You have decided to enter the world of paid social marketing, but are torn between advertising on Instagram or Facebook.

Digital marketers all over face this decision at some point, and rightly so. Facebook and Instagram are constantly adding to their enormous list of active and engaged users, which makes advertising on these platforms highly tempting.

Facebook has long been leading the way as the most actively used social media platform. According to Statista, Facebook are nearing 2.5 billion active monthly users, with current usage at 2,414 billion. Instagram, in comparison, has around 1 billion monthly active users.

Instagram was launched in 2010 initially just for the iPhone. The app hit the ground running and its immense popularity saw Facebook purchase it for $1 billion, just two years after its launch in 2012.

Despite both being owned by Facebook Inc., the two platforms have remained as separate entities. However, Instagram shares the same powerful advertising tools as Facebook. So, which one to choose? This depends on several factors which this blog will look at, helping you make your decision.

Who is using Facebook and Instagram?

Women staring at chess board, contemplating her next move

Before making any decision on the platform for your paid social advertising, it is imperative to set a clear vision of who your target audiences are. Only then can you get an indication of which platform matches your target audience better.

Is Instagram the younger generation’s choice?

Out of those 1 billion users of Instagram, as of July 2019, over 71% of those users are under the age of 35. The age groups of 14-18 (31% of total users) and 25-34  (34% of total users) are by far the two most popular age groups for Instagram. 


However, 63% of the near 2.5 billion users that use Facebook are under the age of 35. This shows that Facebook is also very popular with the younger generation, and more popular with the older generation than Instagram. This means that if your target audience is older than 35, Facebook is likely to be the best option.

Instagram – The King of Brand Engagement?

To get people to engage with your brand is a major step towards successful social media marketing. Brand engagement acts as a good indicator of how well you are connecting with your targeted audience.

A recent study looked across 12 industries and found that Facebook sees a median engagement rate of 0.09% per post, compared to 1.6% on Instagram. Instagram say they have over 25 million business profiles worldwide, with more than 200 million users visiting a business profile daily. 

Another study found that brands can generate over 4 times more interactions on Instagram compared to Facebook. The creativity offered by Instagram advertising is one of the leading causes of the higher engagement rates.

Types of Advertising

Your preferred type of advertising also impacts the social media platform you should choose.

Video Ads

For video advertising, Facebook holds the advantage. In August 2017 Facebook announced Facebook Watch. This video-on-demand service features a mixture of user and professionally produced video content for users to watch. Facebook Watch can be accessed directly from the Facebook website and app. This service is said to already have amassed a global daily user base of 140 million. This service allows advertisers to reach out to people watching longer forms of content.

Facebook has been capitalising on this popularity by introducing the ‘ad breaks’ format which offers TV-style ads, either as pre-roll ads (ads that play before the video starts), mid-roll ads (ads that play during the video) and image ads (a static image ad that appears below the videos).

Man recording woman on dance floor

Video Placements on Facebook

After creating your video ad, Facebook gives you the option to manually place ads or to let Facebook automatically place ads where they are likely to perform best. Ads can be placed to appear on Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network and/or Messenger, depending on your objectives. For in-stream advertising there are two types of video placements, in-stream video and audience network in-stream video.

The in-stream video advertising placement lets you show 5-15 second video ads to people watching videos on Facebook and through Audience Network. Video placement on the Audience Network lets you show video ads to people while they're watching videos on websites and apps outside of Facebook, using the same targeting settings.


On Instagram, video advertising can only be a maximum of 2 minutes long for story and video feed ads. Video ads on Facebook can be a lot longer, giving you more room to get your message across the way you want to. 

However, one source suggests that the ideal length for standalone video ads should be less than 60 seconds anyway, so although Facebook allows for longer videos ads, the ideal video ad length should also be something to consider.

This is something we also strongly recommend. We have found that videos that are up to 15 seconds tend to perform the best, and they also have better versatility as they can be used across most video placements.


In 2016 Instagram launched Stories. Similar to Snapchat, this feature allows users to post images or videos. Instagram Stories happen faster than the speed of light (almost!) which expire after 24 hours. Instagram says that 500 million users use Stories every day, meaning happen faster than the speed of light and that a third of the most viewed Instagram stories are from businesses. 


