By Sofia Kumpumäki
Since 2015, Instagram has offered two types of posts on its platform. The first one is the regular post that anyone with an Instagram account can put up, and this is also the format that’s most commonly used when hiring influencers. The second one is a paid or sponsored post called an Instagram ad or Instagram Advertisement.
Instagram ads are powered by the Facebook ads platform, and it’s a unique type of content that we believe all businesses should know how to utilize. Similar to Facebook ads, Instagram ads are very different from regular posts on the platform, and you really have to understand the concept if you want to succeed. On the following page, we’ll provide all the information you’ll need to get started as well as our best tips on how to succeed with Instagram ads. So bring out your notebook and a pen because you'll definitely want to write this down.
What Are Instagram Ads?
Instagram ads are paid posts and an incredibly effective marketing tool for the Instagram platform that allows brands and businesses to reach a more specifically targeted audience. You’ve probably scrolled through your own Instagram feed at some point and come across a post marked as “Sponsored” from a company that you’re not following. That’s an Instagram ad.
The main benefit of Instagram ads is that they provide you with extra control over how your content looks but more importantly, who gets to see your posts. You also have the opportunity of choosing the reason or objective for the ad, i.e. driving traffic or app installations and more. As you can imagine, it’s a fantastic way to gain more exposure and to target your specific audience on one of the highest converting marketing platforms of all time.
Does that sound exciting?
Good, because it is. You see, for brands that master Instagram ads, only the sky’s the limit. And if you’re looking to spice your social media marketing strategy up and not only focus on influencers or you want to maximize your ROI on the platform, then Instagram ads are exactly what you need.
How Do Instagram Ads Work?
Before we start with our detailed step by step guide on how to use Instagram ads, we need to further explain how the whole thing works. Firstly, you need to be aware that Instagram advertisement doesn’t have its' own platform and features but is instead complete relying on the Facebook ads platform. However, as long as you have your business Instagram account and Facebook account connected, this isn’t an issue. In fact, we prefer it this way since it only requires you to learn one set of tools to run ads on two separate social media platforms.
When running an Instagram ad, you will be in charge of controlling and adjusting pretty much every aspect of the ad. Naturally, you first have to pick the content, but even after that, you can control everything from your target group and objective to placement in the feed and the length of the ad. Because of this, you need to start creating your ad with a plan of what you want to accomplish, but we will get into that soon. Other than that, getting started with Instagram ads is pretty straight-forward, and if you follow our guide below, you can have your first ad up and running in no time.
A Step by Step Guide to Your First Instagram Ad
The Facebook Ad Manager interface can feel daunting and overwhelming at first glance, but it’s actually not that bad. Follow the steps below and you will soon realize how easy and versatile this advertisement platform really is.
1. Open the Ad Manager
The first step to getting started with your Instagram ad is to open the Facebook Ads Manager. Make sure that you’re logged into the right account before you get started and that your account is connected to the Instagram account you want to run the ad on.
2. Pick an Objective
The second step is perhaps the most important since this is where you decide why you’re running the ad in the first place.
Today, Instagram provides a list of goals that you can pick from and that will affect how your ad will look and perform further down the road.
You can pick from the following objectives:
- Brand Awareness - This is for people that want to spread the word of their business and engage new potential customers. The algorithm behind this objective is still rather unknown, but all you need to know is that it works and that it’s one of the most popular options.
- Reach - If your only objective is to reach more people and potential customers, then this is what you need.
- Traffic - This is also a very popular objective, and it’s all about driving traffic to a website or a webshop with the intention of encouraging people to interact with that site. In other words, this is for you if you want to increase sales in your webshop our boost the number of downloads from the App Store.
- Engagement - A lot of people use Instagram ads to improve the engagement levels of their business account, and this is the objective they use. When running an ad with this objective, Instagram will help you get as many likes, comments, and shares as possible.
- App Installs - Businesses wanting to increase app installs have two options. The first one is to pick Traffic as the objective or you can do a more specific ad by picking App Installs. Note that your app needs to be available on one of the App Stores for this feature to work.
- Video Views - This one is rather self-explanatory. If you want to increase views on a specific video, this option is for you.
- Lead Generation - Getting more leads to your business is essential if you want to expand and grow. Whether you’re a realtor, a life coach or anything else, you’re relying on leads and customers, and this should be your go-to goal. Just be aware that the Instagram Ads Lead Generation tool isn’t as well-developed as Facebook’s version at least not yet.
