Despite being owned by the same company, Facebook and Instagram advertisements are quite different. This doesn’t come as a huge surprise as each social network caters to a different kind of consumer. However, knowing the nuances between the two will enable you to craft compelling ads for your audience on each platform.

Use this guide when you’re creating your next small business social media campaign.

Supported Formats

First, let’s start with the similarities. Both platforms can support the following ad formats:

  • Images
  • Videos
  • Carousels
  • Slideshows

Building a variety of ads into your advertising strategy is a smart decision. Buyers get bored with repetitive images, so varying how people see and hear your messages increases the chances of them clicking on your ad.

However, there are differences between the formatting parameters for each platform. Unified Social put together this handy list, which outlines the physical requirements for each ad type. Bookmark this image and keep it close by. You’ll reference it more than you think!

Facebook v. Instagram ad parameters chart

Image courtesy of Unified Social

Now that you have the ad formatting under control, we can look into other components of successful social media advertising.

Call to Action

An advertisement is nothing with a clear call to action (CTA); it’s the backbone of any sales or marketing effort. Fortunately, both platforms house nearly identical CTA buttons. The ads allow you to include buttons which can say any of the following statements:

  • Book Now
  • Contact Us
  • Install App
  • Learn More
  • Shop Now
  • Sign Up
  • Watch More

The only real difference is that Facebook also provides a “Play Now” button, which motivates users to open and utilize a mobile app from the ad. Consider which CTA will have the greatest impact on your target audience and drive them into action. If you want to increase website traffic, learn more is a great option. If you’re looking to build your email list, the sign up button is your best bet. Having a discrete and measurable outcome for each ad will inform your type of CTA.

User Behavior

Facebook remains the dominant platform with 1.7B users annually. It is a social media behemoth and due to its size, it should be part of any small business social media advertising strategy. What sets Facebook apart from the rest of the social media offerings is that its users consider it the place to keep in contact with their friends and family, while also being able to consume relevant news and share it accordingly. This is the place to create, watch, and share all kinds of content.

Additionally, Facebook users feel a strong sense of community, which leads to longer stay time on pages. People also tend to follow pages for longer than other social media outlets.

Instagram, on the other hand, has a strong follower base that is growing exponentially year over year. Unlike Facebook, Instagram is a place users share glimpses of their life, and curate their own Pinterest board of style, inspirational quotes, meals, and design. The objective is to show what you’re doing to your follower group. This more user-centric focus means that individuals are not as attached to profiles, and don’t think twice about following or unfollowing someone. There is much more consideration given when ‘liking’ a page on Facebook than when ‘following’ a user on Instagram.

Aesthetic Criteria

You may have noticed, but the preferred aesthetic for Facebook ads is very different from Instagram. Facebook promotes quality photography or videography that is brand appropriate. It looks similar to classic advertisements from magazines and other print ads.

Instagram, on the other hand, is highly stylized and leans toward the increasingly popular blogger aesthetic. Candid images are not part of the Instagram playbook. Thoughtfully designed and curated images hit the mark for Instagram ads. If you aren’t a professional photographer, this doesn’t mean you should rule out Instagram ads, but you will need to fine tune your skills and carefully consider if the image looks Insta-appropriate as well as brand appropriate before integrating into a campaign.


As the information below suggests, there are key demographic differences between Instagram and Facebook users. Knowing your audience is 90% of the challenge when creating effective advertisements. Keep these as a point of reference when deciding where to place an ad.

Facebook v. Instagram demographic data chart

Image courtesy of Glew

It doesn’t matter how compelling your ad is if it doesn’t resonate with your audience. Dive into your social analytics for a better understanding of your current market and new audience opportunities. You’ll see a marked improvement in ROI once you have a clear handle on your customers.

Social media advertising is a critical marketing next step for many small businesses. Understanding how the two primary outlets support and attract ad sales and engagement will go a long way for your advertising ROI. Keep this guide by your side for incredibly effective and appealing advertisements.