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TikTok vs. Instagram


Joanna Yuen

Marketing & Content Specialist - 15 May, 2024


If you are ready to dive into a new social media platform, come on in, the water is warm! In fact, the social media landscape is piping hot and heating up more than ever with new developments across several platforms - especially TikTok and Instagram.

As more and more people turn to social media - even preferring social content over a traditional search engine - it’s essential for content creators to establish a stronger social media presence. You might want to use both of these social tools, but if you have limited time - and who doesn’t? - then it makes sense to compare and contrast them and determine which is the best fit for you.

That’s exactly what we’re doing in this post. Keep reading to learn how TikTok and Instagram are alike, and different, so that you can determine where to invest your precious time and effort.

All About Instagram

Instagram is a common social media platform that allows users to share photos and videos with their followers. It's been around for a while; launched in 2010, Instagram has since gained immense popularity, with over 1 billion monthly active users. Instagram offers various features such as filters, editing tools, and the ability to add captions and hashtags to posts. Users can follow other accounts, like and comment on posts, and send direct messages to each other. Instagram also has a "Stories" feature, where users can share temporary photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Additionally, Instagram provides a platform for businesses and influencers to promote their products and reach a wider audience. It has become a significant platform for visual storytelling, self-expression, and connecting with others through shared interests, and is a crucial element in the influencer marketing field.

All About TikTok

A lot of the popularity of short-form video content across the internet is thanks to TikTok, another innovative social media platform that allows users to create and share videos. Launched in 2016, it quickly gained immense popularity, especially among younger audiences. TikTok is known for its creative and often entertaining content, with users showcasing their talents, lip-syncing to music, participating in challenges, and creating viral trends. The platform offers a wide range of editing tools, filters, and effects to enhance the videos. Users can follow other accounts, like and comment on videos, and share them with their friends. TikTok's algorithm is designed to showcase personalized content to each user based on their interests and interactions with the app. The platform has become a global phenomenon, with a diverse community of creators and a large user base. It has provided a new form of creative expression and a platform for individuals to showcase their talents to a wide audience. However, the future of TikTok (at least in the United States) is a bit uncertain - more on that below.

Related Post: How to Browse TikTok Without the App


How Do Instagram and TikTok Compare?

Instagram and TikTok are both social media platforms that are enjoying immense success right now. Though Instagram has been around longer and was even acquired by Meta, TikTok has exploded onto the social media scene and amassed a huge following in only a couple years. Here are some of the things TikTok and Instagram have in common:

Social Media - So obvious, but still needs to be said. Both Instagram and TikTok are social media platforms that allow users to create and share content with others.

Visual Focus - Both platforms have a strong emphasis on visual content, with users sharing photos and videos. Unlike, say, LinkedIn that is more focused on forging business connections, TikTok and Instagram posts all involve some sort of visual showcase.

User Profiles - Both platforms have user profiles where individuals or brands can showcase their content and engage with others. People choose to follow different people or brands to get real-time updates.

Following and Followers - Users can follow other accounts and have followers on both platforms. The success of performance on the platform is based on accumulating more followers and engaging with them.

Engagement - Speaking of engagement, both Instagram and TikTok have features that allow users to like, comment, and share content. For most content creators, attracting more followers and keeping them engaged is a primary goal.

And, that’s about where the similarities end! Now let’s talk about the ways that TikTok and Instagram are different.

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Major Differences Between Instagram and TikTok

Even though Instagram and TikTok seem similar at first glance, the platforms are quite different. They even have audiences that tend to be different, as TikTok has become overwhelmingly popular with Gen Z, while Instagram is a more established form of social media that’s been around for nearly 15 years. Let’s get into some of the specifics.

Content Type - Instagram primarily focuses on sharing photos and longer videos, while TikTok specializes in short-form videos. Though they do have options for short-form videos, the platform wasn’t designed for that option in particular (unlike TikTok).

Algorithm - Instagram's algorithm prioritizes content from accounts that users interact with the most, while TikTok's algorithm is designed to showcase personalized content based on user interests. This is a key difference, because it’s how people find new ideas, brands, products, etc. based on what they’re already interested in. This means TikTok is particularly helpful in finding new things and is especially powerful for influencers or marketers.

