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Instagram advertising - What is it & how do I use it?

Updated: Feb 8, 2021

Are you new to social media advertising? Or, are you looking at ways to revamp your Instagram strategy? If you answered yes to either of those questions (or if you just want to expand your social advertising horizons) then look no further than Instagram advertising.

While Instagram advertising, as a tactic, requires some capital to put behind it, there are many reasons brands should try it out. If over 1 billion people accessing Instagram each month isn't enough, then how about each of those 1 billion users scrolling through the platform for 53 minutes each day on average (that's just over 1 million years of time spent on Instagram each month), and we all know you want your brand to be where it can be seen.

Whether you’re new to Instagram marketing for your business, or you’re just starting to adopt Instagram ads, we’ve got you covered in this guide.

Read on for our walkthrough of Instagram advertising, why it’s a great strategy for your business and how to create your first Instagram adverts.


What is Instagram advertising?

Instagram started offering advertising to select businesses after it was acquired by Facebook in 2013. After they opened Instagram advertising to all businesses in 2015, it grew exponentially, and by 2017 reached 1 million advertisers.

Instagram advertising

You can manage Instagram advertising inside of Facebook’s Ads Manager, giving you access to a range of targeting options, as well as making it possible to create ads for both platforms at the same time.

For Instagram-only ads, you can create ads that appear in your audience’s feed as well as Story ads that play in between user Stories.


Why you should be using Instagram advertising

While organic social media strategies might seem cost effective at first, they’re time consuming, rely on a lot of trial and error, and can only get you so far when you’re up against ever-changing social media algorithms (search Google for Instagrams ever changing algorithms for more info on that one).

It’s so important to focus your social media strategy on both organic and paid tactics. This way you get the best of both worlds. You’re actively engaging with your audience and posting content to your Instagram feed, but you’re reaching out to an even larger audience who might not know about your brand through paid ads.

As a visual platform, Instagram ads give you a great way to show off your product, and with Instagram shopping, you can make it easier than ever for people to convert to customers within the platform itself.


How much does Instagram advertising cost?

This is, as with any social advertising, dependent on several different factors such as the mobile device you’re targeting, demographics, day of the week and whether or not your ad is running during a major event.

It all comes down to your target audience, which is why it’s important to define your Instagram demographics, such as age, sex, and general likes and dislikes, as well as hobbies and interests.

Another factor that affects ad cost is the ad’s placement. While Facebook’s right column ads tend to be the most expensive, both Instagram feed and Story ads are some of the cheapest placement options across all social platforms, ranging from about £0.40 to £0.90 cost per click (CPC).

So how do you go about fitting this into your current marketing budget? It’s important to focus on your key goals and objectives for the year and only dedicate money to ads and campaigns that help your bottom line. In essence, don't throw small amounts of money behind every post and initiative, be smart and push less but with more cash behind those less frequent pushes.

Also, put money behind posts and content that you already know perform well organically. You'll need to test everything to see what performs best, but for the most part you'll see trends in what content works better for you over others, and dedicate most of your ad spend on that. Make sure to measure your ad success and take note of anything that didn’t do as well as you’d hoped, figure out why, and look to reassign future ad spend here necessary.

Advertising costs are fine art sometimes, but after a while you'll see trends and know what works. It is, on the early days, trial and error, but its very much worth it!


How to create Instagram ads

Instagram ads are created inside Facebooks ads manager, allowing you to manage your Facebook and Instagram ads all in the same place.

Creating Instagram ads

To get started creating your first Instagram ad, log into your Facebook account, head over to your ads manager and start a new campaign.

1. Choose your ad objective

Your first step is to choose the objective behind your ad. There are many choices, broken down into three categories – Awareness, Consideration and Conversion. The ad types available to choose from are:

  • Brand awareness: Ideal for reaching users who would engage with your ad and to bring general awareness around your brand.

  • Reach: This is for brands trying to get ads in front of the most people possible.

  • Traffic: If your goal is to get users to visit a site, landing page or app, a traffic goal is perfect.

  • Engagement: If you want users to like, comment or share your ad, it’s best to set your objective to engagement.

  • App installs: This goal is for brands directing users to the app store to download or purchase apps.

  • Video views: In-stream ads play in users’ feeds to show production, product launches, and behind-the-scenes footage to visually entice users into watching.

  • Lead generation: Trying to simply find people interested in or somewhat curious about your brand? Set a lead gen goal.

  • Messages: This encourages users to interact with your brand to answer product questions, provide support or complete purchases.

