Instagram Ads is one of the best gifts that social media marketers, advertisers, and brands all around the world have ever been given.
It combines Facebook’s outstanding targeting system and customization options with Instagram’s high-engaging audience, giving brands a powerful advertising opportunity to connect with new users, build name brand recognition, and sell more.
The ad platform has been wildly successful since it first rolled out several years ago.
There’s a lot of potential right there, just waiting for you.
While Instagram does have a slightly higher ad cost than Facebook (though the gap has been closing for quite some time), it’s clear that the platform is still well worth it.
All you need to do is get started, diving into the platform and testing to see what works.
In this post, we’re going to take a look at all the basics you need to know to get started with Instagram Ads, including all the technical information you’ll need and a few best practices to get you started.
The 3 Types of Instagram Ads You Can Run
Before we start diving into the tutorials or the technical requirements for Instagram Ads, it’s important to understand the different types of Instagram Ad campaigns that you can run.
Right now, there are three main ad types, some of which give you the choice to utilize different ad formats.
The three Instagram ads options are:
Instagram newsfeed ads
These are the OG of Instagram Ads. As users scroll through their feeds, they’ll see an image, video, or carousel and some text that looks like a native post. A CTA will appear below the visual component, and will automatically light up if users hover over the image long enough.
Instagram Story ads
These ads can be images or videos that show up in between Stories of accounts a user follows. They’re a full-screen mobile experience, and they have excellent engagement rates. They also get you a “swipe up to click” link, which is always a nice boost.
Instagram Boosted posts
These aren’t part of the conventional ad system, but look like newsfeed posts. Instead of going through Facebook’s “Create An Ad” system, you can promote an existing post through the Instagram app. We don’t recommend this, because there are fewer customization options than you get with Create an Ad, which can negatively impact performance.
Both Instagram Stories and newsfeed ads can be high-engaging and plenty profitable, so we recommend sticking with those.
The Technical Requirements You Need to Know
Before you start putting the ads together, it’s important to be aware of the technical requirements that will impact your ad campaign.
Keep the following in mind at all times for newsfeed ads:
- There’s a caption length of 2,200 characters, but it’s recommended to stick around 120-135 regardless.
- The recommendation for square images is 1080×1080 pixels, and a ratio of 1:1
- The recommended traditional image ad size is 1080×1350 pixels
- The recommended vertical image ratio is 600×750, with an aspect ratio of 4:5
- Landscape images are recommended to be 1200×628 pixels, with a ratio of 1.9:1
- All images should be either PNG or JPG files, and no larger than 30 MB
- Videos must be under 120 seconds
- Recommended video files are MP4 or MOV files, and the max video file size is 4GB
Unsurprisingly, Instagram Stories has different requirements.
Here’s what you need to know for Story Ads:
- Stories images and video should be 1080×1920 pixels, giving users the full-screen experience with an aspect ratio of 9:16
- Image files should be JPG or Png, and under 30MB
- Vide should be MP4 or MOV, with a max file size of 4GM
- There’s a resolution minimum requirement of 720p
How to Create Instagram Ads
Creating Instagram Ads is simple. To start, head over to Facebook’s “Create an Ad” platform.
The first thing that you’ll be asked to do is to choose an objective. This determines what specific goal you want your ad to accomplish.
Do you want sales? Lead generation forms to be filled out? Just improved brand awareness? Think about exactly what actions you want to occur, and choose that objective.
It can affect placements, as Facebook tries to show your ad to users most likely to take your desired actions, so take this seriously.
For this example, we’ll select the Traffic objective, which will then have us decide where we want to send the traffic.
You can choose from options like your website, an app, Messenger, or WhatsApp. The latter two are great options if you’re trying to start conversations.
Next, it’s time to choose your audience targeting.
This is a crucial part of the ad creation process, because if the targeting is off, nothing else will fall in line and your conversions will suffer.
You can choose from location targeting, language targeting, age and gender targeting, retargeting options, and interest, behavior, and demographic targeting.
Want to target parents in their early twenties who own a home? You can do that. Want to show your ad to women over 40 who recently viewed one of your Instagram videos? You can do that, too.
After you choose your targeting, you can edit your placements.
When you click, you’ll see that Instagram placements are already enabled, alongside all Facebook placements.
In most cases, it’s going to benefit you to keep them all enabled unless you want to remove something specific. This can actually keep ad costs down, as Instagram has slightly higher ad costs, allowing the platforms to balance each other out.
Underneath the placements, you’ll need to set your budget and your bid, if you’re choosing to opt for a manual bid.
Your budget determines the total amount that you’re willing to spend, and the bid cap (if you have one) tells Facebook how much you’re willing to spend for a single click/thousand impressions/app install, and so on.
You can also schedule a start and end date to your ads.
Finally, it’s time to create the ad itself.
Choose from a single image, carousel, video, or collection ad, and then start to put the pieces together.
Select an image or video, and use the preview options to see how it will look in the newsfeed and/or Story Ads (if you’re using both).
Make sure that it’s cropped correctly and looks great on every placement the ad is running on.
Add the link you want the ad to take users to, enter in the ad copy that will help entice users to click (and remember that that copy is so important), choose your CTA, and more.
You now have the option to add in copy in different languages if you’re reaching a bilingual audience.
Once your ad looks great in every placement and you’ve double and triple checked for typos, go ahead and submit it for review.
Facebook will typically approve most campaigns within several days at the latest.
Instagram Ad Best Practices
There are so many Instagram Ad best practices that we’ve written about them extensively over the years (see here and here to start), but there are four key best practices that you want to make sure you know.
#1) Use lots and lots of video
Video on Instagram Ads is hugely popular, both in Stories and newsfeed ads. It catchers users attention because it’s dynamic and engaging, and it gives you more room to share valuable information with your audience. Take advantage of that.
#2) Keep the captions short
You’ve got up to 2200 characters, but it’s best to keep them much shorter. Remember, most users don’t want to read blocks of text on Instagram even if they’re willing to do so on Facebook. Keep it to an absolute max of 150 characters, with a sweet spot being around 130.
#3) Test different ad formats
Single image ads may do really well for your audience, but you might find that carousel ads with a video included are what really takes the cake. Sometimes there’s no way to know what will work well for sure– even with years of experience– so test and find out for certain.
#4) Be prepared for strict copy rules
This is my area of expertise, and I still get Facebook rejecting copy sometimes. Sometimes, it’s an error on the part of the bots, and a simple reevaluation request is all that’s needed to get it through. If not, however, be ready to rework the copy.
Some basic tips to watch for are: avoid using “you” (aka second person) alongside negative traits, avoid making any claims you can’t back up, and always, always make sure that you’re following Facebook’s rules and guidelines for your industry.
When you first start running Instagram Ad campaigns, be prepared for a slightly higher CPC or CPM cost than you may see on other Facebook placements (especially the particularly affordable options like the audience network).
This is normal, and as long as you’re starting to see the desired effects and are maintaining profitability, it’s worth the slight increase.
That being said, watch out for any campaigns that don’t seem to do well here or that have signs of needing some tweaking; anything with low relevance metrics should be re-evaluated quickly.
And as always, split test, split test, split test. This will help you determine what images, targeting, videos, and copy actually works for your audience on Instagram and will successfully drive results.
And in the meantime, if you want to learn more about Instagram Ads, check out our resources here at AdEspresso, starting with our Guide to CPC Advertising here!
What do you think? Have you jumped into Instagram advertising? What strategies have worked best for you? How does it perform compared to other PPC platforms? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!