Ads for the Gram: A Marketer's Guide to Advertising on Instagram

Ads for the Gram: A Marketer's Guide to Advertising on Instagram

Did you know that over 500 million Instagram users are viewing Instagram stories daily? That’s a lot of users and a lot of eyes. Using Instagram advertising increases your reach dramatically and improves your conversion numbers.

If your business is on Instagram, running ads on Instagram is one of the holy grails of marketing tricks. User engagement is high, and people are clicking through on ads more than ever. Let’s walk through everything you need to know about Instagram marketing in our complete how-to guide.

A Complete How-to for Running Ads on Instagram

71% of U.S. businesses are currently using Instagram. If you’re not, you’re falling behind on the trend. Don’t leave your competition out there without you. Marketers wonder if Instagram is a good platform to utilize for business, and no matter what your business is, with the right strategy, it will work.

Instagram for Business

From clothing retailers to movie theaters, commercial businesses to realty, Instagram is a great tool for industries across the board. More than 75% of Instagram users are following business profiles. That’s over three-quarters of a billion people you can expand your audience to.

It’s easy to use Instagram for business, and they have great advertising features to put you in front of your target audience.

Why Advertise on Instagram

The mobile advertising revenue for Instagram last year was almost 7 billion dollars. If there’s any question of whether or not you need to advertise, this is the answer. People are looking at Instagram ads and they aren’t hesitating to purchase.

If your marketing strategy is more about building brand awareness and less about sales, Instagram is still a solid option to add to your marketing mix. Users become more familiar with your brand the more they see you, and ads give you the opportunity to get in front of their eyes.

All About the Audience

Instagram allows you to select custom audiences. Your audience gets paired down to the people you really want to target and follow your brand. You don’t have to throw a blanket advertisement and pay for each person that looks at it regardless of who they are. You choose the demographics and let them appear for your most desired audience members.

Instagram uses the Facebook Ad Manager to set up Instagram ads. Facebook ad manager has an extensive custom audience option, allowing you to choose from a number of factors.

For example, you can reach people who interact the most with your business, or people who have never seen your business at all. Select from demographics such as age, sex, interests and hobbies, behaviors, locations, time zones, and even based on device. Facebook ad manager shows you the number of people you’ll reach with the demographics you select.

If you want to be super targeted, you may even upload a list of phone numbers and contact information. If they match up with current Facebook users, Instagram lets you market to this group of people.

Lastly, the ad manager obtains information about your customers and selects a “Lookalike Audience” based on your current customer's demographics and interests. This list is compiled of people who act and look exactly like your buying customers, serving ads to the people with a higher chance of conversion.

The Types of Instagram Ads

There are a variety of ad types you select for Instagram ads when you’re setting up your account. Each ad serves its own purpose and may be better for one audience over another. Let’s briefly discuss the ad formats available for use.


Photo ads are just like the photos you see on your normal Instagram feed. The difference is these have call-to-action buttons. This is a great way to tell a simple story. Ads that are most successful are the ones that don’t look like ads.


Video ads allow business to add sound and motion to their visual. Video ads are 3 seconds to 60 seconds long, in a square or a landscape format. These also have a space for call-to-action buttons. Using video ads on Instagram lets you string up to five different videos together. These show up in the user’s feed, in stories, carousel ads, or Instagram TV (IGTV).


Instagram business stories are a way to get your audience involved in an interactive experience. Stories allow a user to see the video in full screen on their mobile device with no distractions. They don’t require much of a user as when one story ends, it automatically moves on to the next one. Businesses add call-to-action buttons directly on the screen so a user doesn’t have to navigate elsewhere.


Collection ads group photos, videos, or products all together in one scrolling screen. When a user clicks on the call-to-action button on the post, it opens up a gallery directly in the Instagram app, featuring your products or services. A link will redirect the user to where to buy if they click on any image or video in the gallery. This makes it easy to tell a story with your products, or group like items together.


The use of carousel ads appertains to having multiple pictures of the same ad content. Videos and photographs pair together to create an interactive swiping experience for the user.

The success of the ad type you choose is dependent upon your marketing strategy goals. Creating your Instagram ad requires adding a call-to-action button. Choosing a button helps you determine what the goal of the ad is, and you can use this determinant to measure its success.

Supported Call-to-Action Buttons

What do you want your prospective customers to do when they see your ad? Are you promoting your business for brand loyalty, to get more sales, to increase brand awareness, or to snuff out the competition? Whatever your goal is, it is expressed through the call-to-action you choose.

