Social Media Advertising and Ecommerce: Facebook Ads vs. Instagram Ads

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February 28, 2020

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Social media advertising can provide ecommerce businesses with a great return on their marketing investment. While some advertising methods, like content marketing, can take months to yield results, a social media campaign can start to bring in leads immediately.  But in order to find success in social media marketing, you need to know how to analyze and understand performance analytics for Facebook and other popular social media platforms.  

Stay tuned as we explore social media advertising options for ecommerce merchants, Facebook ads vs. Instagram ads, and how to make sense of all the data that a campaign can throw your way.

Platform options

There’s no shortage of social media marketing platforms for ecommerce businesses to choose from. Which ones should you advertise on? That depends on what you sell, the demographics of your consumers, and the types of ads you want to run. Here are the top five to consider - plus a few recent contenders.


It should come as no surprise that Facebook is typically the first social media platform ecommerce companies turn to when it comes to advertising. With more than 2 billion monthly users and incredibly robust targeting options, it’s relevant for just about any ecommerce or multichannel business. Facebook can get your products in front of your desired audience in a matter of seconds


Instagram is all about visuals. If your ads include captivating, high-quality images or well-produced video, this is the platform for you. Instagram has a smaller (and younger) active user base compared to Facebook, but its images get 23% more engagement than Facebook. Instagram also benefits from native shopping capabilities that allow users to make purchases right within the platform.  


Twitter tends to be a less popular option for ecommerce merchants when it comes to advertising - it’s less visual by design, and its advertising functionality isn’t as powerful. But if you’re looking to develop an authentic brand identity and nurture relationships with your customers, it’s worth having a presence - it’s a great way to have conversations and showcase your brand voice.


If your target audience is primarily women, Pinterest is a great place to find them. With a 70% female user base and 300 million monthly users, a great, highly visual campaign can bring in leads, boost brand awareness, and increase sales for certain brands.


Advertising on LinkedIn won’t be for every ecommerce business. But if your products or services are designed for the business world, this is where your target audience will be most active.

Snapchat, Tiktok and more

If you’re a social media advertising pro, you’ve likely gone beyond just Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to explore more niche social platforms like Snapchat, Tiktok, Reddit and more. While brands who do it right can see great results - fashion brands have started to post unique, creative content to TikTok, and brands with large organic communities often engage with their fans on Reddit - you have to play by the unspoken rules of the platform, since advertising isn’t as ubiquitous as it is on Facebook and Instagram. At least for now, these platforms are better for brand-building than driving real advertising ROI.  

For the purpose of this guide, we’ll be focusing on the two platforms that tend to be most popular for ecommerce businesses – Facebook and Instagram.  And while the two platforms have some key distinctions, because Facebook bought Instagram back in 2012, many of their features are seamlessly synced - including ad creation, audience targeting, and Facebook and Instagram ad analytics. This allows you to focus on creating a targeted, omnichannel marketing experience that will help build trust with your consumers.

Deciding on a platform: Facebook Ads vs. Instagram Ads

When it comes to developing a successful social media campaign, the advice remains the same: Go where your followers are.  While the user demographics of Facebook and Instagram do have some parallels, they’re certainly not identical. When trying to decide between Facebook ads vs. Instagram ads, start by considering the platform’s user demographics, advertising options, and pros and cons of each ad type for your business and products specifically.



Whoever your target audience is, chances are, they’re on Facebook. But some audiences are bigger than others. Nearly 90% of online users age 18-29 are on Facebook. Just over 60% of online seniors aged 65+ are on the platform as well. The biggest demographic group of Facebook users? Males between the ages of 25 and 34.

Types of ads

There are several different formats you can use on Facebook, depending on your advertising goals.  

Image ads  

Image ads are great for selling single products or driving awareness about your brand. Just remember that professional photos will help you stand out - and ads with less text tend to perform better.  

Video ads

Catch the attention of your audience with video. It’s easier than ever to piece together your own video using content you already have - and it’s the type of content proven to drive the most engagement on Facebook.  

