Facebook Ads vs. Instagram Ads: Which Platform is the Best Fit for Your Business in 2021?

Social Media Mar 9, 2021 22 minutes read

Table of contents

    If you have a limited social media marketing budget, you can’t afford to be present on every major social media channel, so the question remains – should you opt for Facebook or Instagram ads? Like in every other comparison post we did so far, the answer is – it depends.

    Both Instagram and Facebook are widely popular platforms among different audience segments, and both channels offer multiple ad formats, ad targeting features, and much more.

    Already getting a headache? Fret not because, in this report, we’ll do the legwork for you. We pitted Facebook ads against Instagram ads and also got expert opinions on which platform-specific ads are working better.

    Altogether, here’s what you’ll learn today to get your answer to which platform is best for your business:

    Facebook Ads Dashboard Template

    Advantages of Running Ads on Facebook

    Let’s begin by listing some of the major benefits of Facebook ads:

    • Facebook is the most widely used social media platform

    No kidding! Facebook has over 2.7 billion users – higher than Instagram and all other platforms. Of course, that’s not something to take lightly as your target audience would surely be using Facebook.

    • All age groups use Facebook

    From youngsters to seniors, nearly everyone uses Facebook. In fact, 76% of 18-24 years olds use Facebook, 79% of 30–49-year-olds use it too. And, 46% of 65+-year-olds are also on the network.

    The take-home message? All age groups see ads on Facebook, which makes it advantageous to run Facebook ads.

    • Facebook is also the most visited social media platform

    74% of FB users visit the site at least once daily. This is higher than Instagram’s daily users. Again, this means that the chances of your audience seeing your ads are high.

    • Both B2B and B2C companies use it

    Here’s another benefit of running ads on Facebook: it’s not limited to B2C businesses only. In fact, B2B and service-based businesses all use Facebook. In short, no matter who your audience is, it’s likely they are present on FB.

    • Facebook offers a lot of effective ad features

    When we asked 300+ Facebook advertisers in our recent research on Facebook ads to tell us the Facebook feature they’ve found to be the most effective, majority of them listed Facebook ads. And it’s no wonder, considering it offers advertisers benefits ranging from being able to retarget your audience, to creating lookalike audiences, and multiple ad formats, measurement capabilities, and targeting options.

    Related: 11 Facebook Retargeting Tips for Converting Warm Leads

    Advantages of Running Ads on Instagram

    As for Instagram, you can drive the following advantages from running ads on the platform:

    • Instagram’s audience purchases a lot from the app

    One-third of Instagram users have bought something from the platform. Meaning: they are into a purchasing mindset, paving way for more ad conversion on the app.

    • The platform’s organic functionality is great

    One huge plus of using Instagram is its potential to help you build your brand organically. In addition to paid ads on the platform, you can build your brand on the side (without spending a dime). Do it right and you’ll be able to grow your followers, fans, and word of mouth referrals – all helping increase ad conversion.

    • Engagement rate on Instagram is high

    Building up further on organic growth on IG for better paid ads results, know that the median rate of engagement for branded posts is 3.5%. This is higher than the engagement rate on Facebook.

    What’s more, engagement with brands on the network is ten times higher than on Facebook. Such an engagement rate helps you build better customer relationships. This, in turn, can help increase ad effectiveness. Easily measure your engagement rate on Instagram using this social media dashboard software.

    Should You Be Running Both Facebook Ads and Instagram Ads?

    The answer here again is — it depends.

    Several reasons as discussed above and those that we’ll talk about in a bit indicate that running ads on both platforms is beneficial. Where Facebook has a wide audience, Instagram has better engagement and an audience with high purchase intent.

    However, if you are short on resources and have to pick one – go for the platform where your audience is. If it’s a wide audience that you target, you’ll find Facebook ads useful when it comes to Facebook ads vs. Instagram ads.

    Similarly, you need to take other factors into account too. For example, as you’ll learn below, Instagram is a visual-first platform. This makes it a good choice to run IG ads if your business can build trust with visuals better.

