Aug 11, 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising

Every month, approximately 500 million users log in to their Instagram accounts, either to share their favorite photos and videos or to view other people’s content.

If your business has successfully advertised on Facebook and Twitter, porting your campaigns to Instagram is a great way to expand your reach, increase brand awareness and rack up more conversions.

Since Instagram is a relatively new ad platform, it’s less saturated than channels like Facebook and Twitter. Impressions are affordable, users are plentiful and the potential to reach a massive audience is definitely there.

Better yet, since Instagram is owned by Facebook, you can port your campaign to Instagram in the Facebook Ads Manager without having to create a new account.

Would you like to expand your social media marketing campaign to Instagram? Read on to learn the A to Z of Instagram advertising, from creating your first campaign to developing effective ad creatives, targeting the right audience and optimizing for ROI as your campaign runs.

Creating an Instagram campaign

Creating an Instagram campaign is easy. From the Facebook Ads Manager, click “Create Ad” in the top-right corner of the user interface:

Create an Instagram Campaign - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

Facebook will ask you to define your marketing objective. If you have an existing offer, such as a lead generation page, it’s best to select “Increase conversions on your website.” This option lets you track conversions through Facebook’s ad interface using a JavaScript pixel.

If your goal is to increase brand awareness, select “Increase brand awareness” or “Get video views” if you plan to promote a video ad creative. For a direct-to-website campaign (or any ad campaign with third-party conversion tracking), select “Send people to your website.”

Instagram Marketing Objective - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

We’ve selected “Increase conversions on your website” for our sample campaign, which gives us access to Facebook’s conversion tracking tools. Once you’ve selected your objective, enter your campaign’s name and click “Continue” to enter your targeting options:

Instagram Website Conversions - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

What targeting options are available?

The best way to view Instagram is as an extension of Facebook. Since users log in to Instagram via Facebook, account data - such as a user’s age, gender, location and interests - are shared between the two social networks.

This means that all of the targeting options available via Facebook Ads are also available for an Instagram campaign.

At the most basic level, your campaign needs to target a specific country, gender (if promoting a gender-specific offer) and age group. For our example campaign, we’ve targeted US-based men and women aged from 25 to 60:

Instagram Targeting Options - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

Using detailed targeting, we can refine this audience to target the people most likely to buy our product. For our example campaign, we’re going to advertise an offer for a mobile workout and diet tracking application.

The obvious audience for this product is people with an interest in physical fitness, nutrition and health. Using Facebook’s interest targeting, we can narrow our targeting to advertise to people that have liked fitness-related pages and groups:

Instagram Detailed Targeting - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

This narrows our audience from 125 million people to 64 million. This is still a large audience - one that might be better suited to a large brand than a small business.

It’s important to note that Instagram’s interest targeting is extremely precise. For example, if our fitness tracker was specifically dedicated to the paleo diet, we could target people with a specific interest in this diet to further narrow our campaign:

Instagram Audience Targeting - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

As a general rule, the “sweet spot” for Instagram targeting is an audience of 100,000 to 500,000 people. Above this, you run the risk of targeting people that may not have a real interest in your offer; below this, your campaign can “burn out” and stop converting too quickly.

Developing Instagram ad creatives

Before you can start developing ad creatives, you’ll need to select Instagram as your targeting placement. Scroll down to the “Placements” section of the Ad Manager and deselect all options except for Instagram:

Instagram Placements - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

Since Instagram is a mobile social network, you can select the specific devices you’d like your campaign to target. This is a good way to narrow your audience if you’re promoting an Android or iOS-specific application.

Device targeting also has another purpose: reaching people with a lot of disposable income. If you’re promoting a high-ticket product and want to reach people who’ve demonstrated a history of buying new products, you can target users of the latest high-end smartphones:

Instagram Placements Mobile Devices - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

Once you’ve selected your placement and device targeting criteria, it’s time to start building your ad creatives. Select from the following options (for our campaign, we’ve chosen a single image):

Instagram Ad Creative - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

If you have existing images you’d like to use for your Instagram campaign, you can upload them in the Facebook Ad Manager. If you don’t have your own images, you can choose from several thousand images in Facebook’s stock photo library.

