There’s no doubt that Instagram and Pinterest are social media giants. Both platforms specialise in image and video sharing, and both are reaping the rewards of the increasing popularity of visual content amongst social media users.
However many businesses trying to extend their social media presence beyond Facebook and Twitter are often unsure about exactly how Instagram and Pinterest are different. And, accordingly, about which of the two platforms they should start using (if either!).
But fear not!
Though Instagram and Pinterest are in fact quite different, and should be used to achieve quite different objectives, in this post we explain the key differences between the two, and tell you exactly when and why you should be using each platform.
Instagram is an online (primarily mobile) photo- and video-sharing network. It is integrated with other platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr, to make cross-network sharing easy.
The platform is famous for its retro square shape photos, reminiscent of Polaroid images, and quite different to the 4:3 aspect used by the cameras of most mobile devices. It’s also famous for its filters, which, with a tap of the screen, allow users to digitally enhance their images and add cool effects to make their picture even more compelling or interesting.
Instagram is incredibly popular with celebrities, and many have huge followings on the app – including Kim Kardashian who, with over 41 million Instagram followers, is the most popular Instagrammer in the world.
Instagram is also the social media network with the highest engagement rate. On average, Instagram posts generate a per-follower engagement rate of 4.21 percent. That’s 58 times higher than Facebook’s (which is probably why the giant acquired them, along with their popularity across the younger demographics and also how it is a ‘mobile first’ appl as opposed to Facebook being originally built for the desktop), and 120 times higher than Twitter’s!.
Instagram is incredibly popular with millennials, as mentioned earlier, with 53 percent of Instagram users being aged 18-29.
Pinterest is a web and mobile app that allows photo and media sharing. Users can upload, save, sort, and manage images – known as pins – a well as other media content (including videos, infographics, and illustrations) with collections known as pinboards.
Pinterest users collect images, store them, and create personalised content collections. It is this which makes the site so unique, and explains why it is so popular with certain demographics.
Pinterest’s format attracts predominately female users (which make up 85 percent of its total user-base). And the average Pinterest user spends around 14.2 minutes on the site in each session, which indicates that Pinterest’s users really are making the most of all those cataloguing features.
Users love to use the site to share their own ideas about these subjects and to learn about new ideas from other users. This means the average Pinterest post has more actionable advice and ideas than the average Instagram post – which is often just an interesting or aesthetically pleasing image.
Instagram vs Pinterest: Pros and Cons
It’s clear, then, that Instagram and Pinterest are quite different sites, with different functionalities, and different audiences.
Whether you choose to use one or the other depends largely on the nature of your business. (Though, if you have the time and the resources, we’d recommend creating accounts on both).
- Incredibly large user-base
- Still growing in terms of the number of its users
- Created specifically for mobile devices (tapping into the general movement toward mobile Internet usage)
- Highest engagement rate of any social media platform
- Most users access their accounts on a daily basis
- Content can be generated fairly quickly
- Attracts a diverse range of users
- Links don’t work in captions, making it difficult to drive traffic to your site
- No API access, so it’s hard to use separate tools to publish content
- Advertising is expensive, which limits its use to fairly big brands alone
- Popular images trend, and then are often forgotten quickly – they have a very short shelf-life
- Most users follow lots of accounts, making competition for newsfeed space fierce
- Links to specific landing pages can be added to images, leading to Pinterest having very high referral traffic rates
- Users can “repin” content and in doing so expand its reach
- Users can save images so they’re not forgotten
- Catalogue format allows brands to build a culture around their business, and enables users to view their products and services with ease.
- Long session times
- Fairly particular user-base, making it hard to target men or low earners
- Does not focus on starting conversations, making customer engagement harder
- Content needs to be original and involves using multiple boards – in short, it can be time consuming
- Limited scheduling options
Instagram and Pinterest are both clearly incredibly powerful tools in their own right. Where you choose to dedicate your resources will depend on the type of organisation you run and what your business objectives are. (Remember, having a goal before you embark on any social media campaign is absolutely crucial; see our blog post, 5 Reasons Your Business Needs A Social Media Marketing Strategy, to find out why.)
We can see that the industries that do best on Instagram appear to be lifestyle, fashion, food, personalities, and luxury brands. Whereas Pinterest, they say, is best used by fashion, food, design, travel, and DIY companies.
But this doesn’t mean that if your business operates in some other industry you shouldn’t use either platform. In fact, we believe that both platforms can be put to good use if you have one of the two following goals.
If your goal is to generate engagement, then Instagram is probably your best bet. Instagram users are the most vocal and interested in the social media world. And the app allows you to run Instagram competitions and the like that may provide a real boost for your brand. Instagram also makes it easy to comment on and share your followers’ posts, too, allowing them to upload images of themselves with your product, which you can then add to your own feed.
If your goal is to generate sales, Pinterest is may be a better choice. Pinterest users use the site to find products and so are often in a “buying” state of mind when browsing. And the new “buyable pins” option makes it easy to sell directly from your site as well as directing traffic to your own site with image links.
Still, if you’re selling motorcycle parts, beard cosmetics, or any other stereotypically male product, you may not experience much success of the site. Hopefully, with time, Pinterest’s demographics will diversify. But until then, we’ll just have to accept that the platform’s demographics can be a little limiting.
Have you recently started using Pinterest or Instagram? If so, do you agree with our post? Or perhaps you have some Instagram/Pinterest tips you’d like to share with future users? If so, let us know with a comment.
Previously, he was Director at Comms Axis, a full service marketing agency specialising in content, social media & website services for businesses of all sizes.
Dan Purvis writes for a number of leading business, social media and marketing sites, including Smart Insights, MarketingProfs, Marketo, MarTech Advisor, Marketing Tech News, MarTech Today, MarTech Exec, and more.
Dan was also ranked by Brand Republic as one of the Top 50 UK Marketing & Social Media influencers.
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