Back in 2012, Facebook bought Instagram for a cool $1 billion – and we all knew why. Zuckerberg’s network was on a mission to dominate the social advertising industry and it saw an opportunity in Instagram’s growth rate. Not only that, but buying out the rapidly growing network meant it couldn’t turn into the rival it was shaping up to become.

Fast-forward to 2016 and Instagram is another advertising powerhouse, bringing in yet more of those big bucks for Facebook. More importantly, it brings a lot of the perks that come with advertising on Facebook – so does this make Instagram the obvious (next) choice if you’re killing it on Facebook?


What’s the difference between Facebook and Instagram?

Facebook’s standout characteristic is the sheer size of its userbase. Here are the key stats worth looking at:


  • 7 billion monthly active Facebook users
  • 3 billion daily users
  • 57 billion mobile users
  • Age 25-34 is the most common demographic (roughly 30%)


*Source: Facebook


Instagram on the other hand is much smaller:


  • 500 million monthly active Instagrammers
  • 300 million daily users
  • 90% of Instagram users are under 35


*Source: Instagram, ExpandedRamblings


So the key difference between these two networks is their userbase. Facebook connects you to a much larger (and slightly older on average) audience while Instagram offers up a smaller, younger bunch of users.

Dig a little deeper to see what users are doing on each network and things start to get more interesting. Basically, Instagram is the network for brand engagement, walking all over Facebook and its rivals:


*Source: Entrepreneur


In the chart above, the bigger the circles are, the more brand engagement each network generates in each B2C industry (the B2C part is important, btw).

As you can see, Twitter and LinkedIn barely scratch the surface – but this isn’t a big surprise, considering they’re mostly B2B/publishing platforms. Facebook fares much better but it’s still drowned by Instagram and Pinterest.

What’s really interesting here is how consistently Instagram performs compared to the spikes for certain industries on Pinterest. Pinterest nails it for telecoms and cable (who’d have thought) and beats Instagram for consumer products too. However, Instagram wipes the slate clean in every other industry and there are some surprises in there.


Instagram’s highest engagement industries:


  • Insurance (48.6 interactions per 1,000 followers)
  • Automakers (40.6 interactions per 1,000 followers)
  • Food and beverage (34.7 interactions per 1,000 followers)


Before you see these kind of stats, you might assume retail, apparel and hospitality would be among the top performers. In fact, Food and beverage is perhaps the only industry in that top three that sounds distinctly “Instagram”.

It turns out Instagram is far more versatile than it first appears.

Despite all this, engagement is only engagement – nothing else – and Instagram is made tailor made for interacting with content. The image-based network makes it incredibly easy to engage with people, as long as you can create the visually impressive content it needs. This doesn’t guarantee you’ll get sales as the end result, of course.

There’s a big difference between some teenager liking a Bugatti Veyron and actually buying one, let’s not forget that.

To turn engagement into valuable leads you need to pinpoint users with buying intent – and this comes down to targeting.


Facebook vs Instagram: targeting options

The good news is Instagram ads come with all the targeting options you can enjoy with Facebook. And this really is good news because Facebook’s targeting options are the industry standard right now.

However, the same targeting options don’t necessarily mean the same opportunities.

This is where your target audience really decides which network you go for (or whether you go for both). You can’t target people who aren’t there and Instagram’s more limited userbase doesn’t give you access to many of the audiences available on Facebook.

So, if your target audience is middle-aged divorced women, for example, then Facebook is the way to go. If you’re after millennial travellers, however, then you might be better off with Instagram – or both.

So, if you’re only going to invest your time/money into one channel, you might want to start by calculating the potential reach specific to your target audience on each platform. Instagram may specialise in connecting you with younger audiences, but Facebook could still offer a wider reach based on its larger userbase alone.


So, should I advertise on Instagram?

To answer the big question, you first need to consider a few smaller ones:


Is one of your core target audiences under 35 years old?

If the answer is yes, then Instagram is a great way to engage with this demographic and more versatile than you might think for different industries.


Will this be your only social ad platform?

If you’re going to invest all your time/budget into one channel, you may find Instagram isn’t versatile enough. This will be especially true if you have target audiences outside the usual Instagram demographic or need Facebook’s other capabilities (business pages, customer service, etc.)


Is your reach actually better on Facebook?

Even though Instagram is down with the kids, Facebook could still beat it for reach purely because of its massive userbase. You need to break down your target audience into more specific attributes (age, gender, location, languages, interest, etc.) to get a better idea of which network they’re most active on.


Can you turn Instagram engagement into (enough) valuable leads?

This is the most difficult question to answer without trying it first and measuring results. Engagement is great – especially if your marketing goal is branding or exposure – but it won’t necessarily generate leads.


In terms of the kind of content you need to produce, Instagram is a little bit less forgiving than Facebook perhaps. Your content needs to be on top form to make the most of that engagement factor. That said, if your content is already making things happen on Facebook (images and videos especially) then you shouldn’t have too many problems.


The key takeaways from all this are that Instagram gives you a smaller, more targeted and generally younger userbase to work with – one that loves to engage with content on the network. This can be a very good thing or completely meaningless, depending on your target audience.

What’s particularly interesting is how versatile Instagram actually is across a wide range of industries. It’s not just a network for teenagers sharing ‘lit’ haircuts and the latest, most ridiculous slang terms.

Real stuff happens on Instagram as well and its users strongly identify with the network – something you can use to your advantage. That under-35 age bracket is pretty diverse, too. There’s more to Instagram than high-schoolers and Millennials taking selfies (although this does count for a good chunk of it).

Finally, if Instagram users fit in with your target audience (or one of them), combining it with Facebook advertising really could be the sweet spot for your social advertising efforts.

Naturally, it’s difficult to answer such a complex question in one blog post – so, if you’re still unsure about whether Instagram advertising is for you, don’t hesitate to ask us for more advice.