YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels: Which Platform Is The Best? 2023

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YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels: Video is king in today’s social media landscape. YouTube pioneered the video-sharing platform, but now there are many other options for creating and sharing short-form video content. Two of the biggest players are YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels.

Which platform is the choice, for sharing your short videos? In this beginners guide we will compare the features and benefits as the drawbacks, of YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels. This will help you make a decision about where to create and share your viral video.

What Are YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels?

First, let’s clearly define what we mean by YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels.

An Introduction to YouTube Shorts

YouTube Shorts are short-form videos that are 15 seconds or less in length. Shorts are designed for creating bite-sized video content optimized for mobile viewing.

YouTube launched Shorts in 2020 as a way for creators to experiment with the short video format popularized by apps like TikTok and Instagram Reels. Shorts are directly integrated into the YouTube app, making them easy to access and share.

With Shorts, creators can shoot vertical videos using nothing but their mobile phones. Shorts also come with a gallery of editing features like timers, countdowns, speed controls, and music tools. Overall, Shorts make it simple for anyone to create short, fun videos on YouTube.

What Are Instagram Reels?

Instagram Reels are short video clips that are also 15 seconds or less. Reels live directly within Instagram and can be shared to your main Instagram feed.

Reels provide TikTok-like creative tools for making short videos set to music or other audio. You can use filters, effects, text overlays, interactive stickers, and more to enhance your Reels.

Instagram launched Reels in 2020 to compete with TikTok and YouTube Shorts in the short-form video space. Reels are designed specifically for Instagram, though they can also be shared to Facebook.

Now that we’ve defined YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels, let’s dive into how they compare.

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YouTube Shorts vs Reels: Key Feature Comparison

YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels share some common features, but also have some major differences. Let’s look at how the key features stack up.

Video Length

  • YouTube Shorts: 15 seconds or less
  • Instagram Reels: 15 seconds or less

Both YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels have a maximum video length of 15 seconds. This bitesized format is ideal for mobile content designed to be consumed quickly.

Vertical Video

  • YouTube Shorts: Yes
  • Instagram Reels: Yes

Shorts and Reels both support vertical 9:16 video filmed on mobile devices. Vertical video has become hugely popular thanks to TikTok and Stories.

Caption Options

  • YouTube Shorts: Auto-generated captions only
  • Instagram Reels: Manual captions

Instagram Reels let creators manually add text captions to their videos. YouTube Shorts only offer auto-generated captions.

Audio Options

  • YouTube Shorts: YouTube music library or original audio
  • Instagram Reels: Instagram music library, original audio, or borrowed audio from public videos

Reels allow using borrowed audio from other public videos on Instagram. Shorts currently only allow the YouTube music library or original audio.

Editing Tools

  • YouTube Shorts: Built-in filters, text, timers, speed control
  • Instagram Reels: Filters, AR effects, text, stickers, drawings

Both offer handy editing tools, but Instagram provides more creative effects like AR filters. YouTube focuses on enhancing and trimming the video itself.


  • YouTube Shorts: YouTube platform only
  • Instagram Reels: Instagram feed, Stories, Explore page

Reels can be shared directly to your Instagram feed, Stories, and the Explore page. Shorts are only viewable on YouTube right now.


  • YouTube Shorts: Basic analytics available
  • Instagram Reels: Very limited analytics

YouTube provides basic analytics like views and comments. Instagram lacks detailed analytics for Reels.


  • YouTube Shorts: Can earn ad revenue
  • Instagram Reels: No monetization options yet

Shorts allow creators to start earning ad revenue. Reels do not currently offer any ways to monetize content.

Creation Tools

  • YouTube Shorts: Mobile app only
  • Instagram Reels: Mobile app and desktop creation

Reels can be created on both mobile and desktop. Shorts are limited to mobile app creation for now.

By examining these features side by side it becomes apparent that each platform has advantages and limitations. In the following sections we will delve into the pros and cons of YouTube Shorts, versus Instagram Reels.

YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels

The Pros and Cons of YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels

Analyzing the features is helpful, but looking at the actual pros and cons can make the strengths and weaknesses of each platform even clearer.

The Pros of YouTube Shorts:

  • Part of an established video platform with a massive built-in audience
  • More video analytics compared to Reels
  • Ad revenue opportunities to monetize content
  • More discoverability via YouTube search and recommendations
  • YouTube music library with a huge catalogue of songs

The Cons of YouTube Shorts:

  • Less creative editing effects and filters compared to Reels
  • Mobile-only creation limits options
  • More competition and space is less saturated than Reels currently
  • Shorts only live on YouTube, limiting reach

The Pros of Instagram Reels:

  • Creative AR effects and diverse editing options not available for Shorts
  • Ability to easily repurpose video content into both Stories and feed
  • Less competition than YouTube, so easier to get noticed
  • Built-in Instagram audiences ready to engage with Reels in Explore

The Cons of Instagram Reels:

  • No ability to monetize content directly
  • Very limited analytics and insights
  • Required use of Instagram music library
  • Discoverability dependent on Instagram algorithm

Looking at the pros and cons makes it clear that both have unique advantages. YouTube offers monetization, analytics, and built-in video authority. But Instagram combines creative tools, easy repurposing, and a less competitive environment.

So which one is better for your short video content ultimately depends on your specific goals and audience.

Should You Post Your Short Videos on YouTube or Instagram?

