19th Ave New York, NY 95822, USA

“I will delete Facebook, but you can pry Instagram from my cold, dead hands”: The Shift from Facebook to Instagram

This Mashable quote is as relevant today as it ever has been.

When Mark Zukerberg purchased Instagram in 2012, his comments on keeping the networks independent were met with praise, if not a little scepticism: 

“we’re committed to building and growing Instagram independently. Millions of people around the world love the Instagram app and the brand associated with it, and our goal is to help spread this app and brand to even more people.”

Seven years on, not only do his words ring true to this day, but we have entered a new phase of the network relationship: the student has become the master.

Every year, tech giants Edison Research and Triton Digital produce the comprehensive and well-regarded Infinite Dial study which probes how Americans use social media, audio services, and other technology. The study showed that in 2018, for the first time ever, usage of Facebook decreased. Although it is still ahead in terms if usage, could we soon see Instagram overtake Facebook?

There are many contributing factors pertaining to this shift in importance, and essentially usage of the social media networks, some of which we have outlined below.

  1. Instagram is trending among younger users.

Statista released figures examining the distribution of Facebook and Instagram users worldwide as of July 2019, by age and gender. Particularly in female users, these figures show a definite trend and usage preference towards Instagram. 


13-17 year old females account for 2.6% of all Facebook users

18-24 year old females account for 10% of all Facebook users

25-34 year old females account for 13% of all Facebook users


13-17 year old females account for 3.2% of all Instagram users

18-24 year old females account for 15% of all Instagram users

25-34 year old females account for 17% of all Instagram users

Snapchat has long been a rival of Instagram in terms of the younger target audience. However, in recent years, Snapchat has had their own problems with user growth and loyalty, driven by an endlessly changing interface. Instagram has seized this opportunity and evolved to incorporate popular features of Snapchat, and with an ever-increasing user base, it is likely that it will continue to win over youthful social media users, who are of course the future core of any social network.

  1. Instagram is more mobile-friendly.

Although Facebook has come along way in its efforts to be mobile-friendly, there is no question that Instagram is the better mobile experience. This is due in part to the fact that it was a mobile-only platform for many years, and it focuses on a narrower array of content types. 

With 80 percent of social content being consumed in a mobile environment, a trend that is ever-increasing, that structural advantage is significant.

  1. Instagram has better stories integration.

Stories were once unique to Snapchat until Instagram incorporated this game-changing feature. Now, Instagram stories are arguably more popular that posts in terms of reach. Facebook has stories of its own now, but the interface link between Facebook News Feed and Facebook Stories is undeniably disjointed.

  1. Instagram has built-in messaging capabilities.

Although Facebook Messenger has been widely adopted, and has seen great traction for branded communications, many users resent the fact that it operates as a separate app to the Facebook one. Alternatively, with Instagram, the messaging function and newsfeed are found one click from each other. 

In the past, Instagram’s chat capabilities were deemed inferior to Facebook, but with the availability of voice recording, video chat and memes, there remains little between them in terms of communication. And when given the opportunity, who wouldn’t prefer one app for messaging and browsing, instead of two?

  1. Instagram is better for brands.

From a marketing point of view, Facebook’s ever-changing News Feed algorithm makes it almost impossible (some say futile) to gain organic reach for company posts. For example, we are yet to see the full extent to which Facebook’s recent decision to revamp its news feed, namely prioritizing “meaningful interactions,” such as updates from friends and family, while limiting content from brands and publishers, will impact its users. 

These changes are likely to accelerate a shift of companies’ resources and awareness to Instagram from Facebook. Furthermore, despite some initial user resistance 

Instagram has moved in the opposite direction to Facebook: from a chronological stream to an algorithmic news feed, giving advertisers more control over what users see. Essentially, while Facebook is limiting brand content, Instagram is embracing it.

Furthermore, engagement for brands on Instagram is unparalleled. Facebook, with its 2 billion-plus users, is obviously the undisputed champion of “reach” in the social media universe. But Instagram holds the title for an arguably more critical metric – ”engagement.” While definitions vary, engagement embraces the degree to which users actually interact with content – liking, sharing and commenting, rather than just passively looking. A recent study showed that brands are getting three times more engagement on Instagram, when compared with Facebook. The differential comes down to Instagram’s DNA: The network is and has always been a visual-first platform. And that’s an undeniable advantage.

  1. Instagram has better discovery.

The use of hashtags on Instagram is not without purpose. The Instagram Explore tab is curated for users to discover new and exciting pages – great news for companies using relevant hashtags. Users can search for content, brands and pages that they choose themselves, which many find more appealing than being targeted by brands in which they have no interest. The fact that there is a specific tab for exploring new content means there’s more of a chance of being seen by new users through this feature.

The revamped Explore tab automatically connects users with people and companies outside their immediate circle. For brands who master the art of catchy visual content, opportunities for exposure here are virtually limitless.

  1. Instagram is more commerce-friendly.

Direct commerce on Facebook has been tried and tested, with limited success.

However, Instagram is so tightly linked to commerce that it feels like a natural extension of it. For example, just earlier this year Instagram launched a new “Checkout” feature that allows users to tap on a product and purchase it without even leaving the app. Less clicks to purchase is always beneficial and Instagram have capitalised on this theory with this new feature.

Instagram’s ad tools have also improved in leaps and bounds. When it comes to targeting ads on social media and getting the best bang for your buck, Facebook has long been the consensus winner. Sophisticated tools enable filtering audiences by everything from geography to interests and industry. Not to mention, you can create “custom audiences” based on your own website traffic or your customer database.  

Once upon a time, Instagram was an ad-free zone. But since fully opening up the platform to ads in 2015, it has quickly integrated much of Facebook’s ad functionality. Today, brands can target customers with the same level of ease and precision. The network has also innovated on ad formats: they integrated Stories-style ads last year, giving companies a way to combine pictures, video and text. Tellingly, the number of advertisers on the platform doubled last year to 2 million, with most of that growth from small- and medium-sized businesses.

  1. Instagram is a more positive platform.

Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger envisioned Instagram as a kinder, gentler place where people could freely and safely express themselves. In comparison to Facebook, where trolling, controversy and bullying is commonplace, Instagram seems more consistently positive and uplifting. Of course, trolls and misanthropes exist on Instagram too. In an effort to combat cyber bullying on the platform, Systrom, Instagram’s CEO, is fighting back by building features that promote civility and safety, launching a dedicated product group called Well-Being.

From a scientific point of view, research from the University of Oregon suggests that perusing more images and less text is associated with increased happiness and satisfaction and decreased loneliness. Social media is supposed to be fun – an escape from reality. 

Of course, whether or not all the perfect photos on Instagram make you feel better or worse about yourself is the topic of hot debate at the minute, but at least there are less people yelling in the comments section.

  1. Instagram has more perceived trust among users.

Facebook has had its fair share of bad press in the last number of years. Of course, it is still the most widely used social media network worldwide – however, as previously discussed, this trend seems to be changing. Facebook’s history of data breaches, intense targeted advertising and abusive trolls has left many with a disillusioned perception of the network. Conversely, Instagram is growing from strength to strength. 

For the user, Instagram is simpler than Facebook. It can be personal, but it seems to be less revealing. While, sure, it has its fair share of problems, people still perceive Instagram to be a place that they can comfortably share snapshots of their life and browse as they please.

Leave a comment