[STUDY] Facebook Ads vs. Instagram Ads: 137,228 Paid Social Posts Show What Kind of Social Media Ads Generate the Best Results

[STUDY] Facebook Ads vs. Instagram Ads: 137,228 Paid Social Posts Show What Kind of Social Media Ads Generate the Best Results

Elena Cucu
Elena Cucu

Table of Contents

Social media marketing is an area in which brands endow a big deal nowadays, because of its capacity of rapidly and easily connecting them to their targeted audiences.

So, when you’re in charge of managing marketing budgets, the pressure is huge, especially if we think about massive brands that invest in digital, maybe more than in any other field. In this case, we’re talking about social ads.

Every marketer knows to which two social platforms the marketing budget is directed to when it comes to social media ads.

And, as a result, an important question that immediately pops up is which ones perform better, both in getting the results wanted, as well as in optimizing costs.

Follow me in this initiative of doing a comparison between Facebook ads vs Instagram ads and let’s discover the secrets of a successful social media ads optimization campaign!

Facebook ads vs Instagram ads: which ones perform better?

A. Summary

B. Key Insights

1. YoY ad spend in 2021: brands invest with 7,16% more money on Facebook and with 8,69% more money on Instagram.

2. CPC values: $0.49 for Facebook ads and $1.09 for Instagram on average.

3. Facebook has the highest CTR, of 3.06% on average, compared to Instagram, which is 0.68%.

4. On Instagram, the feed is the ad placement most brands orient their budgets into.

5. Instagram Stories are the ad placement with the highest CTR on Instagram - 0,76%.

6. Facebook feed is the number one ad placement brands invest in.

7. Facebook placements costs: Facebook stories have the highest CPC of $0.55, while Facebook feed has the greatest CPM values - $5.18.

8. Facebook Feed has the highest average CTR of 4.70%, followed by Facebook video feed, with an average CTR of 2.06%

C. Methodology


Here's a sneak peek of what this Facebook and Instagram ads study will cover:

  • Ad spend: an inquiry into how much brands invest in both Facebook and Instagram ads, as well as its increase from 2020 till mid of 2021.
  • Which placement is better - by correlating the average click-through-rate (CTR) with the costs per click (CPC) or mille (CPM) you’ll discover which are the most efficient places where you should place your ads on both Facebook and Instagram.
  • How the CPC and CPM work on each channel - you’ll understand how much you need to invest and which channel/ placement per channel is likely to offer better results.
  • What to do to increase your CTR - you’ll find out how people respond to ads by knowing the average CTRs.

Key insights

  • YoY ad spend has increased by 7,16% on Facebook, while Instagram has a greater growth, with an ad spend increase by 8,69%

  • Instagram ads are more expensive, having a double CPC than Facebook ads.

  • For ads that have conversion goals, Facebook is the go-to platform, for having a 3.05% average click-through-rate, compared to 0.67% which is Instagram’s.

  • On Instagram the main focus on ads is in the Instagram feed - it has both the highest CPC, of $1.86 and CPM, of $7.27.

  • Instagram stories is the ad placement that converts the most on Instagram, having an average CTR of 0.76%.

  • Facebook Stories have the highest CPC - $0,55.

  • Facebook Feed is the king of ad placements: brands invest the most in it, and has both the highest CMP ($5.18) and the highest CTR (4.70%).

1. YoY ad spend in 2021: brands invest with 7,16% more money on Facebook and with 8,69% more money on Instagram.

Given the fact that it’s one of the oldest and definitely the largest among all social media platforms nowadays, it doesn’t come out as a surprise that Facebook is the number one platform that businesses invest a lot of money into.

But because we’re aiming at comparing the performance of Facebook ads vs Instagram ads, let’s cover those ads on Instagram for starters, shall we?

For being more appealing to a younger audience, to those digital natives brands dream of having in their corner, a huge amount of money is invested into Instagram advertising also.

Compared to the giant platform, the budget directed towards Instagram ads is only half of the budget allocated for Facebook advertising.

This is a year over year evolution of ad spend for both Facebook and Instagram ads.

The reasons for which businesses try to swim their way into their audience’s lives through Facebook and Instagram ads is because they can connect the brand with a lot of prospects in a matter of seconds, offering a great boost in the purchase process.

And that’s why brands keep increasing their social media ad spend, year after year.

But enough with the chit-chat, let’s talk numbers a bit.

With half of 2021 gone, it seems that the average ad spend on Facebook has increased by 7,16% compared to last year, while Instagram has had an even greater growth in ad spend, of 8,69%.

This can only mean that brands are increasing their attention into prioritising a greater marketing focus and budget investment into Instagram in the future, since it is, after all, the platform with the highest engagement rate at the moment.

Thus, the remaining questions are: is Instagram soon to be the platform into which brands will direct most of their marketing budgets, for creating Instagram ads? And if so, when will that happen?

