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Instagram vs Facebook: Which Can Grow Your Business?

Hold tight because we’re going to dive deep to tell you *everything* we know about Facebook vs Instagram and how to choose the right platform (spoiler alert: or platforms) for your social media strategy. 

Social media is a fickle game. Well, at least for the platforms that launch into the market with a bang, only to find themselves on the social media scrap heap with the likes of MySpace and Google Plus. 

Not so for Facebook and Instagram. These two are the big guys, especially for eCommerce and B2C marketing. For some time now Facebook, followed by Instagram have been the popular social networks that consistently deliver solid ROI for businesses that adopt smart social media marketing strategies.

But which is right for your business in the Instagram vs Facebook debate? It’s a simple question with a not so simple answer. And it’s a question that everyone  - from your local pizza guy to your mother-in-law - will have an opinion on. 

The good news is, we’ve got the answers you’re looking for. And they’re all based on fact, research and the tried and tested, hands-on digital marketing campaign work we do for our clients every day. Hearsay and opinions don’t have a place at OMG.

Hold tight because we’re going to dive deep to tell you *everything* we know about Facebook vs Instagram and how to choose the right platform (spoiler alert: or platforms) for your social media strategy. 


Social media usage 

Whichever social network you look at - Facebook or Instagram, the numbers are mighty impressive. Over the last 15 years, social media usage has been steadily rising. And that growth is showing no signs of slowing down. 

There are 3.6 billion social media users worldwide. By 2025 that number is expected to reach a global audience of 4.41 billion people.


social media users worldwide

Image source: Statista

The 3.6 billion figure represents almost half of the entire population of the planet. Even more telling of increasing social media usage trends is that it’s not just the number of users that is increasing, it is also the number of users as a percentage of the total population. We can’t get enough of the social network life.

But let’s break it down by platform. Facebook vs Instagram, head to head.

In the blue corner, we have Facebook. The older of the two platforms, Facebook comes in at a mammoth 1.73 billion daily active users, which has been increasing by 11% year-on-year. Every month, more than 2.6 billion people use Facebook to scroll, like, love, share, connect and discover. While they are on Facebook, users spend an average of 58 minutes, likely broken up into shorter chunks of time, and almost exclusively on mobile. 

Facebook is hands down the single largest platform in the history of all social media platforms. But it’s not without competition…

In the red/purple/pink/orange corner, we have the small(er) but mighty Instagram coming in at one billion monthly active users, 60% of whom log in to the network daily. It might be under half the user numbers that Facebook attracts, but one billion users is not a number to sneeze at. 

Instagram users spend nearly as long on the network as Facebook users, racking up an average of 53 minutes of daily usage. 

Whichever social network you look at, the opportunity is immense. Billions of people around the world are active users, scrolling through social feeds every day. But social media usage isn’t just a numbers game. There is a lot more to it than that. 

The Instagram vs Facebook user

Social media platforms dominate online. But who are the people using each social media platform?

Let’s start with some Facebook user stats:

  • More than 70% of Facebook users are aged between 18-44.

  • Male users aged 25-34 make up the biggest group of users, accounting for 18.8% of total users on Facebook.

  • While globally men are the largest group of users (56% male vs 44% female), in the United States that figure is reversed with 75% of females using Facebook and only 63% of men. 

  • More than three-quarters of Facebook users have a college degree or higher and the same percentage of people earn more than $75,000 pa.


Image source: SproutSocial


Jumping over to the Facebook-owned Instagram network and the user demographic shifts to a younger audience with a more balanced gender split.

  • 86% of Instagram users are aged 44 or younger. 

  • 51% of users on Instagram are female and 49% are male. The gender balance remains fairly consistent, regardless of the age group of the users.

  • As a business, you’ll be interested to know that 81% of people on Instagram use it to search for products and services. In fact, 130 million users tap on shopping posts every month. 

  • For 1% of users, Instagram is the only social media network they use. 86% of them are on both Instagram and Facebook.

There is a clear overlap in users across Instagram and Facebook. While there are large groups who use one and not the other, there is a significant group who use both. But they both play different roles in the social media stratosphere. For example, while 36% of people use Facebook as a news source, only 11% turn to Instagram for the same purpose.  

Understanding the social media platforms

While they do share similarities in terms of functionality and what they offer users, Facebook and Instagram are fundamentally different. 

Instagram is a highly visual platform. Images and videos are where it’s at. The caption for your Instagram post is important, but if it isn’t accompanied by a visual that captures the attention, you won’t get the traction and engagement you are looking for.


Image source: Later

Facebook on the other hand is more forgiving on visuals and offers multiple ways to present your content in the feed. Facebook is also a place that users go to find information.

If a business doesn’t have a website, and in some cases, even if it does, Facebook is where they will go to find opening hours, contact phone numbers or other information about the business.

Consider the user experience of Instagram. You open the app. Immediately you are presented with Instagram Stories along the top of your screen and below it a stream of images and videos. Instagram is designed for engagement. If something captures your attention on Instagram you can click through to the user or brand account to view more images or products in the case of a shop.

The Facebook user experience is more complex. Like Instagram, the first thing you see when you open Facebook is the Stories across the top of the screen.

But the Facebook feed is very different from Instagram. Rather than just images and videos, the Facebook feed is a mix of visuals, text-only posts, group posts and more. You can click through to a page to learn more about a business or engage in the community via Groups.

It’s not just the functionality and content of the platforms that differ. There is also a stark difference between the engagement on Facebook vs Instagram.

Across all industries, the average engagement on Facebook sits at 0.09%. Compare that to an average Instagram engagement rate of 1.60% and you can see why Instagram is so popular with brands.


