Reels or TikTok: Who’s the Winner for Digital Marketing?

January 05, 2023

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5 January 2023 — Zac Faelnar

10 minute read

Late last night, I took a moment’s break from my Apple Music app, went old-school, and enjoyed music from some of my parents’ now-vintage vinyl records. Having grown up listening to their record albums over and over, the original soundtrack (OST) of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” was a familiar one to me.  What I don’t remember noticing before was the text at the back of the album jacket referring to the record album as “the newer art of telling a story to the ear without the benefit of what the eye can see”. The description continues, “Thus to listen to an album of this kind and to be called upon to supply one’s own visual accompaniment, can be a most rewarding pastime.” And at the bottom right corner, it reads in full:

“IMPORTANT NOTICE: This is a “New Orthophonic” High Fidelity recording, designed for the phonograph of today or tomorrow. Played on your present machine, it gives you the finest quality of reproduction. Played on a “Stereophonic” machine it gives even more brilliant true-to-life fidelity. You can buy today without fear of obsolescence in the future.” 

The album jacket was printed in the U.S.A. by Radio Corporation of America in 1958 for the recording by RCA Victor of the 20th Century-Fox box office film released the same year. And reading all of that while chilling after welcoming the new year 2023 simply blew me away! What an advertising and marketing opportunity!

Now imagine how far we’ve come with audio and visual storytelling at the tips of our fingers! Today, we use electronic gadgets rather than a “stereophonic machine” for our audio-visual experiences. These allow enjoyment of the newest art of storytelling on social media apps such as Instagram and TikTok with rich access to music libraries for accompaniment on short-form videos. 65 years later, you can even find the film snippet in Rodgers & Hammerstein on Instagram Reels and another one of a popular song from “South Pacific” on TikTok. Talk about staying in power!

But with new technology, are we still getting “brilliant true-to-life fidelity” through electronic communications? How can we buy into popular music without fear of copyright infringement? How do we avoid obsolescence in a time and age when trending digital content seems to move faster than the tick and tock of a clock? Business partnerships especially between company brands, TikTok influencers, and Instagram influencers — they all need their presence on the app that provides the finest quality telling their stories for a more rewarding pastime and experience. So the final question would be: Reels or TikTok: Who’s the Winner for Digital Marketing?

Let’s tackle the questions.

1.    Are we still getting “brilliant true-to-life fidelity” through electronic communications?


An article just released in Greenhouse Magazine alludes to storytelling as a way in which messaging and communication would be effective for brand strategy. In fact, it refers to “strategic storytelling” for businesses as a company’s narrative framework and a means to communicate what it values and promises. As it states, “the medium is the message”, a phrase coined in 1964 by Canadian theorist, Marshall McLuhan, has now been paraphrased as delivering “the right intention through the right message using the right medium.” 

Furthermore, according to the article, there are four elements in developing strategic storytelling for brand strategy, namely: Vision, Mission, Core Messages, and of course, Brand Promise.

Vision: This is your company’s “right intention” moving forward to the future.

Mission: This is your company’s “why” and “how”. 

Core Messages: These are the communication tools unique to your company and the brand promise of your products and services to your customers and clients, using the “right medium” to deliver your message.

Brand promise: This is the timeless assurance to your customers and clients of the consistent, unique, valuable, and rewarding experience they can always expect from your company. 

Digital marketing these days requires the best partnerships between your company and social media influencers. There is a toss-up between two top-performing apps whether your brand should rely on TikTok influencers or Instagram influencers to deliver engaging and trustworthy content — your company’s inspiring, motivational, true-to-life narrative. It sounds simply brilliant!

2.    How can we buy into popular music without fear of copyright infringement?


Let’s say your brand chooses to go with tropical, Pacific island vibes for its social media marketing, and your content creators are picking-out some good vibe tunes, just how free and easy is it to take your pick from a voluminous library of top hits? Well, it’s complicated. 

According to an article published last month, popular songs prove to be challenging when it comes to licensing agreements simply because so many people may be involved from writers and co-writers to publishers who also represent the songwriters. And so under copyright law, a song would have a separate copyright for its recording which is usually under a record label, and a separate one for its composition of the music and lyrics, as well as its sheet music. Since the law protects several entities, your brand should obtain licenses from each.

It would make digital marketing less complicated if your brand were to use royalty-free music. Brands and TikTok Influencers, for example, can avail of a vast commercial library containing “more than half a million pre-cleared songs for TikTok”.  Unfortunately, these are not the top hits that go ideally well with trending TikTok videos. Alternatively, there is such a thing as a “blanket license” that allows content creators to use songs without permission. Unfortunately, again, this does not apply to a music and video combination.

Your brand strategy is surely set out to take you to the top of the charts while playing your music on the safe side and avoiding facing liability. Let’s just take it straight from the horse’s mouth then. Advertising and social media marketing specialist, Atty. Robert Freund says, “You probably won’t get the same reach on social media, the same engagement, and it’s not as great from a marketing perspective. But that’s the safest place to be.” 

