It’s early evening in the US. A 55-year-old checks Facebook to laugh at her grandchildren’s latest antics, then she scrolls through Instagram to spark ideas about her upcoming kitchen remodel. Across the world, a 23-year-old in Japan opens Instagram on his way to work, eager to see what his favorite pop stars are up to. Then he browses Facebook to see if his friends have agreed on a karaoke location for that night.
While people turn to both Facebook and Instagram throughout the day to connect with family, friends and the world, it’s clear that each platform plays a different role in their lives. But what, exactly, are those roles? And do they vary based on people’s age, gender and geography?
To find out, Facebook IQ commissioned Ipsos Connect to interview and conduct an online survey of people ages 18–64 in Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, the UK and the US who use Facebook and/or Instagram at least weekly. We focused on people surveyed who told us they use both feeds—all insights referenced below are based on that group of people—and analyzed Facebook and Instagram data. We also studied the posts that were most popular during seven major cultural events, ranging from the Super Bowl to the Glastonbury Music Festival.
We sat down with Vicki Molina-Estolano, the lead Facebook IQ researcher on the project, to talk about our findings and what they mean for marketers.
Q: Let’s start with the basics. Why should marketers care how people use Facebook and Instagram?
Vicki: People spend a lot of time on both feeds—20% of Americans’ time on mobile is spent on Facebook and Instagram.1 And while we’ve known for a while that people turn to Facebook to discover news about their friends and family and to Instagram for inspiration, there’s more to the story. Marketers need to understand how and why different groups of people—men, women, parents, Millennials—use Facebook and Instagram so that they can engage people in a more relevant way.
Q: Based on your research, what is the overall relationship between Facebook and Instagram? How should we be thinking about it?
Vicki: Maybe it’s our proximity to Napa, but the relationship between Facebook and Instagram makes me think of white and red wine. People love both kinds of wine, but there are times they choose one over the other, such as when eating seafood versus steak. In the same way, people use both Facebook and Instagram, but each fulfills their needs to a different extent. For example, our survey revealed that for people who use both feeds equally, Facebook better satisfies their need for empowerment, recognition and connection, and Instagram more strongly fulfills their desire for fun, relaxation and discovery.
Our survey also showed that there’s a broader variety of reasons people visit Instagram. On Instagram, people follow celebrities, get DIY inspiration and are visually transported to new places—while on Facebook, the primary appeal is connecting with family and friends.
Q: Tell us more about the kinds of content people gravitate to on Facebook and Instagram.
Vicki: We found that during big cultural events, people go to Facebook for reactions and opinions and to Instagram for an insider’s perspective. When we asked people to evaluate the content that received the most likes, shares and comments on Facebook and Instagram during the Melbourne Cup, Carnaval and other events, they rated the Instagram content as more “behind-the-scenes,” and the top Facebook posts as more “opinionated.”2
This is really clear when you’re looking at the content. For example, the most popular Instagram content during the Cannes Film Festival was personal-feeling photos taken by celebrities, while one of the most popular Facebook posts was from a film critic who criticized one of the judges’ selections.2
Another good illustration of this comes from the 2015 Melbourne Cup, a high-profile horse race. The most popular Instagram content during the event came from celebrities and focused on fashion, while the most popular Facebook content centered on animal rights and real-time reactions to the race.2
Based on these findings, marketers might experiment with sharing reactions and opinions on Facebook and behind-the-scenes content on Instagram.