The Beginner's Guide to Advertising on Instagram

The Beginner's Guide to Advertising on Instagram

Hands using Instagram

Instagram now has more than 600 million users. That’s a big audience. For comparison, Twitter only has 313 million monthly active users.

But it’s not the size of Instagram’s user base that makes it such an enticing marketing channel—it’s the level of engagement that brands get on the platform.

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If you’ve ever posted anything on social media as a small brand, you know how often if feels like you're talking to a void. Too often, no one responds. No likes, comments, retweets—you get the idea.

Not so with Instagram. No matter how small your audience, your posts probably still receive at least a few likes and comments—especially if you use relevant hashtags.

The business case for Instagram ecommerce is strong. Not only does Instagram's engagement demolish Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn, but, for brands, it even outperforms Facebook by a factor of 10.

It kind of makes you wonder why more brands aren’t on Instagram, right?

The "Link Problem"

For a long time, the big problem with marketing on Instagram has been getting your fans on Instagram back to your website. Since you can't place clickable links in your posts, brands have to direct Instagram follows to the link in their bio instead—and continuously update that link as they post new products.

Although this isn’t ideal, Instagram has still been an impactful source of traffic and sales for many companies. In fact, Instagram was the most successful source of traffic in one of our recent case studies. All that traffic came from the same "link in bio".

But here’s the really exciting part. You can now include links to your website in Instagram posts—if you advertise. In the example below, the "Shop Now" button takes readers directly to a product page.

Example of website conversion Instagram ad

Product Tagging

Instagram is now partnering with Shopify to take things a step further and offer easy product tagging in 2017. Tagging products in Instagram photos will provide a seamless customer checkout experience.

Sign up to learn more

With product tagging, ecommerce brands will have even more reason to start advertising on Instagram.

Introduction to Instagram Advertising

Instagram advertising is still quite new. Before recently, though, there was a workaround: sponsored posts.

In the past, if you wanted to advertise on Instagram, you had to do it by negotiating privately with Instagram influencers and asking them to promote your brand on their account. While this can be a very effective way to drive traffic and sales, it has limitations:

  • Often expensive
  • Requires reaching out and negotiating
  • No accountability or recourse if they don't deliver
  • Limited audience targeting

Sponsored posts still have their place. Getting someone else to promote your product carries solid benefits. It provides social proof, adding a cool factor to your business, and people are more likely to buy something when someone they trust bought it first. Plus, while you don’t have a lot of control over the influencers audience, at least you don't have to make any decisions about who to target.

Sponsored posts are still a great way to do influencer outreach, especially if you sell a product. 

However, there's now a new way.

How Instagram Advertising Works

Since late 2015, anyone can now create Instagram ads through Facebook's self-serve advertising platform. With it, you have total control over your ads, how they appear, and who sees them. And unlike sponsored posts, your ads get posted directly from your own account. The advantages to the new method include:

  • Scalable pricing
  • Self-serve, instant
  • Robust reporting, you’re in control
  • Highly-refined audience targeting

What's more, with Instagram's move away from a chronological feed in favor of a curated feed, you never know how many of your followers will see your posts. 

Types of Ads

You can now run four different types of ads on Instagram.

  • Photo Ads — One simple photo in landscape or square format.
  • Video Ads — Videos can be up to 60 seconds long in landscape or square format.
  • Carousel Ads — Include up to 4 more photos people can view by swiping. 
  • Stories Ads — Advertise on Instagram stories with photo or video content.

Campaign Objectives

Instagram Ads offers several campaign objectives. These are potential goals for your campaign that you select from a list. Don't neglect this choice—it will influence how your ads are optimized and how you pay for them. For example, if your goal is to get people to watch your video, you probably don’t care how people click on your link.

