instagram advertising header

Over the past few years, we’ve seen tremendous growth in the number of businesses using social media advertising. As organic reach continues to dwindle on large networks like Facebook and Twitter, social media advertising budgets are on the rise. It’s predicted that social media ad spend will reach $36 billion by 2017.

It’s not just the usual suspects getting involved with social media ads. We’ve seen a few of the newer mobile-first networks taking a crack at it as well. One platform in particular that you should have your eye on is Instagram. Instagram advertising has evolved since inception, partially thanks to its integration with Facebook’s amazing ad platform. If you haven’t given Instagram advertising a try, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

Why Instagram Advertising?

Even though it has grown quickly, many marketers are still on the fence about Instagram Ads. The hesitance is partially understandable. Because Instagram has always focused on keeping users in the app itself, advertisements are a shock to the ecosystem. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t effective.

Instagram Ads have a completely native feel. Aside from a few small details, your ads look exactly like a regular post.

Instagram Ads

Instagram also has a very engaged audience. Research from Forrester showed that Instagram photos generated 58 times higher user engagement per follower than Facebook posts, and 120 times higher engagement rates than Tweets.

instagram engagement

When it comes to advertising, it pays to be in front of an audience that is likely to take action. It’s even more important on social media since you’re competing with millions of other posts for your audience’s attention.

Instagram advertising also gives you the ability to reach more people than you can organically, since people who aren’t following you can see your ads. Here’s a real life example.

Paper Boat Drinks published this post on its Instagram page.

Then, the company used the same image and caption in an Instagram ad. Look at how much more social media engagement the sponsored post received.

paperboat mocktails example

The six-week ad campaign generated an 18-point lift in ad recall and 15-point lift in brand awareness. Even though Instagram’s engagement is high, it doesn’t automatically mean all of your ads will be a hit.

In order to achieve real results, here are 10 tips to rock your Instagram advertising campaigns:

1. Create an Instagram Advertising Strategy

The first mistake brands make with Instagram Advertising is jumping in without a plan. We get it. Instagram is hot right now so there’s a lot of excitement around using ads. However, without a strategy, your campaigns will lack direction and purpose.

Before you create your ad, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are you promoting?
  • What do you want to accomplish with the ad?
  • How will you measure success?

Your answers will determine the direction of your campaign. Your approach for a campaign to get more followers would be different than if you were trying to get email subscribers.

Setting goals will also allow you to attach KPI’s and metrics to your ads. Be as specific as possible with your goals. Instead of simply increasing your followers, try boosting your followers by 20%. After you’ve finished running your ad, you’ll have a way to judge whether it was a hit or a dud. Then you can make adjustments for future ads.

2. Target Your Audience

As we mentioned, one of the biggest advantages of Instagram advertising is that it’s integrated with Facebook Ads. That means you have access to Facebook’s notorious audience targeting.

Facebook Ad Targeting

You can also use custom and lookalike audiences. Lookalike audiences allow you to create an audience that mimics your existing customers.

To further target your ads, you can use remarketing as well. Remarketing lets you display your Instagram ads to people that have visited your website in the past.

Using these advanced targeting features can increase your click through rate. Since your audience is more precise, your ads are shown to people that are likely to be interested in your business and take action. In addition to reaching more people, boosting your CTR can also lower your cost per click.

Don’t rush through the audience selection step when creating your ads. Think about who your target customer is and create ad campaigns specifically for them.

3. Don’t Make It Look Like an Ad

Consumers don’t like blatant advertisements. Pushing your message into peoples’ faces won’t bode very well for your brand. Instead of being the overbearing salesman, take a subtle approach. Some of the best Instagram Ads don’t look like advertisements at all.

Instagram does an excellent job of making ads look native within the user’s feed, but they don’t control the image and caption you use.

Instead of using a screenshot of its app or plastering its photo with logos, dating app Clover went simple. The company used a casual picture of a girl, similar to what you’ll find on a lot of people’s pages. When you’re scrolling through your feed, the picture doesn’t scream “advertisement.”

Clover App Instagram Ad

The campaign resulted in a 30% increase in new subscription and reduced user acquisition cost by 60%.

4. Partner With Influencers

Influencer marketing is one of the best ways to grow your Instagram following. We’ve seen a lot of brands partner with influencers for organic posts, but it can be even more powerful when combined with Instagram Ads.

When Korean cosmetic company Memebox partnered up with popular blogger and makeup artist Park Hye Min (also known as Pony) for its new Pony Effect line, the results were amazing. The Instagram advertising campaign generated a 20-point lift in ad recall, 11-point lift in brand awareness and 5-point lift in message association.

PonyEffect Instagram Ad

With over a million Instagram followers, Pony’s influence was able to give the cosmetic line instant credibility and gain the trust of its target audience.

You can achieve similar results by finding an influencer that has captured the attention of your demographic. Instead of asking for a shout out, partner up and run an Instagram ad. Then, use Facebook’s audience targeting feature to put your ads in front of the right people.

