You’ve got a limited social advertising budget but you don’t know where to drop it: Facebook or Instagram? It’s a tough question with an equally tough answer: it depends. While the two platforms do have overlapping users, the specifics of interactions and demographics are still different.

There are various advantages to running on either platform or on both. Either way, the same ad running on both platforms won’t yield the same results. Instead, you need to analyze factors like your goals, content and audience to figure out which is best for your business.

Breaking the components of an ad down will help you decide which one is best for you. Want an easy way to get into advertising and don’t care as much about a goal as long as the ad gains traction? Instagram is for you. Need detailed control over every aspect of the ad? Use Facebook. Let’s dive a little deeper into these topics so you can decide how to allocate your social media budget.

Ads management

Both Instagram and Facebook ads can be managed through Facebook’s Ads Manager. This single location for ad resource makes it easy for marketers to select multiple audiences and placements. Campaigns are easily managed and results are downloadable.

On Facebook, the campaign manager has many options for objectives, ad sets and ads. You have a multitude of combinations to test out and plenty of ways to preview all the available ads.

On Instagram, the ads manager went for the simple-is-best route. In just a few taps, you can have your ad set up with an existing post or story. If you don’t want the nitty-gritty data and you just want the big picture with an easy interface, Instagram is the best ads management platform for you.

Along similar lines, if you are new to advertising for both platforms and you have existing audiences on each, test out the waters with Instagram first. Once you have a grasp on how it works,  you’ll be more prepared to get the most out of the options on Facebook.

Demographics & audiences

A major consideration in choosing which network is better for you is the existing demographics and audiences. What’s the difference? Sometimes used interchangeably, a network’s demographic is usually in reference to its overall user base over billions of accounts. The audience, though, is your own account’s followers that you have the ability to reach.

If you want to generate new followers or fans, then you’ll need to take a look at demographics because you need to make sure the people in your desired target audience are already active on that network.

Facebook demographics 2020

Facebook’s demographics cover the widest ground of any network out there and this has not had remarkable changes year over year. Many brands are likely to find at least some of the segments of their audience on Facebook.

Instagram demographics 2020

On the other hand, Instagram’s demographics skew younger, which also hasn’t changed drastically over the last few years.

Once you’ve determined that your target demographics for your ads exist, then you can execute your ad.

If you’re looking to gain engagement or interactions on the ads, then you’ll have to examine your audiences. Facebook’s audience information is located in the Insights tab while Instagram’s audience is in the app’s Insights. Another option is to use analytics reports generated by a social media management tool like Sprout to produce your audience information.

facebook ad manager audiences

The audience targeting for Facebook is more detailed than the one for Instagram. As you can see, Instagram’s is more streamlined and simplified – great for advertising newbies.

instagram ads audience

To have a successful ad with engagement, you need to have some existing followers or fans who will interact with your ad. The easiest way to do this is to boost a post, which is accessible for both networks in your profile, no ads manager necessary. In this particular case, both networks are tied in terms of ease of use.

Content

Take a look at your existing content or your content budget. What kind of content do you have? Do you have the ability to invest in more? Are there videos or photos that were taken specifically for ad purposes or do you have mostly posts that you want to boost the visibility of?

Instagram and Facebook differ substantially on content types and interactions with them. On Facebook, you have the option to advertise with multiple types of ads:

  • Carousel: two more scrollable images or videos
  • Single media: image, video or slideshow of images
  • Existing posts: includes links that you might have shared

For Instagram ad types, you technically have the same options as above but you won’t have the ability to make any in-caption links clickable. Instead, you’ll need to use the call-to-action buttons to add a link.

When examining your content, also think about your goals. If the content doesn’t match your goal, then your ad isn’t going anywhere no matter how good the copy is. Behavior on Facebook leans towards interacting with friends and family, sharing interesting links and informative posts. More robust and shareable content such as blog posts, news articles or case studies can get attention on the platform.

On Instagram, the behavior is far more visually oriented. You have to think of creating compelling photos or videos first there before any other type of content. News articles obviously don’t perform the best here unless they’re accompanied by an attention-grabbing image that helps tell the story.

If you have strong visual content to spare for ads, then Instagram will be your better choice. This network will also be good if you have the budget to spare for creating this kind of content. If your content is more varied or includes more written content, then Facebook may be better for your business.

Goals

A thread has been running through this guide where being conscious of your goals is tied into almost every aspect of deciding where to run your ads. If you don’t have clear goals in mind for your ads, then you need to stop and think about this before you continue further. Without concrete goals in place, you won’t be able to determine metrics, success of the campaign or even figure out the targeting you want.

objectives in facebook ads

Facebook’s Ad Manager makes it easy to choose goals by having you select your objective from the get-go. This manages both Instagram and Facebook ads, though not all of these options are available on Instagram. If you were to advertise on Instagram via the app, you do not have a choice in the objective. Keep this in mind when you’re pinpointing your goals.

Objectives like brand awareness paired with eye-grabbing content would perform well on Instagram. Whereas, an objective like website clicks paired with a favorable news or review article would be better on Facebook.

Industry

Another consideration to examine for advertising on Facebook vs Instagram is the industry that you’re in. Industries that favor visuals like food, fashion and hip consumer products are stronger on Instagram for a reason. If you already have an account on both platforms, take a look at your overall social media analytics to see which is already gaining the most organic type of interaction that you’re aiming for. Getting more clicks on Facebook? Take that into account and create an ad similar to that type of content.

The industry you’re in also affects how much you’ll be paying for the ads. More expensive products will need to have ads run multiple times for consumer awareness to help promote consideration of the purchase and move customers down the marketing funnel. If the industry doesn’t have a strong presence on the network, then you might have less competition in advertising and therefore, a lower cost. This being said, you need to have both a small industry presence and a high target demographic to aim the ad towards. If this doesn’t exist, then your ad won’t perform because the audience is too small for it to get any traction.

Conclusion: Experimentation & analysis

Don’t be afraid to test out waters with various content types and objectives while serving the same audience. An A/B test is available in Facebook Ads Manager for this very purpose. Once you have some solid performing ads in place, experimentation is a natural path to take.

The advantage of both platforms is the ability to tweak ads as they are running. Is a campaign going overboard on the budget? Tone it down or end it early. Is one type of content performing better than another for an audience? End the poorly performing ad.

Social media advertising success is a mix of planning, analysis and a little luck. The strategy you used a year ago might not work today and the same goes for the future. In addition, the networks are constantly adjusting their algorithms and advertising features. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Instagram’s targeting expand to be more like Facebook’s or to have new Instagram-specific options added.

paid performance report

If you don’t want to go into Ads Manager or Instagram’s app to examine your results, use Sprout’s Facebook & Instagram Paid Performance report. It easily illustrates how well your ads are performing and can generate a presentation-ready report for you in seconds. Plus, you can see these reports alongside analysis of the rest of your social presence without swapping between individual network sites.

For a more detailed look at advertising on both platforms, we recommend learning what’s needed for a successful Instagram ad campaign and making sure your Facebook advertising strategy is clearly in place.

And if reading this guide made you realize you need to reexamine your social strategy before you embark on paid ads, download our free social media toolkit to help you get started in a new direction.