    In the same way, Facebook is a community-oriented platform so if you think your business can benefit from it, consider Facebook ads instead of running ads on Instagram.

    Also, keep in mind that “the two platforms require different messaging, tone, and creative assets,” Kinsta’s Tom Zsomborgi adds. “Audiences are different meaning that even your best-performing Facebook ads don’t perform at all on Instagram.”

    In regard to Facebook ads vs. Instagram ads, when it comes to our experts though, they’re seeing more success with Facebook. The platform gets them more traffic with 70% getting more traffic from the platform:

    Facebook vs. Instagram in terms of generating traffic data

    When it comes to generating leads, Facebook wins here as well:

    Facebook vs. Instagram in terms of generating leads data

    Facebook helps them generate more sales from ads too:

    Facebook vs. Instagram in terms of generating sales data

    The answers complied for this report come from B2B. B2C and D2C businesses. The exact details are presented in the graphic below.

    How Much Does It Cost to Advertise on Facebook & Instagram?

    If done well, Facebook ads are budget-friendly. It costs $5 to $8 for advertising your product to every 1000 people. In contrast, traditional advertising costs $50 for showing up to the same number of people.

    In terms of cost per click (CPC), the average cost stands at $0.27 per click with cost per thousand impressions (CPM) standing at $7.19.

    See more: If you are interested in learning more about Facebook ads cost, we did our own research along with identifying some ways to maximize ad spend and lower Facebook Ad CPM.

    As for Instagram ads, CPC ranges between $0.50 – $0.95, and CPM costs $2.50-3.50. Depending on your bidding model though, Instagram ads cost anywhere between $0.20 to $6.70.

    Facebook Ads vs. Instagram Ads: How to Choose the Best Platform For Your Business in 2021?

    Opinions on Facebook ads vs. Instagram ads from our pool of experts fall into 3 categories broadly: Facebook ads, Instagram ads, and ads on both platforms. So you’ll find answers mainly in these categories below.

    Before we go on, we again want to emphasize the importance of picking a platform according to your audience. We’ve already discussed how different audiences use Facebook and Instagram. So, your choice should go toward running ads on the platform where your audience spends the most time.

    Here’s why.

    According to Mary Haley of MXH Marketing “Effectiveness on either platform is going to be determined by where your audience lives and engages most. Instagram has a younger audience while Facebook tends to trend toward older users. So, if you’re selling a senior-specific product you won’t generate many leads on Instagram,”

    Finden Marketing’s Andrew Weisz agrees, “Personally it really depends on who is behind the wheel and who you are trying to target. Instagram is a fantastic tool for products that want to increase sales while Facebook is fantastic for services that want to increase sales (since Instagram is a visual showcase and Facebook is more of a story-driven content).”

    That said, keep in mind that you need to “tailor your ads to what each platform is good at,” Haley notes. “Many people run the same ad across both platforms but those ads display and interact differently with each placement. The most effective ads are designed specifically for each platform.”

    Know your audience? Then let’s discuss other details that can help you decide between Facebook and Instagram ads.

    Experts in Favor of Advertising on Instagram

    Here’s the first broad group of responses that call IG ads a winner in comparison with FB ads.

    1. Instagram engages ad audiences better as it’s a visual platform
    2. Instagram drives better engagement
    3. IG is great for eCommerce businesses

    1. Instagram engages ad audiences better as it’s a visual platform

    Visuals tend to communicate information 60,000 (!) faster than text. So, if you’ve got lots of visual content to share, Instagram is your go-to ad platform.

    Natalie Maximets from onlinedivorce outlines, “Due to the nature of Instagram that allows you to do your marketing initiatives through catchy images, this platform is a better option when it comes to driving awareness about your business product/service.”

    For instance, businesses in the apparel industry can benefit more from a visual-first platform like Instagram. The team at DUNK Basketball is able to use IG ads to “regularly generates 12x leads and sales compared to that raised from Facebook,” shares Ben Arndt.