3.    How do we avoid obsolescence in a time and age when trending digital content seems to move faster than the tick and tock of a clock?


Your brand can expect constant and fast changes in social media marketing as you adapt to changes made by tech giants. It would be worth constantly exploring social media trends through the lens of a creator as part of your strategy. These social media apps are fast-paced and trends do change quickly. TikTok’s algorithm is focused on general viewership so it’s more likely to quickly go viral with help from your TikTok influencers who enjoy a higher engagement. Instagram is focused on a following based on kinship. More than keeping up with the high trend cycle for discoverability, your brand should keep its high fidelity. 

It would be good to track social media analytics to see what resonates best with the audience. Instagram’s audience is quite broad in its age demographic compared to TikTok’s younger audience. Tiktok has a more organic reach but there’s a lot of influencer cross-posting from Tiktok to Instagram. 

Meta has been defining a new era, apparently due to the new privacy rules on Apple’s iOS, effective in 2021. The change by Apple meant that users could opt out of data collection and user tracking which was sure to affect companies reliant on those tools for mobile advertising and digital marketing. 

Fast forward to 2023, an article from Glossy, a modern media brand focused on trends in beauty, fashion, and wellness points out that Meta’s “direct-to-community” new era combining paid and organic brand strategy has resulted in 140 billion plays or a 50% increase in the use of Reels on both Instagram and Facebook. The article cited, for example, that the sustainable make-up brand Youthforia, which was launched in early 2021, focuses on organic Instagram Reels. In partnership with its Instagram influencers, Instagram has brought in more sales for the company than TikTok.  

Meta is also advising brands to invest more in content while they focus their investments on “technology, machine learning, and privacy-enhancing technology”, says Meta’s VP, Katherine Shappley. For content creators, it’s best to have an 80% output that provides informative and educational content in collaboration with your influencers for Instagram Reels or TikTok videos. Remember your company’s vision, mission, core messages, and promise, and hold true to a strong value proposition.

4.    Reels or TikTok: Who’s the Winner for Digital Marketing?


It seems worth going back in time, not only for the chill-out music but for the nuggets of wisdom as well.  Let’s revisit that phrase by Marshall McLuhan in 1964. His phrase has been referenced several times in articles on media and its technological advancements. But much of the text in the source of his quote is not often acknowledged. Well, as I dug  a little deeper, a quote appears in his published work, “Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man”, referring to 

“an equilibrium between the strength of the techniques of communication and the capacity of the individual’s own reaction.”

That’s quite profound and remains relevant to this day regarding the impact of media on society or —in more familiar terms to the fleets of Instagram and TikTok influencers— the influence of social media content on Generation Z and the rest of the world today.  There’s a balance that needs to be struck between message and messenger, and between messenger and audience especially because for brand strategy, you wouldn’t want to short-change your company on its narrative for a quick and fleeting audience reaction. You would want to have the same staying power as the recordings of Rodgers and Hammerstein whose music appears in media and captures a young audience even to this day, most probably with relatable messages as well. That’s an organic reach that has spanned decades. So, the medium, in this case, the app you choose to communicate for your company’s digital marketing is just as important as your company’s message for optimum audience impact. 

Regarding making that choice, although they are similar platforms in that they both use short-form videos, with the options to add music and a caption, Instagram Reels is struggling in competition with TikTok, no doubt, as social media marketing continues to strengthen its monthly active users on the latter. The choice is yours. But for purposes of digital marketing, you also need to adjust to capture your audience’s attention and cram all your advertising within a very short span of time. In those few seconds and minutes, your brand needs to be able to connect and bond; your Instagram influencers or TikTok influencers, whomever you partner with, need to be able to engage — all on a personal level with your audience as part of good brand strategy.

TikTok’s official website opens with its Mission:

“TikTok is the leading destination for short-form mobile video. Our mission is to inspire creativity and bring joy.”

Instagram’s official page opens with strong punch lines:

“Give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.”

“We bring you closer to the people and the things you love.”

According to Forbes Magazine, influencers are posting viral TikTok videos on Instagram which are usually only seven seconds long. But these ultra-short format videos have an effective call-to-action format that works well on mobile phones. The article stated that “A good rule of thumb is to pick the platform you use according to the product or service you’re advertising and the audience that will likely respond to it the best.” I’d say let’s take their word as sound advice. At the end of the day, that’s exactly what will determine the clear winner for you and your company’s digital marketing.

Want a PopStar Final Tip?

View and make comparisons of similar content on both the TikTok and Instagram platforms to gauge which one would serve as music to your ears, so to speak, in other words meaning the one that best suits your brand. And don’t forget to especially look out for those that maximize strategic yet “true-to-life fidelity” in their storytelling, use royalty-free music yet enjoy a wide paid or organic reach on either medium. 

You can also send us a message or contact our Team at for more information on how PopStar can help you make that winning choice for digital marketing!

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