A Guide to Instagram Ads

YOUR INTRODUCTION TO HOW TO RUN ADS ON INSTAGRAM

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You’re scrolling through your Instagram feed, and you suddenly see something pretty eye-catching – but you notice that you don’t follow the person that posted it. You also notice a little “sponsored” button on the post. This piece of content is an Instagram ad. So how did it get there? How was it so effectively targeted to what’s already on your feed? How do you get your business to capitalize on this phenomenon in 2021? We’re here to help! 

Instagram advertising is an incredibly effective but also a very expansive feature. In its effectiveness, Instagram advertising represents an extremely varied tool and can be difficult to approach as a first-time advertiser. There are so many different kinds of ads on Instagram. Therefore, it can be challenging to decide which one best serves your business, as well as how much to spend on your Instagram ads and how to track your Return on Investment (or ROI). We’re aware of how intimidating it can be to enter into the world of Instagram ads. Because of that, we at Dawning Digital have compiled a short intro to Instagram ads that we think will come in handy when introducing your business to the public at large through social media platforms.

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How do Instagram Ads Work?

Instagram ads are specific posts or stories that businesses or users put money behind to have them appear in Instagram users’ feeds who may not already be following them. These sponsored posts always indicate that they are sponsored, whether through a small “sponsored” sticker under the username on a feed post or story, or a link to an eCommerce portal that lies just above a feed post’s caption. Your Instagram ads can be linked directly to your brand’s account, to your direct messages, to any URL of your choosing, or to your integrated in-app store. Due to the fact that Facebook has acquired Instagram, you can set up your business’s Instagram ads directly through Facebook Ad Manager. 

What types of Instagram Ads are there?

1. Instagram Photo Ads

The original type of Instagram advertising, as well as the most prevalent and widely used type thereof, feed photo ads are most likely where you’ll find your start in IG advertising.  These advertisements appear in a user’s feed in a square or landscape format and, less popularly, in the IG portrait 4:5 aspect ratio. These ads are easy to create and very simple to keep in line with your existing branding, as one can repurpose an existing brand feed photo in their creation. They can also appear very native, almost as if they’re not an advertisement. If they are appropriately targeted through the Facebook ad manager, these Instagram ads can be virtually indistinguishable from a user’s regular feed. It is widely acknowledged that Instagram photo ads are great for generating and consolidating leads already in your target market. It is suggested that you use this format to show off feed content of your own that has already proven successful. Your brand can also use this type of Instagram ad to create interest in new products, events, and giveaways towards an audience that you know already likes your content. Hootsuite-generated statistics say that “50% of Instagram users are more interested in a brand after seeing an ad for it on Instagram.”

2. Instagram Stories Ads

Appearing on targeted user’s stories, Instagram stories ads show up as a limited-time videos or images in portrait format while users are browsing the Stories feature of Instagram. In 2021, over 500 million people are reported to check stories every day, so your audience for this ephemeral form of advertising is genuinely enormous. Businesses also have the upper hand when it comes to story views. Instagram states that businesses create a third of the most-viewed stories on the platform daily! 58% of people also say that they become more interested in a brand after viewing its stories! Stories feel like a no-distractions, personalized moment between the audience and the content creator. Completely dominating a viewer’s screen and demanding immediate attention in a way that a permanent feed-based image would not, story ads lend an immediacy to your advertising that you may not get from feed ads. Stories also lend themselves to a less produced type of content. This means that candid footage, behind-the-scenes imagery, and one-on-one conversations make excellent story ads. This lessens the time it may take you as a business owner to create these ads.

3. Instagram Carousel Ads

Carousel ads are primarily similar to feed ads in where they appear to users and their targeting mechanisms. However, they consist of more than one image or video. Users can swipe through three to five images or videos, each with their own individualized call to action. This format differs from regular carousel feed posts in which a user can upload up to ten individual pieces of media. Instagram carousel ads more than make up for their lack of quantity in the customizability of their CTA – you can add a different CTA to each piece of media! One of the most incredible things about this particular ad format is that you can use a feature available in the Facebook Ads Manager to algorithmically customize your carousel ad. This means that your audience sees the image in your carousel that they’re most likely to enjoy first! You can also create engaging series of images that lend themselves to a visual narrative to keep your audience scrolling. These ads are also a great way to show a product range or portfolio to a new audience, so we recommend widening your targeting with carousel ads outside of your usual niche audience.

