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The Main Differences Between Facebook and Instagram That You Need to Know

Instagram is the new Facebook for the up-and-coming generation of consumers, but if you are a traditional business owner, there is a good chance that you are not taking advantage of either social media platform like you should.

Before we offer some tips on how you can better promote your business on Facebook and Instagram, let’s back up a step and look at why you should use social media marketing.

Social Media Marketing is Effective

Conversion rates for social media ads can be eight times more effective than other online advertising. One of the main reasons for this is that social media platforms present relevant ads customized by user-curated preferences. How does that work? Every time a Facebook or Instagram user “likes” an image, joins a group, or comments on a page, that information gets put into an algorithm. When you create an ad campaign on Facebook, you can choose to target users based on that data. For example, if you are trying to sell custom leather motorcycle jackets, you might target people who have liked Harley Davidson, Motorcycles, Honda Shadow, Road Warriors, or a host of other related topics. The more specific you can be about your target customer’s interests, the higher your conversion rate is likely to be, resulting in a greater ROI.

Pro tip: Sneak a peek at the likes and interests of your top customers on Facebook and Instagram, and then target those topics in your ad campaign.

Social Media Marketing is Expansive

Facebook currently boasts nearly 2 billion monthly users, while Instagram has 700 million monthly users and is on trend to add another 100 million every six months. That’s almost one-third of the earth’s population, and the number of users is increasing daily. In other words, unless your target customer is a Luddite (in which case you can stop reading) or lives in China, North Korea, or Iran (where Facebook and Instagram are banned), he or she is either on these platforms or will be soon. But don’t let the massive, global scale of social media scare you off. You can narrow the scope of your ad campaigns by gender, keywords, interests, and region. So even if you are a local company that does business within a specific zip code, social media ads can help you find new paying customers.

Pro tip: Don’t market to everyone—set the correct age, gender, and geography demographics of your target customers before you start your ad campaign.

Social Media Marketing is Easy to Use

Anyone can create a marketing campaign on Facebook or Instagram in just minutes. Not convinced? Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, and ad campaigns for both platforms can be set up here on the Ads Manager page. Give it a try right now. There is even a “Quick Creation” button if the standard setup process feels like too much work. And don’t worry if you have a limited budget. Often you can run a successful ad campaign for mere pennies per click (although in more competitive markets, you should expect to spend more), and both platforms allow you to set a cap on the amount spent per day, so you can control the pace at which your money gets spent.

Still, if your budget allows for it, you may benefit from hiring an agency to run your ad campaigns for you. A good agency will be able to increase your ROI, as they have the expertise to ensure that your ads are visually appealing and your target demographic will view those ads.

Pro tip: Facebook offers free ad credit for first-time users. Use the principles in this article, and experiment with your first ad campaign for free!

Facebook vs. Instagram: What’s the Difference?

Now let’s look at the fundamental differences between Facebook and Instagram. As already mentioned, ad campaigns for both platforms can get created in the same place; however, that does not mean your company should be advertising on both platforms. Several factors should be considered when deciding where to spend your budget.



Age may be the most important demographic distinguishing between Facebook and Instagram. As the following graphs reveal, Facebook skews significantly older than Instagram. Although the majority of Millennials uses both platforms, Instagram's user base decreases drastically after the 18-29-year-old age group, while Facebook maintains a significant user base even among the 65+ age group. Under 18, Instagram is the clear winner. Primary research reveals that despite more than 80% of all high school students in the U.S. having Facebook accounts, most prefer Instagram for daily use.

Facebook Users by Age

Instagram Users by Age

Pro tip: Are your customers over 50? Advertise on Facebook, not Instagram.

Household Income

Facebook users are spread almost equally across household incomes, so businesses can be confident their target customers have a presence on the platform. Instagram users cluster slightly higher on the scale, with the highest percentage of adapters (60%) being in the $100k+ household income segment.

Facebook Users by HHI

Instagram Users by HHI

Savvy business do not just pursue households with the largest income, however. Target your product or service at the specific segment you wish to reach. High end, niche brands should target households at the top of the income scale, while budget brands should focus on the bottom of the scale. Some firms, like Proctor & Gamble, have mastered a high/low approach, in which they sell to both ends of the market with different products. Be clear about who you want to target, and direct your marketing campaigns towards them.

Pro tip: Lifestyle brands should focus on Instagram.

Global Penetration

The countries with the greatest number of Facebook users are India and the United States, with Brazil and Indonesia next in line. This reflects population size, as well as economic well-being and Internet freedom (Facebook and Instagram are blocked in China, but China's most popular social media platform, WeChat, has nearly one billion users).

Facebook Usage by Country

​Instagram Usage by Country

Pro tip: Use both Facebook and Instagram to penetrate international markets with ease and within budget.

Engagement: Facebook's Scope vs. Instagram's Volume

Facebook's larger audience means that ad campaigns have the potential to reach a larger audience. Plus, Facebook also offers several methods of interaction, including feed ads, right-hand-side ads, business pages, groups, and a chat function. This makes Facebook better at distributing information, as lengthy text can be displayed, articles and web pages can be linked to directly, and businesses and consumers can hold real-time conversations.

Despite Facebook’s broader scope, Instagram is better at high volume engagement. A survey of random companies reveals that company and brand likes may be drastically different across Facebook and Instagram.

​Brand Average Likes Per Post on Instagram and Facebook

Instagram users not only seem to be more generous with their likes, but they also spend significantly more time on company pages once they navigate there. Traffic from Facebook averages 105.55 seconds per site visit, while traffic from Instagram averages 192.04 seconds per visit. Although historically it has been more difficult to attract traffic from Instagram than from Facebook, Instagram now allows users to pay to boost posts, which includes adding a direct link to a post, rather than relying on the notorious “link in bio” tag we all know so well.

Content: Humor on Facebook, Positive Surprises on Instagram

When designing ads, keep in mind the type of engagement users prefer on each platform. Instagram tends to favor positive and surprising content, while Facebook lends itself to entertaining content that can easily be shared and discussed. Do not limit your campaign to images—videos on both Facebook and Instagram result in 62% higher engagement than photos alone. Regardless of whether you are creating a video or an image, be sure to include visual signals about brand identity, including color scheme and logos. Users should be able to identify your content the instant they come across it, even if scrolling on a mobile device. For videos, this means creating content that is designed to be viewed with the sound off, and that intrigues viewers within the first two seconds, leading them to click the ad for the full viewing experience.

Pro tip: Are you marketing fashion or beauty products? Instagram is the platform for you. Are you marketing services? Facebook is likely to return better results.

In Conclusion: Two Overlapping Social Media Platforms with Key Differences

Hopefully, it’s clear now why you should be using Facebook and Instagram to market your company (it’s effective, expansive, and easy to use). But you should also have a better sense of how to create quality content, and how to decide between advertising on Facebook, Instagram, or both.

This article first appeared on the Hearst Bay Area blog.

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