Why Advertise on Instagram?

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Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms today, with over 1 billion monthly active users. For businesses, Instagram offers a huge opportunity to reach relevant audiences and drive results through advertising.

However, creating effective Instagram ads takes skill and knowledge. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll walk you through everything you need to know to create successful Instagram ad campaigns, from setting objectives and choosing ad formats to writing compelling copy and optimizing for results.

Before we dive into how to create Instagram ads, it‘s important to understand why Instagram advertising is worth your time and money. Here are some of the key benefits:

  • Huge reach: With 1 billion+ active users, Instagram provides access to a massive audience. No matter your target demographic, you can find them on Instagram.

  • Engaged users: People are very active on Instagram. 90% of users follow at least one business and 60% say they discover new products on the platform.

  • Visual nature: Instagram is all about eye-catching photos and videos. This makes it perfect for driving awareness and interest through creative visual storytelling.

  • Precise targeting: Detailed targeting options on Instagram allow you to zero in on your ideal customers based on interests, behaviors, demographics and more.

  • Measurable results: Instagram ads are optimized for specific objectives like website traffic, conversions and app installs. You can track performance and ROI in real-time.

Clearly, Instagram advertising presents a big opportunity for businesses to connect with relevant audiences and achieve marketing goals. But in order to see success, you need to master the art of ad creation.

As a digital marketing analyst with over 5 years of experience running Instagram ad campaigns, I‘ve seen firsthand how impactful Instagram ads can be when executed correctly. But I‘ve also seen many advertisers waste huge budgets by not fully understanding how to leverage the platform.

My goal with this guide is to arm you with the knowledge and best practices you need to create Instagram ads that deliver real business results. I‘ll be sharing tips and strategies based on extensive research, testing, and hands-on experience managing high-performing Instagram ad campaigns for brands across various industries.

The first step in creating an effective Instagram ad is defining what you want to achieve. Instagram offers a range of objective options to choose from:

Awareness: Drive reach and brand awareness of your business. Measured by impressions.

Consideration: Spark interest and consideration of your products/services. Measured by link clicks or landing page views.

Conversion: Get people to take a direct action like signing up, downloading, purchasing. Measured by conversions.

Traffic: Drive visits to your website, store or app. Measured by link clicks or landing page views.

Engagement: Increase interactions and engagement with your brand content. Measured by comments, likes, shares.

Video Views: Get more views of your video content. Measured by 2-second video views.

Lead Generation: Collect leads via lead ads. Measured by form submissions.

Messages: Increase messages to your business on Instagram. Measured by conversations initiated.

App Installs: Drive app downloads. Measured by app installs.

Take the time to think about what action you want users to take, and what you want to ultimately achieve through your ad. This will inform your objective selection.

For example, if you’re launching a new product line, your goal may be to drive traffic to your website to view the products. In this case, "Traffic" would be the right objective.

Whereas if you want to collect emails for an upcoming webinar, "Lead Generation" would make more sense.

As an analyst, my approach is to always start by identifying the key performance indicators (KPIs) that matter most to the business. What metrics are you trying to drive? From there, map the Instagram objectives to those KPIs.

For instance, if website sales are the ultimate goal, I would use a combination of Traffic and Conversion objectives for the top and middle of the funnel. For a retailer launching a new clothing line, Video Views could be the awareness play at the top as well.

The biggest mistake I see advertisers make is choosing objectives that don‘t actually map to their business goals. Instagram now provides such detailed tracking – take advantage of it to prove ROI and optimize towards the metrics that matter.

Instagram offers a range of ad formats to choose from. Selecting the right format can impact both the user experience and performance of your ads. Here are the options:

Photo Ads: Single image ads that can showcase your product/service visually and drive traffic to your site or profile. They work well for awareness and consideration objectives.

Video Ads: Video ads up to 60 seconds long. They can demonstrate products, tell brand stories and engage viewers effectively. Great for consideration and traffic goals.

Carousel Ads: Ads with 2-10 images/videos that users can horizontally swipe through. Allow you to tell an immersive brand story. Useful for consideration and engagement.

Stories Ads: Full screen vertical video ads up to 15 seconds that run in between Instagram Stories. Ideal for awareness and video views.

Reels Ads: Video ads up to 60 seconds long that run between Instagram Reels. Made for engagement, video views and awareness.

Shopping Ads: showcase products visually and drive to product pages on your website or built-in Instagram storefronts. Optimized for consideration and conversion.

Collection Ads: Showcase and link to multiple products. Drive awareness and consideration for product lines or catalogs.

Consider your objective, product/service, target audience and content format when deciding on an ad type. Test different options to see what resonates best. Combining multiple formats can also be an effective strategy.

As an analyst, I like to take a very data-driven approach to ad format selection for Instagram campaigns. I‘ll start by looking at the brand‘s existing organic content on Instagram – which formats are already resonating with their audience? This provides a good baseline.

