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Social Media Marketing

How to Advertise on Instagram: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Instagram is the second most popular “traditional” social media platform, with roughly 1 billion monthly users. If you haven’t taken advantage of the incredible reach this platform offers, there’s no better time to start than now.

Businesses of all types advertise on Instagram. Whether you’re a small startup or a larger, more established business, Instagram ads are a great way to connect with new customers and grow your following.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • An overview of Instagram advertising
  • How much Instagram ads can cost
  • Types of Instagram ads
  • How to advertise on Instagram
  • Instagram advertising best practices

Ready to learn how to advertise on Instagram? Let’s get started.

Table Of Contents

What is Instagram Advertising?

When you advertise on Instagram, you pay to put your content in front of a more targeted audience.

While there are a few different types of ads you can run, most Instagram ads appear alongside native posts and stories. The only difference is a small “sponsored” tag on your content—otherwise, they look just like a normal post.

When you advertise on Instagram, you can choose a particular post or content that will show up on people’s feeds. The idea is that users within your target market will find the ads interesting and click on them, leading them to your account or landing page.

If you choose to advertise on stories, users are often given the option to ‘swipe up,’ which will lead them again either to your Instagram account or your site’s landing page.

How Much Does Instagram Advertising Cost?

There isn’t a straightforward answer to this one because the answer can vary from each brand.

Take into account the type of advertising you choose and the number of people you want to see it. Instagram uses the same format as other sites, like Google.You’ll pay based on either cost per click (CPC) or cost per impressions (CPM).

However, the price can vary depending on audience engagement, post reactions, and the audience type you’re targeting with your ad. 

Recent data suggest that advertising on Instagram can cost around $0.70 to $0.80 for CPC advertising, but the true amount can vary. CPM advertising can even be more expensive than CPC, with some CPM advertising fetching around $5.

Like Google, Instagram uses bidding for advertisement. You can also use manual or automated bidding on Instagram, like on other platforms. Other factors such as the time your ad will run, and even your ad delivery method can all be customized. 

Types of Instagram Ads

1. Image Feed Ads

This is the most common ad type for Instagram advertising, and it’s probably the same thing that first came to your mind. As the name implies, image feed ads are images in a user’s feed that appear alongside content from accounts they follow. 

Usually, image feed ads feature a customizable Call-to-Action (CTA) button. Your call to action could be a Call Now button or a button that lets users book their tickets online. CTAs can also be simple phrases like Learn More or Contact Us.

There are a few requirements for Instagram Feed ads. You can find more information on design and text recommendations, as well as technical requirements for Instagram Feed ads here.

2. Image Story Ads

Image story ads are similar to image feed ads—the main difference is how they appear in a user’s account. Story ads are shown in Instagram stories instead of feed.

Instagram content primarily consists of either posts or stories. Stories usually disappear within a set time and are meant to be consumed faster than posts, which have an indefinite shelf life. 

One possible advantage of image story ads is their fleeting nature forces users to decide more quickly on whether to click your call to action. Because of the time limit, more users are clicking instead of skipping out on a cool product they’re interested in.  

3. Video Feed Ads

Video feed ads are video clips that appear on a user’s feed. The two types of content supported by Instagram are mostly restricted to visual content, with photos and videos being the most dominant types.

Video feed ads can attract more attention than a conventional image post. However, they have some downsides. 

In today’s fast-paced means of consuming entertainment, users might not be keen to watch Instagram video ads when the next entertaining post could just be below. The bottom line is your mileage may vary, depending on how relevant videos are to your brand or product. 

4. Video Story Ads

Video story ads are similar to video feed ads. These ads appear in a user’s stories, usually as an interval between two other stories.

Video formats are usually more compatible with stories, with the way they’re designed. Hence, video story ads can immediately grab the user’s attention and direct them to your product. 

Plus, you have the bonus of adding sound effects or dialogue to your story ads.

The downside?

It can feel like a traditional ad, like watching a TV advertisement. Today’s social media generations aren’t fond of traditional advertisements, so make sure to avoid this pitfall.

5. Carousel Feed Ads

Carousel feed ads are something new, but the concept remains the same. These ads allow you to swipe for more photos or videos.

Carousels are a great way to display lots of information in a visually appealing way. While informational posts that rely on long descriptions still work to some extent, carousels perform much better.

They also allow you to guide readers through your points, breaking things down into a format that’s easier to digest. (Which are you more likely to read—a giant wall of text, or nicely organized slides?)

