Instagram vs. Facebook: Which One Is Best for Your Business?
by Jennifer Post | Published on May 18, 2022
These two social media platforms are the most recognized, so it’s no wonder Facebook bought Instagram and implemented many Facebook features to the platform, and vice versa. But they're different, especially when it comes to business uses.
Instagram vs. Facebook: Audience and active users
The biggest user group in both Facebook and Instagram is 25 to 34 years old. But don't conclude it doesn’t matter which one you use to execute your social media campaign because it does.
Think about it this way. I've had a Facebook account since 2007, but I never post on it or engage with anything on it. I fall into the biggest age range user group, but I’m not considered an active user.
On the flip side, I’ve had an Instagram account since 2013, and I engage with it many times a day. It’s not so much about the age of the people with accounts, but the age of people active on the platforms.
The millennial generation, 25-34 years old, constitutes 33.1% of all Instagram accounts. Instagram has come a long way since most users in that generation started their accounts, but users grow with the platform, and new users pop up every day.
Let’s look closely at Instagram's user base.
Active users will engage with your business, so think about who uses Instagram, instead of just who has an Instagram account.
Facebook has been around for much longer than Instagram, and like Instagram, the main age group for users is 25-34 years old, making up 26.3% of all Facebook users. Unlike Instagram, the next biggest group is older, not younger.
Think of whose posts you see the most often on your Facebook timeline. For most people, it’s going to be older relatives or parents of kids they grew up with. Younger people might make up a large number of account holders, but you might find they aren’t the most active.
Instagram vs. Facebook: Features and functionality
Since Facebook owns both platforms, there are bound to be similarities, but there are plenty of differences. Tracking social media metrics works similarly on both, but each offers a unique set of features.
Instagram has always been a photo-sharing app, but new features are being added constantly.
Here's a closer look at some of the key business-related features of Instagram.
- Shop. If your business sells something, when you post a photo of that item on Instagram, you can allow users to purchase the items in the photo directly through Instagram. This is great if you’re using Instagram for Business.
- Close friends. You can list users you consider close friends or people you want to target specifically. When you create an Instagram story, you can set it so only those people can see it. This could be a special sale, a re-engagement effort, or something else geared toward that group specifically.
- Followers. Anyone can follow anyone on Instagram. It doesn’t have to be reciprocated, and unless you have a private account, you don’t have to accept anyone’s follow request. For your business, it’s highly recommended to be a public account, so people can follow you without hassle.
- Liking and commenting. Any time you post a photo, it can be liked, commented on, and shared by anyone. This is all good engagement for your posts and will positively impact your Instagram analytics.
At this point in the Facebook-Instagram comparison, some things start to change, but others, such as the like and comment features, are the same.
Other features have been added since the beginning, but what are the Facebook features you should be focusing on? The ones below all have the best chance of gaining you better numbers on your Facebook analytics.
- Friends. This differs from Instagram in that when someone wants to be your friend, they have to send you a request, you have to accept it, and then you're their friend too.
- Page likes. For a business, you won’t have friends, but you’ll have page likes. These are the people who clicked the like button on your business page.
- Newsfeed. All of the posts from pages you follow or like will come up on your news feed. It shows you the latest posts from those pages, and you can interact with them however you choose. The same goes for how your business will show up on the feeds of those who like your page.
- Sharing. Any post on Facebook can be shared unless you’ve set your privacy setting to not allow it. As a business, you should allow your posts to be shared to spread the word about your business as much as possible. Users can share your posts to their timeline or send them to someone as a direct message.
Instagram vs. Facebook: Content types
While similar content types can be posted on both Instagram and Facebook, they won’t perform the same on both platforms. Here’s why.
If your business can’t accurately be represented by just posting photos, Instagram probably isn’t the best platform for you. To understand why, consider these key content types for Instagram.
- Photo sharing. This is how customers of all kinds can engage with your business. Through the photos you post, customers can like, comment, share, save, and buy right from your post.
- Stories. Stories is where businesses can post more constant updates about products, share customer photos, ask questions, etc., all to further engage with customers. These stories last for 24 hours and then are gone unless added to highlights.
- Instagram Live. Instagram Live is a newer content type for Instagram. It allows users to stream whatever they want, as long as it doesn’t violate any guidelines. As a business owner, you can chat directly with customers, show off products in real time, or just use it as a platform to show your personality.
- Instagram Reels. This is Instagram’s attempt at incorporating a bit of TikTok into the platform. Reels are 15-second videos that usually include music, on-screen text, and creative editing.
Facebook focuses much more on text than photos. If most of your business happens through word-of-mouth, customer referrals, or local advertisements, Facebook might be the best option for you.
Here are the content types that perform best on Facebook.
- Link sharing. If your business is mentioned in an article, share the link to that article. A featured image and brief description will appear under the link, and those who like your Facebook page can click right through to read about your business.
- Status updates. You can post updates about your business, such as hours of operation, right on your timeline as a status update, and anyone who likes your business page will see it on their news feed.
- Photos. You can post photos of business-related items, but if this is your primary post type, think about putting the photo on Instagram and leaving it off Facebook entirely.