    Related: Clicks but no Conversions? 19 Tips on How to Convert Paid Traffic into Qualified Leads

    Arndt explains, “There are two primary reasons Instagram has become a champion for our business:

    • Our product (custom basketball jerseys – think bright, vibrant and aesthetically pleasing designs) lends its particularly favorably to the visual platform that Instagram has established itself as.
    • Our primary target market of active 19-39-year-old males has a higher usage and interaction rate on Instagram as opposed to Facebook.”

    The same is true for a beverage business according to the experience of the team at YOURS Non-Alcoholic Drinks. Kelly Bertog comments, “Instagram has proven to be a much more effective driver of awareness, leads, and sales for our business. We are a beverage brand, and our marketing and messaging is based around building a positive lifestyle.

    As an image-first platform, we believe Instagram is the clear winner when it comes to crafting a narrative for our customers. Instagram is show, not tell. And if you can develop even rudimentary skills as a photographer for your business, you can create a channel that drives the message of your brand home, leading to a dramatic influx of customers.”

    In short, “For companies with a lot of visual content to share, Instagram is a great choice because most of its user base will engage with more visual content than written text.” According to Milkwhale’s Andre Oentoro. “Videos are a plus when it comes to this platform as well since they can retain users from scrolling.”

    2. Instagram drives better engagement

    While engagement comes from a platform where your audience is, Sparkr Marketing’s Wendy Margolin favors IG ads in the choice between Facebook ads vs. Instagram ads.

    Margolin elaborates, “Facebook and Instagram operate on the same ad platform–Facebook Business Manager. Most businesses I work with run simultaneous ads to both channels.

    That said, Instagram Stories ads have been performing better for me than ads in the feed.

    Also, Instagram tends to get better engagement than Facebook business pages, so I recommend building an audience from those who engage with your Instagram audience. You can use that audience for Facebook and Instagram ads, as well as create lookalike audiences.”

    Keeping Maroglin’s experience to the fore, here’s an action step for you: “Test out a 15-second version of your ads specifically for Instagram Stories,” Margolin suggests. This way, you can tell how well Instagram Story ads can benefit your business. Easily track your engagement rate on Instagram using these social media dashboards,

    3. IG is great for eCommerce businesses

    “Direct commerce on Facebook has been attempted several times, with only moderate success. But commerce on Instagram is constructed so tightly into the experience, that it appears like a very logical extension of the platform,” suggests Messagely’s Jeff Cooper.

    In fact, Cooper goes on to say, “I’ve myself bought a bunch of stuff on Instagram, and the elegance of the targeting algorithm is very effective. And the practice is continuing to get even more satisfying, for users and for merchants.

    Instagram late last year also stated that they are rolling out in-app payments, indicating that you can purchase from the photo straight, without having to drop Instagram to hit a website. This is going to remodel Instagram into a business powerhouse for products.”

    On top of this, changes in Instagram’s layout don’t tend to be as harsh as those on Facebook.

    “From a marketing viewpoint, the continuous changes to Facebook’s layout algorithm for News Feed make it more difficult (some say futile) to try to obtain organic reach for business posts,” explains Cooper.

    “In contrast, while Instagram performs changes, to be sure, they are less harsh, and the brand/user détente on Instagram is much more enjoyable overall.”

    Related: Instagram Ads For Beginners: 8 Tips for Creating High-Performing Instagram Ads

    Experts in Favor of Advertising on Instagram

    Next up, here’s why running Facebook ads is better than ads on Instagram.

    1. Facebook offers more audience refining tools
    2. Facebook has a wider audience base
    3. Facebook offers more interactive features
    4. Facebook allows for better audience targeting
    5. Facebook offers a community-building aspect
    6. FB offers more advertising placements

    1. Facebook offers more audience refining tools

    From detailed targeting to targeting a broader audience with target expansion, there are a lot of features that Facebook offers.  

