It’s undeniable: Instagram took the world by storm, and the app is one of the most popular social networks worldwide
As of June 2016, the mainly mobile photo-sharing network had reached 500 million monthly active users (up from 400 million in September 2015), surpassing Twitter, Snapchat, and many others.
Since when Instagram finally opened up their advertising platform for everyone, more than one year ago, a lot of things have changed, making advertising on this social media more effective yet a little trickier. But only if you don’t know how to do it!
Are you ready to discover the most recent Instagram ads best practices that could help you get the highest ROI? Keep on reading, then!
When Pawel Grabowski first wrote this post, Instagram’s advertising platform was still a toddler! The platform has changed a lot in the past year, giving us a ton of new great features. While all of the 20 best practices we wrote about in 2015 have stayed the same, there’s a few more than needed to be added to the list. We asked our expert, Ana Gotter, to select the best six!
So today we offer you a list of 26 secrets to be the best out there.
Keep on reading to have the whole picture and refresh the ground rules, or click here and go straight to the six new Instagram Ads best practiceswe selected for our 2016 updates.
At AdEspresso we’re constantly helping you get the most out of Facebook Advertising. We post useful advice and insights on our blog, write Facebook Advertising guides, run webinars to help you learn more about advertising on the social network and publish eBooks on the topic too.
But Facebook is not the only choice when it comes to Social Media Advertising. So if you’re wondering:
“Is Instagram a social network for my brand?”
“Would I get much from advertising on it?” and
“What are the Instagram ads best practices that could help me get the most ROI from my efforts?”
This guide will help you to:
- Learn more about Instagram Advertising,
- Help make the case why Instagram is good for your company,
- Discover what marketing goals you could achieve with it,
- Create your first Instagram ad, and
- Teach you the best practices for advertising on Instagram.
Everything illustrated by examples, stats and data. Pretty cool, huh? So, let’s dive in…
Who is this guide for?
If you’re interested in reaching out to new customers on Instagram but don’t know where to start, this guide is for you. It’ll teach you how to create the first ad and show you how to make the most from advertising on the social network.
If you manage advertising campaigns for clients and want to include Instagram advertising in your offering, this guide is for you too. It’ll show you how to optimize campaigns to achieve the highest ROI.
If you’re looking for new ways to position products in front of potential buyers, keep on reading. We’ll show you how Instagram could help you gain new followers and customers.
A Quick Look at Instagram in Numbers
You know, it’s pretty amazing:
In less than five years after it launched, Instagram now boasts a massive 400 million users, surpassing Twitter, Snapchat, and many other social networks.
The number of active brands using the social site is also increasing. According to Simply Measured Interbrand 100 report, 80% of the top brands are active on Instagram on a weekly basis (source).
And if you wonder who are the biggest brands on Instagram…
According to the data supplied by my friends at Sotrender, the Social Media Analytics company analyzing Instagram among other social networks, the top brands on Instagram are:
|1||@natgeo ( National Geographic )||38 770 575|
|2||@nike ( nike )||31 149 778|
|3||@victoriassecret ( Victoria’s Secret )||28 004 714|
|4||@fcbarcelona ( FC Barcelona )||24 773 440|
|5||@realmadrid ( Real Madrid C.F. )||22 818 153|
|6||@theellenshow ( Ellen )||21 257 930|
|7||@nikefootball ( Nike Football (Soccer) )||12 959 162|
|8||@onedirection ( One Direction )||12 563 371|
|9||@hm ( H&M )||11 480 645|
|10||@nba ( NBA )||11 220 557|
|11||@forever21 ( forever21 )||9 099 994|
|12||@adidasoriginals ( adidas Originals )||9 024 972|
|13||@louisvuitton ( louisvuitton )||8 589 801|
|14||@zara ( ZARA Official )||8 357 123|
|15||@manchesterunited ( Manchester United )||8 158 979|
|16||@adidasfootball ( adidas Football (Soccer) )||7 966 605|
|17||@dior ( Dior Official )||7 724 384|
|18||@gopro ( gopro )||7 276 073|
|19||@dolcegabbana ( Dolce & Gabbana )||7 220 453|
|20||@starbucks ( Starbucks Coffee ☕ )||6 944 766|
|21||@maccosmetics ( M∙A∙C Cosmetics )||6 738 174|
|22||@gucci ( Gucci )||6 556 592|
|23||@adidas ( adidas )||6 515 288|
|24||@michaelkors ( Michael Kors )||6 482 006|
|25||@prada ( Prada )||6 355 728|
|26||@louboutinworld ( Christian Louboutin )||6 326 569|
|27||@topshop ( Topshop )||5 830 402|
|28||@maisonvalentino ( Valentino )||5 696 505|
|29||@burberry ( Burberry )||5 391 484|
|30||@sephora ( Sephora )||5 353 467|
Approximately 70 million photos get uploaded each day to Instagram.