5. Include a Hashtag

A popular Instagram marketing tactic is to find popular hashtags and use them in your posts. That way when people search for the hashtags or see them trending, they’ll be able to find your brand. This is effective, but the problem is your posts are surrounded by thousands of other people using the same hashtag.

Popular brands like Nike and Under Armour have massive audiences so they can create their own branded hashtags. When you click on the hashtags within their posts, you see content all about their brand.

The bloodline runs deep. #TeamUA

A photo posted by Under Armour (@underarmour) on

If you don’t have the notoriety of Under Armour, you can still raise awareness by including a branded hashtag in your Instagram ads.

Start by looking at some of your most popular hashtags. You can use Sprout’s Instagram Analytics report to quickly find which hashtags have been the best performers for your organic posts.

Instagram Analytics

Incorporate your top performers into your ads. If you don’t have any data to work from, you can also create new hashtags for your campaign.

6. Use Video Ads

It’s hard to argue the power of social media video marketing. A survey from Mixpo showed marketers plan to produce more Instagram videos over the next couple years.

Video Marketing Statistics

Cointreau, a famous French liqueur, used Instagram Video Ads to keep its vintage brand relevant among a demographic of females between ages 25-35. The campaign reached 150K people and had six-times higher engagement compared to other platforms.

Most brands instinctively choose to use images with Instagram advertising. Think outside the box and use video to reach more people and engage your audience.

7. Get Your Customers Involved

User-generated content (UGC) has become a popular tactic for social media marketers and with good reason. A study from Ipsos MediaCT found UGC is 35% more memorable and 50% more trusted than other types of media and information.

User Generated Content Study

If your brand has a loyal following and brand evangelists, there’s a good chance they’re sharing pictures and videos involving your brand on Instagram.

Look for ways to integrate this content into your Instagram advertising strategy. Include images of customers using your product and services, or a video of your fans at an event.

Showing real people in your Instagram ads has a more authentic feel than staged photos. BlackMilk Clothing does an excellent job of using photos from its customers on its Instagram page instead of paid models.

Ice Cream and Toasties: the perfect Winter match ? @5lettersymcmb @misterfitz_ #blackmilkclothing #blackmilk #bmtartannavytoasties

A photo posted by BlackMilk Clothing (@blackmilkclothing) on

Get your customers involved and watch your Instagram advertising campaigns take off.

8. Follow up With Organic Posts

Your Instagram advertising campaigns don’t have to be isolated from your organic efforts. Bridge the gap by having a series of posts related to your ad campaign on your Instagram page.

TV Land used a combination of advertising and organic posts to promote its comedy series Teachers when it first launched. In addition to the organic and paid posts from the official @teachersseries Instagram page, TV Land also made organic posts on the network’s page as well. By using multiple avenues, TV Land maximizeed the show’s social presence and increase brand awareness by 21%.

TV Land Instagram Advertising

Use a holistic approach to magnify your voice on Instagram.

9. Test Everything

Split testing is one of the most important aspects of advertising. Changing your call to action, caption or image can completely alter your results. Instead of limiting yourself to one ad creative, make variations. Even the slightest change makes a difference.

Unbounce ran an A/B test where it switched a single word on its landing page and saw a 90% increase in CTR.

AB Testing Case Study

Instagram Ads makes it simple to do A/B testing. Duplicate your existing ads and tweak different elements. A good place to start is the CTA button. Instagram gives you a nice selection of various CTA buttons to persuade viewers to click.

Instagram Ads Call to Action Buttons

Of course, you can also change out your captions and images as well. Then analyze your reports to see which variation delivered the best results.

10. Don’t Expect Floods of Sales

While Instagram Ads can be very effective, you also have to understand the buying process. Many brands make the mistake of assuming ads will result in immediate sales. However, the sales funnel has changed over the years. It’s not as simple as someone clicking your ad and buying your product. There are steps in between.

The real power of Instagram Ads is its ability to grow your brand, connect with a wider audience and gain their trust. This eventually results in sales. As tempting as it may be, don’t think short term. Instagram advertising is a piece of your overall strategy and will deliver long term results, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t get an immediate surge in sales.

The Perfect Time for Instagram Ads

Instagram advertising works. This is the perfect time to jump in and give it a try, since most of your competitors probably aren’t taking advantage of it yet.

sprout audience engagement instagram

However, to better collaborate, analyze and engage with your Instagram, you need an Instagram management tool that truly makes your advertising process easier. With Sprout, you can monitor branded hashtags, track customers’ posts and measure profile performance so you know you’re on the right path.

Instagram advertising can be monitored and tracked more easily with a little guidance. Keep the 10 tips you just learned in mind and you’ll be crushing Instagram Ads in no time!

Have you given Instagram Ads a try? Leave a comment and let us know your best advertising tips.