Should you run ads on Facebook or Instagram?

Social networks are changing. Over the last few years there’s been a decline in organic reach, owing to Facebook’s change in algorithm. Before, users liked a business or brand page and then content from that page would show up in their News Feed. Now, Facebook tries to show only the most relevant content, meaning not everyone who likes your page will see all of your posts.

That’s where Paid Social comes into play. In an increasingly competitive News Feed, brands can pay to reach their audience: with such advanced audience segmentation options available, brands can effectively target their ideal consumer with highly relevant content.

Facebook ads vs. Instagram ads

Facebook recommends that you place your ads across both social platforms, and seeing as ads for both Facebook and Instagram are created in the Facebook ad editor, they’ve made it easy for marketers to do so. (we wouldn’t recommend doing this). Despite the simplicity of doing so, is it always necessary to display ads on both? And does one platform perform better than the other?

Well that depends. Before choosing one over the other, or spreading your budget across both, there are three questions to ask:

  • How much do you have to spend?
  • Who do you want to see your ad?
  • What are your objectives?

Let’s break it down.


The way Facebook charges for their advertising space means you can spend as much or as little of your marketing budget as you want. The best way to compare the cost of Facebook and Instagram advertising is by taking a look at what you get in return for that spend.

Nanigans’ Instagram Advertising Benchmark Report from June 2016 compared the Cost per Click (CPC), Cost per Thousand Impressions (CPM) and Click- Through Rates (CTR) per 1,000 impressions on both Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook Instagram
CPC 34p 97p
CTR 1.3% 0.4%
CPM £4.34 £3.93

(prices converted from dollars to GBP at June 2016 exchange rate)

Facebook wins in the cost department – except when it comes to reach. It has a cheaper cost-per-click and a higher level of action, but Instagram comes in cheaper for views, meaning you can reach more people for less. For campaigns that prioritise reach over actions, Instagram may be a better choice.


You should also consider your audience. Facebook and Instagram play host to different demographics, and you should target your ads based on where your audience is.

Facebook has a huge 2 billion monthly active users, with a 53% female and 47% male breakdown. Of all online users, 56% of seniors aged 65+, 63% of 50-64-year olds, and 87% of 18-29-year olds are on Facebook.

Instagram has fewer monthly active users with 700 million. 68% of Instagram users are female, while 59% of 18-29-year olds and 33% of 30-49-year olds online use Instagram.

So, Facebook has a wider reach. Its larger number of active users spans across both genders equally and older generations also use the platform. This makes it great for targeting most audiences, but it offers the opportunity to communicate with older audiences – something which other social platforms can’t do.

Instagram has more female users and a younger demographic than Facebook, so it’s ideal for reaching a very specific audience where engagement for them is high. Importantly, engagement with businesses on Instagram has been found to be 10x higher than engagement on Facebook. Posting your ads on Instagram can boost your brand’s visibility and help your organic social performance too.


The final thing you need to do is decide what the objectives for your ad are. For the most part, both Facebook and Instagram have the same options for ad formats:

  • Image ads
  • Video ads
  • Carousel ads
  • Slideshow ads
  • Canvas ads
  • Recently, Facebook introduced the collection advert format (which isn’t available on Instagram, yet)

The platforms offer the same objectives for your ads and they each target for local and mass awareness of your brand. It all comes down to the difference in users’ behaviour and the level of engagement between Facebook and Instagram to determine which platform is best for your campaign objective.

Instagram’s higher level of engagement is an opportunity for increasing reach and brand awareness, particularly in specific demographics.

Facebook is better for campaigns looking for clicks and conversions and its span across a range of demographics means you can target very niche audiences with your product. With its huge reach, the potential for boosting brand awareness is significant – although remember that Facebook’s engagement is not as high as Instagram amongst young female audiences.

Which social platform should you choose?

The determining factor for running your ads on Facebook or Instagram ultimately rides on your business objectives and goals – it’s important to think about the platform’s cost of advertising, demographics and the levels of engagement they receive. When it comes to picking one over the other, Facebook’s wider reach might outweigh Instagram’s ability to target specific demographics, while Instagram’s high level of engagement with young female millennials might be more beneficial than Facebook’s cheaper CPC.

Sometimes, the answer might be both. Remember: if you aren’t advertising somewhere but your competitor is, you might be losing out on valuable brand awareness and traffic.

Want a taster of Instagram inspration? Here are Red Hot Penny’s top Instagram accounts.

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