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How To Know When To Use YouTube Shorts or Instagram Reels

by Magnus Eriksen on May 31, 2023

In the business and marketing landscape of today, digital content reigns supreme. Every organization, from small independent start-ups to major multinational corporations, relies on digital marketing and social media content to fuel sales and reach broader audiences. 

One of the most popular methods of targeting customers is through short-form video content. These short videos offer quick, enticing snapshots to provide as much content and information as possible within the short time window of 1.5 minutes. 

TikTok is one of the best-known options for creating and sharing short-form videos, but two other major players, YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels, are quickly gaining popularity. 

If your goal is to raise views and increase sales, you must invest your time and energy into the right social media avenues. Both YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels have advantages, but they also have vastly different audiences and approaches to success. 

This article will explore what content works best on which platform. We will explore the general differences between YouTube and Instagram and discuss which platform is better for reaching which audience. Let’s take a look!

Everything You Need To Know About Instagram Reels

While TikTok was the original social media format to provide short-form video content to users and viewers, others soon followed along on the heels of its success. Instagram, owned by parent company Facebook, was among the first to recognize the potential of short-form video content creation and sharing. In 2020, Instagram introduced Instagram Reels, which allows viewers to upload short videos. 

Initially, Instagram Reels allowed users to upload videos in a limited range of options: 15 seconds or 30 seconds long. They have since updated the restrictions to include 60-second long videos and now also allow for content that’s 90 seconds long. 

In 2022, Instagram Reels reportedly reached over 2 billion users, with 91% of those platform users watching at least one Reel weekly. 

Everything You Need To Know About YouTube Shorts

After the success of TikTok, Instagram Reels, and Facebook’s video feed, YouTube joined the short-form video content game. In 2021 YouTube released YouTube Shorts. By drawing upon its already vast base of YouTube users, YouTube Shorts reaches billions of viewers per day. Google has reported that YouTube Shorts has received over 50 billion daily views, drawing from the general YouTube user base of more than 2 billion users. 

YouTube Shorts videos have a time limit of 60 seconds in portrait orientation, so their videos are super short for optimal smartphone viewing. 

3 Ways To Choose Which Platform To Use

There are several different criteria to consider when choosing which platform better serves the needs of your specific organization. For example, YouTube and Instagram are both popular platforms to use for generating passive income, but each will reach different target audiences and maintain distinct advantages and disadvantages. 

Let’s look at three categories of criteria that will help you determine which platform will be the best choice for your company.

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Organic Reach and Boosting Traffic 

When it comes to organic traffic, YouTube Shorts is the better option. A YouTube channel that already has fans and subscribers is more likely to reach its followers each time it posts a video with a specific hashtag since that hashtag will be regularly tagged in that channel’s shorts. The popularity of following a specific channel provides a natural funnel for boosting organic traffic. 

Meanwhile, short videos on Instagram Reels have to compete in an oversaturated space where personal and professional accounts are shown in the same unending stream of videos. 

Instagram determines which videos individual users will see based on their personalized content preferences. While following a YouTube channel guarantees traffic for that channel, following a hashtag means the viewer will receive content from a broad selection of other users who have posted with that hashtag. 

Therefore, targeting an audience interested in a specific hashtag or niche subject is better accomplished through YouTube Shorts. 

Platform Personality: Is It Formal or Fun?

Like individuals and companies, each social media platform has its own personality, subtle associations, and general characteristics. 

Instagram tends to be a more dynamic social platform. Users check their Instagram feeds to keep up with friends, trends, and fun content. YouTube, meanwhile, can be used for more instructional purposes. How-to videos, online lectures, video tours, and deeper analyses or explanations tend to thrive on YouTube. 

Given these distinctions, your short-form video content will likely fit more neatly into one or the other category. YouTube Shorts tend to be better for high-quality professionalism, instructional how-to’s, live webinars, and even movie trailers. YouTube Shorts offer more polished and serious content that will help grow audiences. Advertising and monetization do well with this type of video content too. 

Instagram Reels, on the other hand, is best known for cute duets, pop music trends, lip-syncing, dance videos, and brief updates from home. The video aesthetic tends to be less polished, more spontaneous and free-form, emphasizing fun, entertainment, humor, and even drama. 

Instagram Reels are best used for showcasing the talents of influencers, casual users, and businesses seeking to connect with their audiences in a fun way, joining in on lighthearted trends and themes that may be popular that day or week. 

In other words, YouTube Shorts offers more lasting content, while Instagram Reels provide content that is more ephemeral. 

Time Frame Limitations

Depending on the type of content you would like to put out there (instructional, entertaining, announcements, reminders, updates, comedic bits, etc.), the time frame limitations for each platform will have a big effect. 

For Instagram Reels, the outer time limit is 90 seconds. Instagram Stories have a time limit of 60 seconds, which can be a good way to entice viewers with a quick tidbit, drawing them in to view your full Reel. 

If your goal is to boost the number of viewers, it is a good idea to keep your Instagram Reel video short and snappy. Videos between 7 and 15 seconds long are more likely to loop, and each replay counts as another view. With high numbers of views, the Instagram algorithm will recognize your video as successful and boost it higher in search results. 

On YouTube Shorts, in contrast, videos can provide more in-depth instructions, information, and other content. A full 60-second video will give viewers a deeper way of engaging with the material, drawing on YouTube’s audience, which tends to have a longer attention span for consuming online content.

Quick Instagram Reels updates will most likely reach friends, family, or people who are already fans, while longer YouTube Shorts content will reach customers, clients, and people who are interested to learn more at their leisure. 

Choosing between Stories and Shorts could ultimately come down to testing both of the platforms out and then seeing what works best according to the resulting data. This is because ultimately, you won’t know what works better until you try them both out. 

Final Thoughts

YouTube Shorts is probably the better choice for companies interested in providing slightly longer, more professionally produced videos that go in-depth on specific subjects. For content creators drawing on influence, social connections, popular trends, and brief moments of entertainment, Instagram Reels may be the best bet for engagement. 

YouTube Shorts is the more profitable, professional platform for longer-term results; it requires more patience and careful planning. Instagram Reels is great for spontaneous, fun videos tapping into the audience’s desires for entertainment and social connection. 

Both provide great benefits in terms of audience reach, engagement, and growth for companies. In the end, which platform you choose to use is up to you. 


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