2. CPC values: $0.49 for Facebook ads and $1.09 for Instagram on average.

Now that we’ve seen how much brands rely on Facebook and Instagram ads, by looking at the money put on the table for social media advertising, it’s time to go even deeper into the matter.

In order to decide if it’s a good call to invest in either Facebook or Instagram ads, you must take a look at some specific ads metrics, like the average cost per click, also known as CPC.

Up until August 2021, there were no massive fluctuations for the average CPC on Facebook, which at the moment has an average value of $0.49.

This chart presents the evolution of CPC values for Facebook and Instagram ads.

With Instagram, on the other hand, it’s another story.

Given Instagram’s younger audience, formed of people that not only want to check in on their friend’s lives, but also to have fun or get inspiration for different areas of interests they may have, the platform tries to offer a more authentic experience.

Which means a lesser desire to deliver social media ads that will break that more intimate feeling for the user, and as a result, a bigger price for doing it.

Compared to Facebook ads, Instagram ads have a double cost.

The prices for ads on Instagram have a tendency for increasing little by little, although for the mid of 2021, the average CPC on Instagram is $1.09, which is a value that decreased from the last quarter of 2020, when it had a peak of $1.39.

3. Facebook has the highest CTR, of 3.06% on average, compared to Instagram, which is 0.68%

After taking a look at the overall prices for social media advertising on both Facebook and Instagram, it’s time to see which are the most efficient ones.

We saw that Instagram ads are more expensive compared to Facebook ads, by examining the average cost per click, and we also came up with some good explanations for the findings.

But since many brands invest a huge amount of money into both Facebook and Instagram ads, optimising those marketing budgets to make sure you obtain a satisfying ROI is crucial.

That’s why we must stop and think: given their higher cost per click, are ads on Instagram the most efficient social media ads?

Well, in analysing the average click-through-rate, which is a strong indicator of how likely you’ll get the results wanted from a social media ad campaign, we discovered that Facebook ads perform way better than Instagram ads.

Actually, Facebook ads have on average a CTR of 3.06%, while on Instagram the average CTR is only 0.68%.

These are the average CTR values for the click-through-rate evolution of Facebook and Instagram ads.

Now, this is not a very surprising discovery given the fact that Facebook is a platform with a longer history and with a much bigger interest in doing online advertising.

After all, it is the network that has developed far more placements for social media ads, let alone the fact that it is the first social platform that introduced them.

The last thing worth mentioning is that, from a glance, despite some small spikes, overall the average CTR for Facebook ads seems to have a decreasing direction.

4. On Instagram, the feed is the ad placement most brands orient their budgets into

Over the years, even before being bought by Facebook, Instagram has many times wowed its users with a lot of cool and inventive features.

This has allowed marketers to tailor social ads according to their brand’s needs, and of course, the user’s as well, and also to get more creative with social media ads.

But you know what they say, oldies are goldies. And that’s exactly how brands seem to see Instagram’s very first feature, which is the feed, when it comes to preferred placements for their ads.

Though, Instagram stories are not very far behind. Since this is one of the most liked Instagram features, it is a good thing that businesses really explore its potential.

This graphic presents how the brand's ad spend is directed towards different Instagram placements.

An interesting thing is that the brand's most used Instagram ad placement is the feed, although it appears to have both the highest average CPC, of $1.86 and CPM, 0f $7.27.

Here are shown the average Instagram CPC and CPM values for different Instagram ads placements.

The other placements seem to have only half of the feed’s values as follows:

  • Instagram story ad sets have a an average $0,66 CPC and $3.49 CPM
  • Instagram explore ads have a CPC of $0.53 and a CPM of $2.71 on average

So, on that note, we must take a look at the average click-through-rate to see if this makes any sense.

5. Instagram Stories are the ad placement with the highest CTR on Instagram - 0,76%

Well, regarding the most efficient type of ad on Instagram, that successfully converts and makes the money spent on its placement worth invested is the Instagram story ad, that has an average CTR of 0,76%.

Instagram feed, in which many brands invest the most for their Instagram ads campaigns comes second, having a slightly lower average click-through-rate, of 0,69%.

Here are the average values for the Instagram ads click-through rate for different Instagram ads placements.

Although the difference between those two Instagram ad placements is not that big, brands can have a better chance at improving their ROI if they would adjust a bit their marketing budgets and direct more money towards the Instagram story ad placement.

Lastly, for those who were counting on placing Instagram ads in the Instagram explore section, the average CTR for this type of social media advertising is 0.47%.

6. Facebook feed is the number one ad placement brands invest in

Let’s be honest, regardless of how many cool features any social media platform may have, the feed will always be the place users spend most of their time when they are online.

That’s why just like in Instagram’s case, on Facebook as well, the ad placement in which brands invest the largest amount of money is the feed.

But there’s still an element of surprise from this analysis - the choosing of the Facebook ads placements that come in the second and third place.

It seems that in 2021 brands have acknowledged videos matter a lot. Our own latest Facebook videos study has shown why it is a type of content that performs well.