For our example campaign, we’ve selected a fitness and nutrition-related image from the stock photo library:

Instagram Stock Imagery - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

Try to select 4-5 images for your campaign so that you can A/B test different images and learn which performs the best. Since Instagram is a visual platform, your choice of image has a huge impact on your campaign.

If you have an Instagram account, you can link it to your ad. If not, you can link your business’s Facebook page:

Instagram Facebook Account - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

Since we’re promoting a mobile app, we’ve selected “Download” as our call to action. Your CTA has a huge effect on your campaign’s clickthrough and conversion rate, so make sure you pick something that’s relevant to your offer and target audience.

Before you submit your ad, Facebook will give you a preview of how it will look on Instagram:

Instagram Ad - The Ultimate Guide to Instagram Advertising | Digital Marketing Institute Blog

Optimizing your campaign and improving results

Unless you strike it lucky and have a successful campaign from day one, just launching your ad and hoping for the best is unlikely to produce profitable results.

Just like you need to optimize your Facebook Ads campaign to start producing a profitable ROI, you need to edit and optimize your Instagram campaign as it runs to go from spending money to earning money.

Below, we’ve listed some simple ways to improve your results as an Instagram advertiser and get to profitability faster

Port an existing campaign from Facebook

Is your campaign profitable on Facebook? If you’re already running a successful Facebook Ads campaign and want to generate more traffic from your audience, port the campaign to Instagram by copying it in the Facebook Ads Manager and switching to an Instagram-only placement.

Remember that since Instagram is a completely different application, you won’t have the exact same results as Facebook. However, porting to the same audience simplifies your optimization process and usually helps you reach a positive return on investment faster.

Split test at least five different images

Instagram is a visual social network where images and video dominate. The image you choose for your ad is by far the most important factor in determining whether it will produce real results or fall short of your objective.

Before you call your campaign a winner or loser, make sure you split test at least five different images. Choose images that are vastly different from each other - this will help you identify the visual themes that have the greatest impact on your target audience.

Target a custom remarketing audience

If you already have remarketing data - for example, visitors to your website or people who have already purchased your products before - you can target this audience on Instagram using the custom audience feature in the Facebook Ads Manager.

Custom audiences work best when you have at least 5,000 people to target. Smaller audiences can produce results, but the small scale and high frequency of an Instagram campaign typically results in your campaign audience running into ad fatigue within a few days.

Use amateur-looking photos

Since most people use Instagram to follow their friends and family, professional ad photos stand out like a sore thumb. As well as the usual stock photos, try adding an amateur-looking image or two into your ad creatives to see if there’s any positive impact on engagement.

Pay attention to your reach and frequency

When you target a small, defined audience on Instagram, there’s a risk of your ads being shown to the same people again, and again, and again. Over time, banner blindness sets in and you’ll notice your click through rate declining as users lose interest in your ads.

Avoid this by paying close attention to your campaign’s reach (the number of people who have seen your ads) and frequency (the average number of times each of your ads has been shown to each person).

Usually, you’ll start to notice a decline in engagement after your average frequency hits three to five. If you notice your click through rate dropping, try switching to new images to re-engage your audience with a fresh, unfamiliar look.

Track your conversions

Instagram ads don’t just differ in clickthrough rate and engagement - they can also differ hugely in conversion rate. Track your conversions using the Facebook Pixel so that you can see which ads produce a positive return on investment and which have a negative ROI.

Tap into Instagram’s growth

Instagram is one of the world’s fastest growing social networks. In March of 2014, its user base numbered just over 200 million; as of June 2016, it has grown to more than 500 million monthly active users.

This growth makes Instagram a fantastic marketing platform to master. With a growing audience and a powerful advertising interface in the form of the Facebook Ads Manager, Instagram could be the online growth platform your business has been searching for.

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