These types of ads get around the limits of video length and single image posts, allowing you to better engage readers with information, product variations, or other topics that they can scroll through at their own pace.

6. Canvas Story Ads

Canvas story ads are Instagram’s latest offer. This ad type allows users more interaction with your content.

The feature is only available for mobile right now, but there’s no doubt that Instagram will expand this soon. With canvas story ads, marketers can create polls, options, and question-and-answer content – brilliant ideas that will engage your audience. 

How to Advertise on Instagram: Setting Up Your First Instagram Ad

Set a Goal

Before you start dreaming up concepts for ads, give it a long hard look first and ask yourself, ‘what do I want to achieve with my ad?’. Having a goal in mind will lead to a more focused ad that people respond to.

Ads without a clear meaning or purpose will only turn off potential customers.

Your goal can be short term or long term. For example, if you’re a starting brand, you might just be interested in getting the word out that you exist. On the other hand, a longer-established brand may be interested in increasing market share through ads. Your goals don’t have to be the same as your peers or even your competitors. Be comfortable at your own pace, especially if you’re new to all of this. 

Choose Your Target Audience

Once you’ve settled on your goal, it’s time to think about the audience. These are the people you target with your ad. You want them to see and engage with your advertisement.

Putting an ad without a target audience is just as bad as not having a goal in mind. It can even cost you your budget without any benefit to your brand, especially if you choose Instagram’s cost per impressions format. 

When building your audience, make sure they’re the people who will be interested in your product. You can sort through different classifications.

For example, are young users more likely to respond to your ad? What about their line of work? Perhaps your ad is targeted at working moms. You can also advertise to young marketing professionals who use Instagram to wind down. 

Knowing your audience is half the battle. Even your posting time can severely affect your ad’s success. For example, if you target young professionals, you don’t want to show your ad during office hours when they’re not using Instagram.

On the other hand, if you’re marketing to stay-at-home moms, you want to make sure that the ad appears either early morning or late at night.  

Pick an Ad Format

We’ve discussed previously in this article the various formats you can pick for your ad. Perhaps the most basic question you need to answer is whether you want a photo or video ad.

A photo ad can be a good idea, especially for those starting. It also doesn’t take much effort to find a good photo to use. You can even repurpose an old post into an ad if you think your audience will respond positively to it. 

Moreover, you can create Instagram ads without the need for fancy equipment and using only your phone’s camera. The truth is many Instagram users don’t respond well to traditional ad types, and the more raw or authentic your ad is, the more likely people will respond positively to it. 

On the other hand, a video will involve more hard work. There’s a higher chance of user engagement, but you also need to invest a lot in creating a video, especially in equipment and hours.

Larger companies with sufficient back-up resources often use videos. Video ads can also be used for a more coordinated ad campaign, especially if you’re showing similarly-themed videos all over different platforms. 

Explore Interactive Content

After you’ve decided on the image versus video problem, the next thing to think about is where you want to post it. There are two main options: feed or stories.

Content posted in your feed has a longer shelf-life, meaning it can exist there indefinitely even after it’s no longer an ad. 

On the other hand, stories have a shorter shelf life. Stories keep the allure by limiting the time they’re viewed.

Because of this limited time, users are more encouraged to make a quick decision when confronted with an ad. Stories can also be more visually impactful, considering they take up the entire screen of a user’s phone. 

As mentioned above, Instagram recently added a new feature called the ‘canvas,’ where marketers could ask questions, let their followers answer, and share the interaction with other followers. The idea is to create more engagement.

Polls are also a popular Canvas option, which you can utilize in a creative way to reflect on your marketing campaign. 

Edit, Edit, Edit

Now that we’ve managed to iron out the goal, audience, and format, it’s time to make your content.

Advertisers have a wide range of discretion for this one, on how they want their ad to appear. There’s not much of a rulebook when it comes to how your ad should look on Instagram. Just make sure you fit with the community guidelines, and you’ll be golden. 

More importantly, make sure that your ad is relevant. Since it will be seen only at a glance, make sure all information is clear and easy to read.

You don’t want to burden your audience with too much information, as they have limited time. On the other hand, an ambiguous ad wouldn’t be good as users are likely to just scroll past it if they don’t like it. 

You want to strike a healthy balance between the two that speaks to your audience and you.

Pro Tip: Don’t hesitate to edit your ad.

It’s always a good idea to review and edit until you feel it’s finally right. But don’t over-edit.