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4. Instagram VIDEO ADS

Video content seems to be taking over most of our previously static-image-focused platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram. This is for a good reason, as video content is both popular and effective. With 40% of Instagram users creating video content daily and features like stories and IGTV growing consistently since their introduction, it’s no wonder video advertising content does so well on Instagram! It has been documented that three times as much comment engagement is generated on sponsored Instagram videos than has been generated on sponsored Instagram photos! We all know that engagement drives the IG algorithm to show your post more prominently to a broader audience, so this is a massive bonus. Video adverts are the ideal way to promote brand awareness because of this extended reach. Still, it’s worth bearing in mind that video advertisements usually lose the viewer’s attention within the first few seconds, so keeping your content short, sweet, and eye-catching will be to your benefit here. 

5. Instagram Collection Ads

Taking a form similar to Instagram carousel ads, with multiple photographs or videos, Instagram collection ads could be confused with carousels, but they’re pretty different. You will pick one highlighted, “main image,” and underneath it will appear a collection of sub-images that showcase the collection associated with the “main-image,” as well as a call to action of your choosing. This CTA will usually be a link to your eCommerce store or a direct link to purchasables on your website. These ads work best for online stores, as they make an excellent product or portfolio showcase. They’re not ideal for advertising services or more abstracted products, and they resemble a traditional catalog more so than any of the other Instagram ad formats. 

6. Explore ads in instagram

Using the same content as you post in your brand’s feed, you can post “Explore” ads. The “Explore” tab in Instagram is where users go to discover new things, so this sort of advertisement is ideal for using content that you already know works and showing it to a broader group of people than your current follower base. These ads work by promoting your existing content to “Explore” and adding a call to action. It’s as simple as that! No need for creating new content or testing copy; just let your already-successful content speak for itself. With this form of advertising, you’re at the distinct advantage that the audience in the “Explore” tab is actively looking for new connections and creators, so you encounter a group of people that are amenable to trying new things through your product, service, or brand.

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How to Run Ads In Instagram?

Now that you know the different types of Instagram ads and what kinds of content work best for them, you need to figure out how to set up your own Instagram adverts. Your first step is to create an account on Facebook Ads Manager. Due to Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, the Instagram Ads Manager and Facebook Ads Manager have been molded into one user interface, so you have to create your IG sponsored posts through the Facebook User Interface. Facebook has a great tutorial enabled for new users, but if you’re struggling to gain access to this info due to regionality or being a new member of an already established team, here’s a basic how-to on how to navigate the manager once you’ve created a profile: 

1. Connect your Facebook to your Instagram

 

 

Visit facebook.com, click “Log in,” and follow the prompts to get your IG connected. You can also connect your Facebook to your Instagram profile in the Instagram app. You don’t need a Facebook business page to connect an Instagram account to it. You can use your personal account to do all of the necessary transactions! 

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2. Create your advertisement

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On the default page of your Ads Manager dashboard, you’ll be prompted with the option to “create a campaign.” Click on that, and then name your campaign for ease of access in the future. In this step, you will also choose your campaign objectives.

 

After you’ve named your campaign, you have the option to declare if it’s a special interest campaign, as well as the opportunity to choose to switch on A/B testing, optimizing your campaign automatically via audience impressions, or optimizing your budgets through Instagram ad budget optimization. Facebook defines campaign budget optimization as a feature that “will distribute your budget across ad sets to get more results depending on your delivery optimization choices and bid strategy.” This means taking the money you decide to spend on this campaign and allocating it to where it is proving to be the most useful.

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In the next section, you can define your ad set name, the link your ad is converting to, your target audience, your budgets, your placements, and your ideal optimization. You can also turn on “Dynamic Creative,” wherein you can provide sets of ad copy and headings that the Facebook algorithm will switch around for you based on the audience that your advertisement will be accessing. In this section, based on the targeting choices you make, you will also get an idea of the audience size that your advertisement may have:

 

 

In the next step, you get to create and set up your original advertisements. You can work with placements, imagery, and budgets here and craft them to exactly your brand’s voice. This step includes ad setup, the creative elements of your advertisement, and setting up the metrics you’d like to track to give your advertising proper survey and analysis after you have promoted it.

