Platform Battles: YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels
The short form video space is highly competitive and the most heavily-consumed form of media on social platforms at this time. One of the early frontrunners dominating this space was TikTok, but Instagram and YouTube quickly jumped on board to compete with their own vertical short form content features.
In this platform battle, we’re comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels to show how each is being used by creators and social media users. We’ll explore similarities and differences to help you determine which platform is the right choice for your content.
Using YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels
Similar to other platforms, comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels reveals a variety of ways for creators to use them for optimized media performance and for viewers to digest more of the kind of content they want to see. Though some similarities exist, each has its own vibe and viewer base:
YouTube Shorts Uses
- YouTube Shorts often used as trailers or teasers for long form content
- New monetization model incentivizes unique content
- Creators sometimes create Shorts series to break down long form content into smaller, digestible media
While the format of videos is similar to Instagram Reels, up to now many YouTube Shorts creators have viewed the platform simply as a way to build viewership for their long form content on a main channel. This boosted the main channel’s monetization, helping creators make money from their media.
The new YouTube Shorts monetization model released in February 2023 incentivizes content creators for creating unique short form media for the platform. This will likely change how creators use the YouTube Shorts platform, with more types of short form content making their way onto the platform as independent media instead of solely being used as trailers or teasers for long form content.
Additional Information: Unsure what YouTube Shorts are? Check out our guide “What Are YouTube Shorts?” after this.
Instagram Reels Uses
- Instagram shifting focus from image posts and putting a higher emphasis on Reels
- Presents a more polished aesthetic for lifestyle content
- Often used for building a consistent brand image
- New monetization model in development for the platform
Instagram Reels is the newest major feature on the Instagram platform but has taken their place as a major competitor in the vertical short form video space. As short form video continues its explosive trajectory towards more consumption, Instagram is focusing its efforts on Reels instead of image posts or Story posts. It’s even been reported that Instagram was testing a new rectangular grid to encourage Reels to take center stage on the app.
A comparison of Instagram Reels vs YouTube Shorts shows Reels as a platform feature exhibiting more lifestyle content and polished video frequently used by brands to create a consistent image. It’s ideal for content creators to publish content with eye-catching visuals to build viewership and brands to build engagement for their businesses.
When it comes to monetizing Instagram Reels, Meta announced they’re moving away from the existing Creator Fund model, similar to the actions of YouTube Shorts1. While it has yet to be announced what they’re going to replace it with, they’ve stated that a new monetization model is a focus for 2023.
Comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels: Features
When it comes to choosing a primary platform for your content, comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels features is crucial. The two social media giants have some overlapping tools for creators to use. These tools don’t always have the same levels of functionality and dynamic use capabilities, adding to the importance of understanding what each platform provides.
For example, comparing Instagram Reels vs YouTube Shorts shows they both offer creators a music library, ways to create video responses to comments, and social media accessibility features. On the side of viewers, users are able to share content they enjoy and see vertical short form content via a feed on each.
The differences between YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels are more apparent as we dive into the features themselves. Where some are unique to one app or the other, many shared features are also displayed differently for viewers and creators to experience.
- In-app scheduling tools
- Age-restricting videos
- Method of recording video on the app
- Video responses to comments
- In-app voice over recording
- In-app auto captions
- Video descriptions
- In-app shopping
📅 In-App Scheduling Tools
YouTube Shorts: Creators can schedule videos for publication within the app.
Instagram Reels: Creators can schedule up to 25 posts per day and 75 days in advance.
When comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels, content creators want to know which platform will allow them to schedule videos for publication within the app. This streamlines the media publication process and keeps a steady stream of content coming out for viewers to see.
Both YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels allow for video publication scheduling on their respective platforms. Instagram Reels, specifically, are able to be scheduled up to 25 posts per day and 75 days in advance.
🚫 Age-Restricting Videos
YouTube Shorts: Creators have direct control over age-restricting their media.
Instagram Reels: You have control over age-restricting videos. Platform has parental options.
Creators may want to age-restrict their videos to prevent underage viewers from engaging with their media. YouTube Shorts gives creators direct control over age-restricting content.
Comparing Instagram Reels vs YouTube Shorts, you’ll find Reels also allows creators to control who sees their content. Taking this age-restriction feature a step further, the Instagram platform also has tools in the Family Center in order to keep underage accounts under parental supervision and provide restrictions for safety.
📲 Recording Video On the App
YouTube Shorts: Able to record or upload video, plus stitch together clips.