Determining where to post your short videos depends on your objectives, target audience, content style, and resources. Here are some key factors to help decide whether YouTube or Instagram is better for your short video content needs.

Your Goals and Metrics for Success

  • If monetization is a priority, YouTube Shorts allows for earning ad revenue.
  • If you want more data analytics, YouTube provides more insights.
  • If you simply want to reach as many people as possible, YouTube’s platform may drive more views.
  • If your goal is engagement and viral moments, Instagram Reels can help score more likes and comments.
  • Focusing on followers and community-building may be better served on Instagram feeds and Stories.

Your Target Audience

  • You may already have an audience on one platform who will want to engage with your content there.
  • Consider where your target audience is spending time and active. Teens and young creators frequent Instagram, while all ages use YouTube.

Your Content Style

  • YouTube Shorts suit straightforward viral videos well. Comedy skits, stunts, memes, and challenge videos tend to thrive there.
  • Instagram Reels’ creative tools allow for trendy videos showcasing hobbies, skills, effects, AR filters, and more immersive content.

Your Content Resources

  • Filming equipment doesn’t matter for Shorts and Reels. But if you plan lots of editing, Reels provide more tools.
  • The music libraries differ between the platforms, so check if your preferred music is available.

There’s no definitive answer for whether YouTube or Instagram is “better” for short video content overall. Evaluate your specific goals, resources, audience, and content style to decide what makes the most sense for your needs.

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Best Practices for Creating Content on YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels

Once you decide where to focus your short video efforts, it’s important to create content optimized for that platform. Here are some best practices to succeed on YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels.

Optimize Your Videos for Each Platform

The vertically aligned, mobile-first approach of Shorts and Reels works great on both platforms. But make sure to tailor content to the style preferred by each platform’s audience.

YouTube viewers expect high entertainment value, such as viral stunts, memes, skits, and challenges. Playful, fun content works well.

Instagram’s audience responds to more artistic videos showcasing skills, hobbies, beauty tips, arts, and creative visual effects. Personality-driven content thrives on Instagram.

Hook Viewers Immediately

Grabbing attention fast is crucial. Lead with your most engaging content in the first 3-5 seconds before viewers swipe away.

Bold text overlays, eye-catching filters, quick cuts between short scenes, and strategic sound effects can help capture interest right off the bat.

Use Sounds and Music to Enhance, Not Distract

Audio can make or break short videos. Use music, sound effects, and voiceovers thoughtfully to complement the visuals.

Avoid busy, distracting songs. Time transitions and effects to the beat and melody. Feature your vocals or a voiceover prominently so viewers can hear you clearly over the music.

Check Video Length Precisely

Every second matters when you have just 15 to work with. Time your videos carefully to end exactly at 15 seconds for a smooth, complete experience.

Err on the side of shorter rather than longer. It’s better to leave viewers wanting more than to lose their interest halfway through.

Make Playlists to Share and Organize Your Shorts

Both YouTube and Instagram allow you to group your short videos into playlists or series to organize your channel. Playlists also make it easy for viewers to binge-watch all of your content focused on a specific topic.

Add new videos to existing playlists frequently to keep them fresh. For example, compile playlists around themes like “Dance Videos,” “Cooking Hacks,” or “Vacation Vlogs.”

Promote Shorts Outside the Apps

Don’t just rely on YouTube and Instagram internal search and recommendations to distribute Shorts and Reels.

Share your videos across social media on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Discord, and anywhere else your audience is active.

Embed them on blogs and link to them on other sites. Promote your best short videos widely to maximize viewership.

Optimizing your short video strategy using these tips can help you stand out and succeed on both YouTube and Instagram.

The Key Takeaways: Picking the Right Platform for Your Needs

  • YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels both offer ways to make short 15-second vertical videos easily through mobile apps.
  • YouTube provides more analytics, built-in audiences, and video monetization opportunities. But Instagram offers more robust creative editing options.
  • Tailor your short video content strategy and publishing approach based on your specific goals, target audience, resources, video style, and more.
  • Optimize videos to align with the culture and interests of the YouTube and Instagram audiences for maximum engagement.
  • Promote your short videos off-platform and use playlists to organize your content.
  • Consistently create quality short videos tailored to each platform to succeed. Analyze performance and double down on what resonates most with your audience.

The short video format is here to stay. With these tips, you can strategically use YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels to showcase your brand, skills, or passions in fun 15-second bursts optimized for the mobile age.

FAQs About YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels

Still have some questions about how YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels compare? Check out answers to some frequently asked questions:

Can you monetize YouTube Shorts vs Instagram Reels?

Right now, only YouTube Shorts can be monetized by earning a share of ad revenue. Instagram does not offer monetization for Reels.

Do YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels appear in regular YouTube/Instagram feeds?

No, Shorts and Reels have their own separate sections within each app. They do not get distributed into the main feeds and public content.

Do Shorts and Reels need to be recorded within the apps?

No, you can also upload externally recorded video into Shorts and Reels. But recording directly in the mobile apps enables using the editing tools.

Can one video be shared as both a Short and a Reel?

Absolutely! Repurposing content across multiple platforms is highly recommended. Tailor the video description and hashtags for each platform.

Which is easier to go viral on – Shorts or Reels?

It can be easier to go viral on Reels since the space is still emerging with less competition. YouTube has more content, so standing out takes high quality.

How are YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels ranked in search/recommendations?

The YouTube and Instagram algorithms consider many factors including engagement, watch time, comments, and more. Quality content tailored to each platform tends to perform best.

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