Editing Tools - TikTok provides a wide range of editing tools, effects, and filters specifically designed for creating short videos, while Instagram offers a variety of editing tools for photos and videos. Each platform offers some unique enhancements, so you should explore them to see which ones make the most difference for your content.

Discoverability - The way that people find things on each channel is unique. TikTok has a "For You" page that showcases trending and popular content, making it easier for users to discover new videos. Instagram relies more on hashtags and explore pages for discoverability.

Community - Instagram has a larger user base and is used by a broader age range, while TikTok is more popular among younger audiences. These demographics are particularly helpful for content creators and marketers to understand.

Influencer Culture - Instagram is a well-established influencer channel, with many users monetizing their accounts, while TikTok has gained popularity for its potential to create viral content and launch new influencers.

Advertising - Instagram has a more mature advertising system, with various ad formats and targeting options, while TikTok is still developing its advertising platform.

E-commerce Integration - Instagram has a more advanced e-commerce integration, allowing businesses to sell products directly from the platform, while TikTok is exploring e-commerce features. This is incredibly helpful for people who monetize their social media presence, and there are several apps and extensions that can help influencers to sell or promote products.

User Interface - Instagram has a more traditional feed-based interface, while TikTok has a swipe-based interface that allows users to seamlessly move from one video to another.

Music Additions - TikTok has a strong integration with music, allowing users to easily add popular songs to their videos, while Instagram offers musical options, but on a more limited basis. The ability to incorporate music so seamlessly is one of TikTok’s biggest strengths.

Overall, both TikTok and Instagram have distinct features, user bases, and content types that differentiate them from each other. While Instagram has more features that make it easy to monetize social media, TikTok is a must-have for brands attempting to create viral content and increase their following.

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Which is Better for Business?

TikTok and Instagram boast differing user demographics and statistics. Which one you use - or how to create the right combination of the two platforms - depends a lot on which industry you are in and what you’re trying to accomplish.

Generally speaking, TikTok lends itself to industries that can create engaging and entertaining content. Some brands that are emerging as stand-out performers on TikTok include:

Fashion and beauty

Brands that showcase trendy outfits, makeup tutorials, or styling tips tend to attract a large following.

Food and beverage

Videos featuring unique recipes, cooking hacks, or visually appealing food presentations tend to gain popularity.

Fitness and wellness

Fitness trainers, yoga instructors, and other wellness experts who share workout routines, healthy recipes, and other lifestyle tips find a lot of success on TikTok.

Entertainment industry

Celebrities, musicians, and other entertainment-related personalities are able to leverage TikTok to engage with their audience using things like challenges or behind-the-scenes footage.

Businesses targeting younger individuals

Since the demographics of TikTok users tend to skew young, it’s a good idea for brands who target Gen Z to focus on TikTok content creation.

On the other hand, Instagram is better suited to industries that focus on visual appeal, storytelling, and building an overall brand image. Some examples are:

Lifestyle brands and influencers

Moving beyond just fashion or makeup tutorials, companies that showcase products through high-quality photos and interactions can perform well on Instagram. Think of your “mommy bloggers” who are in effect promoting a whole lifestyle from home decor to effective scheduling to outfit inspiration.

Travel industry

Since the platform is so visual, it’s the perfect place to highlight hospitality organizations and travel related photos. Hotels, resorts, travel agencies, and travel bloggers can all utilize Instagram to engage with their audience.

Photography and art

Instagram is highly popular for creators to showcase their work. Everything from interior decorating to jewelry design can be highlighted on the platform.

General brand building

One thing that sets Instagram apart from TikTok is that it’s easier for many companies to build a following on Instagram. Even “boring” businesses can use Instagram to promote their story, their mission, or their products, and they are likely to reach a wider audience. For example, an auto parts manufacturer could share highlights from their latest charity endeavor or community picnic, creating engagement with their overall brand without necessarily highlighting a particular product.