  • Conversions: If you’re looking for direct sales actions on your ads, such as adding payment info or making a purchase, conversions is the ideal goal.

  • Catalog sales: The format is for brands showing products from your product catalog (must set one up to use this format), which then targets your audience.

  • Store traffic: This is perfect for those promoting multiple business locations to drive more in-store visits.

Be smart about picking your objective. If you choose an objective that doesn’t make sense, like creating a traffic ad for a video, or a messages ad for an Instagram placement, your ad will likely be denied.

Plus, you don’t want to waste your ad budget by choosing an objective that doesn’t make sense for the content you’re putting within the ad.

2. Name your Instagram ad campaign

After selecting your ad objective, the screen will extend to allow you to name your campaign. This is the best way to keep track of your ads within the Instagram ads manager, so we highly recommend you name each campaign with intention.

What are you promoting? Is it a monthly ad? Add which month you’re creating. Include the name of the promotion. Find a naming method that works for you and helps you to easily find your ads and track their performance.

Naming your Instagram ad campaign

While we’re here, you can also choose to get started on a split test ad and try out different variations, as well as decide to optimise your budget across ad sets or not.

A split test, or A/B test, allows you to test different ad variations or ad sets against each other, allotting the biggest budget to the ad that performs best.

Campaign budget optimisation will automatically distribute your ad budget across your ad sets. You can choose to do this, or manually set how much each ad set should spend based on your own past testing and results.

3. Choose your ad placements

Although selecting your audience comes first on the page, it can actually be a good idea to scroll past it at first and choose your Instagram-only placements. Different ad features are available for different placements, so getting this out of the way is a good idea.

Choosing your ad placement for Instagram

All you have to do is uncheck Facebook and Audience Network from the platforms to ensure your ad will only be running on Instagram.

4. Target your audience

Targeting your audience is where you get to dive into the nitty gritty of Instagram advertising.

You don’t want to waste money by trying to target anyone and everyone. This is your opportunity to really nail down the demographics, interests and behaviour of your brand’s target audience.

Targeting audiences on Instagram

You’re able to target the following audience categories in the ads manager:

  • Location: Choose or leave out audiences based on extremely specific locations down to postal codes and addresses or by broad areas such as global regions or countries.

  • Age: Select your specific age range (spanning from ages 13 all the way to 65+).

  • Gender: Choose between genders for your ads. (A note here, the while we, as a business, accept and support all genders and gender neutral pronouns, that the vast majority of social platforms still divide gender by male, female and all genders categories)

  • Detailed Targeting: Broken into three subcategories:

- Demographics let you include or exclude people based on life styles, employment and education.

- Interests filter users based on Pages liked, activities attended and related topics.

- Behaviours targets purchasing, activities and travel intentions.

  • Languages: Only needed if you’re targeting audiences speaking a specific language that is uncommon in that area.

  • Connections: Select users who already connected to your app, event or Page.

You’re also able to create custom audiences based on pixels that you’ve placed on your website. These will be users that have visited your website, or perhaps a lookalike audience of people who have similar behaviours and interests.

5. Define your ad budget and schedule

When it comes to setting your Instagram ads budget and schedule, you have full reign over when your ads run and how much will be spent on them.

Budget and schedule for Instagram posts

First of all, you need to choose between a daily budget and a lifetime budget. Daily budgets allow for your ads to run indefinitely while spending up to your allotted amount each day (you can still set start and end dates), while lifetime budgets will run for a set amount of time.

If you choose a lifetime budget, you can also select a specific schedule for your ads to run. Perhaps you want them to only be shown on weekdays or weekends. You’re able to manually choose the days and times your ads will be shown to your target audience.

Specific schedule for your business posts

6. Choose your Instagram ad format

Once you’ve completed the last three steps, click continue to head over to your ad creation dashboard. This is where you’ll upload your content, write your ad copy and publish your ad.

Choosing Instagram ad formates

Different formats are available based on the ad objective you chose at the beginning of this guide, but the basic Instagram ad formats are:

  • Photo ads: These include a single image, so you want to make sure it’s a good one.

  • Carousel ads: These allow users to horizontally scroll through multiple images or videos on their mobile device.

  • Collection ads: These give users the ability to purchase products directly from the ad.

  • Video ads: These are video clips that can be from 3 seconds to 60 seconds long.

  • Stories ads: These can be photos or videos that run in between user Stories as people tap through the Stories they follow.


Get started with Instagram advertising today

Ready to get started creating Instagram ads all on your own? We can’t wait to see what you put together.

Looking for more expertise on Instagram or social media advertising? Get in touch for a free consultation -

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