3. Decide On Your Target Group
In order to succeed with your Instagram Ads, you really need to know who you’re targeting - we really can’t stress this enough. Without this information, your ad won't be specific enough to reach anyone of value, your budget will shoot through the roof, and you will not achieve your intended goals. This part of the process is very similar to how you would target Facebook ads with a few smaller differences. For example, you can decide to target your ad by location, age, and gender as well as language. In addition, you can adjust specific demographics such as Life Events, Education, etc.
Note: Due to regulatory changes, Facebook is currently being forced to make a lot of changes to who you can target your ad to and unfortunately, they are limiting many of the options. Therefore, you shouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of the really specific targeting options such as homeownership and political views being removed.
4. Configure the Placement
If you’re planning to run your ad exclusively on Instagram, you have two options, feed or story. You don’t have as many options for story type formats, but if you want your ad to show up in your users’ feeds, you can pick and choose as you like. That being said, if you want to run the same ad on Facebook and Instagram, you can decide to do so in this step. Also, keep in mind that Facebook’s default settings are both Facebook and Instagram so your action is needed if you only want to post on Instagram.
5. Set Budget, Length, and hit Publish
The last and final step (assuming that the content is ready) is to set your budget as well as how long you want your ad to run. Many marketers tend to think this is the most difficult step when first getting started, and we encourage you to not rush through it. You will be able to tweak your budget and the length of the ad further down the road, but it’s always good to at least have an idea before you get started. We provide more hands-on tips regarding this in the section below. The process itself is rather straightforward: pick your budget and how long you want the ad to run for. And that’s it. You will now be redirected to a page where you can upload your content, write a caption, apply call-to-action buttons, and publish the ad.
Things to Consider Before Getting Started
As you can see, running an ad on Instagram isn’t too complicated, and after you’ve done it a couple of times, you will fly through the process. However, if you’re planning to launch your first ever Instagram ad, there are a couple of things you need to consider so let us break it down for you.
- What Type of Content?
In terms of what content you want for your ad, you have a few options to choose from.
The two most common are regular image and video formats which are similar to the content you would normally post on Instagram with the option of adding call-to-action buttons such as Contact Us, Book Now, Download, etc. Today, you can even pick a carousel version where you get to upload several pictures that users can swipe through. You also have the option of running your ad as a video or image in the story format which is similar to the two methods above, although more limiting. You don’t have access to the same number of objectives or call-to-action.
Lastly, Instagram offers a new and highly customizable format that’s only supported on mobile devices. It’s called Canvas ads, and it provides an almost endless range of editing options to the point where you have to be a bit tech savvy to get it right. In fact, we suggest you wait with trying this format and stick with the more basic types of content until you get a hang of the rest of the process.
- What’s Your Budget?
For some reason, many brands seem to struggle with setting a budget for their ads. And even though it can be hard to determine the exact budget beforehand, it’s not something you have to overthink. Instead, consider what type of budget is available to you as well as how many days you're planning to run the ad and adapt it based on that. A good tip is to start low to see how it pans out and either increase it while the ad is running or choose a higher budget for your next ad.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the shorter you run the ad, the less your budget should be. On the other hand, the longer you run the ad, the more you would want to increase your budget.
In the end, it’s a trial and error kind of thing, and it will most likely take a few tries before you get it right.
- Who Are You Targeting?
So, we have already mentioned the targeting a few times, but we still feel inclined to do it again. You see, in many ways, your ad will be completely relying on you setting the right target and demographics. This is the only way for Instagram (Facebook) to know who it is you want to reach and why. If you’re not clear enough, your ad will reach people that have no interest in what you offer. For example, targeting business owners in their 40s with a college degree and a mortgage is very different from targeting girls in their early 20s with an interest in beauty products.
Our point is that if there is one thing you need to plan in advance and be completely sure of, it’s your target group. Nevertheless, if you do know who you are targeting and why, you can expect incredible results from your Instagram ad.
Final Thoughts and Tips
Before we send you off and let you get started with your next Instagram ad, we wanted to provide a few useful tips that you should keep in mind.
Firstly and as always when posting on Instagram, make sure you have high-quality and relevant content. Similar to a regular Instagram post, Instagram ads have an emphasis on images and videos meaning you shouldn’t focus too much on the written part of the ad. A really well-produced image or video with an explanatory sentence or two will get you far.
Second, make sure you use appropriate hashtags. Most of the ad formats allow you to use 30 hashtags, and even though you really don’t need to use that many, you should at least consider 3-5 well-planned and targeted hashtags to further improve your reach.
Third and lastly, take it easy. Getting an ad completely right will take time and effort, and you will get better and better the more ads you run. As long as you have somewhat of a plan and know who you’re targeting, you’ll have the option of tweaking and optimizing everything else.
Are you interested in learning more about influencer marketing? Check out this comprehensive guide!