TikTok vs. Reels vs. Spotlight: What’s The Difference?

One of the greatest joys to come out of 2020 was the rise of TikTok, when quarantine restrictions led to a surge in new users of the highly entertaining short video platform. With its astronomical success came a complete revamp of social media. TikTok combined short video entertainment with a hyper-personalized algorithm, and with its creative community as their driving force, can entertain anyone with any interest—no matter how niche. 


TikTok’s success (with over 100M active users a day) has left competition scrambling to keep up. This past August, Instagram released its own TikTok clone, Reels, with high hopes—but fierce skepticism from the marketing community. And most recently, Snapchat’s own personalized vertical video feed, Spotlight, launched this past November. It’s their answer to TikTok’s format, as opposed to Snapchat’s bread and butter: “day in the life” moments from a friend or public figure (like DJ Khaled’s “keys” to life). Although some are saying that all social platforms are starting to resemble one another, there are still important differences between the three formats that influencers and brands should take into account when creating content.


Three major differences are the platforms’ use of audio, effects, and video length. TikTok and Spotlight allows up to 60 seconds of video, whereas Reels has stuck to 30 seconds—most likely to differentiate from its main feed, which allows the full minute (as does IGTV, which can go up to an hour). TikTok’s use of audio is unique, in that users are able to sample a library of sounds and songs (as well as sounds from others’ videos). They also feature trending sounds and songs, which users can reference to easily create new videos in-tune with current trends. But perhaps the most obvious differences are the creative tools that each of the platforms offer. TikTok has become especially well-known for its user-friendly creative effects, while Snapchat is trying to push their creative tools on Spotlight like filters, geo-locations, Bitmojis, and more recently, AR lenses by prohibiting re-uploading videos created on TikTok (a feature Reels still allows). 


With these differences already in mind, stay tuned for part two next week, which will share three ways that marketers can approach each of these platforms for their influencer strategies.

Alyssa Palermo is an Associate Director of Social Strategy at Ogilvy. She has 8 years experience under her belt working on digital strategies for top clients like Samsung Mobile, TaskRabbit, Google Play, Oxygen, Smirnoff, Nestlé Waters, Lacoste, CeraVe, and Aetna. Her core belief is that all digital content should stem from positive, strategic thinking.


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