TikTok vs Instagram: Why TikTok is a foreign language and Instagram out

TikTok vs Instagram: Once you have opened TikTok, it quickly becomes clear: TikTok is like a foreign language. And if you really want to grow and stand out as a company in the future, you need TikTok-speaking employees. Or learn TikTok yourself. The main thing is that someone speaks TikTok! Because Instagram is out.

TikTok vs Instagram

If you draw an analogy of the countries of origin of both platforms, Instagram is like the English language for Europeans (you know, you speak, you need) and TikTok is like the Chinese language for Europeans (you hardly know, you hardly speak, you hardly need). But if you take a look at the business schools in this country, it quickly becomes clear: as an aspiring entrepreneur, you learn Chinese today, and English has long since become a compulsory standard. What does this teach us? Do companies have to learn TikTok because everyone is talking Instagram for a long time?

In a podcast interview between OMR Report editor-in-chief Rolf Herrmann and Infludata and WeCreate founder Adil Sbai, the thesis came up that TikTok, next to LinkedIn, will be the most relevant social media channel for communication and marketing of companies in the future. That is why Sbai is already concentrating on these two platforms with his agency and deliberately neglecting big players in the social media world such as Instagram and Facebook. So he’s learning Chinese instead of English.

Its priorities raise questions. Do we all need to learn TikTok now, and if so, who is teaching us? And what about all the hard-to-learn Instagram vocabulary? Doesn’t anyone need it anymore?

An analysis of the most important social media channels for companies today and in the future.

The figures recently published by Google on the extreme growth of YouTube ads and the announcement by Instagram at the beginning of July that it wanted to develop from a photo to a video platform support Sbai’s thesis. Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said that the type of communication on his platform has shifted from public comments and likes to private messages. The way Instagram is used today is altogether different: significantly fewer private pictures are shared, but users are looking for more and more entertainment, for example in the form of reels (Instagram’s equivalent to TikTok videos).

The question arises: is it time for companies to concentrate on TikTok and leave out the large, learned platforms like Instagram?

Yes, says Adil Sbai. He assumes that there is the right way for almost every company to communicate its message in verticals, i.e. in vertical format videos that are adapted to the size of a smartphone screen, target group-oriented, high-reach and professional. Without cringe (cringe = too much wanted and unfortunately too little skill).

Nobody wants to cringe on the platform, you notice that quickly when you deal with TikTok. The published content must not be embarrassing. Verticals should entertain and at the same time promote the brand. But only discreetly, please. Best not in the form of purchased advertising, because even if TikTok advertising is currently still comparatively inexpensive, the algorithm doesn’t like it. It’s not that easy. Perhaps TikTok is more like the Latin of modernity.

TikTok vs Instagram – Numbers, data, facts

But what do the numbers say? Who uses TikTok today and what about Instagram? So let’s take a quick look at the German users of both platforms. TikTok will be used by 18.2% of the German population in 2021, while Instagram can count a full 60% of the German population among its users (see Hootsuite / WeAreSocial, 2021). On TikTok, users are predominantly female and between 13 and 24 years old (cf. Statista, 2021a), while most Instagram users are between 25 and 34 years old and the gender ratio is balanced (cf. Statista, 2021b). In the business sector, only 4.4% of German companies currently use TikTok for their B2B communication, in the B2C sector it is already 15% of German companies (cf. Statista, 2021c).

Which companies belong to this brave 15% who have already dared to use the Chinese short video platform? Edeka, JustSpices, Neoh, About You and Cookie Bros are currently among the most successful German companies on TikTok. In their videos they rely on what TikTok stands for and what the user expects: dance elements, catchy music and fast pictures. The clips from Edeka and Co. are entertaining and entertaining. The brand is discreetly perceived as the sender, but nonetheless sustainable, for example in the form of short recipe videos by the spice manufacturer JustSpices. Incidentally, Adidas, BMW, FC Bayern and Mercedes are currently performing particularly well on Instagram.

At the same time, it should be noted that the companies mentioned did not have to bend in terms of content, as the campaign target group they addressed is congruent with Generation Z, who can mainly be found on TikTok. But what about content from companies whose target group does not naturally move to TikTok? Who are primarily concerned with conveying information and value, instead of entertainment and simplicity?

If you want to be successful on TikTok, you have to find your own language

Wide-reaching TikTok channels such as the Tagesschau, Funk, Quarks, AMD Akademie Mode & Design or the Simpleclub show how “serious” topics can be entertainingly and instructively packed into verticals. They manage the difficult balancing act between entertainment and added value, between a shallow dance clip and demanding knowledge transfer. You rely on your own formats and only sporadically on trends. Play the TikTok game on an equal footing, instead of denying the rules of the game from above. They take their subject seriously and occasionally piss themselves off. That works.

If you read or hear interviews with the creators behind the videos for Tagesschau and Co., one thing strikes you: nobody taught them how TikTok works. How to speak TikTok. They did what Silicon Valley has been preaching to us for decades. You just dared to get started. Tested, learned and done. You haven’t taken an abbreviation, but have painstakingly learned every single TikTok vocabulary yourself. So at TikTok, everyone is themselves the teacher. Contemporary.

TikTok vs Instagram – Conclusion

TikTok is still too small and too limited in its options to replace Instagram. So we will continue to speak Instagram / English. However, many companies use Instagram and hardly any TikTok, so it is comparatively easy to make yourself heard there and to expand your reach. At the same time, TikTok is no longer so small that errors go unnoticed and cringe posts are noticed. This keeps many companies from getting started, they are afraid of embarrassing themselves. But if you don’t get started, you will never learn and fall behind the competition. So it’s better to start stuttering now and communicate fluently later than to go silent without errors.

TikTok is currently not the most important foreign language for companies. But just as learning the Chinese language is becoming more and more important for internationally operating entrepreneurs, TikTok is also becoming more and more important for internationally advertising companies. Because English, or Instagram, everyone speaks.

Note and outlook

I will deal with private, high-reach TikTok creators, such as HerrAnwalt or DocFelix, separately at a later point in time, as they do not represent a company on their channel and therefore do not fit into this analysis. I will soon also be looking at unusual, very rapidly growing business channels on TikTok, such as that of the funeral home burger from Fürth, as part of a new hypothesis test.


Hootsuit / WeAreSocial, 2021. Digital 2021: Germany. https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2021-germany (last accessed on July 29, 2021).

Statista (2021a). Share of TikTok users worldwide by age group and gender in 2021. https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/1247328/umfrage/Share-der-tiktok-user-by-alter-gruppe-und-geschlecht- worldwide (last accessed on July 29, 2021).

Statista (2021b). Share of Internet users surveyed who use Instagram, by age group in Germany from 2015 to 2020/2. https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/691584/umfrage/Share-der-nutzer-von-instagram-nach-alter-in-deutschland (last accessed on July 29, 2021).

Statista (2021c). Statista Content Marketing Trend Study 2021. https://statista.design/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Statista-Content-Marketing-Trendstudie-2021.pdf (last accessed on July 29, 2021).

☀︎ Are you curious who wrote this article? Then read here who I am and here what I do ☀︎