Instagram vs Facebook: which is best for your brand’s strategy?

30 Jun

Instagram vs Facebook-01

Instagram vs Facebook-01

When it comes to social media marketing, Facebook is the big guy on campus. As of June 2019, Facebook has grown to have 2.38 billion users, making it the top social media platform for the total number of active users. Over the past decade, Facebook has redefined the way we look at social networks and also expanded the possibilities of social media for businesses.

Then there’s the new kid on the block, Instagram. In the world of social networking sites, Instagram is still relatively new in age. Founded in 2010, Instagram has seen massive success in growing its active user base. As of June 2018, Instagram has grown to a whopping 1 billion monthly active users, positioning itself as one of the fastest growing social media networks globally. This growth shouldn’t come at a surprise. We are at a space where mobile dominates, with consumers spending more time browsing the web on mobile than desktop on average.

With billions of active users, it’s clear that these social networking sites are powerful and have a lot of opportunities for your brand to engage with consumers. Even better, Facebook and Instagram have been hard at work bridging the gap between user bases. Since 2017, we have seen many improvements. Things like the ability to have an Instagram placement for a Facebook ad and allowing users to share Instagram Stories directly to Facebook are just a handful of ways these platforms have created moments of synergy for marketers and users alike.

Although there are many new options for marketers to integrate their marketing strategy, you can’t always apply the same techniques you’d use for Facebook to Instagram and vice versa. Due to this, we’ll take a look at some of the differences between the two and help you decide where your brand should put their focus.

Facebook CTA GIF

Instagram vs. Facebook by statistics

Since Facebook is a lot older than Instagram, it’ll have some advantages in terms of user base and popularity. However, Instagram’s growth has been extremely strong and it’s continuing to climb. Let’s look at the numbers.

Facebook statistics

  • 2.38 billion monthly active users
  • 655 million monthly active users that are mobile only
  • 65% of Facebook videos occur on mobile devices
  • 40 million small businesses have Facebook Pages
  • 89% of marketers say they use Facebook as part of their brand’s social strategy

Instagram statistics

  • 1 billion monthly active users
  • 500 million daily active Instagram Stories users worldwide
  • 37% of US Internet users are on Instagram
  • 60% of Instagram users log in daily
  • 47% of Instagram users access the app on their phone and 53% on their tablet
  • 65% of marketers say they use Instagram as part of their brand’s social strategy

As you can see, Facebook might have larger vanity numbers but Instagram’s stats are very impressive—particularly in terms of engagement. Instagram has built itself up as a platform that thrives on users being able to engage with the visual content brands share.

On the other hand, those huge numbers from Facebook have made it so that small businesses feel obligated to start a Facebook Page even if they don’t necessarily plan on being active on it. Facebook has cemented itself as a staple in the social media marketing world.

Numbers alone don’t always tell the full story though. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Facebook vs. Instagram: audience demographics

This is probably going to be one of the deciding factors for which social media site you choose to put your focus toward. Facebook has more total users but your customer avatar might not be as active on the site as you might think.

Facebook demographics

Facebook demographics

Instagram Demographics

Instagram Demographics

One of the first differences that jumps out is Instagram’s younger user base. According to the data, the older generation really isn’t active on the app. A majority of Instagram users are under 30, and many are in their teens. Part of the shift likely has to do with the younger consumers’ desire to be onto the next trend pretty quickly. We’re starting to see new social networks pop up a lot quicker these days and the shiny object syndrome is just too tempting. This difference in audience provides an excellent opportunity for companies trying to reach a younger demographic.

Let’s not discount the older generation though. An advantage of being a popular social network for older consumers is that the users have higher incomes. Depending on what products or services your company offers, this could be extremely advantageous. For instance, an investment firm might have much more success on Facebook than they would on Instagram.

Facebook vs Instagram: engagement in numbers

The top advantage that Instagram has over not only Facebook, but every other social media channel, is engagement. A study on social media engagement looked at over three million user interactions with over 2,500 brands on seven social networking sites. Six out of the seven social media sites including Facebook and Twitter had less than a 0.1% engagement rate. The seventh social network was Instagram, which had an astounding 4.21% engagement rate. That’s 58 times the engagement rate of Facebook.

Let’s look at a real life example of the engagement on Facebook vs. Instagram. Here’s a post from Quest Nutrition that was put on both its Facebook Page and Instagram account. Keep in mind that Quest has 1.1 million Facebook Likes and 491,000 Instagram followers.

Quest FB Post

Quest FB Post

The Instagram post has over 2,400 likes compared to Facebook’s 21. On top of that, it also has 20 comments while the Facebook post only has one. Even on a more popular post on Facebook, the engagement from Instagram is still higher. This post has over 500 Facebook Likes, which is great, but compare that to the numbers the brand pulled in from Instagram.

