Instagram vs TikTok: Who’s Gonna Win the Social Media War?


Marketing Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Marketing pros

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Instagram has faced a backlash from users for trying to become more like TikTok, so where should marketers focus their resources?

Article 3 Minutes
Instagram vs TikTok: Who’s Gonna Win the Social Media War?

Social media is an important part of any marketing strategy, but it can be a difficult area to navigate. Not only has the proliferation of platforms over the years made it harder to understand where to focus resources, but sites are constantly changing to try and outdo each other.

Marketers must assess which platforms are most relevant to their audience and how to target those users with content. But the lines can become more blurred as social media sites replicate successful features from each other so as not to be left behind.

What can result is a homogenous mass of social media providers that have little to set them apart. Most recently there has been a backlash against Instagram by users noticing it no longer resembles the platform they once knew.

In trying to be more like TikTok, the site that was originally set up as an image-sharing option distanced itself from its USP, some users believe. While TikTok is enjoying huge popularity - more than 1 billion users at the last count - it may go a similar way to Instagram when it’s no longer the new, exciting app to use.

The business case for Instagram

Instagram has always been a successful platform in terms of influencer marketing and has changed with the times to incorporate Stories, Reels and IGTV to make sharing videos easier. The majority of its users are aged 25 to 34 years old, so if your business is looking to attract customers from this demographic then your content should resonate on Instagram.

Since its inception, Instagram has had a more polished approach to content than other sites and its image-led focus meant it was adopted by many businesses to showcase products in a seemingly professional fashion. Being able to repost and comment on posts also helps brands to spread their message and attract more followers.

Using TikTok to showcase a brand

TikTok has been a short-form video-sharing app from the beginning and always attracted a younger crowd. Its demographic is 16 to 24 year olds and focuses on humorous content like dance trends and lip-syncing along to popular songs. These videos have contributed to the platform’s virality. A number of influencers become famous based on their activity on TikTok alone.

The immense popularity of TikTok makes it very tempting for businesses to try and tap into its marketing potential. As a platform dominated by younger voices, much of this is done through influencers who can translate marketing messages into the parlance of generation Z in an effort to be relevant.

Instagram versus TikTok

While both social media platforms boast more than a billion members, it’s no secret that Instagram has been spooked by how fast TikTok has grown. Some efforts to keep pace with the newer app have been well-received by users, but others have led to those faithful to the site calling for it to make Instagram Instagram again.

It seems this request hasn’t fallen on deaf ears, as Instagram made a partial retreat on rolling out features to bring it more in line with TikTok. The campaign to keep the platform as a primarily photo-sharing space and not push so much content from profiles users aren’t following was undoubtedly boosted by influencer royalty - in the form of the Kardashians - joining its ranks.

The winners

When it comes to the question of who will win the social media war, it’s not about picking sides and sticking to them. Marketers must be dynamic and go where their target audiences take them. Instagram and TikTok are behemoths in the world of social media and a business that can harness the power of their huge user bases will do well.

Selecting one over the other will be as much about the persona of your customers as the type of content you want to share. Ultimately, you can decide to include both platforms in your social media strategy if it makes business sense to do so.

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