And what’s more, according to Business Insider, photos from the biggest brands receive almost 50 times (!!!!) more engagement from users than on Twitter.
Naturally, one could make the case that each network is different with its own distinct ways in which users engage with photos and targeting a different demographic. The fact, however, remains that Instagram users tend to engage with brands and profiles more than their Twitter counterparts.
A study by Forrester found that:
“On average brands’ Instagram photos generated 58 times higher user engagement per follower than Facebook posts and 120 times higher engagement rates than tweets” (source)
But Why Instagram is Good for Brand Marketing
You already know that Instagram audiences tend to engage with their favorite brands more than on other networks.
But higher engagement is not the only reason for using Instagram for brand promotion.
Instagram users also tend to spend more money with brands they engage with
According to this report by Shopify, Instagram users spend on average $65 per referred sale. In comparison, Facebook users spend $55, and the average referred sale from Twitter is just $46.26.
Also, Instagram posts achieve 1.08% conversion rate. Even though it’s lower than Facebook (1.85%) it still surpasses Twitter (0.77%) or Pinterest (0.54%).
It’s an ideal network to connect with Millenials
If Millenials are your target audience, then Instagram is definitely a network for you.
According to PewResearchCenter’s Social Media Demographics report, 53% of 18-29 year olds use the social network, making it ideal to connect with them and introduce your brand.
Instagram’s organic reach is constantly growing
Selfstartr reported that Instagram’s organic reach has grown by 115% since 2012 while the percentage of users that marketers can reach on Facebook without ads dropped by 63%.
There’s a huge scope for growth on Instagram
93% of marketers use Facebook. So no matter what you do, there’s always someone else shooting a counter offer or targeting the very same audience.
However, only 36% of marketers use Instagram, leaving you plenty of space to reach out and engage with the audience.
But you have to act quick…
According to Social Media Examiner, 52% of marketers plan to increase their use of Instagram in 2015.
Instagram ad revenue is expected to overtake Google and Twitter’s ad sales in the US in just two years
eMarketer reports that Instagram ad sales should hit 2.8bn by 2017 (from $600M this year).
To sum it up, Instagram offers incredible opportunities to promote a brand. And given very little competition on the network so far, being an early adopter could offer a massive pay off to your brand.
Not to Mention that Now You Can Also Advertise Your Brand on Instagram
If you’ve been watching social media advertising space for the last 18 months, I’m sure you’ve heard that Instagram was trialing brand awareness ads with selected advertisers.
Given the initial success, Instagram opened their advertising platform to advertisers around the world.
Instagram Advertising Adoption
Currently, 85% of brands are active on Instagram. According to the latest Simply Measured data, 79% posted something to their account in April 2015.
At AdEspresso we see a 26% adoption of the Ads program. But as Massimo points out:
“At AdEspresso we cater mostly to SMBs who by their nature aren’t a typical early adopter type. The overall adoption rate is by far much higher.”
How Instagram Ads Look Like
Instagram ads look like any other posts on the network. The only noticeable difference is the blue “sponsored” tag. Plus, some ads might come from accounts you’re not actually following.
What Objectives Instagram Ads Could Help You Achieve?
I’m sure you’ve been wondering about it already:
Since Instagram is a visual based social network, what exactly could I achieve by advertising on it?
Since Instagram’s users key activity could be described as simply flicking photos, will you get much by just advertising with images?
But it turns out, you can.
Instagram ads help achieve a variety of business objectives, from increasing brand awareness, attracting website visitors to offline sales.