Slideshow ads  

These types of ads can combine images, videos, text, and even sound to create a unique marketing experience that you can tailor perfectly to your brand’s voice, helping you stand out in a crowded feed.  

Carousel ads  

Want to advertise a category of products or a sitewide sale? A carousel design is ideal. You can showcase up to 10 images or videos, each with their own link. This is great for ecommerce merchants, allowing them to showcase multiple products in one ad.  

Instant Experience ads  

Turn any of your Facebook ads into an Instant Experience - a full-screen, post-click experience that will bring your brand to life. Use up to 20 images or focus on video that will autoplay on loop.  

Collection ads  

Collection ads are another great option for ecommerce merchants who want to advertise multiple products. When someone interacts with the ad, it open automatically as an Instant Experience, allowing customers to view, explore, and even purchase products directly.

Pros and cons of advertising on Facebook

Facebook offers plenty of pros for ecommerce advertisers (which makes sense, since ecommerce brands spend millions on the platform every year):  

1. Specific targeting  

Facebook makes it simple to target your ad to only those who have potential interest in or need for your products. This can be based on a number of factors, including age, language, gender, relationship status, education, work, location or interests.  

For example, a restaurant looking to advertise their Valentine’s Day specials might target males in relationships between the ages of 30 and 60 living within 10 miles of their location.  You can also get more granular and target ads based on people who have interacted with your website or ads before, people who have similar characteristics to your customers (lookalike audiences), and more.  

2. Large user base  

There’s no question about it - Facebook is the most popular social media platform. Not only is your target audience likely on Facebook, but you’ll also find a larger group of them compared to other platforms.  

3. Analytics and optimization

 Facebook works to automatically find the best ad (or ads) from your campaigns so you can further optimize the ads you’re running and see the greatest return on your investment. You can also set up split testing to test different options for creative and copy, applying the winning options across your campaigns.  

Facebook ad analytics and performance reporting are also fairly good compared to most other ad platforms, providing insight into impressions and views, clicks, conversions, spend, return on ad spend and more.  

But there are cons to advertising on Facebook as well:  

1. Limited organic reach  

You’ve probably heard that with the exponential growth of paid advertising on Facebook, the organic reach of Facebook ads has decreased. Statistics vary, but the average post’s organic reach is just over 6%. This means that if you want to reach your audience and connect with new people, you’re going to have to pay.  

2. High expenses  

This leads into our next potential pitfall when it comes to advertising on Facebook - promoting ads can get expensive. Companies spend an average of $1,000 to $2,000 per month on Facebook ads, with some larger brands spending much more than that. That’s not an astronomical cost for an established online store, but if your competitors are pouring funds into their advertising, a new business might have trouble keeping up.



Instagram has a younger user base compared to Facebook - three-quarters of online users between the ages of 18 and 24 use the platform. When it comes to gender, 43% of Instagram users are women.  If you’re targeting an older demographic, Instagram might not be the way to go - only 23% of online users between 50 and 64 years old use the platform, and just 8% of users 65 and older.  However, if international reach is important to your business, Instagram’s base is uber-global, with 116 million users in the US, 73 million in India, and 72 million in Brazil.

Types of ads

Story ads  

Instagram stories can help you improve your reach, increase brand awareness, and boost traffic and sales. Stories can include images or video and can be narrowed down to the audience you want to target.

 Photo ads  

Instagram is all about captivating images, so it only makes sense that there are photo ads to choose from. If your visual content is already awesome, photo ads can help you share it with a new audience.  

Video ads  

Both landscape and square videos can run up to 60 seconds in an Instagram video ad. This is just the right amount of time to capture your audience’s attention, share your brand, and advertise your products.  

Carousel ads  

Instagram users can browse your products as they swipe through a carousel ad. You can include up to 10 photos or videos in this type of ad, each with their own unique link.

Pros and cons of advertising on Instagram

Advertising on Instagram has plenty of benefits:

 1. Targeted audiences  

Similar to Facebook, paid ads on Instagram can be targeted by interest, location, gender, age, job or behaviors. Such granular options can help you narrow down your approach for more effective campaigns.  

