Ecommerce Advertising: Facebook Ads vs Instagram Ads

August 5, 2016

Social media advertising is becoming the cornerstone of ecommerce marketing strategies, and for good reason. In a 2016 report, 75% of marketers say their social media marketing is paying off. That’s a 46% increase from 2015.  

Social networks give marketers advanced targeting options, reliable conversion tracking and sought after prevalence on mobile devices. But with a limited marketing budget, it’s important to be smart and strategic about where to spend your money.  

Facebook is the dominant player with the largest and most diverse reach. But Instagram is arguably the most popular up-and-comer. Adding to its arsenal, the social channel just unveiled Instagram Stories, a feature that’s nearly identical to the feed in Snapchat.  

Ultimately, the channel that will be most effective for your marketing efforts depends on your audience, their interests and the type of content you can curate. We’ll take a look at some of the differences between the two and tips to make the most of each.


It’s no longer cost effective for ecommerce businesses to create an ad and cast it out using the widest net. Instead, marketers need to analyzing their audience segments and determine which social channels they are likely to spend time.  These stats on Facebook and Instagram may help you determine which channel is the best fit for the target audience of your ecommerce store.  

Which channel is the best fit for your audience/


While Facebook has the numbers, Instagram dominates when it comes to social media engagement. According to Forrester, user engagement with brands is 10 times higher on Instagram than Facebook.  This campaign comparison by Sprout Social is a good example. The ad by Coca-Cola received nearly 30,000 more likes on Instagram than on Facebook. That’s especially significant when you consider the company has 91 million Facebook followers compared to about 750,000 on Instagram.  

Coca Cola Instagram Ad vs. Facebook Ad

Cost and Conversion

When it comes to ad cost and conversions, the numbers are very close for Facebook and Instagram. A study of global advertising performance in 2015 showed similar average clickthrough, cost-per-impression and cost-per-click rates for each channel.

Cost and Conversion of Instagram Ads vs. Facebook Ads

Best Performing Ads

The format and user demographics for each social channel have an impact on the types of ads that perform the best. Research on ad performance has uncovered the following trends you should consider to ensure you can generate and support the most effective campaigns.  Instagram

65% of the best performing posts on Instagram prominently displayed a product. (L2 Market Research)  An Instagram Industry Report by Simply Measured shows that photos result in higher engagement rates than videos.
Instagram Engagement Per Post by Content Type


Facebook news feed ads have a conversion rate five times higher than right side ads. (AdEspresso)  Dynamic product ads and carousel ads are two of Facebook’s highest performing ad types. (MarketingLand)

Dynamic product ads enable retailers to sync their catalog with Facebook advertising efforts. This strategy helps you bring back lost shoppers by showing them ads for the actual products they viewed on your website.

“Dynamic ads help us connect our large product catalog to each unique shopper with relevant and timely product ads. We're seeing strong results, including a 34% increase in click through rate and a 38% reduction in cost per purchase.” -Rachel Kwan, Online Marketing Manager at The Honest Company

The carousel ad format lets you show 3-5 images, videos, links and calls to action in a single ad. Users can scroll through the carousel cards with a swipe or click.

Carousel ads are 10 times more effective than static sponsored posts on Facebook. (Kinetic Social)
Carousel Ads on Facebook at 10 times More Effective Than Static Sponsored Posts

 After reviewing pros and cons of each channel you may decide to advertise on both. Remember that you can run Instagram ads directly through Facebook’s Ads Manager. This video tutorial includes a step-by-step guide.

Best Practices

Whether you decide to advertise on Facebook, Instagram or both, follow these best practices to increase engagement and conversion rates.

  • Make sure your ads look authentic and fit in with organic user content in your audience's feed.
  • Mobile display is paramount, especially on Instagram. Your landing pages from ads should be 100 percent mobile optimized.
  • In addition to promoting your products, promote interactive content that users would like to share with friends and followers.
  • Tag ad URLs in order to gauge the performance of your campaigns. This tutorial on tagging Facebook ads for Google Analytics will help you get started.
  • If you advertise on mobile and desktop, make sure you have different campaigns for each.
  • For more effective mobile conversion rate, display mobile ads targeted to products that sell best on mobile devices. Glew offers a filter that allows store owners to get this data.

The landscape of paid social ads is constantly changing with new technologies, formats and channels emerging all the time. Understanding the best channel for your audience and measuring the performance of channels and campaigns is the best way to to determine what works to meet your marketing goals.

Get started with Glew.

Try a free trial of Glew Pro – no credit card or commitment required.