Instagram Ads could help you to:
Entice users to take action
Just like Facebook, Instagram allows to include a call to action button on the ad.
Right now you have an option to entice users to:
- Shop directly on your site,
- Install an app,
- Sign up,
- Go to the site.
Engage with Your Brand
You can also use Instagram Ads to connect with the audience. You can offer them visuals (images and video) to watch, like or comment on.
Help with Brand Positioning and Awareness
Taco Bell for instance posts audience looking images featuring and positioning the product.
What Brands Could Benefit from Instagram Ads the Most?
Instagram claims that their Advertising platform is suitable for businesses of any size.
Given the nature of the social network and its audience, I’d say that Instagram’s advertising is the most suited for B2C companies:
- Consumer products manufacturers,
- E-commerce stores,
- Consumer brands, etc.
Then again, given how new the platform still is, it might in time evolve to incorporate more B2B companies, who knows?
So, How Does Instagram Advertising Work?
In case if you haven’t created any ads on Instagram yet but think of doing so, let me give you a quick walk through.
Note: I assume that you used Facebook advertising before and are familiar with how the Business Manager works. In case if you aren’t, check out our guide on setting up Facebook Ads Account.
First, connect your Instagram account to the Facebook page
Recently Facebook had improved the process for connecting Instagram accounts for advertising.
Previously you had to add your account to the Business Manager and then connect it with Facebook Ads account you want to use for the campaign.
Now you can just connect the Instagram Account to your Facebook Page. When you create the ad, simply select the Page and Facebook will automatically use this account.
Also, you can run ads on the social network even if you don’t have an Instagram account. In this instance, Facebook will create a fake account for you with the Facebook Page name.
As AdEspresso’s CEO, Massimo, puts it:
“This last option is interesting because if you want direct response, it removes distractions as users cannot click on the profile name, they can only click on the ad.”
Setting up Instagram Ads in the Power Editor
Providing that you have the Power Editor set up, click Create Campaign to set up your first Instagram Ad.
Select an objective for the ad. You can choose from Clicks to the Website, Mobile App Installs, Video Views or Mass Awareness.
(Image Courtesy of Instagram)
Next, create an ad set (or choose an existing one) for the ad.
Once done, click Create and the system will take you to the Power Editor campaign settings where you will be able to set spending limits, specify the lifetime and daily budget and schedule your ads.
Note that in this step you only specify the overall budget, not your preferred bid per click or ad result.
Next, specify what audience you want to reach out to with the ad.
If you’re familiar with the Facebook targeting options, you’ll have no problems defining targeting settings as Instagram offers the same audience targeting options as Facebook.
On Instagram, you can target users by their location, demographic, interests, actions or use custom or lookalike audiences.
Specify the placement. Unlike Facebook, Instagram offers only one ad placement and thus, to set up the ad for the social network, you have to uncheck any other options apart from Instagram.
Next, configure your bidding.
To do it, you need to select how you want Instagram to optimize the campaign:
- Link clicks to the site / pay per Impressions – the network will deliver your ad to people who are most likely to click on your link. In this case, you pay per 1000 impressions.
- Pay per Link Click – Similar as above but you’ll pay per click.
- Daily Unique Reach – Instagram will serve your ads to people up to once per day.
- Impressions – the platform will serve your ads to as many people as possible.
Once done, specify how much you’re willing to pay per result. And choose between standard or accelerated delivery.
And….done! Your ad is set.
Types of Ads You Can Create
At present Instagram offers 3 ad types to choose from:
Carousel ads allow you to include up to 4 images along with external links users can swipe through while viewing the ad.
Like Facebook ads, metrics for Instagram Ads are available in the Power Editor. So if you’ve been promoting your business on Facebook already, you will have no problems with measuring the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Instagram Ads Creative Requirements
Like any other advertising platform, Instagram has a set of requirements for the ad creative:
Your ad cannot feature more than 300 characters of text. That includes hashtags.
The recommended size for images is 1080×1080 pixels. The minimum size required is 600x600px.
Landscape images require 600x315px.
Videos have to be created at 72px minimum resolution and between 3 and 30 seconds long.
Finally, the file size limit for videos is 30MB.