Next, I dig into the Facebook Ads Manager and Instagram‘s creative hub to analyze the performance benchmarks they provide by format. For example, Instagram shares that carousel ads have a 19% higher CTR compared to single image ads.

Finally, I advocate rigorous A/B testing. The brands having the most Instagram success constantly test new formats against their standbys. You need to keep up with how user behavior is evolving on the platform.

And don‘t just test formats in isolation – test different combinations across the funnel. For example, pairing story ads at the top of the funnel with a traffic or conversion objective with product carousels further down has proven powerful for many advertisers.

The visuals and copy in your Instagram ads are crucial for capturing attention and driving results. Follow these best practices for standout creative:

Showcase visuals: Instagram is a visual platform. Highlight eye-catching products, lifestyle photos, infographics and videos. Use high-quality images and video.

Leverage carousels: Add 2-10 slides to tell an engaging brand story and keep attention. Mix up images, videos and text.

Write concise, catchy copy: You have limited text space. Craft a tight headline and description focused on your goal. Use emojis for added personality.

Highlight benefits: Communicate how your product/service solves a problem or improves lives. Focus on emotional connections.

Use captions creatively: Video ads offer up to 125 characters for a call-to-action. Leverage this space.

Think vertically: Optimize creative for mobile. Vertical videos and images tend to perform better on Instagram.

Make it inclusive: Show diversity in your visuals. This helps more users relate with your brand and message.

Show real people: Authentic photos and videos of real customers using your product can build trust and affinity.

Be consistent: Maintain the same style and messaging across your Instagram presence and ads for brand cohesion.

As a digital creative director earlier in my career, delivering standout Instagram ad creative is something I‘m very passionate about. I‘ve since worked with amazing art directors and copywriters to produce top-performing creative.

Here are a few high-level tips:

  • Focus on emotions and connections over hard selling. Build affinity.
  • Test aspirational vs relatable visuals to see what resonates more.
  • Leverage user-generated content when possible – it‘s more authentic.
  • Try interactive polls and comment prompts to drive engagement.
  • Consider repurposing top organic performing content into ads.
  • Make strong CTA buttons pop with color/contrast.
  • Use video subtitles if not audio-dependent.

At the end of the day, Instagram advertising is so visual that if your creative doesn‘t stop the scroll, your ad won‘t get opportunity to work. Study what catches your eye as a user – and apply those lessons.

One of the most powerful features of Instagram advertising is the ability to target your ads to specific demographics, interests, behaviors and more. Take advantage of these targeting options:

Locations: Target ads to people in specific cities, states or countries. Great for location-based businesses.

Age: Target specific age ranges like 25-34 if that represents your target market.

Gender: Choose to show your ads to men, women or both.

Languages: Target ads to people who speak specific languages like English or Spanish.

Interests: Select interests like "fashion", "home decor" or "small business" that align with your products.

Behaviors: Target based on purchase behaviors, business profiles or device usage.

Custom Audiences: Create targeted lists based on your existing customers or engagement on your other channels.

Lookalike Audiences: Have Instagram find new users who share qualities with your existing audiences.

The more precise you can be with your targeting, the better chance your ads have of resonating with the right people. Take the time to test different options and dial in your ideal customer.

You can also leave the targeting broad if your goal is general brand awareness. Instagram will then optimize for reach instead of conversions.

As an analyst, I see advertisers limit their success by being either too narrow or too broad with their targeting. My approach is to blend specific and expansive:

  • Start narrow with core buyer personas based on first-party data like existing customers.

  • Then add granular interest/behaviour targeting around those groups based on social insights and conversion indicators.

  • Use lookalikes to expand your reach with similar users. Scale up incrementally.

  • Include lightly-targeted video and story ads for broad awareness.

You want your overall strategy to serve a balance of highly targeted and more expansive ads tailored to different goals in your customer‘s journey. Testing and optimization is key to honing in on what messaging and targeting delivers at each stage.

When creating your Instagram ad, you‘ll need to define your daily budget and schedule:

Daily Budget: Instagram requires you set a maximum daily spend, which can range from $1/day up. Set a budget aligned with your goals, audience size and current scale.

Schedule: Choose a start and end date for your ad campaign. Runs can be as short as one day or as long as several months.

Ad Schedule: Select the days and times you want your ads to run during the schedule to align with your audience‘s usage patterns.

Delivery Type: Opt for either "Standard" delivery that spreads budget evenly over schedule or "Accelerated" to serve ads to the most relevant people first.

Auction Type: "Lowest Cost" optimizes for delivering impressions at the lowest possible bid, while "Target Cost" optimizes for conversions within your target cost.

Test out different budgets and schedules to find the sweet spot. Many advertisers find success running evergreen campaigns with larger budgets continuously over time.