And so, businesses have started to bet on this approach, by investing some money into that ad placement that is thought especially for those users that love video, and spend a lot of time navigating through - the video feed.

This chart showws how brand's ad spend spend is divided for different Facebook ads placements.

Because stories are a shared type of content, it makes the perfect case for identifying the differences, hence the needs and orientation of the both social media platforms for our Facebook ads vs Instagram ads comparison.

Unlike Instagram stories, Facebook stories are not that much of a focus point for businesses, being the number three priority for placing ads on Facebook.

7. Facebook placements costs: Facebook stories have the highest CPC of $0.55, while Facebook feed has the greatest CPM values - $5.18

We just saw earlier where brands stand when it comes to choosing different Facebook ad placements to have their budgets directed towards.

But as any digital marketer that has the mind in the game knows, when picking those up, a series of factors need to be taken into consideration, and metrics like the average CPC and CPM analysed.

Talking about the average CPC, here are some fascinating discoveries:

  • on Facebook, stories are the ad placement with the highest CPC, of $0.55,
  • Facebook right column has an average of $0.38 cost per click
  • Facebook feed only reaches an average CPC of $0.26
  • Facebook video feeds has a $0.13 cost per click on average

Well, this is surely an interesting hierarchy. After seeing these numbers, a quick analysis of the average CTR is needed, as it will reveal if and where businesses nowadays need to adjust their social media advertising strategy.

Here’s a chart showing the average CPC and CPM for various Facebook ads placements.

Let’s not forget that since your business goals for different ad campaigns can be so many, the metrics you’ll have to prioritise in monitoring will have to be different as well.

If you're thinking on a big scale, and especially when your primary objective is to generate awareness for your brand, an important metric you should look at is the average CPM.

So, on a brief note, let’s have a glimpse of how the numbers for the average cost per thousand impressions aka cost per mille for look like different Facebook ads placements:

  • Facebook feed: has an average CPM of $5.18
  • Video feeds: its average CPM is $2.48
  • Facebook stories: a $1.08 CPM on average
  • Facebook right column: an average CPM of $0.38

8. Facebook Feed has the highest average CTR of 4.69%, followed by Facebook video feed, with an average CTR of 2.06%

All in all, a brand’s ultimate goal is to make its customers convert. Actually conversions make for almost a quarter of the main campaign objectives brands set for their social media ads.

And by taking a look at each Facebook ad placement’s potential of converting, it becomes pretty clear why the marketing budgets are divided the way they are.

This graphic presents the average click-through-rate for various Facebook ads placements.

The first two positions for the best placement on Facebook ads are actually the Facebook ad placements in which brands invest most of their social media advertising budgets into, as in:

  • Facebook feed, that has an average CTR of 4.69%
  • Facebook video feeds, on which the values indicate an 2.05% average CTR.

In terms of performance, those two types of Facebook ads are followed by:

  • Facebook right column: with an average CTR of 0,15%
  • Facebook stories: with an average click-through-rate of 0.09%

We knew on Facebook the story type of content is not so popular among the users, despite killing it on Instagram.

But what comes as a surprise is that Facebook stories is surpassed even by the Facebook right column as an ad placement in terms of a greater CTR.

Who would have seen that coming, especially given the Facebook story's higher CPC and CPM? 👀


The findings of this study are based on the analysis of 35,336 Facebook ads and 56,485 Instagram ads within the January 2020 - August 2021 timeframe.

In the section below you’ll find both an estimated ad spend per region and a CPC per region as this is calculated based on the data pool that exists in our tool's records.

Here's an estimation of the ad spend for every region covering January 2020 - August 2021.

To obtain a general understanding of the ad spend, CPC, and CPM, all currencies were exchanged to US dollars.

Here is an estimation of the average cpc for different regions.

Ad placement refers to all the available spaces where the social media platforms can display paid advertising

  • For Facebook were analysed the following placements available through Facebook’s API, and also in Socialinsider’s database: Facebook feed, Facebook stories, Facebook video feeds and Facebook right column
  • For Instagram, the following placements available through Instagram’s API,

and also in Socialinsider’s records were: Instagram feed, Instagram stories and Instagram explore

Ad spend means the estimated amount of money spent on advertising campaigns on Facebook and Instagram.

Socialinsider defines cost per click (CPC) by dividing the total cost of clicks on an ad by the total number of clicks the ad has obtained. The average CPC becomes the sum of all ad CPCs, divided by the total number of ads.

Socialinsider defines the cost per mille (CPM) as the cost per a thousand impressions. As defined by Facebook, CPM measures the total amount spent on an ad campaign, divided by the number of impressions, multiplied by 1,000.

The number of ad impressions represents the number of times an ad was displayed on screens.

Click-through-rate (CTR): shows the percentage of people who clicked on an ad, and is calculated by dividing the number of link clicks on an ad, by the number of impressions.

Elena Cucu

Elena Cucu

Content Writer @ Socialinsider

Mixing the words with the data is how a digital marketer should play the game of brands. And that’s me, a driven-born digital storyteller!

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