20 Instagram Ads Best Practices that Could Help You Get the Highest ROI
If you’ve read this guide diligently so far, you know why Instagram is important for your brand marketing and how to set your first Instagram ad.
Let’s now look at what best practices you need to employ to get the highest ROI from your Instagram ads.
1. Create Ads That Are Relevant to Your Target Audience
This sounds like a no-brainer, right?
And yet, anticipating that brands might begin to bombard users with irrelevant messages, Instagram built in an option allowing users to hide the ad in their feed!
And what happens if they do? Well, Instagram might not show your ad as much as you would wish.
Just like on Facebook, an ad that receives high engagement on Instagram will display more.
So to avoid your ads being “tapped off” of users’ feeds, focus on creating strategy that focuses only topics that can engage your target audience.
2. Use First Campaigns to Learn What Ticks Your Audience
Unless you’ve been actively marketing your business on Instagram for a long time, you probably don’t know much about your audience’s preferences on the network yet.
You’re can’t tell what images may make them tick, what call to action would spur them into action and what messages they’re most likely to share, like and respond to.
So use a couple of first campaigns to learn more about your users.
Instead of focusing on sales or reaching other business goals, run small scale campaigns aimed to help you discover more about the audience.
Based on this data you’ll be able to plan proper, full-scale campaigns guaranteed to deliver positive results.
3. Split Test Different Ad Visuals
Instagram offers a number of opportunities to use visuals to connect with the audience.
And the only way to find out which ones engage your audience is by split testing different approaches.
You could create a standard photo ad. Add up to 4 images in a Carousel or post a video. Lastly, you could also incorporate user generated content and test how which variant delivers better results.
In addition to split testing ad creatives, split test different posting schedules and experiment with calls to action to discover what objectives you could achieve with Instagram ads.
4. Pick Ad Types Based on Engagement
If asked about their advertising goals, most brands would admit they want more sales and profits.
But Instagram ads could help you achieve other business goals too.
And thus, pick ad types based on engagement type you expect to receive.
If you plan to promote products and entice users to buy, use the Carousel ad, the format that allows you to add up to 4 images along with live links to products.
If, however, your goal is to drive higher brand engagement, use Video ads users might like or share with friends.
5. Use Ads to Win Brand Supporters
Social media advertising allows you to engage the audience on many levels. You can send users directly to a landing page or attract them to your products.
But you could also use social media ads to win new supporters of your brand, something unthinkable with other advertising platforms due to a much higher cost.
Use ads to get users opinions on products, run new product ideas and get their feedback on your future plans.
This exclusivity will make many customers feel more valued and transform them into avid supporters of your brand and perhaps later, paying customers.
6. Use Clear Images with a Strong Focal Point
Don’t use busy or complex images. Keep them simple and uncluttered to help users focus on a specific element of the image.
Ideally, your photo should feature the main object plus some supporting detail in the background.
7. Use Only Very Subtle Branding
It can be tempting to make your brand the focus on every ad. But when you try to appeal to people seeking beautify imagery, pushing the brand too much might deter them from consuming the ad.
Be subtle even with how you include the logo. If possible, replace it with another recognizable element of your brand.
8. Don’t Cover More than 20% of Image with Text
If you’ve been creating Facebook ads, you should be already familiar with the 20% rule. It says that only up to 20% of the image can be covered with text.
To make such a small amount of copy more appealing, consider using such graphic techniques like speech bubbles. Or move it entirely to the caption.
9. Showcase People in Real-life Situations
This will help your audience relate the ad and entice them to click it. Seeing people similar to them will catch the audience’s attention, help them identify with the the ad and make it look more trustworthy.
10. Use Video Ads to Drive Engagement
In spite of initial slow adoption, Instagram videos are catching on.
(initial adoption of Instagram video, image source: Buffer)
Today companies like Ford, MTV, Disney, Avon, Burberry, Dell, eBay, Lululemon and many others use and praise Instagram videos.
In just the first week after videos launched, Lululemon’s clips drove twice as much engagement as their images would typically receive (source).
Photos generate more likes on Instagram. Videos, on the other hand, receive more comments, the fact also confirmed in the 2014 Instagram Intelligence Report by Olapic (source).
This means that you could use Video ads to drive deeper engagement, build connection and attract users to your brand.