As mentioned before, Instagram users don’t respond well to traditional advertising, and an over-edited ad could spell doom for you. You don’t want your advertisement to look fake or too promising. In Instagram, authenticity (or at least appearing to be authentic) is the name of the game. 

Pound Out a Hashtag

Hashtags are an excellent way of getting your ad noticed on Instagram. You can use a few dedicated and unique hashtags, so when users want to see more, they can just click them and your other posts will appear.

Hashtags are Instagram’s way of categorizing posts. Hence, posts with similar hashtags will appear together in a feed if you click them.

Hashtags can also be used to improve user engagement.

For example, one recent trend in social media is to promote ‘challenges.’ This entices users to perform a task and then challenge another user to do it. The more people are using your hashtag for the challenge, the more brand engagement and awareness you’ll receive. 

Consider Your Budget

Now that you have your ad, it’s time to consider your marketing budget.

Instagram usually has a minimum spend that varies, so it’s best to research about Instagram ads’ cost. Ad prices are usually auctioned, and you can choose between costs per click or impressions.

The time your ad will run can also affect the pricing and the engagements you’ll receive.  

Instagram Advertising Best Practices

Create Your Own Account

Before you do any advertising, make sure to have your own account. This is true even if your preferred advertising method is through influencers instead of sponsored ads. Having your own account gives you many possibilities, with very few downsides.

The first advantage is it allows you to control your narrative. Having an official account gives people more assurance that they’re dealing with a legitimate business, especially if your account is verified.

You can control what you post and what you leave out. Users can tag you in their content when they buy your product and write a review. Having your own account also humanizes you and makes people more at ease at doing business with you. 

Make Sure to Update Your Bio

Ensure that your business bio is always updated and contains all the information the client needs when they view your account.

However, don’t give out an information dump. Put all the basic things your potential customer needs to know about your brand and products, including your website link.

Set Targeted, Realistic Goals

As mentioned earlier, having goals is important in advertising; otherwise, your campaign will feel untethered and aimless. Set long-term and short-term goals for your company and make sure they’re achievable.

However, achievable doesn’t mean you should be scared to dream big. Just keep it realistic and know the probability that you’ll achieve in setting your goals. 

Always Be Active 

Nobody wants to see an Instagram business page that isn’t updated and doesn’t post often. A helpful practice is to schedule your content, to have regular posts on your Instagram account.

Spontaneity isn’t a bad thing on Instagram either. You can post just because you feel like it. 

An account that’s too carefully planned can feel impersonal and cold, and you don’t want those words to be associated with your business page. Having a calendar can help you keep track of when you should be posting, and your followers will know when to expect a post from you. 

How Instagram Advertising Can Be a Benefit for Your Business

Potential 

Instagram is one of the biggest markets where you can advertise right now. It also provides a demographic of all ages, from the youth to the elderly.

With such a large potential market, you would get a great benefit for your business by advertising on Instagram. 

It Can Be Free

Marketing on Instagram doesn’t have to be expensive—you can do it for free if you know how to grow your brand well.

Instagram doesn’t prohibit a user from selling merchandise using their account; thus, you can create a business page anytime. And since Facebook has acquired Instagram, you can integrate your accounts on these different platforms with ease.

If you want to promote your products and services organically, we suggest hiring an Instagram Ads Manager or Social Media Specialist. Make sure they’re well equipped with creating Instagram ads and engaging with your potential customers. 

Choosing The Best Instagram Ad Type for Your Business

When choosing the best Instagram ad type for your business, keep in mind relevance and authenticity. Your ad should be relevant to your branding image and keep with your other content’s general theme, helping your audience identify your brand from your ad alone.

Overall, your Instagram advertisement should be authentic and not look fake or constructed. 

Takeaways

Advertising on Instagram can be daunting, but with this handy guide, you’ll be up and running in no time. The important things to consider are your goals, branding image, and what you have to offer to the public.

You should also remember how to make an Instagram ad and who you’re advertising to. Keep this in mind, and creating effective ads on Instagram will get a lot easier.

What are your favorite tips for advertising on Instagram? Or, if you haven’t started yet, what ads appeal to you the most? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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If you’ve ever wondered how to advertise on Instagram, then this is your definitive beginner’s guide.
If you’ve ever wondered how to advertise on Instagram, then this is your definitive beginner’s guide.

By Lauren Connally

Lauren is a copywriter, blogger, and social media manager based in the Texas Hill Country. She works with bloggers and small businesses to help build their online presence.

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