10 Jan 2021 Social media

Pinterest vs. Instagram: Which one is right for your business in 2021?

Young man in a bright café reading a book in the corner

A common question people often ask about is Pinterest vs Instagram and which one is right for your business. Well, it depends on many factors, which we will discuss in this blog post. You might even want to have both.

Instagram is used to share your own photos and videos, whereas Pinterest is more about discovering and sharing others’ content as well as your own.

Pinterest vs. Instagram: What’s the difference?

Below are some factors to consider when choosing between Pinterest and Instagram for your business.

They are both highly-visual social media platforms, probably the most visual-centric we have. In order to gain followers on these platforms, you need to have beautiful, high-quality and/or meaningful images.  

Although both platforms are very similar in this way, they do work completely differently. That’s why there are several reasons as to why a business would use each of those platforms. 

1. Reason

The reason why people would follow an account on Instagram is different to why someone would follow an account on Pinterest. These reasons also affect how users interact with content on the site, which is essential if you want to be successful on either platform. 

Pinterest is mainly used for discovering something, whether it’s a recipe or a DIY project for your living room. Followers look for feeds for inspiration and look for topics they’re interested in. Therefore, the users generally search for specific keywords to find that content and follow specific accounts that post that type of content. 

On Instagram, what matters more is the image itself. If you post a picture of what you made for dinner, it can get lots of attention without you having to even mention the exact steps of how you made it. That would never work on Pinterest because, as I just mentioned, Pinterest is about discovering something new and inspiring. 

The audience on Instagram generally follows accounts whose feed they like and find intriguing. For example, people interested in cuisine would follow picturesque food accounts, while people interested in travelling would generally follow aesthetically-pleasing feeds from travel bloggers. They find these people to follow through looking through hashtags and keywords, and looking at what accounts their peers are sharing. 

Screenshot of Sorted Food's Instagram feed showing various meals they have created
Sorted Food‘s Instagram Feed

2. Audience

Before deciding anything, it is important to know your audience and the platforms they prefer. 

Instagram’s audience is highly diverse compared to Pinterest’s. It is also a lot larger. More than one billion people use Instagram every month, whereas 442 million people use Pinterest every month. However, in marketing, the quality of your audience is a lot more important than the quantity of your audience. 

Pinterest’s primary audience is women (80%) and tends to attract people looking for visual inspiration, style tips, creative ideas and recipes. Pinterest’s audience is mostly female, with almost 80% of the audience women. Whereas, Instagram’s audience has a more even split, with 51% female and 49% male. The Explore tab on Instagram allows users to find curated content based on their personal interests and 83% of users discover new products and services.

Picture of a woman working on her MacBook Pro looking at the Pinterest Audiences dashboard in a bright room
Pinterest Audiences Dashboard

Pinterest’s audience is mostly 25-34 year olds (40%), closely followed by the 35-44 age group. The age of Instagram’s audience is similar, with the largest demographic group being aged 25-34 years old.

Therefore, it is essential to establish who your ideal audience is in order to select the most appropriate platform to market on. You might even want to use both platforms. 

3. Links

If your goal is to generate traffic, Pinterest might be the better option. Pinterest prioritises link sharing and saving, allowing you to share a link to your website with ease. 

Instagram does not allow link sharing in posts, unless you have a paid Instagram ad campaign. You can add a link in your Instagram bio, but not on specific posts. 

If your business sells goods (for example clothing), you can implement the Shopping feature, which allows you to tag specific products in your feed and story posts that eventually lead the consumer to your website. You can also add the “shop” button to your business profile. Once you’ve done this, all posts you have tagged on Instagram will appear in this section. 

If you have more than 10,000 followers on Instagram, it allows you to share links on your Instagram Story through their ‘swipe up’ feature. This is the only way of sharing links on Instagram in posts (apart from paid advertising). 

Pinterest makes link-sharing a lot easier and it is received positively by the platform’s users. Unlike Instagram, Pinterest Pins allows you to link multiple e-commerce sites rather than just one product per post. This would be useful if you have multiple sites. 

Screenshot of uploading a new Pin on Pinterest
Pinterest Pin Links

Pinterest also offers a visual search feature, which isn’t a direct shopping feature, but it does make the app more e-commerce friendly. This allows users to hold down on any home or style pin to scan the image, which will lead to product suggestions.  

You should generally stick to Pinterest for generating traffic to your website, if it suits your business of course. However, if you’re selling goods, Instagram’s shopping is a good option to post about your products by tagging them.  

4. Desktop vs. Mobile

Another difference between Instagram and Pinterest is the use of a device. Instagram is meant to be used primarily on mobile devices. Although you can still browse pictures on the platform via their website on desktop, there are no capabilities for uploading images on desktop. You must use the smartphone app in order to post content on Instagram. 

On Pinterest, you can browse and post images via both the app on mobile and the browser on desktop. It is fully functional both ways. 

If your target audience mainly use social media on their desktop, Pinterest might be the better option. However, as the use of smartphones is highly common in most age ranges, this might not be a big factor. It all depends on your audience. 

5. Hashtags

Hashtags are an important part of Instagram. They allow you to reach new audiences with the vast amount of hashtags there are out there.

Hashtags on Instagram are almost like little communities. You can use industry-specific hashtags, location-based hashtags or infiltrate a community-based hashtag. The options are endless. You can use them to connect with your target audience by creating your own hashtag for your business and/or event. This will allow your followers to discover what other people are posting about your brand. 

