Every social platform is different. This is something every social media analyst and marketer will underline from the outset - what works on Twitter won't necessarily resonate on Facebook, what you Pin on Pinterest isn't the same as what you'd post on Instagram.
The platforms that succeed in the social media landscape do so largely because of differentiation - an argument could be made, for example, that Google+ failed because it tried to mirror what people could already do on Facebook, rather than offering a new, unique experience. For social apps to gain traction, they need to provide something that users can't get anywhere else, a compelling reason as to why you and your friends should head over and start up a new conversation within their system.
Given this, it's important for businesses to recognize that differentiation factor and to approach each social network with a platform-specific approach. But how do you work out which approach and content works best on each platform?
To help with this - within their own social networks at least - Facebook has conducted a study of more than 7, 800 people aged between 18 and 64 from Australia, Brazil, France, Japan, the UK and the US who use Facebook and/or Instagram at least weekly in order to get some perspective on why and how they use each.
As per the report:
"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?"
And while the two platforms are obviously very different, the results provide some interesting and specific perspective around what people use each platform for - here are some of the key highlights.
Opinion Vs Escapism
According to Facebook IQ Researcher Vicki Molina-Estolano, the main finding of the report was that Facebook better satisfies people's need for empowerment, recognition and connection, while Instagram more strongly fulfills their desire for fun, relaxation and discovery.
"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."
As shown by the different sizes of the topics in this bubble graph, you can see that Facebook interactions are more clearly weighted towards family, friends and acquaintances, while celebrities get much more precedence on Instagram.
According to the data, users look to Instagram more for insider perspectives and insights, a window into a different world, while Facebook is their real world, the people and perspectives they care about and want to discuss.
Molina-Estolano says this is clearly evident in the content that gets most shared on each:
"A 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."
This supports some of the more common psychological understandings around sharing behavior, that people share to define themselves to others, which is more relevant on Facebook, where your connections are more likely to be your friends and family. And while you may still have similar connections on Instagram, the visual focus of the platform makes it more conducive to escapism, to entertainment as opposed to opinion.
"Based on these findings, marketers might experiment with sharing reactions and opinions on Facebook and behind-the-scenes content on Instagram."
Facebook's research also looked at the different ways in which men and women use each platform, with Molina-Estolano noting that:
"For men in the markets we looked at, the platforms are practical. And for women in those markets, they're more personal."
For example, men on Facebook and Instagram ranked learning about events and joining groups as the most important reasons why they the use the platform, while women indicated that staying in touch with friends and family was more relevant.
In addition, the researchers also looked at how parents use the two, with some pretty clear differences in the subjects of interest they're seeking on each.
And while those findings are specific to parents, they largely reflect the wider trends identified - that users seek more personal content on Facebook and more aspirational material on Instagram. That works in line with the focus of each platform to some degree, but it's interesting to note either way when considering how you should be approaching each.
The last part of the study looked at how Millennials, in particular, use Facebook and Instagram and what content they're more likely to share. Given the huge focus on Millennials as the next key market, it makes sense that Facebook would highlight this, and the data provides some interesting perspective around what they expect to see and are seeking on each.
In terms of lessons to take away, Molina-Estolano says that:
"Marketers should continue to design big ideas based on their business objectives as usual. But if you're interested in customizing your concepts for each feed, our research can help you understand the particular interests, needs and expectations of our two communities and give you a starting point for experimentation."
As noted, each social platform is different, each requires a different approach to maximize performance and engagement. More than that, of course, each brand's specific audience will also be different, but in terms of wider trends and understanding what users are looking for on Instagram and Facebook, this data provides some great pointers as to what you should be posting in order to provide a more relevant and resonant feed and garner better audience response (and thus, reach).
You can read more about Facebook's "A Tale of Two Feeds" report here.