Facebook vs Instagram

Despite the rebranding at Meta, advertising options on Facebook and Instagram are expected to remain as we know them for the foreseeable future.

One hopes that the recent attention from public hearings will encourage the company to address its shortcomings.

At the same time, user engagement with ads on Facebook and Instagram and campaign performance appears to justify further marketing budget investment into these portals.

It is simple enough to scale a Facebook campaign with their integrated ad management platforms by extending it to Instagram.

In fact, many advertisers do so without much scrutiny and then look at the performance across both platforms as if it was a single entity. That can well yield positive results.

However, for the most efficient budget allocation and a more refined strategy, it is recommended to approach the two portals on a case-by-case basis.

So when should one advertise on both Facebook and Instagram simultaneously and when is it best to go with just one of them? The answer depends on the following 6 considerations:

  1. Audience reach.
  2. Ad format.
  3. Audience consideration stage.
  4. Supporting text content.
  5. Organic efforts within the platform.
  6. Campaign management resources.

1. Increase Your Audience Reach By Up To 25%

As of January 2021, 75% of all Facebook users were also on Instagram. This suggests the potential of up to 25% more reach by running your Facebook ads on Instagram, as well.

However, as that is an average, the actual incremental reach may be smaller. To be sure there is a notable reach gain, use the Audience Size estimator tool to estimate the size of the potential audience on each platform.

If the difference is within 10%, it is not recommended to run on both Facebook and Instagram.

The vast majority of users on one platform may already have seen it on the other and the minimal potential gains are unlikely to justify the work on your end to manage and report on that small level of incremental performance.

2. Benefit From Each Platform’s Unique Ad Formats

Instagram continues to evolve its ad formats, now supporting even some e-commerce features.

Even so, Instagram tends to be a destination for general inspiration and idea browsing rather than for users determined to transact.

Facebook, meanwhile, tends not to have the high-impact formats that would wow a user the way an Instagram ad would.

Consider running only on Instagram if the imagery is a dominant consideration, especially if it is meant to achieve a highly memorable impact.

If a short-form video is used with the goal of driving engagement with the video, Instagram is also the recommended first choice.

Facebook is a better focus for any “lower funnel” strategies, particularly for ecommerce or conversion-oriented campaigns where the transaction will happen outside the portal on a separate site.

Instagram users tend to be earlier in their consideration journey and tend to favour staying within the portal.

However, consider running on both platforms if your imagery is more functional than evocative and driving in-portal activity (e.g. comments, shares) is more important than off-portal traffic visits.

3. Tap Into Your Audience’s Intent

As alluded to further above, Facebook and Instagram users tend to skew in opposite directions when it comes to their intent.

Each platform attracts users within all stages of the marketing funnel. Yet Instagram tends to encourage more upper-funnel behavior encouraging browsing and high engagement with the visual ad assets.

By contrast, Facebook supports lots of lower funnel behavior allowing users to purchase, sign up and perform lots of other transaction-related actions.

Consider prioritizing Instagram for upper-funnel audience strategies, and Facebook for lower-funnel efforts.

If possible, run multiple efforts across both platforms, but with different creative assets and messaging so that each effort is most tailored to the user intent at each of these phases.

On the other hand, if you are developing a mid-funnel strategy, having the same approach for both Instagram and Facebook is sufficient.

4. Tailor The Supporting Text Content

Instagram is a primarily visual channel. While users are accustomed to reading some supporting text, Facebook is a better channel to use if significant supporting information needs sharing within the ad unit.

This includes not only the text that may be included within the visual but especially the text part of the heading and description fields.

If a moderate amount of text is needed, both platforms can be effectively leveraged.

However, if more than two sentences are used, Facebook is more likely where people will take time to read it.

5. Develop Synergies With Your Organic Efforts

Whether on Facebook or Instagram, your ad will be associated with your profile – and your organic feed, by extension. If your organic feed has not been active, consider ramping up organic activity leading up to the paid social campaign.

Paid ads give users the option to connect and see your organic profile.

Anyone who is not familiar with your business and (thanks to your captivating ad) now wants to learn more may want to navigate your organic profile.

It will be a poor user experience if they discover that the organic profile has had little activity.

If your organic presence on either Facebook or Instagram is not very strong, consider limiting your ads to only the platform with a stronger presence.

6. Resource Allocation To Optimize Each Platform

While many reporting and setup tools are shared between Facebook and Instagram, for best performance and analysis of results, one needs a strong understanding of each platform.

That takes having specialized resources with knowledge of each platform with the time to invest in managing each platform. If that is not the case for your team, avoid stretching your resources too thin and focus on just Facebook or Instagram.

The extra focus will pay dividends in the depth of optimization, which would be sacrificed if the same team had to do twice the work on two platforms.

More ad formats and capabilities will no doubt emerge as Meta evolves. Stay tuned and use these six criteria to decide if it’s best to run on both Facebook and Instagram or to focus all of your efforts on just one.