Instagram Video Ads give you up to 15 seconds to engage and interact with your audience.
11. Don’t Be Afraid to Feature Products
Did you know that 65 of the best performing posts on Instagram in 2014 displayed a product prominently (source)?
And according to Olapic’s report, Instagram audiences don’t respond negatively to seeing products in their photo stream.
12. Include User Generated Content in Ads
User-generated content (UGC) is a form of content that was created by users of a system or platform, not a brand behind it.
The power of UGC lies in its trustworthiness. Since it was created by real users, it appears as genuine.
According to Nielsen, for instance:
“92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.”
According to Olapic, UGC affects conversions. Apparently, displaying customer product photos on a product page increases conversion by 4.6%. And the conversion rate nearly doubles (to 9.6%) if a customer interacts with those photos (source).
What’s more, many users have no objections against having their content used by brands. Iconosquare study, for instance, found that 65% of users would feel honored if a brand liked one of their posts (source).
So, use photos or videos from users (with permission, of course) in your ad designs to make them look more trustworthy and genuine.
13. Develop Own Hashtags to Use in Ads
Hashtags are nothing new on social media. Companies use them to drive greater brand discovery and engagement on practically every social network.
Even though ads don’t show up for hashtags on Instagram, including hashtag links on the ad gives you an opportunity to send users to content relevant to the ad.
However, to achieve it, you should develop your brand owned hashtags.
Using custom brand hashtags will ensure that users clicking on it will see only content relevant to your brand.
14. Use Call to Action Buttons to Achieve Specific Goals
Similar to Facebook, Instagram allows you to add a prominent call to action to your ad, helping you achieve specific marketing goals.
Currently, the social network gives you an option of four calls to action:
- Shop Now,
- Install Now,
- Sign up,
- Learn More.
Call to Action buttons allow you to help the audience learn more about your products, services and take action directly from an ad.
15. Support Ads with Calls to Action in Organic Posts
You can extend the life of your ads by creating posts that follow it up featuring the same call to action.
Of course, the engagement and reach of ads and posts will be different. This strategy, however, gives your audience a chance to act on the message even after the ad has disappeared from their feed.
16. Target Potential Customers with Exclusive Content
Instagram ads give you an opportunity to connect with people who may have interacted with your brand in some way but have not yet become customers.
Use Custom Audiences to target email subscribers who haven’t bought from you yet and show them ads promoting your company’s culture.
Share behind the scenes photos and give these people an insider’s look into how your company works. Or use videos to communicate your core values and build a better brand image in the prospect’s eyes.
Chances are that next time they receive an email from you, they might be more inclined to try your products.
17. Use Custom Audiences to Strengthen Relationships with Best Customers
Custom Audiences give you the opportunity to reach out to a predefined audience based on data from existing customers, for instance. Create a Custom Audience of customers who do not follow you on Instagram yet and target them with ads prompting them to do so.
Also target the most loyal customers with exclusive deals, promotions or opportunities to be the first ones to try new products or convert them into Instagram followers.
18. Use Lookalike Audiences to Engage New Followers
You can also use Instagram Ads to find new potential followers based on your current customers’ profiles. With Lookalike Audience you can find Instagram users who match your best clients’ profiles and display ads and introduce them your brand story.
19. Mix Different Content Types
Experiment with different content types to see what engages your audience the most.
Post how to videos, entertaining clips or images, photos of the product in use, behind the scenes footage, user-generated content, and even some unexpected stuff to mix things up in the user’s feed a little.
In time you’ll learn which content types help deliver specific campaign goals and you’ll be able to trim down on content types. But at the start, gain knowledge by experimenting with a wide variety of topics and content types in ads.
20. Create a Personal Account to Gain a First Hand User Experience
Lastly, sign up for an Instagram account and follow your brand to gain the same brand experience as your potential target market.
Becoming a user will help you gain a first-hand experience on how your ads perform, discover whether they entice users to interact with your brand and what types of ads work best for your audience.
Instagram has changed a lot in the past year, giving us a ton of new great features. While all of the best practices we wrote about in 2015 have stayed the same, there’s a few more than we wanted to add to the list!
Without further ado, let’s continue with our list of Instagram Ads best practices.