2. Higher sales  

When an Instagram ad campaign is successful for an ecommerce site, sales can skyrocket. Some of Instagram’s ad formats even allow users to purchase products without having to leave the platform, reducing the risk of abandoned carts while boosting sales.  

3. Brand benefits  

It only makes sense that advertising on a creative, visual platform like Instagram has benefits for your brand. With high-quality content, you have the opportunity to maximize your brand, tell your story and sell your products through a variety of unique ad formats.  

However, Instagram isn’t without it’s downsides for certain brands:  

1. Limited demographics  

Instagram’s user base is growing - at last measure, there were 1 billion active monthly users. But the audience is young, and depending on your product and target market, Instagram may not be the best place to spend your marketing dollars.  

2. Limited content  

There’s no question that visuals sell. But if you need text to get your message across, you’ll be limited on Instagram. If you’re creative, you can find a way to make it work. But for some brands, Instagram may not have the advertising features they need.

Comparison: Facebook Ads vs. Instagram Ads
Comparison: Facebook Ads vs. Instagram Ads

How to put together a social media campaign for ecommerce

While all Instagram ads will link back to Facebook in the end for spend and ad analytics, it’s still important to know that each platform requires a unique approach. But to get you started, here’s a checklist to start planning a winning campaign for your ecommerce business.

1. Write down your goal

What’s the goal of your campaign - are you trying to boost brand recognition? Do you want to drive more sales for a specific collection? Are you launching a new product? If you don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish, you won’t be able to map your route to get there.

2. Choose and learn your platform

Once you’ve decided on a marketing goal, choose the platform that will serve as the best avenue to get there. Devote some time to learning the rules, terms, and general guidelines to prevent hiccups down the road. Look up some examples of best practices of advertising on that platform, and check out other brands in your industry who are doing it well.

3. Hire help

Whether you need to hire an advertising expert specific to that platform, collaborate with a freelance content creator, or get trained on a new app or software, get the help you need to do the job right. Now isn’t the time to cut corners or do it all yourself.

4. Do your research

Brainstorm and research potential keywords and audiences for your campaign. What are common pain points for your target audience? What are they searching for? Look at what your competition is doing. What’s working? What’s not? Take a look at your past campaigns, even if they weren’t on social media, to see what messages resonated the most with your audience.

5. Create a great experience to drive traffic to

Social media campaigns are rarely the end of the marketing funnel. Instead, they should push readers towards the next step, like going to your website and exploring products. Make sure that process is easy, visually appealing and consistent with the creative and messaging of your advertising campaign.  

6. Measure your success

Analyzing your campaign, understanding the data and measuring its success is the most important step in social media advertising for ecommerce. This allows you to understand the return on your ad spend, see what’s working, fix any parts of your campaign that aren’t resonating with your audience and continually iterate and improve. We’ll get into this more in a minute.

A checklist for creating successful social media ad campaigns
A checklist for creating successful social media ad campaigns

How to measure Instagram and Facebook ad performance

Evaluating your Instagram and Facebook ad analytics is critical - it’s how you understand whether the money you’re spending on ads is paying off, and what you need to do to optimize your campaigns to drive results.  Here’s how to analyze the success of your ecommerce social media marketing:

1. Understand your KPIs

There are a ton of metrics you can analyze when it comes to social media advertising - and some may be more useful to your business than others, depending on your goals. Here are a few to keep in mind:

  • Engagement metrics: Likes, shares and comments. Often considered “vanity metrics,” these likely won’t be your primary KPIs unless your goal is to increase engagement on your Facebook page.
  • Ad metrics: These will include things like impressions, clicks, reach, landing page views and conversion rate - and can vary depending on the type of ad you have set up. They’ll tell you how your ad is performing on the platform and how people are interacting with it - as well as whether they’re completing your desired action.
  • Ecommerce metrics: While you won’t typically find these in Facebook or Instagram, if you’re an ecommerce business, it’s important to track the impact your ads are having on your bottom line - looking at things like orders, revenue, profit, return on ad spend, lifetime value and average order value.

