The Oldest Problem in the Book: Facebook or Instagram?

phone with social media icons, some crossed off

You know, we pride ourselves on being a reflective sort here at Strathcom Media. More than once, I’ve found myself sitting in my oak-bedecked corner office (most of us here have one), pondering a certain large, dark portrait that looms high on the wall and which ties the room together rather nicely. Glaring down at me is the grizzled oil-cast countenance of our own hallowed founder, Fauntleroy Pamplemouse the Sixth, Earl of Strathcom. I often think of how different the automotive advertising game must have been, back in 1886, when our noble firm was founded. Much has changed since; the marketing tools we work with are more persistent and more precise. What would Ol’ Faunty have thought about the marketing possibilities for platforms like Facebook and Instagram? What advice would he have dispensed to clients in the throes of deciding on which of Zuck’s social networks to focus their digital marketing spend? Alas, while we might not have Lord Strathcom himself here to give his insights on the topic, we have a close second. Myself.

James McCosh - Scanned 1887 Engraving

Facebook is everywhere. We all know this. Most businesses maintain a Facebook page these days, and the space is universally recognized and utilized as one of the most effective properties on which to market digitally. Due to the power of its omnipotent algorithm (that mysterious, adaptive mathematical entity which likely feeds on discarded and dismembered chunks of MySpace and Nexopia), Facebook has a considerable and proven power to target consumers based on their most minute interests. Couple Facebook’s formidability as a tool with it’s sheer size (about 1/6th of the Earth’s population have taken the pill), and you, the marketer, have a powerful channel through which to engage the consumer and draw them ever closer to conversion.

hold holding phone with facebook app

In 2012, Mark Zuckberg decided to adopt Instagram for a billion dollars. While Facebook, the older biological brainchild was no doubt jealous at the acquisition of its newer, more whimsical, exhibitionist sibling, the intervening years have seen the two become increasingly integrated. While it doesn’t have the same reach as its older blue sibling, Instagram still boasts a clientele of some 800 million, with around 500 million of those being daily users.

hand holding phone with instagram open

Part of Instagram’s pitch consists in its propensity to connect people and businesses in meaningful ways, placing a premium on visual hooks. People look to Instagram to discover new places, trends, products, and brands, with the advantage of utilizing visual expression to drive visible action. It sells itself as a full funnel solution designed to support every objective, from brand awareness, to demanding generation, to conversion, and finally loyalty. With most of people’s time on Mobile devices being spent on apps (~3 hours daily), and with an increasing amount of shopping activity taking place on the medium, Instagram is well-positioned in the social media marketing race, with no signs of slowing down; quite the opposite.

Of course, you, the client, are bound to work within a fixed social media marketing budget and you’ve got the task of figuring what’s best spent where. Yes, the younger, more Mobile-active age demographic resides on Instagram but, then again, Facebook is especially effective when it comes to increasing brand visibility without targeting a specific age group. Instagram has a strong organic reach thanks to the ability to follow hashtags and its “Suggestions for You” section, but even if engagement from organic posts are lower on Facebook there is still a larger audience overall. Determining the goals of individual campaigns is likely a huge part of determining which of these two deserve your ad spend.

Then again, you might choose to run ads on both platforms, in which case it’s a good idea to design campaigns that play to the strengths of each. Both can serve ads in a variety of formats. The bread and butter of Instagram (unsurprisingly) is image-rich creative that stop thumbs; the same goes for Facebook. The chief consideration for advertising within the Facebook family (Facebook, Instagram, Audience Network, and Messenger) is simplicity of message; that message won’t mean much unless you’re certain that you’re optimizing the right delivery method your campaign’s objective. This means being conscious of cross-device audiences (desktop and mobile) and ensuring that you’re working for the best user experience on each. In the end, the most efficient way to buy advertising on Instagram is to run your campaign across all available platforms, thus enabling the auction to optimize for the cheapest conversions across all of Facebook’s properties.

men riding penny farthings

All those years ago, when Strathcom Media was founded, automobiles had only two wheels and were called “bicycles”. We reached our audience through old-timey murals on the sides of downtown brick warehouses, and on the sides of carriages. Today, while traditional advertising methods approach their ultimate, collective death rattle, we’ve taken to the digital space with an impressive arsenal of precision tools that can be calibrated to serve your marketing message to the person you want to see it, when you want them to see it. When it comes to choosing Facebook or Instagram, the most diplomatic answer is that neither are mutually exclusive; in fact, it’s the other way around. Both offer gateways to significant user populations and practically beg advertisers to utilize them and the rest of the Facebook family in conjunction with one another. I might be so bold as to suggest that our founding father, Ol’ Fauntleroy would agree.

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