10 Must-Follow Tips for Instant Instagram Advertising Success

March 10, 2016

Tips for successful Instagram Advertising

Instagram has quietly grown into a community of more than 400 million people! With that kind of size, and daily activity, Instagram has also become one of the leading social media networks to spend your advertising dollars on.

In fact, according to a study by eMarketer, by 2017 Instagram’s global mobile ad revenues will grow to more than two and a half billion dollars (over 10% of Facebook’s global ad revenues).

That’s impressive. Instagram’s growth is also important for your business’ growth. With 200,000 active monthly advertisers, we want to make sure you are part of the growing number of advertisers on Instagram. Without further ado, we present to you 10 Instagram advertising tips that, if followed closely, can assist you in generating an ROI that you only hear about from other businesses.

Instagram Advertising Formats

Before we get into the tips (or as I see them, ‘rules’), let’s take a look at the basics of Instagram ads.

Types of Ads

  • Photo Ads: Businesses can tell their story through beautiful imagery. Whether it’s inspiring people to see your brand differently or to take action, they offer a clean, simple and beautiful creative canvas.
  • Video Ads: Video ads offer the same visually immersive quality as photo ads on Instagram — with the power of sight, sound and motion. And now, you can share videos up to 30 seconds long and in landscape format.
  • Carousel Ads: Carousel ads bring an additional layer of depth to photo ads. People can swipe to see additional images and a call to action button takes them to a website to learn more.

10 Tips for Winning at Instagram Advertising

There are no guarantees in business, but there are things that you can do that will increase your chances of success. The following 10 elements are exactly what you need in order to boost the odds of generating growth for your business via Instagram advertising. Instagram advertising is hot, and it is working. Here’s what you need to focus on.

Brand Moments – At the Center of Discovery from Instagram

1. Powerful and Natural Images

Instagram is, after all, a photo sharing social media platform. It is built around visuals. If there is one thing that all popular and successful Instagram accounts have in common, it’s their fantastic photos.

In order for your Instagram ads to bring increased sales, increase ad recall, and sky-rocket brand reputation, using high-quality images is a must. Aside from obviously looking better than blurry, average images, these images tend to fit in more naturally with other photos on the platform (so people don’t skip it because it’s an ad).

Philadelphia saw a 41% increase in sales with the following ad that captures the imagination (and stomach’s attention).

successful Instagram advertisingVia Social Media Week

Photos that blend in as if they are ‘just another post’ make your ad campaign look like native posts (not advertisment), and hence instead of Instagram users scrolling past your photos at the speed of light, they actually take a look.

2. Go Diet on the Branding

As pointed in the previous point, you want your photos to look amazing, like they’re part of the feed, but at the same time the photo should not feel (for the viewers) like a direct sales pitch.

While it can be tempting to feature your logo heavily, don’t let your brand overshadow your photo. The photo’s creativity should speak for your brand or product.

Example of solid Instagram advertising campaign

This ad from Sony, used much less branding than the other photos in their Instagram feed. The results? A 43 point lift in ad recall, 6 point lift in product awareness, and 6 point lift in message association (Instagram case study, “Pictures More Powerful Than Words”).

Nanigans, a leading ad-tech company, noted the following in a blog post on Marketing Land: “If you’re going to include your logo in your ad creative, do so subtly. Otherwise, try focusing on an iconic brand element or signature color for memorable, but not overpowering, branding”.

3. Less Text in Image the Better

This should be clear by now, after all, we did just note that less branding is more, and that the more your ad looks like a native post, the more likely you are to see an above-average return on your investment.

Instagram is all about the photography. Think of Instagram as the social network for art. If you take a look at the 10 most popular Instagram accounts (non-celebrity) of 2015, you will see that hardly any photos contain text (few feature a logo).

The 20% text limit rule that exist on Facebook ads, does not exist on Instagram. That however is because Instagram knows (their algorithm) that photos filled with text simply won’t reach a large audience. Let’s just say that this is an ‘unwritten rule’ on Instagram.

brand increased sales after instagram advertising campaign

Easy Canvas Prints, a US eCommerce company transforming photos to custom prints generated insanely positive results from their Instagram ad (pictured above). How’s a 55% lower CPA (cost per acquisition than expected) and 3.19 return on ad spend (over 300% ROI) sound?!

4. Keep the Copy Short

You know that consumers and social media users don’t have long attention spans. Social media is all about getting your daily fix of news and gossip by doing as little reading as possible. Instagram is no exception, and if anything, a place where people want to read even less (demographics are very young people).

Just as your images should not contain too much text, the text that accompanies the photos should not tell a story in a thousand words (“sometimes less is more”). On Facebook, the ideal length of a post is 40 characters, while on Twitter the optimal length is 100 characters. Instagram text length should max out at the 40 character mark as well.

If you take a look at Instagram’s case studies you’ll notice that they all keep the text length to a minimum.

5. Test Them Ads

One thing that has enabled Instagram to become such a powerful platform for businesses is that Facebook chose (wisely) to integrate Instagram into the simple, and effective Facebook advertising process.

