general audience that includes an older demographic and business-minded viewers. This audience could suit certain businesses better, including B2B companies.

“The reason why my business uses Youtube Shorts is because its users come from a wide range of demographics. Because my company is B2B, Youtube is a better way to reach out to my target audience than other apps like Instagram, which tend to appeal more to the Gen-Z generation,” Joshua Rich from Bullseye Locations says.

Mostly Blogging’s Janice Wald adds, “We prefer YouTube Shorts over Reels and TikTok. First, our audience is older than TikTok’s audience. When given a choice between Reels and YouTube Shorts, we felt making Shorts was quicker. For instance, we use Lumen5, a free service, to make 1-minute videos for us converted from our blog post URL. We then take that video and upload it as a Short. YouTube pushes Shorts out, so our organic reach gets extended.”

Related: 24 Best B2B Lead Generation Tools for Getting More Targeted Leads

3. Ideal for Repurposing From Longer YouTube Videos

If you have a large library of existing YouTube videos, you can repurpose clips from them into YouTube Shorts. Re-using these videos puts new eyes on them and makes it easier to build out video marketing content.

Here’s how Jason Baker from Emerald House Cleaning explains it: “YouTube Shorts work amazingly well for us. We repurpose the same videos that were previously published on our channel and get absolutely fantastic results in the new format. Within the week after we started using this format, we saw a valuable uptick in new applications and bookings. Since then, it has been a consistent growth story.”

Will Short Videos Take Over All Marketing Communications?

Is the short video boom just a trend, or will this format become a mainstay in marketing? We asked respondents for their take on the situation. More than 88% answered “for sure” or “probably,” while only 11.86% answered, “I don’t think so.”

Will Short Videos Take Over All Marketing Communications?

So, what are the reasons these business pros have for their opinions? Let’s hear each side.

What Signs Point to a Short Video Takeover?

The respondents who think short video will take over the marketing world believe so because of the format’s wide reach and good engagement.

Milepro’s Tim White chalks up short video’s engagement rates to shifts in customer attitudes. “People’s attention spans are much shorter than they used to be. Written content isn’t as engaging as short videos, and people lose interest in reading a long paragraph(s) very quickly. Short videos are the perfect combination of being able to communicate body language, content, and subtle jokes in a short period of time,” White explains.

Laura Trif from Creatopy has a similar idea about engagement: “Short-form videos have shapeshifted marketing and advertising altogether. We all must adapt to short, engaging, relatable, native, and less curated content. Audiences seemed to have had enough of the polished everything and prefers something that feels real. The challenge is to make yourself noticed in such a crowded landscape and hook audiences in the era of short attention. We guess this shift is irreversible and will eventually take over marketing until the next big changing wave.”

Daniel Heuer from Copyfluent thinks algorithms like TikToks’ contribute to the short video format’s reach. “With TikTok’s unique algorithm, it’s easier to reach your ideal audience and a lot of people within that audience. Paid advertising is expensive on the app, but organic reach is immense. It’s also an opportunity to show the lighter side of your brand and get extra creative. Being successful on TikTok is important because I believe short-form video content has a big place in marketing efforts for the foreseeable future,” Heuer says.

Stephanie Gutierrez from Online Optimism achieved broad organic reach without high production costs thanks to TikTok. Concluding from that experience, Gutierrez says, “There are plenty of people who would say that short video apps (particularly TikTok) have already taken over digital communication, and there’s definitely data available to support that. So the next question is, will it last?”

Gutierrez answers, “I personally think the medium is here to stay, as a natural evolution of the personal, less serious content that YouTube pioneered back in the 2000s. TikTok itself has evolved so rapidly over the past four years. As for where it will go next? No one really knows, but I’m excited for what’s to come!”

Why Do Some Marketers Think the Short Video Trend Won’t Last?

The experts who don’t think short video will take over communications agree that it’s a current powerhouse, but they don’t think it’ll become a staple like longer-established channels.

Tweak Video’s Matthew Peake believes burnout will kick in among consumers. “On the short form apps, the dopamine drain from continuously scrolling is tiresome. People will rediscover longer content,” Peake predicts.

Stephen Light of Nolah Mattress stresses the importance of a multi-channel approach, saying, “I think short-form videos are certainly an increasingly important facet of any strong marketing campaign, but I don’t think they’ll take over marketing and become the sole channel. There are still varying and wide-ranging merits when looking at several different digital marketing avenues apart from short video.”

John Frigo from Best Price Nutrition simply doesn’t think short video has the staying power that other channels do: “Short video apps like Instagram Reels, Youtube Shorts, and TikTok are fun and are currently popular but I don’t think they’re going to take over marketing in the sense that they’ll become a bigger component than email or SMS marketing. I also think in the long run the popularity of these apps will begin to fade a bit as well as the fact most people on these platforms are coming for a few short videos —  they’re not often doing product research or watching reviews in the same way people do with Youtube.”

social-media-databoard-databox-template

Track Each App’s Results in Databox

With so many factors in play behind each platform’s success, one of the best ways to figure out the best choice is to test them all with a data analytics app like Databox.

With Databox’s customizable templates, you can create a social media dashboard that compares your TikTok, Instagram Reels, and YouTube Shorts’ performance side-by-side. We also have a customer support team ready to help you build a custom social media performance dashboard – for free.

Databox is forever free to try. See why we are one of the leading business analytics software on the market by building your short video performance dashboard in Databox today.

About the author
Melissa King
Melissa King Melissa King is a freelance writer who helps B2B SaaS companies spread the word about their products through engaging content. Outside of the content marketing world, she writes about video games. Check out her work at melissakingfreelance.com.
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