Instagram Reels: Can record or upload video. Can stitch recorded clips together.
Like TikTok, a comparison of YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels shows that these platforms all allow for recording video on the app. This keeps the content creation process nimble and adaptable for creators to record videos as needed, even on the fly. Both platforms also allow creators to stitch together clips recorded together to make more unique videos.
🤳🏼 Video Responses to Comments
YouTube Shorts: Enabled via the “Reply to Comments with a Video” feature.
Instagram Reels: Creators can respond with videos. Reel deleted if comment deleted.
Short form video platforms have realized the importance of allowing creators to respond to comments left on videos with a new video. This form of interaction facilitates direct dialogue between viewers and content creators. Each of these two platforms allows creators to respond to comments with videos, but the differences between Instagram Reels vs YouTube Shorts become apparent when you take a closer look.
Video responses to comments are relatively new to YouTube Shorts. It wasn’t until the second half of 2022 that YouTube Shorts enabled its “Reply to Comments with a Video” feature. When it comes to Instagram Reels, video responses are a little different. Similar to the TikTok platform, the original comment is posted in a video response, but if that comment is deleted, the Reel response is deleted with it.
🗣️ In-App Voice Over Recording
YouTube Shorts: Allows content creators to record voice over audio in the app.
Instagram Reels: Allows voice over recording. Audio not added to music/sound library.
Comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels for in-app voice over recordings, you’ll find the feature available on each platform. Instagram Reels allows for voice over recording during the editing process, but this audio is not added to the app’s music and sound library.
YouTube Shorts creators are also able to record voice over in the app.
📝 In-App Auto Captions
YouTube Shorts: Must use YouTube Studio to add, edit, or remove auto captions.
Instagram Reels: Auto captions are available but harder to find option. Known to be glitchy.
Comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels, you’ll see both offer creators the opportunity to add auto captions, but YouTube Shorts creators can’t do so in the app. Instead, creators have to use YouTube Studio to add, edit, or remove auto captions on their media.
Instagram Reels also allows auto captions. There are multiple methods for how to add captions to Instagram videos, including the auto caption toggle option and the caption sticker. These methods have been known to be unreliable, sometimes disappearing from the editing toolkit altogether for no apparent reason.
To circumvent this potential issue and create better content that stands out, creators are turning to third-party video caption apps like MixCaptions. This provides more direct control over captioning videos as well as styling them for video accessibility.
✍️ Video Descriptions
YouTube Shorts: Allows a maximum of 5,000 characters. Optimize to boost video searchability.
Instagram Reels: Up to 2,200 characters plus 30 hashtags. May be edited after publication.
Both social media platforms allow content creators to provide video descriptions for viewers. YouTube Shorts allows a huge maximum of 5,000 characters, giving creators the chance to include video transcriptions for better accessibility if they want to. As YouTube is owned by Google and videos are indexed, it’s important to optimize your video description for better searchability.
Instagram Reels allows video descriptions with a 2,200-character limit plus 30 hashtags. Unlike TikTok videos, video descriptions for Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts may be edited after publication.
🛍 In-App Shopping
YouTube Shorts: Can tag products in Shorts.
Instagram Reels: Able to tag products in videos from a product catalog.
Comparing Instagram Reels vs YouTube Shorts, you’ll also see both offer options for in-app shopping. YouTube Shorts began testing this feature at the end of 2022, allowing creators to tag products in their videos as well as pin products during live streams.
Instagram Reels also allows creators to tag products within videos from a product catalog.
- Video Length
- Music and sound library
- Video privacy options
- Available video effects and filters
- Like & Dislike Buttons
- Direct messaging
- Dueting/remixing content from others
📹 Video Length
YouTube Shorts: Up to 60 seconds long.
Instagram Reels: Up to 90 seconds.
Long form YouTube content can be exceptionally long, but the platform’s short form media arm has a tighter limit. YouTube Shorts videos are currently restricted to only 60 seconds. This may change over time, as platforms like TikTok experiment with longer video limits of up to 10 minutes.
Instagram Reels are able to be slightly longer than YouTube Shorts. Reels are currently able to be up to 90 seconds in length when created on the app.
🎶 Music/Sound Library for Creators
YouTube Shorts: YouTube Shorts music library is much larger, including mainstream songs.
Instagram Reels: Limited selection for creators to choose from.
One of the major differences you’ll find when comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels is in their respective music and sound libraries. Each app offers a library for content creators to utilize during the editing process, but the options available are very different.
Instagram Reels has a much more limited music and sound library. This is partially due to its more widespread crackdown on copyright infringement. The YouTube Shorts music library is more expansive, including more mainstream songs. The new YouTube Shorts monetization policy will be partially used to fund music rights, meaning the YouTube Shorts library will likely maintain its status as the winner for the foreseeable future against both Instagram Reels and TikTok.
🔐 Video Privacy Options
YouTube Shorts: Creators can post videos as public, private, or unlisted.
Instagram Reels: Follow the privacy settings for the creator’s account.
Another difference content creators will notice when comparing Instagram Reels vs YouTube Shorts is how each platform manages video privacy options.
Instagram Reels follows the privacy settings for the creator’s account. Public accounts will automatically have their Reels visible to everyone and open to remixing unless creators toggle that setting off. Private accounts will only show Reels to followers. Instagram Reels is found in the Reels section of your personal account, letting viewers see them there, too.
YouTube Shorts has a simpler approach to video privacy options. It allows creators to unlist videos, making them private. Private videos can be shared and viewed using a link.
🪄 Available Video Effects and Filters
YouTube Shorts: Limited effects and filters at this time, but growing.
Instagram Reels: Wide variety of video effects and filters.
One of the most important features creators look at when comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels and TikTok is available effects and filters.
The YouTube Shorts platform has the famous “green screen” effect for videos but is otherwise lagging behind at this time. It offers relatively few filters and effects for videos during the editing process but is continuing to expand its options.
Instagram offers a wider variety of video filters and effects for creators to use. In fact, it frequently has more options than even TikTok, providing creators with ways to make their media stand out and avoid using oversaturated filters and effects that everyone else is already using.
👍👎Like & Dislike Buttons
YouTube Shorts: Offers viewers like and dislike buttons to react to content.
Instagram Reels: Only have a like button, similar to TikTok.
Like Tiktok, Instagram Reels only offers a heart-shaped like button for viewers to tap. YouTube Shorts has an advantage here, as it offers a thumbs-up button for likes as well as a thumbs-down button for dislikes, just like long form content on main channels.
💬 Direct Messaging Capabilities
YouTube Shorts: No direct messaging feature at this time, only comments.
Instagram Reels: Users can directly message each other and share content.
Another important way creators and viewers compare YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels is if they allow direct messaging.
Instagram offers in-app direct messaging features as well as options to share Reels. YouTube Shorts does not have a direct messaging feature on the app, relying on comments for interpersonal communication at this time.
👯 Stitching/Dueting Content From Others
YouTube Shorts: Can stitch together multiple clips from their own recording, not others.
Instagram Reels: Creators can use other people’s content with their own via Remix.
One of the most important features that give Instagram Reels an advantage over YouTube Shorts for some creators is stitching and dueting content from others.
Instagram Reels has a feature called Remix, which allows creators to choose from a variety of layouts to present the original video next to, above, or below their own3. It’s important to note this is only available for Reels that were published after Remix was launched. Instagram is also testing out functionality to remix new Reels with photos, but this feature is not yet available to everyone.
YouTube Shorts lets creators stitch together multiple clips from their own videos, but it doesn’t have the functionality to stitch content from other accounts at this time.
Comparing YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels Monetization
At the present time, Instagram is changing its monetization method for Instagram Reels and focusing on what to replace it with. They’ve said they intend to come up with a solution in 2023, but it has not yet been announced. Youtube Shorts have undergone a recent change to their monetization policy, using a new format for letting creators make money from their media.
Options for Monetizing YouTube Shorts
How to monetize YouTube Shorts: Ad revenue sharing via YouTube Partner Program
The previous method for content creators to make money from YouTube Shorts was via the YouTube Shorts Fund. This was replaced in February 2023 with a new YouTube Shorts monetization policy using an ad revenue-sharing model4. To be eligible, creators must meet certain criteria and join the YouTube Partner Program.
Other Platform Comparison Resources for Creators
Being a content creator means keeping up with the latest social media trends to stay ahead of the game. It’s also essential to be familiar with the best practices and features of the platforms you’re using.
Check out these social media platform battle resources to help optimize your content creation and know which offers the features you need:
- Platform Battles: Instagram Reels vs TikTok
- Platform Battles: YouTube Shorts vs TikTok
- Platform Battles: Vimeo vs YouTube
This platform battle between YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels shows how fierce the competition is in the vertical short form video space. Creators have more opportunities than ever to produce media for wider audiences and build their brands. As each platform continues to release new features, creators and viewers will be able to experience content in new and engaging ways.
Additional References and Resources