Story ads are also available on Facebook. This feature is an ideal way to create short and creative videos that resonate with the targeted audience. Facebook says that more than 300 million people use Facebook Stories and Messenger Stories every day.

People on a carousel ride in mid air during daytime.

Carousel Ads

Carousel ads allow you to create a showcase of images or videos within a single advert. Carousel ads are ideal for engagement and are more interactive. Facebook and Instagram both offer carousel ads but there are some differences. On Instagram carousel ads can be incorporated into Instagram stories. This will display 1, 2 or 3 cards automatically and then offer the user the option to keep watching for the full 10 cards. Carousel ads can also be used for Messenger placements. 

These are said to be much more effective than single images ads, with one study finding that they get twice as many clicks.


Targeting is arguably the most important aspect of any form of marketing. Having the perfect message will not mean much if the right people are not seeing it. 

Instagram Ads can be run using the Facebook Ads manager. This means that both platforms share the same ads targeting options. Facebook and Instagram both have the primary targeting methods you would expect such as location, behaviours, demographics and interests. They also have other targeting options to help reach as many relevant people as possible.

Image of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Lookalike Audiences

This method allows ads to reach out to new people who are likely to be interested in your brand because they are similar to your existing customers, if for example you’re using Lookalike audiences for people who like your Facebook page, or build the lookalike audience based on a remarketing segment such as ‘people who purchased in the last 30 days’.

Custom Audiences

Custom audiences can include Remarketing audiences as a way to target people who have already interacted with your business, whether it’s via your website, or your Facebook page. However, to be able to set up custom audiences and remarketing you will need to have the Facebook pixel installed and configured on your website, to be able to track this type of traffic. This form of targeting is highly effective in boosting conversion rates as your messages are highly targeted and relevant to the people receiving them.


Overall, both platforms benefit from a wide variety of targeting options, so taking into consideration the reach you can achieve on each platform for your target audiences is important when making your decision.


In January, 96% of active users accessed Facebook via mobile devices. In comparison, unlike Facebook, Instagram is a platform made for mobile usage only. Although you can use Instagram on desktop, the features are limited. This means that if you advertise on Facebook, you can optimise your campaign for all types of devices. On Instagram, you are very much limited to mobile only.

Person logging into the Instagram app on their mobile phone.


Person putting coins into a piggy bank

The rewards of social media marketing can far outweigh the costs if done correctly. The cost of advertising on Facebook and Instagram depends on a number of factors, such as your ad objective, bidding type, audience, locations, ad quality, industry and other factors.

In general, Instagram, with its better engagement rates, costs more to advertise on than Facebook.

In our experience, if you are up to speed with Facebook advertising and experienced with optimisation, you can expect to see around an average of:

  • 3/4p per engagement for engagement campaigns
  • 3-10p per Facebook page like
  • 15-30p cost per click (CPC) for traffic campaigns
  • 50p-£2 for cost per a thousand impressions (CPM) for reach (if you are running reach campaigns)

Instagram follows the same bidding system as Facebook. A study analysed over 390 million Instagram campaign and found that the average CPC was around £1.37 and average CPM is over £6.30.

However, keep in mind these costs are averages and your costs can differ depending on a variety of factors. Though Instagram is the slightly more expensive option, the high engagement rates can make the extra costs worthwhile. 

Facebook, in comparison, is the cheaper option with a much larger reach but lower engagement rates. So, in terms of costs, all the factors mentioned above should be considered in your decision, as well as what your own budget is.

Instagram or Facebook … or Both?

Whichever platform you choose, the message of your ad and targeting are the crucial elements to perfect. Both Facebook and Instagram are amazing platforms to advertise on. Your decision should be dependent on what your goals and strategies are for your campaigns. In general, Instagram is the younger platform that tends to get greater engagement. This is better for more creative ads aimed at the younger generation. 

Facebook is the more established platform that boasts an unmatched reach of users of all ages. Your decision should begin with clearly defining your target audience and researching what platform they use the most and what types of messages they engage with.

If you are already using Facebook advertising, why not trial Instagram ads? And vice versa? Facebook ads manager allows you to easily run and manage ad campaigns on both platforms. This can also allow you to analyse ad performance on either platform, and compare which platform works better for you. The marketing team here at Williams Commerce has experience with paid social advertising with businesses of all types and sizes.

So whichever platform you choose, be sure to get in touch to see how we can help you get the most out of your paid social campaigns.