It might be tempting to use every social media app or platform available to spread the word about your business. However, most businesses will benefit from allocating their time and resources to a few chosen platforms to maximize returns.
Case in point, Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms out there. But with the recent explosion and sustained growth of its primary competitor, TikTok, some business owners are wondering which one will give better benefits for their campaigns. While the platforms have notable similarities and goals, the differences lie in the details that can benefit specific types of businesses.
In this post, we’ll dive deep into what makes TikTok or Instagram a viable advertising platform for your business so you can make an informed decision.
Let’s start with the user base. TikTok predominantly attracts a younger audience, with approximately 41% of its users falling in the 16 to 24 age range. Additionally, 50% of TikTok users are under the age of 34. On the other hand, Instagram has a more diverse user base, with around 33% of its users aged between 25 and 34 and another 30% falling in the 18 to 24 age group.
As we see here, Tiktok and Instagram have a lot of younger users below 40 years old. However, TikTok has more teenage users. This might be something to note when positioning your products or services.
In terms of gender distribution, TikTok has a slightly higher percentage of male users, accounting for 55% of the user base, while females make up the remaining 45%. Instagram, meanwhile, has a more balanced split, with 52% female and 48% male users.
Pros of Using Instagram for Advertising
Great for Brand Visibility
Instagram’s UI and presentation are optimized for visibility, so your brand ads have the most exposure. You have plenty of space for hashtags, product descriptions, and additional texts, making it an excellent choice for visually-appealing products and ads.
Large User Base
With over 2 billion active users as of April 2023, Instagram gives businesses and advertisers access to a wide audience base, giving their products and services a bigger chance of getting noticed.
Range of Ad Formats
Instagram allows the posting of media types, like photos, videos, carousels, and stories, which are also accessible to advertisers and business owners. You can use whatever type of media is most appropriate for your business or use the different options to advertise creatively. Instagram is also noted for having a more polished advertising look, which will do well with businesses looking for that kind of arrangement. The platform also offers posting schedules, which can greatly help manage your content.
With Meta owning both Instagram and Facebook, advertisers are given the opportunity to advertise across both platforms. They have access to Facebook’s extensive data and ad management options. However, not all options available on Facebook are carried over to Instagram, so it might be worth looking into advertising on Facebook initially.
Detailed Tracking and Analytics
Instagram, like Facebook and other Meta platforms and services, provides comprehensive analytics and tracking tools that allow you to monitor the performance of your ad campaigns. This provides valuable insights into metrics like reach, impressions, engagement, click-through rates, and conversions. This data helps you measure the effectiveness of your campaigns, make data-driven decisions, and optimize your advertising strategies. You can also integrate external websites like blogs or shops using Meta Pixel for a wider look at your campaigns.
Large Influencer Pool
While it is by no means a new concept, one can argue that the modern influencer culture started on Instagram, and they would have a valid point. Instagram is consistently ranked as the best platform to engage in influencer marketing, and businesses on Instagram can connect with popular influencers in their area to access their audiences.
Cons of Using Instagram for Advertising
With many users come many advertisers on any platform, and Instagram is no exception. This creates increased competition for users’ attention. Aside from a marketing standpoint, the sheer number of advertisements shown to users may impact their receptiveness, making them desensitized or sick of seeing ads, forcing them to skip or consider ad-blocking measures.
Not Friendly to External Links
Direct links to external websites are not available for all ad formats, like photo or video ads. The link placements (in descriptions that users need to click or swipe to) may also affect visibility, especially on mobile apps.
Pros of Using TikTok for Advertising
Large and Dedicated User Base
TikTok has over 1 billion active monthly users, mostly Gen Z and Millennials. This offers great potential to increase brand awareness if your products and services cater to such audiences. Not only that, TikTok users actively use the app daily, with some studies claiming that an average user swipes through the app 1.5 hours a day.
“The Next Big Thing” in Social Media
TikTok was launched in 2016 in China and was given a worldwide launch in 2017, making it practically an infant compared to Facebook and Instagram. However, the app has experienced exponential growth during the last few years, earning it the consideration of many people. Celebrities, companies, and other popular figures have gotten the app to use its increasing potential, and it is also already available in more than 150 countries worldwide.