3. Tracking Your Instagram Ad's Performance

One of the most essential parts of starting an Instagram ad campaign is tracking its performance. This is because, to ensure success in further campaigns, one needs to see what worked and what didn’t work for your targeted audience. If you’re keeping an eye on your campaign regularly, you can even use tracking to edit and optimize your campaign while it’s still running! There are loads of tools currently on the market that can provide you with large-scale Instagram ad analytics, but we think that if you’re just starting out with Instagram ads, the tools already in the Facebook Ads Manager should suit you fine. Using information filters and downloadable reports, the Ads Manager will provide reliable data about how many clicks to your conversion site your adverts generate. You can use the “performance” filter for a performance overview, as well as view the engagement each advertisement you posted generated amongst your target audience. If you have any of Instagram’s algorithmic spending tools enabled, you can also use these reports to check out the “Amount Spent” and “Cost per Result” features to see just how Facebook has spent your money! The social media experts at Later indicate that “as a general rule if you have an ad that performs well, you should increase the ad spend every three days. On the other hand, if your ad doesn’t perform, don’t hesitate to shut it off.” So keep an eye on how your ads are doing, and feel free to adjust them as needed.

What Makes a Good Instagram Ad?

Firstly, and most importantly, an advertisement needs to appear “native.” But what does that mean? Native advertising means that your ads blend in with the user-generated content on the platform. So if your ad is very obviously an ad, you’re doing it wrong. Your audience will scroll right past your ad if they feel like they’re blatantly being sold something. They’re more likely to spare a moment to take a look if your content is visual, exciting, and engaging, like a regular piece of non-sponsored Instagram content. You can find your native-looking visuals on your own brand’s feed or look for them on image searching sites like Unsplash or StockSnap

Next, it’s essential to make sure that your advertisements have optimized captions. This means engaging copy and calls to action. Your caption needs to be short enough that you don’t lose your audience’s attention but long enough that it’s sufficiently informative to do your ad spending justice. It’s important to remember, too, to keep your caption referential to your image, or your ad will seem computer-generated and insincere. You can also optimize your caption with hashtags to make it discoverable to a broader audience. You can find the right hashtags to use by using the methods outlined in our blog on hashtag research!  You can develop campaign hashtags to track your ads, but it’s more beneficial to take a look at the sort of hashtags your target market tends to use in their regular UGC. 

Another critical aspect of creating a successful Instagram ad is to keep your ads text-minimal. This is partly because text-heavy ads aren’t nearly as visually appealing as their more pictorial counterparts. Mainly, though, it’s to adhere to Facebook’s Ad Rules. Though there is no longer a concrete rule on how many characters one can include in an ad-image, your promotion is much less likely to be approved if it contains loads of text. On the subject, Facebook says: 

“We’ve found that images with less than 20% text perform better. With this in mind, we recommend keeping your text short, clear, and concise to get your message across effectively.”

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How Much To Spend On Instagram Ads?

Though it would be nice to give you an exact number to spend on your ads, this is incredibly brand contingent. A brand like Nike launching a globally endorsed campaign will certainly not be paying the same amount for an Instagram ad as a small, eCommerce-based local candle company. The amount you’ll need to spend on your advert is entirely up to you, but we have a few tips to make deciding that amount a little bit easier.  Because there are fewer ad spots on Instagram than there are on Facebook, it costs a little more to advertise on Instagram than Facebook, but trends in engagement indicate that your conversion rate will be well worth your increased spend. 

Measuring how much to spend on your Instagram ad comes down to your “cost-per-click” or CPC rate. This means the amount of money you have spent divided by the number of times people have taken action (such as converting a click to a direct URL, visiting your profile, or engaging with the content in your ad through likes and comments.) An average CPC for a well-performing Instagram ad is between $0.40 and $0.70 a click.  Campaign objectives can cause the cost of your ad to fluctuate. A more specific, targeted campaign that drives clicks towards a high-value interaction such as a lead conversion will cost more. A campaign geared towards a more generalized interaction like brand awareness is going to cost less. The pricing on your targeted campaign will also change due to your targeted audience size. If you want your ad to reach the entire population of a city, that’s going to cost you more than targeting all of those with interests around your product in your particular neighborhood. 