2. Remind yourself of your goals

You already know the goal of your social media campaign. But remind yourself of it as you begin to develop your analytical process - it will help you understand which KPIs you should be focusing on. For example:

  • If your goal is to attract more new customers, you’ll want to look at your first-time purchasers from that campaign
  • If your goal is to drive sales for a specific product, you’ll want to monitor sales and revenue for that product from the campaign
  • If your goal is to remarket to existing customers, you’ll want to track repeat purchases and lifetime value
  • If your goal is to promote a specific offer or promotion, you’ll want to track usage for that discount code - including attachment rate and revenue

3. Record and measure

So now that you know what you need to track, how do you do it?  

While Facebook and Instagram have native ad analytics, if you’re spending a significant amount on social media advertising, you’ll likely want to supplement the platforms with a third-party tool that integrates additional data sources like your ecommerce cart and pulls in additional information on your customers - plus provides more customizable options for visualizations and reports. Why? You’ll be able to much more easily (and accurately) tie your social media ad performance to the metrics that matter - sales and revenue - and even see how they impact things like customer LTV, average order value and more.  

Using a dedicated reporting platform also allows you to see your social media channel performance in context with your other marketing channels - like email, organic social, affiliate marketing, paid search and more - so you can understand how it’s performing in relation to all of your marketing activities and adjust your spend and strategy as needed. You’ll be able to understand things like your revenue and net profit by channel, return on ad spend by channel, LTV by channel, highest performing products by channel and more.  

Want to get smarter reporting on your Facebook and Instagram advertising? Start a free trial of Glew today to get better visibility on your advertising profitability, see which campaigns are driving sales and LTV and more.  

4. Monitor and learn

The first time you analyze data for your social media ads, you’ll be creating a baseline for future evaluation. Share your findings with your team and discuss the results.

  • Is your performance what you expected? If not, where did you fall short - or exceed expectations?
  • If you have competitors or industry benchmarks to compare your metrics to, where do they fall?
  • Where do you hope to see adjustments going forward?

Once you have a good idea of where your initial performance is, set up a schedule for analyzing your data. This could be weekly, monthly, or quarterly, depending on the goals and volume of your campaign. Whatever you choose, make sure you stick with it. If you use a reporting tool like Glew, you can even set up recurring scheduled reports with your advertising metrics, making it easy to stay on top of your latest numbers.

5. Test and iterate

As you learn more about the success of your campaign through reporting, adjust your content and delivery as necessary. It should be your goal to improve over each time period you analyze results.  You can try testing new ad copy and creative, running ads to new audiences, adjusting your spend, promoting different products and exploring new ad formats.

Facebook Ads vs. Instagram Ads — which is right for your business?

The truth is that both Facebook and Instagram can be beneficial - it just depends on what you’re looking for. When you understand what each platform offers, it’s easier to pick the appropriate route for your unique business and products.  

Even though social media advertising and ecommerce go hand in hand, a campaign can’t be successful if it’s not properly developed, executed, and measured. Choose a platform that makes the most sense for your audience and products. Put together multiple versions of a campaign to test their effectiveness. And always be sure to measure your chosen metrics based on your business’s goals.  

And don’t forget - Glew can help you make sense of your social media advertising data so you can ensure you’re managing your ad spend profitably and getting the most return on your investment.

Summary: Social media advertising and ecommerce

Remember these takeaways before we jump to chapter 4:

  • Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn are some of the most popular platforms for social media advertising - brands can also advertise on more niche apps like Snapchat, TikTok and Reddit
  • While Facebook owns Instagram and you can create and manage your ads for both in the same place, the two remain distinct in terms of demographics, ad types and more
  • Facebook has a wide audience that encompasses nearly every demographic group, with robust targeting options
  • Instagram has a growing, younger user base and includes many of the same targeting options
  • Instagram’s ad formats favor heavily visual, creative ads and provide the ability to shop within the platform
  • Both Instagram and Facebook support video and carousel ads, great for showing off products
  • When it comes to setting up an ad campaign, it’s important to understand your goal and make sure the KPIs you’re tracking are aligned with that goal

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