There is one big difference between the two. Google AdWords is the world’s largest and most popular PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising platform and has become synonymous with the term “paid search.” The two terms are used interchangeably, even though other platforms such as Bing Ads work in a similar way. Paid search focuses on the targeting of keywords and the use of text-based/graphic advertisements. Advertisers using AdWords bid on keywords, specific words and phrases included in search queries entered by Google users in the hopes that their ads will be displayed alongside search results for these queries.
Instagram ads are a prime example of what is known as “paid social,” or the practice of advertising on social networks. With the highest number of monthly active users (or MAUs) of any social network in the world, Instagram has become a highly competitive and lucrative element of many businesses’ digital advertising strategies.
Although Instagram advertising can be thought of as similar to AdWords, in that advertisers using both platforms are essentially promoting their business via the Internet, this is where the similarities end. Unlike paid search, which helps businesses find new customers via keywords, paid social helps users find businesses based on the things they’re interested in and the ways in which they behave online.
Think of it this way: AdWords helps a customer with a specific need find you, while Instagram advertising helps you find customers before they have the need that your product or service helps satisfy.