Instagram advertising: What’s working? Part 2

Columnist Andrew Waber dives into the performance metrics for Instagram and discusses how advertisers can take advantage of this increasingly promising channel.

Six months have passed since my last Instagram-focused column, so it’s a good time to provide an update on the ecosystem in terms of performance metrics and evolving best practices. While I’ve worked at Nanigans over this period, we’ve observed changes in the top-level metrics associated with Instagram and in specific advertiser tactics.

Perhaps not surprisingly, advertiser adoption of the platform has continued to rise at a rapid pace. Eight months after the Instagram API launch, a full 54 percent of advertisers using Nanigans ad automation software were spending on Instagram. That’s a 75-percent increase from the 31-percent figure cataloged in October 2015.


On top of more advertisers spending on the platform overall, advertisers are also committing increasing budgets to the platform. Between February and April 2016, the average monthly Instagram spend among Nanigans customers rose 29 percent.


These latest budget increases underscore the fact that Instagram, like Facebook before it, continues to perform at a high level for profit-driven marketers. Inventory expansion has helped keep CPMs relatively steady over the past six months.

And during Q1 2016, Instagram instituted ad overlay changes designed to distill more intent from ad clicks — making users click twice on an image or video in order to be taken offsite, rather than just once. The result was that aggregate CTRs went down, but ROAS rose — as can be seen from an analysis of top e-commerce advertisers.


This ongoing evolution of the platform for advertisers is also impacting tactical considerations. Features like Placement Optimization allow advertisers to use Facebook and Instagram together to drive valuable installs using inventory across the two channels, and creative considerations also have broadened to include a wider variety of options for advertisers.

As before, advertisers just getting started on Instagram should feel confident in repurposing Facebook content initially, before moving to more advanced creative strategies like those highlighted below.

1. Utilize strong focal points

Instead of presenting imagery that is busy or complex, Instagram ads like those above instead direct the viewers’ attention to a clear focal point. You can do this via creative use of color, layering, lighting and layout of the products or models.

Someone who’s scrolling through their Instagram feed is more likely to pause and engage with your ad if the imagery is compelling and draws in the eye.

2. Emphasize bold colors


One of the most powerful tools for capturing attention is color. Ads that make use of vivid colors are more likely to stand out among a slew of organic posts on Instagram.

As seen in the carousel ad above, color helps grab your audience’s attention, allowing the rest of the ad to do its job of compelling them to take action.

3. Build on a common theme


Just like traditional A/B testing, if there’s a creative tactic that’s already helping you reach your ROI goals, don’t completely reinvent the wheel. Take the elements that work and build on those.

Use a common theme that enables you to put a new spin on each iteration of your ads. For example, you can employ different versions of before and after shots that show the value of your service or product, or you can highlight customer testimonials that emphasize your company’s credibility.


Recent developments have brought Instagram, from a technical perspective, closer to Facebook than ever before. Image, video, image carousel, video carousel and dynamic ad types are all now available across both platforms, on top of the identical targeting capabilities and options.

And while Instagram is almost 100 percent mobile, Facebook is not far behind, with our latest benchmark report showing roughly 80 percent of Facebook ad spend going to mobile inventory.

The differences between the two channels are now primarily concentrated in a few areas. Individual audiences may be more or less prominent on one platform vs. the other (e.g., younger vs. older), along with the aforementioned specialized creative considerations.

In that vein, there is no one “right” way to advertise on Instagram. Creative approaches vary by industry, target market and other situational factors. In general, it’s helpful to initially ask:

  • What interests my audience most, and what frustrates them?
  • What messaging approach or tone will encourage customers to engage with our ad?
  • How will our visual brand identity support our performance marketing objectives?
  • What’s my product’s unique selling point, and how do I convey it visually?

Going through the remainder of 2016 with these questions in mind, along with the tips and statistics above, should help inform your Instagram advertising strategy. Following on this latest report (email registration required), we’ll also revisit the channel again in roughly six months’ time to keep you abreast of subsequent performance changes and evolving best practices.

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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