You’ll find out which sort of ads work best for your business through testing them and seeing which ones are giving you the lowest CPC while maintaining a high reach. Adopt the strategies you used in those ads and carry them over to your new or existing campaigns to minimize your spending and maximize your reach or conversion rate. 

HootSuite has put together a nifty toolkit of ROI (or Return on Investment) formulas that you can use to compare the advertisement metrics that you access in the Facebook Ads Manager. Plug your figures into these equations and adopt the advertisements’ strategies that spit out the highest values. What makes this toolkit so valuable is that it provides formulas that access different campaign objectives, so make sure to use the formula that applies most to what you’re looking to achieve with your ad. 

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Examples of Good Instagram Ads

1. Justfab: An instagram photo ad

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Why it worked: This advertisement capitalizes on Influencer power (which you can read more about in our Guide to Influencer Marketing) as well as being a great example of native visuals. This image could very well be an image that Kelly Rowland posted on her feed but shows off the product being advertised subtly in the background. This ad also features a fantastic engagement booster in its caption optimization, via a giveaway. Though the audience is aware they are being advertised to, conversions and clicks are more likely as this competition makes them feel like they’re being given something in return for their attention. 

2. BEARDBRAND: An instagram video ad

 

 

Why it worked: This clip is a short video ad that, in 13 seconds: lists the functions of the product, shows all six varieties of the product, gives us three user testimonials and demonstrates the product being used. The viewer’s attention is never lost, and the caption is short, sweet, and to the point, so one’s focus stays on the video clip. 

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3. WENDY's: AN INSTAGRAM STORIES AD

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Why it worked: This story used the “full attention – no distractions” benefit of story ads to slowly reveal their product and create a full-screen desire for the product within their audience. They also used the opportunity to make a “secure the bag” joke, which works perfectly for stories. Stories traditionally feature more informal, comical content as opposed to feed posts.

4. HELLOTUNEBOX: AN INSTAGRAM CAROUSEL AD

 

Why this works: This brand makes mini-musical boxes that play theme songs and hit songs when you wind them up. By including multiple videos in their carousel ads, fans of the different fandoms they make products for can stumble onto this ad via targeting. The dynamic ordering function available in the Facebook Ads Manager will show them the video most likely to appeal to their targeted interests first! That’s like creating five niche advertisements in one!

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5. Pupsocks - an Explore Instagram Ad

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Why this works: If your product appeals to a particular target market, this is the way to advertise! This ad appears in the “Explore” feed after clicking on an image of a dog in the Explore tab and scrolling down. This is an excellent example of a brand knowing its target market. If someone is looking for dog pics in Instagram Explore, they usually have a dog. If a person has a dog, it’s highly likely that they genuinely love that dog. If they love their dog, chances are, they’d love socks with that dog on them! This sort of ad, adequately targeted, will lead to a very high conversion rate.

6. Gregory Mountain Equipment - an Instagram Collection Ad

 

Why it worked: The first and most prominent of these images establishes the lifestyle and the milieu in which the product would be used, and the carousel of products on the bottom row highlights the individual mountain products on show here. The initial image feels like native content and espouses the brand’s values, but the rest of the ad’s imagery elaborates on that lifestyle with a much broader product catalog. The fact that the catalog photos in this post are also lifestyle-esque images rather than bland, white background product photos makes this advert even more effective. The caption also shows off the brand a little bit, which is always a winner!

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The world of Instagram ads can be an intimidating one to start navigating because there are so many choices you can make and metrics you can observe. There’s no way to start off and get it ideally right the very first time, but we hope we’ve equipped you with the tools you need to get going with Instagram advertising and build your digital marketing portfolio in the best way for your brand. If you’d like some one-on-one advice, we’d love to help you out. The team at Dawning Digital has a wealth of experience creating and managing Instagram ad campaigns, and we’re offering free consultation calls that you can book right now! 

For now, though, why don’t you check out some of our other branding essentials, entirely for free? We’ve got a brand board template, a brand identity questionnaire, a meme template, 100 captions to adapt for your business, and a 30 day Instagram Reels challenge that you can find in the “Freebies” tab above!

Happy advertising, Dawning Digital fam!