Social Media Wars: Instagram vs. TikTok

We often talk about social media platforms and their pros and cons for business owners. In our new Social Media Wars series, we'll be talking about how the different social media services stack up against each other. Which ones are best for your business and which aspects can you leverage to your advantage?

Instagram and TikTok are two platforms that focus on visual content. With Instagram being created on October 6, 2010 and TikTok following in September of 2016, Instagram is TikTok's predecessor. So, should you trash your Instagram account and head for TikTok? After all, new is better with Big Tech, right?

Why Instagram Is Better Than TikTok

As of early 2021, Instagram still has more followers than TikTok. Though the margin is narrowing, a 300 million lead is significant enough to conclude that the Facebook-owned platform has a greater reach. Instagram is the go-to platform for influencer marketing and the experts seem to agree on this point. From Hollywood celebrities to YouTube sensations, Instagram is the service influencers use to exert their authority.

Both platforms appeal to similar demographics. While the distribution among wider age ranges is expanding with time, younger people constitute the key demographics that drive both Instagram and TikTok. The major difference that propels Instagram in the eyes of American businesses is that its largest user base is from the United States with 12%.

TikTok, on the other hand, only has 3% of its users in the US. The platform's two biggest audiences are India and Brazil. Businesses that want to build their brands within the US should prefer Instagram, based on user numbers alone.

To round out the differences in demographics, over 60% of Instagram's users are female while TikTok's users are over 55% male. This can come into play when choosing a platform for your brand. If your business primarily targets female users in the US, Instagram immediately starts to appeal to your needs.

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Why TikTok is Better Than Instagram

For those that like a look under the hood, you might find value in a look under the hood. TikTok has a "For You" page that is similar to the Discover page on Instagram. The difference is that TikTok's version operates on a more advanced algorithm. It serves users with content that is tailored to their interests to a degree greater than Instagram. This means that with the right content, you can laser-target users in your niche.

In a world that is constantly shifting towards a digital economy, TikTok offers transactions using a virtual currency that is native to the platform. The company is also perfecting its e-commerce functionality. TikTok is also optimizing its features intending to gain a bigger piece of the influencer market. It's only a matter of years before the Chinese app looks Instagram in the eyes and can compete head-on.

Which Should You Choose for Your Business?

Depending on the number of man-hours you can dedicate to social media and the budget you can spend on content, ads, and influencer partnerships, you may want to have a presence on both platforms or choose one. If your customers respond better to influencer marketing, you'll want to focus on Instagram.

On the other hand, if short video blogs appeal more to your target audience, TikTok is the way to go. Furthermore, if you market your product outside the US, TikTok will give you inroads into Asian and South American markets.

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Growth Hacks Combining Instagram and TikTok

If you choose the right strategy, you may not have to choose between the two apps. The key to sustaining an efficient presence of both platforms lies in your flexibility.

By creating organic content and ads that can be repurposed across platforms, you can target users on both apps. Take your Instagram stories and break them down into bite-sized snippets that will mesh well with TikTok's format.

When choosing to work with an influencer in your niche, see if you can find someone that has a presence on both apps. With the right partnership, a competent content creator will do most, if not all, the work for you. By placing the work in the hands of someone that knows how to appeal to users on TikTok and Instagram, you can secure exposure on both.

It's interesting to see that Instagram is slowly taking steps to adopt many of TikTok's competencies to compete. Instagram wants to stay on top and will morph accordingly. The Facebook child company is encouraging its users to create short video blogging content that resembles TikTok's. This means that, eventually, you will be able to use the content on either platform almost interchangeably.

Verdict: Instagram or TikTok

It's easy to tell business owners that both platforms are equally good and that they should use both. While that might be true, there is more value in having a sound understanding of social media reality.

TikTok is an up-and-coming app that has taken the world by storm. Users compete for the production of viral content that can get tens of millions of views. However, Instagram has over ten years of experience producing a platform that works for users and advertisers alike. Having a direct pipeline of information and know-how from Facebook, Instagram can monetize its userbase effectively. By providing paying advertisers with a high return on investment, businesses currently trust Instagram more with their brands.

Furthermore, in recent years, the influencer ecosystem has flourished on Instagram. Celebrities with tens of millions of followers give the platform an advantage that TikTok will have to try hard to overcome.

Having said that, TikTok is not to be overlooked. By choosing the right content creator and by leveraging TikTok ads, you can boost your results in certain markets.

Effective content repurposing, smart partnerships with successful influencers, and targeted competitive research can give you the ideal formula for operating on both platforms simultaneously. By building the proper synergies, you can growth hack your way to the top of your niche by sustaining a presence on Instagram and TikTok.