TikTok gives access to a lot of user data, including total watch time, average watch time, percentage of views by country, and how many followers watched your video vs. how many found your content on their For You pages. This extends to access to what your followers watched in the past week to better understand their content preferences.
Think of the last few viral videos and memes you’ve seen over the last month. Now, try to recall how many of them had a TikTok watermark, even if you saw them on other social media platforms. I’m betting it’s a lot.
Popular videos on TikTok gain a lot of traction and are known to spread widely across the internet. Advertisers with creative or engaging content stand to benefit most from this fact, possibly giving them unprecedented returns for their advertising efforts in case their clip goes viral. A recent example of this is the popular “Grimace Shake” trend, which was initiated by a user not affiliated with McDonald’s in any way.
Organic, Authentic Content
TikTok is known for user-generated content, giving videos and ads a more personal, authentic feel. This type of environment allows for a more organic approach to marketing, where advertisers can encourage their users to create testimonial videos or challenges to further promote their brand.
Cons of Using TikTok for Advertising
Young User Base
More than 50% of TikTok’s users are below the age of 35. Products and services that are targeted at more mature buyers, like personal loans, real property, home redecoration, stock investments, and others, may not do as well on the platform.
Expensive Entry Ticket
TikTok ad campaigns require you to spend a whopping $500, making it one of the most expensive social media platforms on which to advertise, especially when compared to Meta’s daily budget arrangement. This can be a deal breaker for some advertisers, especially small-to-medium businesses.
No Content Planning Options
Unlike Meta platforms, TikTok does not have a scheduled posting system, so users must log in and manually upload their content at the desired time of posting. This might not be a big deal for smaller, more flexible business owners, but large advertising firms tend to create content calendars, and the loss of this feature may be enough for them to opt out of the platform.
Engagement and Attention Span
TikTok is built upon the concept of short videos, and while the app has recently allowed longer durations, that founding concept isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Engaging users long enough to interest them in your product may present a challenge, as it is easy to swipe up to the next video.
Control of Viral Videos
Since viral content is mostly in the hands of users, advertisers may find themselves in the middle of an enthusiastic viral video run that does not match their brand goals. Let’s go back to my previous example, the “Grimace Shake,” a product that was launched by McDonald’s in June 2023. The character Grimace was initially launched as an “evil” mascot, but that was decades ago, and the company has since retooled the character with a more wholesome image. To celebrate his “birthday,” McDonald’s launched a product and a video commemorating the character’s history.
However, users took it upon themselves to create horror-themed videos around the product, centering on them either dying or getting abducted by Grimace after drinking the shake, creating an unprecedented viral phenomenon that spread to other social media platforms. The theme was retroactively attributed to the character’s “evil” roots, which contradicts the company’s original product presentation. It’s a successful viral campaign, certainly, and most likely translated to increased sales, but this shows what little creative control advertisers have when encouraging organic, user-generated campaigns.
TikTok is a relatively new platform, and, like most new platforms, its services and policies are subject to a lot of change. Advertisers and business owners need to stay on top of changes to maximize the effectiveness of their campaigns.
Final Thoughts: Time to Make a Decision
Choosing between TikTok and Instagram doesn’t end with reading their pros and cons. You must evaluate your advertising needs and decide which is the better fit between these platforms. Some good questions to consider are:
- What’s your target audience?
- How do you plan or upload content?
- How do you track ad performance and analytics?
- Do you want to link external sites to your social media accounts and posts?
Once you have those down, you’ll have all the information you need to make the best decision for your advertising needs.
About the Author
Rick Orford is a two time best selling author (his books have become Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Amazon best sellers), investor, and mentor. His work has appeared in the most authoritative publications, including Good Morning America, Washington Post, Yahoo Finance, MSN, Business Insider, NBC, FOX, CBS, and ABC News. His passion is personal finance and works tirelessly to deliver content in an easy-to-understand manner.