People also use hashtags on Pinterest, but they don’t do much for the post. Pinterest shows Pins on search results that have been suitably labelled. You can sort though categories, but using location/community-based hashtags isn’t really what’s done on this platform. 

Screenshot of a Pinterest search for healthy dinner recipes showing various categories in search results
Pinterest Search Results

6. Photo Editing

Instagram’s mobile app allows you to edit photos directly on the platform. It gives you the ability to apply a filter and adjust other elements of the picture, including brightness, contrast, sharpness, warmth, saturation, shadows, highlights and many more. This could make your photo editing process quicker and easier.

Pinterest does not have a photo editing capability in its mobile app or desktop website. This means that instead of editing photos on the platform, you will have to use another application or software before uploading your photos to Pinterest.

7. Video Content

Not too long ago, this could have been a big factor in deciding whether to choose Instagram or Pinterest for your business as Pinterest did not support organic video content on the platform. That has now changed.

Instagram and Pinterest are starting to become more alike, with Pinterest recently releasing improved video sharing features on the platform for creators and businesses. They have introduced a video tab, lifetime analytics and video Pin scheduling.

According to Pinterest,

“Searches for inspirational videos have increased 31% since last year.”

“Pinners are 54% more likely to say they’re inspired to action by videos on Pinterest compared to videos on other media platforms.”


Therefore, it comes down to the type of videos you’d like to produce. On Pinterest, people are looking for videos that give people some inspiration when it comes to recipes, DIY projects and more.

Screenshot showing the Videos feature on Pinterest
Videos On Pinterest

On Instagram, you can post videos in multiple locations across the platform, including the feed, Stories and IGTV. If you’d like to share quick snippets of your team, business and products, you can use stories and the feed. For longer videos explaining new product releases, tutorials or product information, you can use IGTV. It all comes down to what your business is about.

Screenshot showing IGTV videos on Instagram from jiffpom
Videos on IGTV

8. Storytelling

Instagram is all about creating a personal experience with your audience. That is where storytelling comes to play. Instagram has various tools that make storytelling on the platform easy.

As mentioned, Instagram allows you to use images and videos in different parts of the platform. This allows you to create content related to your products and services, while still being able to tell a story without bombarding users with too many posts. You can use a mixture of Instagram Stories for storytelling and feed posts for Instagram Shopping.

On Pinterest, storytelling is not quite the same as Instagram. You can create strategic themed boards to connect with your target audience. This will create a more visual experience, generally equating to more engagement.

9. Algorithm

One of the main differences between Pinterest and Instagram is the algorithm.

On Pinterest, pins generally have a longer shelf life. This is one of the main advantages of Pinterest. Pins are said to last up to 4 months, making the content evergreen. In some cases, you can still receive traffic to posts that are several years old.

Instagram posts’ shelf life is a lot shorter. This is due to the “instant” aspect of the platform. The posts generally only get engagement within the first 24 hours. It is not common that a post still gets likes and comments months after it has been posted.

10. Advertising

Instagram advertising is in high demand due to the variety of targeting options they provide. Instagram’s parent company is Facebook, and their advertising tools are brilliant for specific targeting at a reasonable cost compared to other platforms. 

Instagram advertising allows you to connect to your specific audience wherever you are in the world, whether they are following you or not. On top of using lookalike audiences (similar people to your audience) when targeting, you can even choose everything from demographics such as age and gender, to interests and employment. This makes it easier for you to get your content in front of your audience, no matter where in the world. You can also change the call-to-action button on Instagram depending on what the action is that you want them to take (for example, ‘learn more’ or ‘buy now’).  

Instagram advertising also allows you to advertise various types of content, including photo ads, video ads, carousel ads and story ads. This allows you test which type of content works best for your target audience. 

Pinterest advertising is a bit different. Their advertising allows you to get ‘ad products’ in front of your audience. Pinterest advertising includes promoted pins (single image), promoted video pins (single video), promoted carousels (multiple images) and promoted app pins (to find apps). 

Screenshot of Pinterest's promoted pin showing an Accordian Crossbody bag with the Pinterest Promote button
Pinterest Promoted Pins
Screenshot showing a paid advertising Pinterest app pin for JackThreads
Pinterest App Pins

According to Pinterest, “83% of weekly Pinners have made a purchase based on the Pins that they saw from brands on Pinterest”.

Promoted pins are only available in selected countries, such as the USA, Canada, UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Austria, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands. 

You can target people on Pinterest in three different ways – customer list targeting (existing customers using mobile/email information); visitor retargeting (visitors that have visited your site); and lookalike targeting (similar to your audience).  

Final Thoughts

Both platforms prioritise images and have lots of marketing potential for businesses to engage with their audience. Understanding the differences will allow you to create different content for each of the platforms, or choose the platform that suits your audience the most. 

The first step is to focus on your ideal customer and look if the factors mentioned in this post match their needs and wants. If you’re having a hard time choosing, it might be because both platforms would be suitable for you. In that case, if you have the time and resources to create good, quality content for both platforms, that is what you should do. If you feel like you wouldn’t be able to create high-quality content for both, you have to make a choice between the two. 

In short, if you’re getting what you need from your current social channels, stick with them and don’t make more work for yourself. However, if your goal is to generate more traffic to your website, Pinterest is generally the recommended option. If your goal is to raise awareness and build a reputable brand image online, Instagram could be the best option for you. 

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