As with your targeting, you want to take a strategic approach to budgets and schedules:

  • Set schedules for at least 2-3 weeks minimum to allow for optimization.

  • Start with small daily budgets ($20-50) for new creatives/audiences, then scale.

  • Use accelerated delivery for lower funnel conversion objectives.

  • Opt for lowest cost bidding when aiming for reach rather than conversions.

  • Add calendar bid adjustments for periods with higher customer demand.

  • Schedule product launch ads to align with peak awareness windows.

  • Use always-on retargeting campaigns with bigger budgets continuously over time.

Get into a rhythm of testing smaller short-term campaigns focused on new tactics, while bigger budgets go to proven strategies running consistently. Study the seasonality and intent signals from your audience to inform smarter scheduling.

The work doesn‘t stop once your Instagram ad is live. To achieve success, you need to closely monitor performance and continuously optimize elements:

Monitor Metrics: Keep a close eye on metrics related to your objective like clicks, impressions, conversions, video views, etc. Watch for trends.

Benchmark Performance: Compare metrics to your historical averages and industry benchmarks. Set goals for what good performance looks like.

Review Insights: Dive into the detailed demographic and placement data Instagram provides to understand who your ads are reaching and how.

A/B Test Elements: Try different combinations of creative, copy, formats and placements. Instagram will identify the best-performing version.

Adjust Targeting: Broaden or narrow your targeting based on who is engaging with your ads and your goal.

Increase Budget: If results are strong, increase your daily budget to scale delivery and lower costs.

Pause Underperforming Ads: Cut ads that aren‘t delivering to free up budget for better-performing placements and audiences.

Realign with Goals: Continuously evaluate if your ads are driving towards your KPIs. Make adjustments to realign as needed.

By constantly optimizing your Instagram ads, you‘ll uncover what messaging, formats and strategies resonate most with your goals and audience. This will ultimately drive better results from your ad spend.

As an analyst, my optimization approach comes down to rigorous testing and rapid iteration:

  • Set performance alerts to notify me of trends.

  • Sort ad sets by goal metric and kill underperformers weekly.

  • Ensure new ad variations and audiences run 2+ weeks before assessing.

  • Analyze engagement by gender, age, placement, interests to inform targeting shifts.

  • Watch how individual pieces of creative and copy perform to shape future content.

  • Only scale budgets by 2-3X once an element has proven itself.

  • Realign campaigns regularly based on updated goal priorities and seasonality.

With Instagram‘s detailed insights and A/B testing capabilities, you have all of the data you need to continuously refine your strategy. But you have to avoid making knee-jerk reactions. Optimize based on sound analysis – while still making swift decisions to maximize results.

Creating and managing Instagram ad campaigns on your own can be time-consuming. Leveraging tools can help streamline the process:

  • Facebook Ads Manager: Instagram‘s robust native ads manager through Facebook. Create and manage ads across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger in one place.

  • Hootsuite: An all-in-one social media management platform with an integrated ad creator and reporting. Makes it easy to manage organic and paid Instagram efforts.

  • Iconosquare: Provides an intuitive dashboard to plan, schedule and analyze Instagram ads along with your general account performance.

  • Later: Visual marketing platform with an ads manager that helps you visually plan and schedule Instagram ad campaigns. Provides reporting insights.

  • AdEspresso: End-to-end Instagram advertising solution focused on optimization through advanced targeting and A/B testing capabilities.

Check out the range of capable Instagram ad management platforms available to find one that best suits your workflow needs and priorities. I leverage tools like Iconosquare and AdEspresso to remove time-intensive tasks and focus my efforts on strategic optimization.

Hopefully this guide has provided you with a strong foundation on creating effective Instagram ads tailored to your goals. To summarize, the key to unlocking success is:

  • Map objectives to business KPIs: Know exactly what you‘re trying to achieve.

  • Test creative formats: Determine what visual storytelling users most engage with.

  • Strategically target: Balance specific and expansive targeting based on your place in the customer journey.

  • Analyze and optimize: Use Instagram‘s data to continuously refine your strategy.

  • Automate where possible: Leverage tools to eliminate repetitive tasks and focus on high-value efforts.

  • Enhance with influencers: Work with creators to build awareness and relationships with relevant audiences.

Adopt an agile, test-and-learn approach. Instagram advertising, like all platforms, is constantly evolving. The brands seeing the most success are those that move quickly to test new formats, messaging and placements – fueled by data-driven analysis.

The tips I‘ve outlined above will help set you up for Instagram ad success. But it comes down to building a process focused on continuous optimization and refinement guided by performance indicators. By taking this targeted, nimble approach, you can unlock Instagram‘s full potential to achieve your marketing objectives.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to chat more about optimizing your Instagram strategy.


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.