You may be a brand that is thinking about running Instagram ads but has not tried anything yet. You might be like me and have tested an Instagram ad or two to see how it works. In two instances, it did not work for me at all. I wanted to highlight a 24-hour giveaway, but Instagram’s review process took longer than those twenty-four hours! A third try, where I did not have a time limit, did work out nicely.
Still, these three tries made me ask how I can do a better job with Instagram ads. Therefore, in this blog post, I dive into the best practices of Instagram ads. First, I want to show a recent change in these ads, so you have all the relevant information before you starting developing an ad strategy.
An increase in Instagram ads (ad load and places)
Apparently, Instagram is showing more and more ads. Amy Gesenhues and her colleagues have recently noticed an increase in ad load and asked a Facebook spokesperson about it. It turns out that ad load can vary based on users’ engagement. This is what the spokesperson said: “We are always improving upon the ad experience. Ad load fluctuates based on how people use Instagram. We closely monitor people’s sentiment both for ads and overall commerciality.”
On its website, Facebook also states that advertisements are shown based on a user’s engagement across all Facebook companies and products. Examples include pages you and your friends like, info from your profiles, and places you check in. That means that people who frequently engage with ads or brands on the platform are more likely to be served more ads. However, Gesenhues also sees an increase even with people who are not more prone to click on ads.
In more feeds
Moreover, Ashley Carman shares that Instagram will soon start placing ads within the Explore page. The ads will not appear on the Explore grid, but they will appear “once a user taps on an Explore post and begins scrolling through that discovery feed.” While it might be true that people are open to finding new brands in explore, they may detest seeing more ads in their various feeds.
This might pose a challenge to brands advertising or wanting to advertise on Instagram. As Gesenhues says, how many ads will be too many before it affects user engagement or users choose to stop seeing branded content from advertisers that show up too often in their feeds? That is why it is time to dive into the topic of how you can perfect your Instagram ads strategy, even when you are just starting.
How to advertise on Instagram
Luckily, advertising on Instagram is pretty straightforward. There are two different ways you can create an Instagram ad: with Facebook Ads Manager and with Instagram. Facebook Ad Manager lets you produce ads that run on Facebook and on Instagram. You can customize audiences and other features, and monitor the performance of your ads. Your Instagram account and your Facebook Business profile need to be connected, though. You can also use the Instagram app to place an ad directly by promoting a post on your Instagram profile. This is what I have done in the three tries that I described.
Types of Instagram ads
Instagram actually offers five ad formats: Stories ads, photo ads, video ads, carousel ads, and collection ads. Below, you can learn more about them. I have gathered this information with the help of articles by Tony Tran, Michael Stelzner, and Eduardo Morales.
Types of Instagram ads: photo ads
With photo ads, brands can showcase their products through captivating images. If you are already crafting high-quality visual content, Instagram photo ads give you the platform to share it with an even bigger audience.
Types of Instagram ads: video ads
Instagram users love video, and Instagram has made it easy for advertisers to use video for their brands.
Types of Instagram ads: collection ads
Instagram Collection ads are relatively new. With these ads, users can buy products directly from the ad.
Types of Instagram ads: carousel ads
With carousel ads, users can swipe through a series of images or videos. They have a call-to-action button to connect these users directly to your website. According to Stelzner, these ads allow up to three 15-second videos to appear as an interrupted series of stories that play back-to-back. Consequently, you can run individual Stories ads that are actually up to 45 seconds long but still look like individual 15-second stories.
Types of Instagram ads: Stories ads
Instagram Stories ads appear between users’ Stories and are full-screen ads. Stories expire after 24 hours, and so they are perfect for sharing limited-time. The CTA takes the form of a swipe-up feature. Interestingly enough, this feature is available for all advertisers. As you may know, Instagram’s swipe-up function for Stories is reserved for accounts that have more than 10k followers or are verified. As someone with an 8k Instagram account, I thought these ads were out of my reach. Nevertheless, Stelzner says that brands buying Stories ads can utilize the swipe-up feature to link to a website.
Outline of excellent Stories ads
Because Instagram ads are limited to 15 seconds, Morales has written down an overview to help you organize your Stories ad.
- Second 0:00–0:02: Capture your audience’s attention.
- Second 0:02–0:09: Clearly communicate your value proposition in an energetic and differentiated way.
- Second 0:09–0:12 — Call to action > Swipe up!
- Second 0:12–0:15 — Dedicated call to action screen.
Asking people to swipe up is not enough. You are advised to leave a three-second screen at the end that shows nothing except “Swipe up.”
How do you choose the best Instagram ad type?
Tran urges you to ask yourself what your goal is before you do anything else. It helps you decide what to pursue. Tran lists several goals and the types of ad that might be suitable. If you want to increase brand awareness, it is best to avoid collection ads, as they directly sell products. Instead, go for a photo or video ad with a CTA that directs to your website. If you do simply want to sell products, you pick a collections ad. If you are launching multiple products, you choose a carousel ad to show users numerous captivating images of your products.
Instagram ads: best practices
Now that we know the basics, it is time to get some practical tips from the experts. These are the best practices that Tran and Stelzner mention.
Best practices: know your audience
This is rather obvious, as you need to know your audience for every marketing campaign. When you know your audience well, you can connect with them through your messages.
Best practices: use text wisely
You cannot add much text to your Instagram ads. Tran recommends using your caption character count (2,200) wisely and keeping your audience personas in mind.
Best practices: use audio captioning
Stelzner recommends using audio as much as you can, especially in your Instagram Stories ads. Stories automatically play audio. Still, some people might have their sound off while browsing. So, always caption your video ads. Another trick is to indicate there is sound by using the ‘Sound On’ sticker.
Best practices: use hashtags
I have dedicated an entire blog post to Instagram hashtags, so make sure to find these best practices in The Ultimate Guide to Hashtags on Instagram.
Best practices: engage
According to Tran, you can split your interactions with users on social media into two categories: reactive engagement and proactive engagement. Reactive is when you respond to comments, mentions, and direct messages on social media. Proactive is when you make the first move and engage with other users. Tran thinks it is wise to do both as people react and engage with your ads. This will let people know that you are not another faceless brand.
Best practices: be consistent
Consistency on any social media platform is important. How to Keep Your Brand Consistent Everywhere will tell you that. If you are still new to social media, you might want to start with Social Media for Startups: Where to Begin?
Best practices: be consistent but fresh
Tran thinks it is easy to get attached to a killer ad. After all, it is performing so well! Ads are only good for so long, he says. That is why you need to switch up your ads regularly: to prevent your audience from tuning them out. As a bonus, you will learn which ads work best. Try out different captions, formats, and audiences.
Best practices: measure performance and optimize
As with any marketing campaign, measure the ad’s performance and fine-tune the campaigns.