Facebook has had a miserable past year or two. Mark Zuckerberg no longer looks like the sprightly Harvard dropout genius who created a billion-dollar company and game-changing platform. He looks worn down, worried, and like he wants to be somewhere else. 

He looks like the guy who wants to be living the Instagrammable life but is stuck in the worst sort of neverending Facebook news feed scroll. 

Because while Facebook has had to fight allegations that it is simultaneously destroying democracy and making people depressed, its pretty younger counterpart Instagram is flitting about from 5-star restaurants to movie premieres hobnobbing with celebrities and the beautiful people. 

Yes, there are no doubt social ills connected to the Instagram phenomenon too. However, the magnitude of those issues seems far less grave than what is confronting Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. 

Compare these two recent headlines and you quickly get an idea of the challenges facing each platform:

  • “After Russia was accused of using memes and viral images to influence elections, Facebook will now fact-check pictures and videos”
  • “5 influencer tips for taking the perfect food photo for Instagram”

The other thing is that Instagram is a business still on the rise, whereas Facebook's growth trajectory is starting to level out. It is the mega platform of social media, with 2.23 billion monthly active users as of the second quarter of 2018, but user acquisition has got that much harder, while user retention has become a significant concern.

According to an analysis by Recode, Facebook added 22 million new monthly active users for 2018 Q2, its lowest quarter-over-quarter rise since at least early 2011 for that all-important growth metric. Growth in the US and Canada has been stagnant now for the past year, while user numbers have dropped a little in Europe.

Contrast that to Instagram, which is Facebook’s sister site after having been acquired by Facebook for around $US1 billion in 2012. Instagram hit a billion monthly active users in June 2018, doubling the number of people using the site since June 2016. 

Not only is it growing quickly, but it has also become the darling of advertisers, who see it as a perfect fit for marketing and selling to consumers. Mired in all of its other issues, Facebook continues to have trouble convincing advertisers its an effective sales platform. 

Facebook's gargantuan size is its main attraction. Much like the Yellow Pages of yesteryear, businesses and advertisers believe they have to be on Facebook because it is so dominant. However, that does not mean they think it's necessarily effective. 

In the case of Instagram, advertisers want to use the site because it connects very directly to the aspirational nature of consumers. It boils down to the fact we mostly show off in pictures (Instagram), while we rant and complain in words (Facebook).  

Facebook is not going anywhere anytime soon. However, Facebook as a company is looking increasingly towards Instagram for growth and advertising revenue. Mark Zuckerberg will be hoping Russian bots don't start using Instagram food photos to influence elections. He'll be in real trouble then.