The current call-to-action buttons available on Instagram ads are: apply now, book now, call now, contact us, get directions, learn more, get showtimes, and download.

This part of designing the ad is crucial. If you don’t put the right call-to-action on your ad, it won’t track the success you’re looking for, making the ads irrelevant to your marketing strategy.

Setting Up Your Ad

Now that you know the in’s and the out’s on Instagram’s ad platform and ad types, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of how you make an Instagram ad and best practices.

Before you even start making your ad, you need to consider your competitors. Research their ads, what CTAs they are using and how people are engaging with them. If they are getting great engagement, use their posts for inspiration and think about the messages they are communicating.

As we discussed earlier, determine your campaign goal, objectives, and pre-select your call-to-action. Once this is complete, set up your audience targeting, selecting the demographic you’d like to reach.

Creating Your Ad

Now that your Instagram ad is set up and ready to go, pull the creative together with these best practices. Designing the ad to speak to your audience requires thought and precision.

Limit Your Text

The caption text space on Instagram is limited to 2,200 characters. That’s a lot more space than Twitter, but it’s not a ton of room if you have something important to say. Develop your brand voice and tone so it’s the same throughout all your posts.

Use your image to do most of the speaking and limit your caption to be simple and straightforward. It’s true they say a picture speaks a thousand words. Remind users of your call-to-action on the post and tell them what they receive for clicking on it.


Keep consistency in your images and videos. Apply the same or similar filters to similar ads. Do you have brand guidelines you use within your business or for your website? Don’t veer too far off from your brand. Stay in the same color and font family. Make your business ads recognizable as to what brand they came from.

Don’t Forget the Hashtags

Hashtags are one of the most important parts of an Instagram post. Did you know they increase engagement on posts by over 12%? They are also a strategic way to speak about your brand and promote unique ideas.

Coming up with branded hashtags helps you track users that are posting about your topic. You can also have up to 30 hashtags. Reusing the same hashtags over and over again may get you shadowbanned, so be strategic with your hashtags. Make sure they are relevant to the post and don’t just use hashtags that you think are popular.

The sweet spot is hashtags that have 10,000-50,000 followers. This follower count is enough to get you some traction with your ads but not too many that it just gets lost in an influx of posts.

Switch Up Your Ads Frequently

If you’ve had a super successful Instagram ad, congrats! However, don’t use that as an excuse to keep posting the same ads. It’s great that it was successful, but make sure you’re switching it up on the regular. Don’t let your ads get stale, and always bring refreshing new content to the game.

Your audience will likely tune out ads that have posted for a while, so having new content gets them to reengage again.

A/B Testing for Instagram Ads

You can also play with A/B testing. Try out a variety of different styles and designs of ad and measure them against each other to see which is performing better. Have you tried a call-to-action that didn’t seem to drive much interest? Adjust your creative to include a new one and see if it converts better.

Perhaps your ad was too broad and your audience was not targeted enough. Hone in on your target market a little tighter to see if that adjustment has positive effects.

Reading the Analytics

The success or failure of your Instagram ads doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to measure and read your analytics. Instagram insights provide detailed information about how many people are viewing your campaign, clicking on your CTA, and engaging with your content.

You’ll also see your Instagram ad performance in the Facebook ad manager. It allows you to view current and past campaigns, see metrics, and even schedule and print reports.

You’ll see specific details like how many people were reached that are following or not following you, impressions, and how many follows you received from the ad. Your analytics help you determine if you’re targeting the right audience, posting consistently enough, driving traffic to your website, posting during the right time of day, and receiving engagement in your posts.

Google Analytics

If you aren’t seeing the analytics drilled down to the specifics you’re looking for, you can also use Google Analytics to measure your Instagram. Google Analytics tracks the traffic that comes to your website from your social media profiles and your Instagram ads. It collects detailed demographic data about your audience.

Proving Your Instagram Ad Success

Marketing on Instagram is a fantastic way to get more followers, drive more traffic to your website, experience more customer engagement, and show off your products and services.

You're now prepped with everything you need to know about running ads on Instagram and making them successful. Stick to the best practices rules and don't be afraid to get creative using video, stories, and carousels.

Run tests of your ads to see which performs better and make improvements from there. If you're interested in getting some help in setting up your Instagram creatives, reach out to us today!

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