Social media advertising allows marketers the opportunity to increase their brand’s visibility. You can also drive sales if you target messages to specific audiences based on different factors. These factors can range from where people live, to their purchase habits, as well as preferences in style, taste, entertainment, and more.

Facebook and Instagram both offer resources to refine paid social marketing through multiple content options. There’s also analytics that give insight into which messages work and which ones don’t. Because of the global popularity of both platforms, it’s likely the audience you want to reach is on either or both of them.

But, which one is best for your product or service? It depends on reach, demographics, and engagement.


It is important to assess how many people each platform may reach. Your goal may depend on your campaign’s desired visibility. Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. The app allows users to share photos and videos. By June 2018, the network reached 1 billion monthly active users.

Facebook is much larger, serving two billion people worldwide every month. Reach like that can help level the playing field for independent business that want to compete with companies with much larger budgets.

The payoff from both is exceptional: A Matchnode client, Look Human, wanted to find new buyers outside of their core audience. Their intent was to find new people outside of past Look Human buyers, and surface new products on Facebook and Instagram. They rolled out ads on Instagram and Facebook with a moderate daily budget, around 10x the target CPA to test multiple concepts at once.

Through paid social media advertising on Facebook and Instagram, the company achieved a 5.83 Return On Advertising Spend (ROAS) over one year.


The kind of resources Facebook and Instagram offer will help you determine which one suits your campaign.

The most basic form of Instagram advertising is lead ads. Lead ads collect valuable contact information from potential customers without pushing them off the platform. To create these ads requires three easy steps:

  1. Promoting a post within Instagram
  2. Creating Instagram ads for Facebook news feeds
  3. Creating Instagram Stories ads in Facebook Ads Manager

Instagram Stories ads appear above the user’s Instagram feed and are available for viewing for only 24 hours. These represent the best form of advertising on Instagram and are perfect if you seek to drive brand and product awareness, call for user-generated content, and announce sales.

Facebook Ads is the primary way to market on Facebook. Your ads need to provide value because Facebook wants to create a positive user experience with meaningful interactions. New Balance Chicago wanted to try paid social to drive traffic into their retail locations. Through offers established on Facebook, they created nearly 140,000 impressions with 600 offers claimed.

Through the custom audiences tool, you can segment and build audiences based on the interactions people have with your Facebook page and ads. This allows you to target only the most engaged people who will be hyper-responsive to your ad campaigns. Dynamic product ads give you the ability to retarget website visitors with ads for products they viewed but didn’t purchase.


Your platform choice also depends on the primary users of each. According to Pew, one-third of women are on Instagram, compared to just a quarter of men. Also, more than half of Instagram users (55%) are aged 18-29. For brands invested exclusively in reaching young people, particularly females, Instagram would be a safe bet.

The highest number of users on Facebook (82%) are also aged 18-29, however a close second (79%) are 30-49. Sixty-four percent are 50-64. While the platform is predominantly female (77%), nearly the same proportion of users (66%) are male. This suggests that Facebook might serve as a good resource to reach a broader spectrum of users, not just those confined to a specific gender or age bracket.

Your social media advertising strategies will be most effective if you study and learn from the data. There are still ways to leverage organic reach on Facebook, but, if you have the budget, paid social ads are the way to go.


Author Bio: Chris Madden is co-founder of Matchnode, a Chicago paid social agency. Matchnode works with established brands shifting to digital, including New Balance Chicago, Indiana University, and LendingTree.