All of that being said, TikTok has really “made” some brands into an almost overnight success. Generally speaking, Instagram provides more stability and consistency in terms of followers and engagement, but for some small businesses, TikTok offers a chance to grow and thrive immediately.

Related Post: How to Manage All Your Social Media Accounts in One Place


The Uncertain Future of TikTok

There is some other important information to understand about TikTok, especially if you hope to make it a key part of your marketing or content creation strategy. TikTok is the subject of controversy as of late, and it’s future is somewhat uncertain - at least for people in the US.

After concerns were raised about the owners of the application (ByteDance), and their potential relationship with the Chinese government, many people grew to see TikTok as a security threat. Though ByteDance has denied that the Chinese government can access user data, and they call the new bill unconstitutional, the measure is gaining traction.

Most recently, the US Senate passed the bill 79-18 as part of a larger package that included other items like emergency aid to Ukraine. President Joe Biden said he will sign the bill into law very soon. So just what is the “TikTok ban” that everyone is talking about?

While there have been previous concerns about the ownership and data privacy of TikTok, recent world events have catapulted the platform into global news. The app is wildly popular among the younger population (those between 16 and 24) and many critics have accused the app of pushing Pro-Palestine content (a claim which has been denied by TikTok). Additionally, US lawmakers have concerns about potentially allowing the Chinese Communist Party to control one of the most popular apps in America. In 2022, the US government banned the use of the app on any federally controlled device, and several other countries followed suit. India banned the app in 2020 following border skirmishes.

Throughout multiple congressional hearings, TikTok’s leadership has been grilled, but they assured lawmakers that they take serious measures to protect consumer data. The new bill says that if ByteDance refuses to divest the company, the app will lose access to app stores, web hosting, and network providers. They have a nine month deadline to do so, and until that time, TikTok can remain active in the US.

TikTok is set to challenge the bill on First Amendment grounds and many TikTok users are poised to take legal action. Furthermore, the American Civil Liberties Union states that banning or requiring divestiture of the app sets a dangerous precedent for free speech. Some lawmakers also have concerns that this broad ban provides authority that can be abused in the future.

This will definitely be a situation for TikTok users to keep an eye on. While many people are TikTok users for enjoyment, lots of businesses have made TikTok a key part of their content strategy, and could face very real implications if the owners do not divest as instructed.

We will continue to cover the important developments in our blog, where we share updates on all things work and technology related. Make sure to follow along to access the latest tips, trends, and technology reviews to make your job easier.

Try TikTok in Your Browser

Most people know TikTok only as a standalone app. While it certainly performs well in that capacity, you may want to try accessing it from a web browser to take advantage of a larger viewing area and more customization options. If you want to see how TikTok performs in a browser - or access it from one in order to create compelling content - then try these steps:

  1. Download Shift - Start by downloading and installing Shift, a web browser that allows you to access various web applications, including TikTok. Shift is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux operating systems.
  2. Launch Shift - Once Shift is installed, launch the browser by clicking on its icon.
  3. Sign in to Shift - If you already have a Shift account, sign in using your credentials. If you don't have an account, create one by following the on-screen instructions.
  4. Add TikTok as an application - After signing in, click on the "+" button located at the bottom left corner of the Shift interface. This will open the "Add Application" window.
  5. Search for TikTok - In the "Add Application" window, search for TikTok using the search bar. Once TikTok appears in the search results, click on it to select it.
  6. Install TikTok - After selecting TikTok, click on the "Install" button to add it as an application in Shift.
  7. Open TikTok - Once TikTok is installed, you can find it in the application list inside Shift. Click on the TikTok icon to open it in the browser.
  8. Sign in to TikTok - If you already have a TikTok account, sign in using your credentials. If you don't have an account, you can create one by following the instructions provided by TikTok.
  9. Use TikTok - Once signed in, you can start exploring TikTok, watch videos, interact with other users, and discover trending content.

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Download Shift today and discover a whole new side of the platforms you already use. You’re sure to improve your user experience and streamline your efforts, on Instagram, TikTok, and beyond.