Image source: RivalIQ

With the volume of posts on each platform, there is also a huge variance between types of posts and across industries. 

As you would be aware, Facebook and Instagram both use an algorithm to determine who sees what content in the feed. The algorithm is a highly sophisticated AI software that is designed to create a good user experience for every user to keep engaged and on the platform. 

The best, most relevant content will be shown to users at any time. So the challenge is to have the best, most relevant content to show. Of course, you aren’t trying to reach as many people as you can in the billions of users on the platforms. You just need to reach your ideal target audience amongst all of those users.

Which can grow your business?

Now comes the question of which is best for your brand marketing strategy - Facebook or Instagram? The short answer - use both. But you need to take a strategic approach to maximize your ROI.

One of the biggest mistakes we see brands make is to create a single piece of content, share it to both Instagram and Facebook and then hope for the best. It isn’t going to work. It never has. And it never will. 

Instead, you need to look at each platform as a different arm of your social media marketing strategy. 

One of the biggest differences in your strategy will be the type of content you post. Remember that Instagram is all about visuals, while Facebook is more about the text. Tailor your content to the audience on the platform to get the best engagement.


instagram vs facebook social strategy

Image source: Neil Patel


After all, that’s what the algorithm is looking for. Facebook and Instagram want people to engage with content because it keeps them on the platform. There is no point trying to beat the algorithm. It’s not possible. What you can do is work with it to get maximum exposure and engagement.

That’s not to say that you can’t use the same assets on both Facebook and Instagram, but you do need to ensure that the message is targeted and tailored to the people who will be seeing it. 

One way to do this is by tapping into the functionality of each platform and using that to your advantage.

For Instagram, that means:

  • Consider not only individual posts but also the overall look and feel of your profile. If someone clicks through from a single post to look at your profile, what is the overall impression you want to give them of your brand?

  • Hashtags, hashtags, hashtags! Do your research to find the ones that are relevant to your brand and market. 

  • Also, consider Instagram Stories as part of your strategy. It’s not just about the feed! 

  • If you run an eCommerce business, be sure to set up Instagram Shopping to make it easier for your customers to shop with you directly from Instagram.

Facebook has some features in common with Instagram, such as Stories, the use of hashtags, and Facebook Shops but there is another functionality within Facebook that you can leverage to your advantage:

  • You can target your posts to particular audiences or demographics to maximize engagement. 

  • Groups are also a unique element on Facebook and, depending on your business, this may be a good way to build community and engagement. 

  • Because people often go to Facebook to find out information about a brand, it’s important to complete your profile information. Be sure that all the relevant fields are completed.

Social media advertising is also a powerful way to increase your brand exposure and get strong returns on your investment. But again, you need to know what you are doing or work with a team of experts who can get you the results you’re looking for. 

How to define Social Media ROI for your business

How do you get solid ROI from your social media advertising? Once again, it comes back to strategy. Randomly boosting posts or creating retargeting ads without considering your funnel might get you a few clicks, but it won’t deliver ROI.

ROI comes down to this:

  1. Develop a strategy with defined goals - what do you want to achieve from your ads? Is it sales? Warm leads? Building a database? 

  2. Build out a plan for your Instagram and Facebook ads that is aligned with your strategy. 

  3. Measure, refine and tweak. The beauty of digital is that the data is all there. Familiarize yourself with Facebook ad metrics so you can track performance and act swiftly to enhance your ad results.

Developing a strategy is the element that is missing for most businesses when they try their hand at social media advertising.

They jump straight into the exciting part of designing creative, writing copy and launching the ads… but without the strategic direction, the ads won’t hit the mark. And nor will they deliver to their maximum ROI potential.

You wouldn't do digital marketing without a strategy... and you shouldn't do Facebook and Instagram advertising without a strategy either.

The next major element that is missing in social media advertising campaigns is appropriate targeting and tailoring for the audience the ads are being shown to.

In much the same way as you shouldn’t use the same content across Facebook and Instagram, you should also vary your ads. When you are setting up your ads, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to run with a single ad set across both Instagram and Facebook and not adjust the standard settings for where your ad will be shown and how your budget is spent. 

Tracking your social media marketing campaign performance

When it comes to tracking your Instagram and Facebook ads there is one thing you need to know. Vanity metrics are not for you. By vanity metrics, we mean likes and reach. It might look good to have 100 likes on your ads… but if you have a Click Through Rate of less than 1% and your conversions are even more abysmal then what’s the point?

Here’s what you need to know about tracking your ad performance. You need to get familiar with the metrics that matter. You need to know your CTR (Click Through Rate) from your CPC (Cost Per Click) and CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost). Most importantly you need to be able to calculate your ROAS (Return on Ad Spend). This is about determining the value you generate from your ad spend as a hard dollar figure. If you are spending more on your Instagram and Facebook ads than you are generating from them then you have a problem. 


Image source: Social Media Examiner

But it’s not a problem you can’t fix. Go back to your strategy, look at your plan and identify what you can tweak to get that ROAS moving in the right direction. It may be as simple as tweaking your audience, or you may need to look at your creative.

This is where split tests are helpful to identify what is working… and what isn’t. Start your Instagram Facebook campaigns with split tests and then narrow and define them as you go along to squeeze maximum ROI from every dollar of ad spend.

It’s in your hands

Want to get your social media advertising right from the beginning? Contact us for a free digital audit worth $2,000. Our Gurus will look at your entire digital marketing picture - your competitors, your current results and your performance - and identify a roadmap to deliver you next-level ROI.

Don’t risk it. Call on the Gurus for our proven, data-driven, evidence-based approach to Instagram and Facebook ads and digital marketing.

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