Instagram has been rolling out new ad placements at lightning speed over the past few years. We’ve gotten Stories Ads, IGTV Ads, and Reels Ads. Now we’re gaining access to Instagram Explore Ads, too.
Instagram’s Explore Ads allow advertisers to show sponsored content on the Explore page, where users go to browse images and videos that the app has curated based on their past behavior and interests. They’re an exciting placement option because they reach people who don’t already follow you while they are in prime discovery mode.
In this post, we’re going to go over everything you need to know to get started with Instagram Explore Ads, including why you should use them and how to set them up.
What Are Instagram Explore Ads?
Instagram’s Explore Ads show up when you’re browsing content that you’ve found in the Explore section. Right now, they’ll show up not necessarily in the Explore section itself, but in the “similar posts” you see after clicking on an Explore post. (Note that this may change eventually).
Let’s look at an example. Here’s my Explore feed. I decide to click on the “Spot the Difference” post in the top right hand corner.
That opens an Explore post-by-post feed that resembles the newsfeed. I see the post I clicked on, and can scroll through more.
After scrolling down past another post, I see this: An ad that was generated in my Explore scrolling feed.
Why You Should Use Instagram Explore Ads
If you’re wondering whether or not you should use Instagram Explore Ads, the answer is yes. This is a great new placement, and it offers three distinct benefits.
It’s An Additional Placement Opportunity
At the end of the day, the more placement opportunities you have for your ads, the better. There are more chances to connect with more segments of your target audience, and since you can use the creatives you’re already using for Facebook and Instagram Ads without having to modify them in any way, this is an easy way to potentially scale your campaigns.
And it’s a good placement opportunity. According to Instagram’s own numbers, Explore has over 200M daily active accounts that view the page, and 50% of accounts on Instagram use Explore at least once a month.
It’s a Great Place to Reach New Followers
People go to the Explore section when they want to find something new. They’ve likely already browsed through their own feed and are excited to see what else is on the platform. They want to find new content, specifically from accounts that they aren’t already following.
This means that this is an engaged, interested audience who is open to connecting with new brands and new experiences. And while this doesn’t sound like a big deal, it really is. Most social media ads are trying to capture users while they’re scrolling through content they’ve subscribed to, making it somewhat annoying for an ad they’re not expecting to interrupt that flow.
Users Are Primed & Ready to Shop
We know that 81% of Instagram users use the platform to research and discover new potential purchases and that many use the platform to even make those purchases directly. Users in the Explore section are no different, except that they are even more open to finding new brands and products (almost like on Pinterest) since they aren’t sticking to their conventional newsfeed. This makes them high-value and potentially a high-intent audience.
Users See Your Content In a Mix That Was Hand-Selected For Them
Yes, their feed is also full of content they’ve subscribed to… but they may not always be all that interested in seeing another picture of their friend’s dinner or a coworker’s cat. They might scroll quickly in their own feed, depending on what they subscribe to.
Explore content, however, is tailored to their particular interests. Someone who loves vegan content might see resources about how to make cashew milk, shoppable content for vegan sweaters, and cruelty-free makeup products. These are directly relevant to the user, which makes the content more enticing, and your ad more likely to be noticed.
How to Create Instagram Explore Ads
Creating Instagram Explore Ads isn’t different from creating your standard Instagram Ads in the Facebook Ads Manager.
First, choose your objective. All major objectives are currently supported for Instagram Explore Ads. For this example, we’ll choose a popular objective: Traffic.
On the next page after naming your campaign, you’ll be asked questions specific to your objective. For Traffic, this means choosing where you want to send the Traffic: to your site, app, Messenger, or WhatsApp. You can also enable dynamic creative, set up an Offer, and customize your budget and schedule.
After you do this, set up your audience targeting to determine who will see your ad. You can use any targeting strategy you would with any other type of ad, including remarketing. Keep in mind, though, that part of Explore’s greatest asset is introducing your content to new customers: Targeting cold audiences using lookalike audiences, demographic targeting, and behavior targeting can be a good play here.
Next, you’ll see the placements option, with “automatic placements” and “manual placements.” As you can see, Instagram Explore Ads are already counted in the automatic placements default. You can create new ads to run specifically in the explore section and disable other placements if you wish, or you can just have your ads run in as many placements as possible.
Last but certainly not least comes the creative. Choose images and videos, your ad format, and drop in the copy and the site you want to send users to when they click. As you do this, pay close attention to the visuals and make sure they’re being cropped correctly. To check how your ads will appear, preview each individual placement. On my screen, Instagram Explore was in the last preview slot under “Feeds.”
Double-check your ad (especially the copy!!!) and then go ahead and submit it for approval as soon as you’re ready!
Tips For Creating Effective Instagram Explore Ads
Instagram Explore Ads are relatively new, but here are a few tips we recommend considering when launching your new ad campaigns:
- Use this placement to reach cold audiences. Part of what users love most about the Explore section is that they’re discovering new-to-them brands, products, and content. They’re intentionally looking for new things. This is a great opportunity to try to connect with open-minded cold audiences. Use lookalike audience targeting to find users similar to your high-value customers, or test out interest and behavior targeting, and hit them with introductory, top-of-the-funnel content that tells them why your brand is so exceptional.
- Test different creatives. This is always a good practice, and it’s too soon yet to tell, but you may find that certain visuals or copy perform better in the Explore section than in the feed, or vice-versa. Run a few split tests with tools like AdEspresso to look for early trends so you can optimize your campaigns accordingly. Even though you can use the same creative for both placements, you never know what will work better on a new audience.
- Consider testing Reels-style content. Reels is an incredibly popular feature that’s gathering a ton of attention on Instagram. Creating ads that resemble Reels can help you show up in Reels Ads and in Explore Ads and drive attention both ways. Be careful with cropping here though. Reels is full-screen like Stories and Explore Ads are not, but you can use the same content and crop it manually to make sure it’s a fit.
Instagram is one of the more powerful ad placements in general in Facebook’s ad system, and getting an additional placement through Instagram is great news. It opens up more placement opportunities to appease the ever-growing marketplace, and this is an area where users are going to be particularly likely to be open to engaging. While we don’t have a lot of data yet, we’ll keep you updated, and we expect this to be a high-engaging, high-converting opportunity for advertisers.
What do you think? Have you started running Instagram Explore Ads for your business? How have they worked for you? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
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