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TikTok Ads vs Instagram Reels: The Ultimate Showdown for Advertising Success

We’ve all seen TikTok explode in popularity in recent years, influencing other social media platforms to explore short-form videos and changing how many people consume online content.

Instagram Reels is a direct response to TikTok’s rise to prominence, which now has advertisers wondering: should I use TikTok Ads or Instagram Ads? Let’s dive into the metrics, results, and keys to success to help you choose the right option and create ads that grow your business.

TikTok Ads vs Instagram Reels: The High-Level Overview

TikTok and Instagram Reels have an almost identical format — an infinite scroll of vertical short-form videos. There are new trends seemingly every day, a captive audience, and plenty of opportunity for advertisers to find new customers.

From the user perspective, some use one platform while others will switch between both. Additionally, Instagram has the added advantage of being one aspect of a major platform that has a strong user base, plus the backing of its parent company Meta.

TikTok is all-in on short form, infinite scrolling content. Its advanced suggestion algorithm certainly gives it an advantage over Reels, which is more focused on who you follow and what’s generally popular. “TikTok made me buy it” is an established phrase on the platform, a strong indication that TikTok Ads ecommerce may have the upper hand on Reels.

From an advertiser perspective, both platforms have a captive user base but different costs and will likely produce varying results. Additionally, the user base may be more reactive to some products or services than others.

Drilling Down Into Ad Costs — and Results

The ultimate showdown will take place at the business level; some companies will have better results with TikTok, others with Instagram Reels. 

Both platforms have two overall billing methods that will affect your specific costs: 

  1. Cost per Mille (CPM): The rate for showing your ad to 1,000 people.
  2. Cost per Click (CPC): The average cost of every click on your ad.

Businesses typically choose CPM for awareness campaigns, while CPC focuses on driving conversions. Most organizations use a blend of both types depending on the specific goals of the campaign.

Now, let's dive into the specific costs and possible results to help you decide where to begin.

Overall Instagram Reels Ads Costs

Reels Ads are now any video ad on Instagram ever since they made the change to convert all video content into Reels automatically. This means your Reels might show up both within the Reels-specific area along with the main timeline, depending on configurations. 

  • CPM: Instagram Reels CPM varies depending on the study. The overall CPM for Instagram was US$9.97, but this includes all ad formats. Our platform helps shed more light on potential costs as we aggregate data from all Meta Video Ads. Below, you can see how our dashboard indicates the median CPM is $15.59.
  • CPC: A business's CPC can vary significantly depending on the industry, competition, and target audience. One study indicates that Instagram CPC can range between $0.90 and $1.50.

Overall TikTok Ads Costs

So how much will TikTok Ads cost your business? Let’s examine the same two metrics to help you understand potential TikTok Ads costs.

Varos carefully tracks all participants' TikTok Ads, which indicates the averages for both metrics are:

  • CPM: Our platform shows that the median Tik Tok CPM is $7.53, focusing on eCommerce and SaaS advertisers. 
  • CPC: The average TikTok Ads Cost per Click is $1.38, which can vary significantly depending on the specific industry.

Below, you can see how Varos breaks down both metrics next to your results. 

The Results: Which Platform Will Grow Your Business?

Costs are only one piece of the puzzle; you ultimately need to know how much revenue your ads are generating to truly compare ad platforms.

It’s tempting to look toward conversion rates (CVR) to understand which platform will produce the best ROI. However, there are some key flaws when focusing on that metric — it considers every industry and every business size. A significant component of CVR is what happens after the user leaves TikTok or Instagram and reaches the advertiser’s site.

So instead, it’s worth considering how many people will click on your ad and go to your site, which then allows your site, product, service, and sales tactics to take over. The Click Thru Rate (CTR) for both platforms based on third-party analysis is:

  • TikTok: 0.1%
  • Instagram: 0.1%

An even split — which isn’t very helpful but does highlight that you need to choose the right platform and potentially use both, which we’ll discuss more below.

However, we can look to Varos as a tiebreaker. Our platform aggregates data from over 3,000 eCommerce sites and SaaS platforms, making it more focused than looking at every advertiser regardless of industry. Based on our analysis, the median CTR for both platforms is:

  • TikTok: 0.54%
  • Meta Videos: 1.4%

Notice how we switched to Meta instead of Instagram Reels? Our platform tracks all video ads from Meta, so this includes both Facebook and Instagram. It’s also worth highlighting that all videos on Instagram are now automatically Reels.

So it looks like both platforms are doing better than other third-party analyses make it seem, but ultimately, every business will need to explore both to see what results they experience. TikTok, Instagram, and even Facebook are all worth exploring and gauging results.

Below, you can see how Varos displays your results alongside your peers:

So What Platform Should You Focus On?

You’ll need to explore both platforms to find out which one will work best for your business. The answer will be different for everyone depending on your product or service. So let’s discuss how you can decide which platform to focus on for advertising success.

Understand Which Platforms Your Target Audience Prefers

Who’s most likely to buy your product or service? What is their income level and age? Are they more likely to spend time on TikTok or Instagram?

While user demographics are always changing, especially as TikTok continues to grow in popularity, a good rule of thumb is that younger users will be more likely to opt for TikTok. Conversely, older users may already be accustomed to using Instagram and spend more time scrolling Reels.

Consider your existing customer demographics to help decide which platform will ultimately be the best choice for you.

Create Unique Ads and Corresponding Landing Pages

It’s counterintuitive, but highly polished and expertly produced videos may actually perform poorly on either platform. 

Videos from users are relatively rough and create a consistent experience, with most people using the built-in tools to record and edit their videos before posting. So if your ad looks polished and professional, it can be jarring and even off-putting. 

Instead, mimic user-generated content to fit right into your users' expectations. Once it’s clear it’s an ad; they’ll hopefully already be engaged enough and click through to your landing page.

The landing page they reach needs to be carefully designed to match the messaging in the ad. Follow up on a promised discount, provide more information about your platform, and then move them through the conversion process.

It’s Worth Advertising on Both Platforms

Unless you consistently experience a negative ROI on one platform, it’s likely worth splitting your advertising budget between TikTok and Reels. You can often use the same ads with a few changes on both platforms and benefit from the different user bases.

If you have a smaller budget and can’t reasonably do both, experiment with each platform individually with similar ads and audience targeting. Make the campaigns as similar as possible, carefully track results, and then decide which one is worth focusing on.

How to Create a Well-Performing Ad for Either Platform

You’ll likely need to advertise on both platforms before deciding which option is ultimately right for your business, product, and overall message. However, since both platforms have extremely similar formats, you can apply the same overall advice to both for creating an effective ad.

Don’t make the mistake of using your same video ad techniques for Reels or TikTok. The below tips will help put you on the right path:

  • Have a Clear Call to Action: Make it clear what you want the audience to do. Both platforms allow you to create a clickable CTA — put it to work. Additionally, don’t send them to your homepage or generic product page. Build a landing page specific to the campaign that follows up on the message of the ad.
  • Use the Right Music and Voice Overs: Stay on top of the TikTok and Reels trends to try to make ads that fight in with what’s currently popular. Generally, upbeat music and compelling voiceovers are a winning combination. However, focus on your product or service rather than just participating in the trend.
  • Add Subtitles and Text: Always use subtitles with your videos and additional text to drive home key points. Subtitles are crucial for accessibility and also accommodate users who don't have the volume on. You can use auto-generated subtitles, but it’s well worth fine-tuning them to make sure there aren't mistakes before your ad goes live.
  • Keep Them Short and Effective: Reels and TikTok both focus on short videos, even if the maximum length has increased. But keep in mind that users are accustomed to quick content that makes an impact — do the same thing with your ad. Look for every opportunity to be quick and impactful with your ads.

Regardless of the platform, you need to continually monitor the results of your campaigns and refine them as you go. Sometimes you’ll need to scrap underperforming ads altogether, but you can often enhance a campaign by fine-tuning audience targeting and daily budget.