    It’s why David Bitton experience at DoorLoop tips in favor of Facebook ads. Bitton shares, “In our case, Facebook has been the superior platform for boosting campaigns and awareness for our brand as we consistently experience higher rates of new audience reach and engagement through our Facebook ad campaigns.

    Not to mention, most audience refining tools offer features that highly emphasize utility for Facebook campaigning much more than for other platforms.”

    As a result, “So far, we find Facebook as the most optimal platform that effectively helped established our brand’s position on the market and has significantly contributed to the overall improvement of the business’ marketing outreach strategies,” Bitton adds.

    2. Facebook has a wider audience base

    Speaking of expanded targeting, Facebook’s audience based in also widely applauded.

    TJ Kelly of Cadenzify, for example, writes, “Instagram may be trendier and more popular among younger demographics. No dispute there. But Facebook is 2.3x bigger than Instagram. The numbers are undeniable: Facebook is where the audience is (with a few exceptions for demographic and vertical).”

    Vickie Pierre from SR22InsuranceQuotes.org echoes the same. “Without a doubt, Facebook has been a far more effective tool in generating leads for our business. The reason is simple: Facebook best suits a wider variety and a larger number of users.”

    So, if your ad audience is broader than a group of youngers, you’ll find Facebook ads more effective in 2021. “And if we know anything about Facebook, it’s that it draws people of all ages. It’s a platform that many find relatively easy to use and navigate,” Pierre highlights.

    “As a result,” Pierre says, “we have found that in the platform’s ease of access, simplicity, and broad use, we generate far more leads and responses for our business. This doesn’t mean that we don’t invest in our Instagram profile. But it does mean that we consistently delegate more resources where we’re getting a stronger return on investment.”

    Want an example? Facebook is great for a mold removal business like Mold Busters. John Ward from the company shares why FB ads have worked so well for them: “The reason being is that our targeted market is homeowners that tend to be older than the average Instagram user.”

    “In addition, there is a much larger total audience,” Ward points out. “We can reach more people organically through quizzes and using your Youtube channel. If any company is marketing on Facebook alone, they should use the stories function to their advantage because it will post to Instagram as well without extra action.”

    3. Facebook offers more interactive features

    Not only does Facebook provide a wide audience base, but it’s also effective due to the community-building approach that Facebook groups offer. Consequently, you can get your target audience to engage better with you.

    “Facebook is more effective at driving sales and leads because it is a more robust community,” notes Finding Balance’s Lily Ugbaja. “It has the option of either having a Facebook Group or Facebook Page tied to the ad (as CTA). This gives room for more interactions, feedbacks and conversion of leads.”

    4. Facebook allows for better audience targeting

    On top of this, Facebook’s audience targeting also tops Instagram’s.

    John Ross from MCAT Prep Insights credits this feature to their success with FB ads. “All of our major metrics, including clicks, conversions, and general engagement, are superior with Facebook.”

    Ross opens up “I suspect that is because Facebook Groups allow us to more narrowly target our key audiences. Instagram provides excellent data, allowing for narrow ad targeting as well, but it is the Facebook Groups that really allow us to perform well.

    In addition, the format of Facebook ads seems to align better for clicks and conversions. Instagram ads have a shorter view time on average, as people quickly scroll over them. Facebook ads, however, receive slightly longer time on page, allowing people to recognize and connect with the ad.”

    5. Facebook offers a community-building aspect

    Expanding on the community-building aspect, let’s dig into how Facebook groups can help you create a closely-knit community of your target audience.

    Such a group-based community can help you in multiple ways. For example, by helping you understand your audience better, getting a better idea of the language they use, sourcing feedback from them, and so on.

    Thanks to this aspect, Lisa Mariette finds a lot of success from Facebook ads when it comes to Facebook ads vs. Instagram ads. “Facebook hands down has been the best choice for me. My business model is based on building a community, and because Instagram is more like a shiny brochure for your business, people are not as invested.

    It’s more about scrolling and liking pictures or watching funny videos. I’ve made sales through Instagram but it takes much more time, effort, and energy than Facebook marketing.”