There is no doubt that having the ability to apply targeting and the same creative, that has already brought you success, minimizes the uncertainty that comes with starting to work with a new channel.

Some businesses might assume that they can just copy and paste what has previously worked. That may work, but you are better off testing your ads before you start spending money to reach your entire audience.

You need to find out what your target audience likes, loves, and ignores on Instagram. Even if it is the same exact, young audience that you target on Facebook, there is no guarantee that the same practices will work on Instagram. Run a few mini-campaigns to better understand what triggers a positive reaction.

6. Instagram is Not Facebook

Yes Instagram is owned by Facebook, and yes the ad integration between Facebook and Instagram is seamless. However, that does not mean that the two networks, from an advertising point of view, are the same. Both demographics and user-behavior differ between Instagram and Facebook.


Instagram’s user base is younger. As you can see in the table, among internet users, 28% are on Instagram. Key takeaways are that women make up a larger portion of the user base, and minorities also make up for a larger portion of Instagram’s user base.

That being said, on Facebook women outweigh men, and the largest age group are also the 18-29 and 30-49. The key difference is that Facebook has attracted exponentially more people from the older age groups (50-64, and 65+).

Instagram demographics can help reach better ad resultsvia Pew Research Center

User Behaviour

The root of the difference in behaviour on the two platforms is the essence of each one: Instagram focuses on photos and videos, while content shared on Facebook is much more mixed and widespread in regards to the type of content formats.

Here’s what you really have to know and then leverage:

  • People are more than two times more likely to engage with a brand on Instagram
  • Instagram has 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook

Statistics to aid Instagram ad campaignFull Instagram Marketing Infographic on Selfstartr

The lesson: use Facebook’s ad capabilities, but know how to customize/optimize in order to maximize engagement.

7. You Must Add a Call to Action

Instagram posts that are not advertisements do not include clickable call to actions, and as you probably know, the only clickable link is the one in your Instagram profile. Bummer.

As much as brand awareness is important, if you are not a Fortune 500 company, you are probably more interested in seeing actual results from your ads (sales, lead generation, etc). With Instagram ads, you can add CTAs and skip, “link in bio”.

The different CTAs include: Shop Now, Book Now, Learn More, Sign Up, Download, Watch Now, Contact Us, and Apply Now.

8. Don’t Dissapoint with Unresponsive Landing Pages

It’s hard to think of something that kills an ad’s conversion rate more than a bad landing page. Now, imagine you’ve create a wicked good ad that is getting engagement and clicks, however upon reaching your non-mobile landing page (this is the page your advert directs those that click on it) everyone closes the page.

Visiting an unresponsive webpage on a mobile device is like getting to the movie theater and being told that there is no popcorn or soda. That’s a poor customer experience that needs to be avoided at all costs.

Instagram is a mobile platform. Everyone clicking on your CTA is expecting to arrive on a mobile-friendly page. Don’t disappoint.

9. Use Those Hashtags

Here’s another way in which Facebook and Instagram differ – hashtags. Whereas on Facebook the hashtag is not prominent in posts, the opposite is true on Instagram. The first thing pointed out was the you need to create ads that look like native photos that are part of the stream, which means you need to add a hashtag, or 11.

Adding hashtags is a must, and according to a study conducted by TrackMaven, posts with 11 hashtags generated the most interactions!

Optimal Hashtag count for Instagram postsVia Buffer

Aside from using a number of hashtags, you also need to use the right ones. Quantity is not everything, and ‘quality’ also needs to be taken into account.

Resources for finding hashtags:

The following ad from @Scotiabank, was one of several ads that asked users to identify a collection of items from a movie. The campaign was assisted by using the popular hashtag #ThingsOrganizedNeatly hashtag (the hashtag was relevant to the image).

Example of Instagram advertising

At the end of the campaign, Instagram reported a 20-point lift in ad recall and a 6-point lift in brand awareness for @Scotiabank.

10. Implement User Generated Content ASAP

Trust. It’s an important word and one that you need to understand if your ads are going to be a source for sustainable, long-term growth.

How can you create trust with your advertisements? User generated content is exactly how you can create trust that leads to purchases.

As you can see from the data, the two most trusted forms of advertising are, “recommendations from people I know”, and “Consumer opinions posted online” both of which can leveraged through promoting photos shared by your customers.

What consumers trust in advertisingVia Nielsen

Not only is user generated content great for trust, but these type of photos also tend to meet the criteria of points one through three; you’ve got down four of the points already just by using UGC.

Time to Begin Advertising on Instagram

It’s time to set up your first Instagram advertisement. “I like Facebook”, or “I am scared of trying a new platform” need to be thrown out the window. Instagram advertising is becoming more popular, and Instagram is growing. Now is the time to jump on board, and not after everyone else already has.

We’d love to hear your thoughts, whether that be on your previous/current advertising experience on Instagram, or if you have a question/comment about getting started on Instagram.

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