21. Use Instagram’s Website Conversion Ads
Instagram’s website conversion ads were introduced this year in 2016, and they’re powerful. Right now, this is the only tool that gives us additional links outside of the singular link in our profile. Instagram’s high engagement gives it so much potential for selling power, and the website conversion ads let us take advantage of it.
Use the website conversion ads to make it very, very clear what actions you want users to take on your site. You can use the CTA options to encourage email or subscription sign-ups, purchases, and direct contact from customers. Remember to focus everything in your ad- from the image all the way down to the descriptions- on the specific conversion you’re looking to optimize for, and you’ll be good to go.
22. Make Use of Best Image Practices
It’s no secret that Instagram is all about the images. It’s a highly visual platform, meaning that the images attached to our ads here might hold even more weight than they do on any other.
There are certain image qualities that users are more likely to respond to. According to a very thorough study by Curalate, some best image practices for Instagram include:
- Use more images with high brightness and light
- Try to use natural light for images instead of artificial light
- Have plenty of background space in your images
- Choose images with “colder” dominant colors like blue, instead of warmer ones like red or yellow
- Have a single dominant color in your images
You also need your images to be high quality. This doesn’t mean they need to be staged or have everyone posing (in fact, seemingly “behind the scenes” or spontaneous images can perform extremely well), but the image itself needs to be crystal clear.
23. Use Targeting to Connect with a Local Audience
Plenty of small and medium businesses focus a lot of energy on e-commerce, but just as many are local businesses that need foot traffic. Use location targeting to show your ads to a local audience, hopefully increasing their interest and generating more visits to your brick-and-mortar store.
The recent business updates available to brands lets you run a reach or engagement campaign that can help you reach this goal. The business Instagram updates lets you add valuable store information to your profile, including:
- A map showing your location and directions to your store from where the user is
- A phone number
- Email address
Imagine being a local restaurant which shows an ad featuring their most mouth-watering dish to a user within a close proximity, just in time for dinner, and that user immediately sees a map and directions to you. All it takes is a click to your profile, and you can get both a new customer and a new follower at the same time.
24. Drive Mobile App Installs & Purchases
Instagram Ads have turned out to be especially effective when your objective is to drive mobile app installations and in-app purchases. This makes sense; the majority of Instagram users browse the platform from their mobile devices. When they see an app install ad, all it takes is a few clicks, because they’re already on their phones.
You can use lookalike audiences of your current app users to find new potential high-value users to download the app. You can also use custom audiences of your high-value app users to encourage in-app purchases. If you want to drive purchases quickly, you can offer discount prices in an ad, which can convince users to purchase, even if they haven’t before.
You can learn more about how to drive mobile app installs with Facebook and Instagram Ads here.
25. Use Carousel Ads
Multi-product ads, or image carousel ads, can be used on Instagram just like they can be used on Facebook. They’re dynamic, and they’re engaging. You can use a minimum of three images or a maximum of five.
You can use carousel images in a number of ways. You can, for example, feature multiple diverse products to appeal to cold traffic. You can feature complementary products of past purchases to custom audiences. You can also use carousel ads to tell a story, or to highlight multiple use cases for a single product. There’s also my personal favorite use case: featuring different UGC (even if it’s just in text) in multiple images.
Carousel ads will automatically stand out on Instagram, so take advantage of the additional depth they offer.
26. Solve Your Customer’s Problem
One of the most reliable marketing tactics is to appeal to a customer’s needs by solving their problem. While we see this strategy a lot in traditional forms of advertising, it seems to get overlooked on Instagram ads. This is a waste.
You can tell your customers exactly what problem you’re solving in your ads while keeping it brief and without it feeling like an overt sales-pitch. Instagram is highly visual while still being content driven, so keeping it simple and fun as much as possible while still getting your point across is a good way to go.
The example above, which comes with a high-quality image, explains how the product solves the customer’s problem in a fun and engaging way. That’s what we should be shooting for.
And there you have it…
The 26 Instagram ads best practices to help you rock promoting your brand on the social network.
If you want to keep regularly updated on what happens on Instagram, here you can find what has been going on in the last few months: Top Instagram Updates You Need to Know. And we add new content to the post every month!
If you’re looking for even more information on Instagram marketing, check out our other posts here: