In the past year and a half we’ve seen a real shift in social media. A move is happening away from the strict confines of the 140 character update towards something more visual.

More than ever, we are sharing images and video with one another — in increasingly simpler ways. In a relatively short amount of time Pinterest and Instagram have both grown into their own juggernaut communities.

Both of these services offer great, new, visual ways to connect with your fans and potential customers, but do you really need to focus on both? In the battle of Instagram vs. Pinterest, which one is a better fit for your brand?

A New Look At Conversation

One of the more transformative things social media has provided the business world is the ability to inject personality into a conversation and give customers a bit of a peek behind the curtain. Both Pinterest and Instagram allow your company to represent itself and invite conversation through images. But at their cores, these services are designed for very different purposes and audiences.

Instagram, billing itself as “a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your photos with friends and family,” is predominantly intended for quick, fleeting interaction. Its general use-case is for a member to open up the application, look at a few photos and then put it back down throughout his or her day. As a result, photos are listed in a feed based on chronological time. There is no official desktop version of the site, and navigating to an individual member’s set of photographs is de-emphasized for the sake of simplicity.

Pinterest, “a virtual pinboard that allows you to organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web,” is mostly designed for the desktop — where there is a lot more space to experiment with. The company’s distinctive waterfall layout leads to a very open and free-flowing experience. This gives the site’s visitors more options upfront — allowing them to bounce around, click-through and discover individual members and pinboards. Pinterest’s design also encourages frequent visits of different members’ boards to see new things.

Punch — Counterpunch

As you might expect, Instagram’s roots are tied closely to photography. The application is designed to reflect a narrative of what an individual sees in his or her life. And its methodology is pretty straightforward — see something cool, take a picture, share it with your friends.

Pinterest, on the other hand, is not necessarily specific to an individual. It is intended to be a collection of things from all over, which lends itself much better to group usage. This attribute may be its greatest strength. For example, the ability to “repin” an image allows your brand to get its content in front of a very wide variety of members.

If you pay attention to the web at all, it would have been hard to miss the recent press coverage of Instagram. For example, it made headlines in April with the announcement of its Android client, and its acquisition by Facebook.

Conversely, in February, studies were released that showed Pinterest as one of the fastest growing sites ever. Combine this stat with the fact that Pinterest membership is still “invite only,” and it’s clear the company is on to something.

Pinning Down a Winner?

Ultimately, Pinterest gives brands a lot more flexibility and its growth shows no signs of slowing any time soon. However, its effectiveness is really based on what your brand does and whether it jives with how people use Pinterest.

The site’s members seem to gravitate heavily towards design, decoration and party planning. Given that Pinterest referrals are 10 percent more likely to make purchases, the site offers retailers a great opportunity to feature their inventories and individual creatives to promote their services. If your brand fits within one of these verticals, you may find great success with Pinterest.

Instagram’s strength rests with how well it allows individuals to connect with each other. If you’re Snoop Dogg looking to give your fans a taste of your party lifestyle this might be great. If you’re not, it may be more important for you to connect with your audience on a more versatile platform like Pinterest.

So, who wins the battle of Instagram vs. Pinterest in your books? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

[Image Sources: John Morrison, Lordcolus, The U.S. Navy, Hatters Wrestling]