With over 1 billion users every month, Instagram is experiencing an all-time high in engagement and use. So how exactly are marketers using the platform? We’ll go through that in detail, starting with what Instagram ads are.
What are Instagram ads?
Put simply, they’re advertisements on Instagram’s social media platform, which Facebook owns now. You can choose to use either photos or video for your campaign, and you can run them in the regular scrolling feed or Stories feature.
Shortly after Facebook bought Instagram in 2013, the platform started offering ads to specific businesses. In 2015, it opened its advertising services to anyone.
Because Facebook has a wealth of data on its users, it allows businesses to curate and target their marketing campaigns. When creating a new ad, you can filter by age and region. But you can drill down a lot deeper, too, and choose an audience by city, interests, and whether or not they’ve engaged with your content in the past.
Advertising on Instagram is also relatively cheap compared to other mediums, and you can tailor your campaign based on your budget. Keep in mind that your ad cost will vary depending on which age group you’re targeting—and at what time of year. Ads created in the 4th financial quarter of a given year tend to be the most expensive.
Instagram ad formats
There are currently 5 advertising options on Instagram:
- Stories ads
- Photo ads
- Video ads
- Carousel ads
- Collection ads
Which one is right for you depends on a number of factors, including what product or service you’re selling and what the goal of your advertising campaign is.
Instagram adopted a feature made popular by Snapchat called Stories, or short snippets of daily life shared in photos or video that disappear after 24 hours. The platform has opened this up as an advertising channel that you can use to display ads to consumers.
When you create a Stories ad, you can share either a photo or video. These are integrated seamlessly into the flow of Stories from other users that your target audience follows.
Stories offer a “swipe up” option for business accounts, which allows a link to be shared with the viewer. Users simply need to swipe their finger up on their screen to go where you’d like them to, whether that’s a blog post, product page, or landing page.
Brands using story ads can also use Stories’ other features like face filters, text, GIFs, and emojis to make their ads stand out.
These usually consist of high-quality photos of a product that are placed in a user’s feed. Their main objective is to draw attention to your product or service with eye-catching images that make people stop scrolling. This is an especially useful kind of ad when a brand has a strong and recognizable aesthetic.
To get potential customers to engage, photo ads have configurable buttons that can display calls to action like “learn more” or “shop now.”
These can be displayed in either Stories or Instagram’s main feed. They have the added benefit of grabbing attention though motion when they auto-play, even when the user’s sound is turned off.
This type of ad can use either photos or video to showcase your business. Instagram’s carousel feature lets you post multiple photos or video snippets that users can swipe through. You can get as creative with it as you’d like!
For instance, fitness gurus might show short workout clips. A makeup company could put up a slideshow of their products, and a real estate company could post a short virtual property tour. Like photo ads, these also have a handy call-to-action button.
Instagram introduced this feature in the beginning of 2018. Users can see the ad and tap on it, and when they do, they’re given the option to purchase specific products directly from the ad itself. Collection ads can use photos or video.
How to create your own Instagram ad
Now that you’ve seen the ways you can advertise on Instagram, you might be considering launching your own campaign. To create an ad, follow these steps:
- Create a Facebook business page (if you don’t already have one). All Instagram ads have to be created in Facebook’s ad manager.
- Link your Instagram account to that business page.
- Choose your objective from a number of options, which include brand awareness, reach, traffic, app installs, engagement, video views, lead generation, and more.
- Select your audience.
- Choose where your ads will be placed.
- Choose your advertising budget and schedule.
- Create your ad by choosing the page that will post it, the videos, pictures and links to be included, and your caption text. This is also when you choose what format you want the final ad to follow: carousel, single image, single video, or slideshow.
Instagram gives you a lot of flexibility when it comes to budget, audience, and targeting, so use those features to your advantage.
Targeting your ad
You can choose a daily or one-time budget for your ads. Once you’ve decided, the ad manager will spend that money to place your ad where the algorithm thinks it’ll be most efficient.
For example, if the first couple days or weeks of data show your ad performing well during a certain day—or certain time of day—more of the ad money will be allocated to those spots for higher visibility during peak times.
Your audience is another important piece of the puzzle. You can narrow down who sees your ad as much as you want. For example, you could specifically target people between 18 to 35 living in New York City who love football, if your analytics suggest that they’re your most promising demographic.
It would be a waste not to use that power and data to get the best ad placement. This is why knowing your audience is so important. If you’re selling organic tea, you probably don’t want to target the same customers as a soft drink company.
It’s also important to make sure your ad aligns with the objective you chose when you first created the campaign. If all you want is to get more traffic to your website or let potential customers know who you are, you probably shouldn’t use collections ads that try to sell to them right away. A short video introduction or a carousel of great photos might be a better choice.
Show off your brand and find new fans
Because Instagram is predominantly a mobile app, users access it on the fly and can be reached anywhere they have their phones. These days, that’s almost everywhere. Use these tips to get your next campaign started, and happy advertising!