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A woman is standing at a whiteboard, brainstorming a social media plan for her business.
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Quick, what’s your favorite social media site?

Your answer may tell you more about yourself than you think. As the number of social media platforms has increased over the past two decades, each one has discovered a unique audience. While nearly everyone uses multiple platforms, there’s a distinct difference in the demographics of Facebook’s, Instagram’s, and LinkedIn’s user bases.

Creating compelling ad copy and designs is only part of the process when you advertise on social media. You also have to decide where your advertising dollars will best be spent, and choosing the right platform for your campaign can mean the difference between effective ads that drive conversions and missed opportunities.

In this article, we’ll look at three of the most popular social media platforms, discuss their user bases, and share what we know about the best platforms for reaching specific audiences.

Social Media Demographics

Facebook Instagram LinkedIn
Male 57% Male 51% Male 57%
Female 43% Female 49% Female 43%
18-24 years old 22% 18-24 years old 30% 18-24 years old 20%
25-34 years old 31% 25-34 years old 32% 25-34 years old 59%
35-44 years old 18% 35-44 years old 16% 35-54 years old 18%
45-54 years old 11% 45-54 years old 8%
55-64 years old 7% 55+ 6% 55+ 3%
65+ 6%

Overall, the 25-34 segment of the general population uses social media more than other age groups, so that group is expected to make up the most significant piece of all three platforms’ user bases. When you do some clustering, however, that bias falls out and leaves the following:

Facebook’s user base is somewhat older, with people under 35 making up only 53%, compared to Instagram’s 62% and LinkedIn’s 79%. It’s also the only platform with a significant 55+ population, making up 13% of the site’s users.

Instagram has the highest proportion of female users, coming the closest to being a 50/50 split between men and women.

LinkedIn’s demographics skew very young – but LinkedIn’s differentiator isn’t age or gender demographics; it has more to do with the nature of the platform itself, which we’ll get into below.

Looking at the demographics, you can see how each platform reaches a slightly different population segment. Using this data, you can start to develop an idea of where your audience will more likely be:

  • If you’re trying to reach an older population, Facebook is the way to go.
  • If you’re aiming for a younger audience or targeting women specifically, focus more on Instagram.

Platform Strengths

However, demographics are just one thing to consider when comparing platforms. For instance, basing decisions entirely on the above might lead you to think that for audiences 18-35, LinkedIn is the way to go. But if your business doesn’t fit a particular profile, that strategy could be completely ineffective.

Each platform has its specific niche in the social media world, and understanding those niches, along with the technical limitations of each, is vital to making the right decision on where to place your social media ad dollars.


We’ll start with the outlier. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, which are general platforms that appeal to a wide range of people from every lifestyle, LinkedIn is clearly and specifically focused on professional networking. Its more affluent and highly educated user base visits the site for one specific purpose: connecting with other professionals.

As such, ads for typical B2C products and services are less effective on LinkedIn. Users on the site aren’t in the mindset of shopping for themselves or their families; they’re thinking about their work, business, and career.

With that in mind, B2B products and services can effectively be marketed on LinkedIn. Presenting your offerings as beneficial for the growth and success of other businesses is a great way to leverage LinkedIn’s access to a massive network of professionals.


Many present-day social media users got their first taste of the social networking phenomenon with a site called Myspace, launched in 2003. A few months later, a Harvard student named Mark Zuckerberg launched another platform exclusive to college campuses called “The Facebook.” In 2006, Facebook opened its doors to users anywhere and quickly rose to become the world’s most popular social networking site.

While not the oldest platform, Facebook is by far the largest, with almost 3 billion users worldwide.

Facebook’s flexibility makes it a good utility infielder. With the ability to share short blurbs, long-form text, photos, videos, and nearly any other content, Facebook users expect a varied experience.

The most effective Facebook campaigns combine paid ads and free posts to the business’s profile. The ads are graphic posts with very little if any, textual information. They’re clear calls to action that are laser-focused on driving conversions. The free posts can be photos, videos, text, or any combination. They’re more focused on building engagement and creating a relationship between the customer and the business.


Instagram is all about the image. Whether it’s a photo or video, an Instagram post or ad is entirely visual. Posts and ads contain minimal textual content, and LinkedIn’s limitations on links within content mean that free posts can almost exclusively be focused on engagement.

On the other hand, Instagram’s layout and features make it a terrific showcase for stunning photographs and eye-catching videos. People browsing Instagram are in the mindset of “looking” instead of “reading,” making it a great place to lean in on visually centered marketing.

If you’re selling something with main value props centered on its appearance – clothing, home furnishings, etc. – Instagram is the place for your ads. The user base on Instagram is far more connected to “the look,” and responds well to ads that show off product appearance.

Multi-Platform Campaigns for Maximum Impact

Of course, the biggest audiences are found when a company uses multiple platforms to reach a broad spectrum of users. For instance, imagine a fictional furniture importer offering home and office furniture in several product lines at different price points. We’ll call them, let’s say, OKEO.

OKEO’s social ad strategy might look something like this:

  • Facebook: Ads promoting their higher-end home furnishings and high-quality kitchen appliances to take advantage of Facebook’s older and more settled user base.
  • Instagram: Ads promoting less-expensive furniture for young adults furnishing their first homes and a trendy collection of designer-inspired pieces that target a more youthful and fashionable audience.
  • LinkedIn: Ads promoting office furnishings that highlight their products’ quality and other value props for businesses take advantage of the platform’s professional emphasis.

Do you still want help deciding where to place your social ads for maximum effect?

Let us know – our talented digital content strategists can build a strategy targeting each platform’s unique audience: 478-621-4491