Despite the example above, it is important to remember that you won’t always get more engagement on Instagram posts than Facebook ones. There are a variety of factors that go into how users interact with you content on social media. For instance, images perform better on Instagram than Facebook since that’s what Instagram is primarily used for. Text, on the other hand, is better left to Facebook most of the time. You have to consider how your audience uses each social network. Which brings us to our next point.

One thing to keep in mind about Facebook is that the way content appears in users’ feeds is based on algorithms. The Facebook algorithm may be a secret science, but there are multiple strategies that you can do to get more eyes on your posts. For instance, you can always use Sprout’s ViralPost to publish at peak periods to maximize your audience reach. Or, you can also do it the old fashioned way by following our 2019 Best Times to Post guide and posting natively. Whatever you decide, it is important to remember to take your audience demographic, as well as your specific content type into consideration when publishing content to both platforms.


This comparison would be incomplete without taking a look at how each social network is used. We’ve established that Instagram is strictly image/video based, but the differences go beyond that.

Facebook is largely informational. You can find out things about a company through its Facebook Page whether it’s business hours, an address or upcoming events. Facebook historical has always focused on text because it’s detail driven. That’s why it takes longer to create a profile on Facebook than it does on Instagram. They serve different purposes.

Instagram is about capturing moments. People don’t open Instagram to find out your company’s business hours or to see if their friends have been to your store. They use Instagram to engage. That’s what makes it so effective for building your brand and gaining popularity.

When you go out to eat and the menu has 50 different entrees to choose from, it takes you a lot longer to make a decision and to take action. But when you go to a place that specializes in only a few select dishes, you make your decision a lot quicker. Facebook is like the restaurant with 50 different options. There’s so much you can do from messaging to playing games and watching videos. Facebook provides its users with hundreds of possibilities, and there is truly something for everyone. Instagram is like the burger place downtown that serves two things, burgers and fries. It doesn’t give you an opportunity to get distracted and is hyper-focused on a few core features.

Instagram for iOS screenshot

Instagram for iOS screenshot

When you launch the Instagram app, you’re immediately hit with content. It provides a different user experience than Facebook because it’s strictly focused on visual-based content.

With Instagram:

  • It gives you multiple different ways of engaging with Stories or posts
  • Users are primarily looking at images and/or videos as posts or as Instagram Stories
  • Your Instagram activity is a bit trickier to follow than Facebook, although both networks have a strong emphasis on account privacy

Here’s a Facebook post on mobile.

Facebook iOS app post

Facebook iOS app post

You have the same abilities as Instagram to comment and share, except Facebook provides a unique ability for users to give specific reactions to posts instead of the usual “like”.

Which network is best for your brand?

As we discussed earlier, the type of content you publish on Facebook or Instagram is also important. A big mistake that companies make is treating Instagram like Facebook. Content that works on Facebook doesn’t always translate well to Instagram. We recommend testing your content on both Facebook and Instagram to see which platform returns the best performance.

Curated Content

Facebook is a great platform to curate content. You’ve probably noticed quite a bit of content shared on Facebook isn’t original. It’s generally curated blog posts, news or content that’s just being shared from other accounts.

Instagram, on the other hand, is all about original photos and videos. Although you may run into a reshared meme or two while you are scrolling through the app.

Company News

Your first stop for publishing company news should be Facebook. Since Facebook is more text-based, you’ll have a better chance of people reading the entire update. For instance, if you have to close down for reconstruction you’d want to make a Facebook post about it. Instagram is where you could post pictures of the reconstruction in progress. See the difference?

Company Events

Did your company host a charity event or go to a popular conference? That’s the perfect opportunity to get content for Instagram. You can post the images in real time to give your followers a feel for how things are going.

When you get back from the event, you can create a Facebook photo album with the best pictures.

Image Contests

Image contests are all about engagement, and we know that Instagram is the king of engagement on social media. Use Instagram as your platform to host the contest and make a hashtag to keep track of it all.

You can promote the contest on Facebook to help push traffic to your Instagram account. You might even consider running some Facebook Ads.

Any type of original photo that has to do with your company and brand should go on Instagram. If you’re publishing content that has a lot of text, then Facebook might be a better choice.

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Running Campaigns On Facebook vs. Instagram

When it comes to creating, tracking and reporting paid social campaigns, Facebook and Instagram have you covered. Tracking your ROI is easy with Facebook and Instagram for Business, and the synergy between the two platforms will give you with everything you need to monitor success for paid ads.

For marketers looking to see organic AND paid campaign performance altogether, Sprout has an easy to use reporting suite that enables you to do both. The Sprout Social platform lets you get a good overall view of how your content is performing on Instagram, in addition to Facebook. And there are a number of additional things you can do to help get a better picture of the integrated impact both platforms are having for your brand like using UTM codes and shortened URL’s.

Instagram sent messages

Instagram sent messages

Facebook isn’t a replacement for Instagram and Instagram can’t replace Facebook. You have to identify your audience, think about the type of content you want to publish and then find a happy medium. In the end, the question isn’t which social network is better. The question you have to ask yourself is how can your company use each one to reach your audience and grow your social media presence.

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