The idea of posting the same thing on both platforms is a pain point for social media managers. Sure, it makes it easier if using a social media management tool, but imagine being the follower viewing the same photo and caption on more than one platform.
Instagram vs. Facebook: Paid advertising
Many consider Instagram and Facebook to be free advertising because it costs nothing to create an account and start posting, but each platform offers paid advertising options as well.
When it comes to paid Instagram vs. Facebook ads, Instagram has a few more options. Here are the ways you can advertise your business on Instagram.
- Stories ads. When you tap through stories on Instagram, you see ones from people you follow, but you also see advertisements, usually tailored to your interaction habits.
- Photo ads. These work much like stories ads, except they will show up on a user's feed as a regular post, with the disclaimer it's an advertisement. People do not have to be following these businesses to see ads from them.
- Video ads. Video ads can be up to 120 seconds long. They present themselves on a user’s main feed in the same way a photo ad will.
- Carousel ads. These are photo or video ads users can swipe through and can contain up to ten photos or videos.
- Collection ads. If you have a product line of related items, you can group the photos or videos together into one ad post so people can click and shop the featured items.
- Explore ads. This allows businesses to advertise to those who don’t follow them, by putting their photo, video, carousel, or collection ad on the explore page as opposed to a main feed.
If you’re wondering how to advertise on Facebook, it’s very similar to Instagram, which should be no surprise. Facebook offers the same photo, video, carousel, and collection ad types that Instagram does. They work much in the same way, and again, are paid advertisements.
Instagram vs. Facebook: Analytics
What's the point of advertising on social media if you’re not thinking about Facebook vs. Instagram stats? Tracking on each is similar, but the numbers could be drastically different based on how you use each platform and who your business’s target audience is.
Instagram analytics provides detailed information to determine if your marketing efforts are paying off. Here are some of the things you can track to see the progress of your marketing efforts:
This metric measures the number of people who have seen your post. These could be followers or just passers-by. The larger the number, the better chance you'll increase your follower count and engagement.
If your main goal is to sell your products on Instagram, tracking is key. If you aren’t seeing much growth, try changing your approach or asking your followers what they prefer in terms of posts and shopping options.
You’ll need to use Google Analytics or a similar product to track this metric.
Each account holder can save posts from other accounts to separate albums. Instagram tracks how many of your posts get saved to someone’s album. This is a good way to gauge interest in your posts, especially if you start to see a trend in which certain posts are getting saved.
Engagement includes any way that customers can interact with your business on Instagram, including likes, comments, and saves. Having a large follower count is one thing, but it’s almost meaningless if your posts get little engagement.
Especially with the new algorithm changes, Instagram pushes posts with higher engagement, even among your followers, so people could be missing your posts altogether if they have low engagement.
Instagram stories views
Followers aren’t the only people who can view your stories, so this is actually an important metric. Each viewer is only counted once, but since stories can be sent to other users via direct message, you can gain viewers easily.
Additionally, if someone comes across a photo of yours they like, they’re likely to go to your page and look at more stuff, including your stories, so make them interesting.
Best time to post
This can be tricky because it’s always changing. Let’s look at an example.
Say you plan your social media posts on a weekly basis, the first one going out on Monday. To gauge when you should post, look at the metrics from the previous week. This will show you at what times and on what days those posts did the best.
The numbers can be misleading and shouldn’t be used as a hard and fast rule for posting, but rather as a guideline for when you should continue to post in order to get the most reach and engagement. Don’t be afraid to try other times as well.
At the end of the month, you can round up all those days and hours that were successful and use that going into the next month, since it will contain more data and give you a more accurate idea of the best times to post.
Track your follower growth. Instagram insights doesn’t automatically do this for you, but it will show you how many followers you gain on a day-to-day basis, and you can use that to determine your growth over a certain period of time.
It’s important to track this because if you find yourself not gaining new followers, it means something else in your social media strategy has to change.
Traffic is different from reach in that it tracks those who have visited your website from your Instagram page via a link posted elsewhere. If you put a link to your website in your stories or as part of your bio on your main profile and people click through to your website from there, that counts as traffic.
There are also metrics that you should be tracking for your business Facebook account. The following are the same as Instagram but are tracked through Facebook’s Insights page.
The ones below are a bit different from Instagram.
Page likes and follows
This is similar to the follower growth metric for Instagram, except it tracks how many people have liked and followed your business Facebook page, as well as how many people have unliked or unfollowed.
This differs from reach on Instagram in that impressions count the number of times your post was seen, even if it’s seen multiple times by the same user. This is an important distinction because it’s not so much about how many accounts the post reached, it’s about the impact they had on a user.
If people are viewing a particular post more than once, it's a good sign you published something worth going back to.
This tracks the efficiency of your Facebook ads. It works much like tracking traffic on Instagram, in that it tracks how many people click through to your website from your Facebook ad.
Social media advertising is crucial for your business, but you don’t have to rely on only one platform. It’s about using the platforms that give the best return on your advertising investments.
Instagram and Facebook, on the surface, appear to have the same demographics. But when you look deeper, that might not be the reality, or even beneficial to your business. Test both platforms out, track meaningful metrics, and figure out if Facebook or Instagram is best for your business.
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