    However, Mariette goes on, “In Facebook groups, people have opted in so you know they are already interested in your offer. On Instagram, because of the algorithm, you are not shown to many people and many of the people who reach out are prospecting to see if YOU are a potential customer. It’s completely backward.

    In Facebook groups, people feel safer because it’s a closed community. They get their questions answered and you are truly building relationships and trust, which is the key to making sales.”

    It’s due to all this that Mariette opines, “Instagram is good for visibility and people getting to know you by passively observing, and Facebook is where you actually connect.”

    6. FB offers more advertising placements

    Lastly, Facebook ads win due to their larger number of advertisement placements. These are places where you can place your ads. Since FB has more of those, your odds of success with them are also high AKvertise’s Akvile DeFazio suggests.

    “Facebook, as there are more advertising placements, thus more opportunities to get in front of our target audiences, drive awareness, higher engagement rates, as Facebook reports on more engagement varieties than Instagram, and in terms of leads and sales, we do see a higher volume as a result of more placements and impressions.”

    There’s no denying that “Instagram is very effective, but with fewer impressions and placements, volume for those metrics and goals is naturally lower,” DeFazio insists.

    Experts in Favor of Using both Facebook and Instagram Ads

    Now, for the last batch of suggestions in Facebook ads vs. Instagram ads that recommend using both platforms.

    “Both platforms have a lot to offer and can give a high Rate of Investment (ROI). It depends on the business type also; some types of ads do better on one platform while some on the other, like images and video ads,” suggests Conexa’s Tim Culpepper

    Jonathan Aufray from Growth Hackers goes into more details: “For brand awareness, Instagram is definitely the go-to platform. However, for lead generation and sales, from my experience, Facebook is better.

    So, I recommend you publish content on both platforms but different types of content. On Instagram, I suggest you make a profile that is attractive and respects your branding guidelines. A lot of companies and individuals will check your IG account to browse your content and if they like what they see, they might reach out. In that case, Instagram is more of a social proof platform than a lead gen one.”

    “On another hand, Facebook is a ‘pay-to-play’ kind of platform where you actually need to run ads to get results. The reach of organic posts on Facebook is very low but the quality of leads you can get when running high-quality ads with the right targeting has proven to be very high,” Aufray continues.

    In a nutshell, “use Instagram for organic reach and brand awareness and use Facebook ads for lead generation and sales.”

    So, it makes sense to tap into both the visual nature and mobile-friendliness of Instagram and drawing from the targeting tools and wide audience base that FB offers.

    Ready to use both platforms for running ads for your business?

    Katherine Pomeroy from 45/RPM has the perfect tip for you – drawn from their own plans for ads, “Our goal is to utilize both Instagram and Facebook to generate awareness, so understanding the weak points and strong points on both platforms is essential.

    To do this we use Google Analytics to get a better insight on performance for both platforms to make educated decisions surrounding our ads and ad placement.”

    Whatever You Choose, Keep Testing

    Before we wrap this up, here’s one last tip that’s pretty important for running ads irrespective of the platform: keep testing. The reason? What may work for you today, might not work tomorrow or vice versa.

    The same is true for Efferent Media. Joe Czarniecki shares, “With over six years of experience using both the Facebook and Instagram platforms, I’ve had more success with Facebook in increasing brand awareness, leads, and sales for Efferent Media.

    However, more recently (within the past two years), I have seen better results on the Instagram platform, specifically in driving brand awareness.

    We’ve seen a 21% decrease in cost per engagement and cost per link click on Instagram vs. Facebook by running both engagement, traffic, and follower campaigns through the platform.”

    Lesson learned? Keep experimenting.

    Facebook Ads Dashboard Template

    Your choice between Facebook ads vs. Instagram depends on a lot of favors including your target audience, what your business is about, and more. With these tips though, one thing is certain: you should be able to make a decision easier than before.

    Article by
    Masooma Memon

    Masooma is a freelance writer for SaaS and a lover to-do lists. When she's not writing, she usually has her head buried in a business book or fantasy novel.

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