Gain an Advertising Advantage with Varos’ Real-Time Competitor Benchmarking

Every business will have varying results about which platform will provide the best results. One eCommerce site might have explosive results from TikTok if they grab hold of the community’s interest, while another site might continually struggle to get clicks.

Your results depend on your business, the ads you create, how you configure your ad campaigns, and the effectiveness of your conversion funnel. There are simply too many factors involved to declare a clear winner in TikTok vs Instagram Reels.

Explore both platforms, create unique campaigns, and carefully measure your results. Keep an eye on conversions on revenue, but also focus on the on-platform metrics like CPC, CPM, and CTR.

Varos gives you an extra advantage in analyzing the effectiveness of your campaigns with peer benchmarks.

Below, you can see how our platform displays your results right next to tiered averages for your direct competitors. You’ll always know how you stack up.

Are you ready to discover how real-time benchmarking can help your business? Schedule a demo today with one of our analytics experts to learn more.

About the Author

Sarah Clowes-Walker 

Head of Marketing at Varos

LinkedIn

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Chase Dimond | Email Marketing Nerd 📧
@ecomchasedimond

Bottom line: I’m recommending Varos to you all because it’s FREE (for now) and it’s already added a ton of value for myself and my clients.Check it out 👇

Social Savannah
@social_savannah

I would definitely recommend checking out Varos. With Varos you can easily see how your peers are performing, for free. You get insights into not only TikTok Ads benchmarks, but also similar data for Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and more. #VarosAmbassador

jason wong
@eggrolI

Varos allows thousands merchants to upload anonymize marketing data across meta and google and aggregating it to show what the average is across different categories and ad spend

Cody Plofker
@codyplof

With varos.com, I can see exactly how our performance across channels stacks up against our competitors in our space.

Barry Hott ☄️
@binghott

Compare your ad performance to benchmarks of companies just like yours, anonymously.
I would've killed for this tool years ago and now it's here and oh it's free. Amazing.

Ron Shah
@obviceo

I've been seeing some content about @Varos_com so we decided to check it out.

One underrated feature of theirs is the Shopify Benchmarking, which is FREE btw.

Literally impossible to access this data anywhere else. Check out what we're seeing at @my_obvi 👇

William Harris
@wmharris101

I'm loving what @Varos_com is doing with providing much more relevant benchmarks for #ecommerce... especially since it shows that we are absolutely DOMINATING @Elumynt on #facebookads!

This is in the Baby and Children vertical.#fbads #ppcchat #retail #dtc

Chase Dimond | Email Marketing Nerd 📧
@ecomchasedimond

Bottom line: I’m recommending Varos to you all because it’s FREE (for now) and it’s already added a ton of value for myself and my clients.Check it out 👇

Social Savannah
@social_savannah

I would definitely recommend checking out Varos. With Varos you can easily see how your peers are performing, for free. You get insights into not only TikTok Ads benchmarks, but also similar data for Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and more. #VarosAmbassador

jason wong
@eggrolI

Varos allows thousands merchants to upload anonymize marketing data across meta and google and aggregating it to show what the average is across different categories and ad spend

Cody Plofker
@codyplof

With varos.com, I can see exactly how our performance across channels stacks up against our competitors in our space.

Barry Hott ☄️
@binghott

Compare your ad performance to benchmarks of companies just like yours, anonymously.
I would've killed for this tool years ago and now it's here and oh it's free. Amazing.

Ron Shah
@obviceo

I've been seeing some content about @Varos_com so we decided to check it out.

One underrated feature of theirs is the Shopify Benchmarking, which is FREE btw.

Literally impossible to access this data anywhere else. Check out what we're seeing at @my_obvi 👇

William Harris
@wmharris101

I'm loving what @Varos_com is doing with providing much more relevant benchmarks for #ecommerce... especially since it shows that we are absolutely DOMINATING @Elumynt on #facebookads!

This is in the Baby and Children vertical.#fbads #ppcchat #retail #dtc