You may already be familiar with campaign objectives from creating Facebook ads. Options include:

  • Awareness — Drive awareness of your business, product, app or service.
    • Reach
    • Reach & Frequency
    • Brand Awareness
    • Local Awareness
  • Consideration — Have potential customers learn more about your products or services.
  • Conversion — Increase product sales, mobile app downloads, even visitors to your store.
    • Website Conversions
    • Dynamic Ads on Instagram
    • Mobile App Installs
    • Mobile App Engagement

Targeting Options

Instagram ads have all the same targeting options as Facebook ads 🙌 . These include targeting based on location, demographics, interests, behavior, lookalike audiences, and automated targeting (let Facebook decide).

Even better, if you have Custom Audiences, you can target them on Instagram. Custom Audiences are groups people who who have already connected with your brand in some way. This could be by visiting your website, engaging with your posts on Facebook, using your app, or by sharing their contact info with you.

How to Create Your First Instagram Ad

Let's dive into exactly how you can create your first ad on Instagram.

Step 1 - Link Your Instagram Account to Your Facebook Page

The first step to creating an Instagram ad is to link your Instagram account to your Facebook page. You only need to this once.

Visit the Settings for your Facebook page and click on "Instagram Ads".

Facebook page settings

Next, click "Add an Account" and fill in your Instagram login credentials. If you don't already have an Instagram account, you can also create one now. When you're finished click "Confirm".

Add credentials

Step 2 - Create a Campaign

Now that you've linked your Instagram account to your Faceook page, it's time to head over to the Ads Manager and create your first campaign. If you're more comfortable using Power Editor, you can also create Instagram ads there. If you already create Facebook ads, much of this process will be familiar to you.

In the Ads Manager, click on "+ Create Campaign" near the top left corner of the screen. 

Create campaign screenshot

Next, choose your campaign objective. Be aware that not all objectives are compatible with Instagram Stories Ads.

Instagram campaign objectives screenshot
The "Conversions" objective is great choice for ecommerce businesses that want to drive sales. Note that in order to use this objective, you need to have a the Facebook pixel installed on your website. If you don't have one installed yet, you'll get a message letting you know.

Screenshot of Conversions campaign objective

Resource: The Beginner's Guide to the New Facebook Pixel

Step 3 - Create Your Ad Set 

On the Ad Set page, you'll be able to choose "Purchase" as the type of conversion you want to optimize for.

Selecting "Purchase" conversion screenshot

Next, you can define who you want to see your ads, and how much money you want to spend. All the same targeting options are available for Instagram ads as for Facebook ads.

Screenshot of targeting options

If you have any Custom Audiences already created, you can select them for targeting with your Instagram ad at this point. 

ResourceThe Beginner's Guide to Facebook Custom Audiences

Next, select your ad Placements. You'll see the option to run your campaign on Instagram, as well as Facebook and Messenger. 

Ad Placements screenshot

When figuring out how much you want to spend, I recommend starting low. You can always increase the budget later if your ad is performing well. 

Instagram advertising budget screenshot

When you're finished choosing who to target and how much to spend, click "Continue" in the bottom right.

On the next screen you'll see an option to choose your ad format. Note that the Canvas format is not compatible with Instagram. Once you've decided, scroll down to upload your images or videos.

Screenshot of Instagram ad formats

After you've uploaded your visuals, scroll down further and you'll see an option on the left to add text to your ad.

Finally, to the right of the text editor, you'll be able to preview how your ad will look on Instagram. Here's how my ad would look if I uploaded a picture of our office dog, Petunia. You can also see how your ad would look in any other formats selected.

Instagram ad preview screenshot

Once everything looks good, click "Place Order". Otherwise, go back and make changes. 

Place order screenshot

Step 4 - Repeat!

The first one is always the hardest. Once you've created your first ad on Instagram, it'll be much easier the second time around. In the meantime, use the Ads Manager to keep track of how your first ad is performing.

If you've already started advertising on Instagram, share your tips in the comments! 

About the Author

Casandra Campbell is an entrepreneur, craft beer nerd, and content creator at Shopify.

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