**Originally published February 19th, 2019. Updated February 5th, 2020**

The feeling is all too familiar. If you’ve ever posted anything on social media as a small brand, it often feels as if you are speaking into a void. Like squeezing liquid from an eyedropper into a deep, vast ocean. You’re not getting responses on your posts. There are no likes, no comments, not a retweet to be found. Heck, your brand may even have a presence in your industry already, but your social presence is, well, non-existent. Discouraged marketers across every industry see the quest in achieving social media presence as an often insurmountable obstacle.

But we are here to tell you, there is hope. Breaking through the noise on social media is no simple task. However, it’s certainly something that can be accomplished, when tactically deployed. Many platforms have indeed made it increasingly difficult to ‘break through the noise’ we just mentioned. With large brands (with large budgets), all cornering the market on the real estate of your news feeds, including the attention spans of their market, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to attain viewership in today’s landscape of social media advertising. And increasingly expensive at that.

With that said, there is an outlier to that trend. Or maybe the rogue example of the exception to the rule:

instagram logo

Contrary to platforms like Facebook, where the algorithms heavily favor the biggest players, your posts probably still receive at least a few likes and comments when you post on Instagram. No matter how small your audience is. This is particularly true if you use relevant hashtags in your posts. Instagram is an attractive and intriguing marketing channel for almost every type of business. This means that if you can get your Instagram ad campaign just right, you can substantially boost your lead generation and increase your revenue.

Content is king on social media. But the reason Instagram ad campaigns are so successful isn’t just about pretty pictures, though it obviously helps to have amazing images. Beyond the obvious need for quality content, in order for your Instagram ads to be successful, there are a few other things you need to get exactly right once you’ve got your image or video content selected.

But why invest in advertising on social media? And why Instagram and not another platform? In addition to the strategies for Instagram influencer marketing that can be deployed, the answer is quite simple: Instagram’s engagement demolishes Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn. Facebook still holds it’s value as a competitor, yes, but here’s a seemingly little known fact among digital marketers; for brands, Instagram even outperforms Facebook by a factor of ten. Let that sink in for a moment.

Numbers like that make you wonder why more brands aren’t on Instagram. And for good reason. The benefits of advertising on Instagram are vast and growing with every passing day. So how does your business get started? If you are already invested in social media content creation, you have a head start. But regardless of whether you have a seasoned content strategy or are building from the ground up, we all have to start somewhere. Here’s a step by step guide to get your Instagram advertising efforts underway, and to hit the ground running with your Instagram ad campaign. Let’s get started.

Introduction to how to advertise on Instagram

In the past, you had use sponsored posts if you wanted to advertise on Instagram. This created a divide, as brands were essentially forced into negotiating privately with Instagram influencers and asking them to promote your brand on their account. And while this can be a very effective way to drive traffic and sales through Instagram advertising, it has many limitations:

  • It’s often very expensive.
  • It requires reaching out and negotiating with influencers who may or may not be overpricing their services based on projected ROI
  • There is no accountability or recourse if the influencer doesn’t deliver results. Or deliver at all for that matter
  • It’s very limited in terms of audience targeting.

Sponsored posts still have their place in Instagram advertising. Having someone else promote your product – particularly a public figure with a large following – certainly carries many benefits. It provides social proof, providing a little bit of the ‘cool’ factor to your business, and people are more likely to buy something when someone they trust bought it first. And though you don’t have a lot of control over the influencer’s audience, you also don’t have to make any decisions about who to target either. It’s essentially built-in.

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How Instagram advertising works

Starting in late 2015, Facebook allowed for all users to have the ability to learn how to create Instagram ads through Facebook’s self-serve advertising platform. The platform gives you total control over your ads, how they appear on feeds, who sees them, etc. But unlike sponsored posts and paid partnerships, your ads get posted directly from your own account. The advantages of this method of Instagram advertising include:

  • Scalable pricing.
  • Ability to Self-serve
  • Detailed reporting that puts you in control.
  • Greatly refined audience targeting capabilities.

Additionally, Instagram’s move away from a chronological feed in favor of a curated feed has created a shift in the algorithm, so you never really know how many of your followers will actually see your posts or content. So what types of Instagram ads can you run to achieve increased visibility for your posts?

Types of Instagram ads

Instagram is a platform built around photo and video content. So the different formats of these ads typically suit a particular function and present different features and advantages. There are five different types of Instagram ads you can run:

  1. Photo Ads
  2. Video Ads
  3. Carousel Ads
  4. Slideshow Ads
  5. Stories Ads

1. Photo Ads

A Photo Ad is one simple photo in landscape or square format. These are the simplest in terms of visual asset needs since you just need a single image.

2. Video Ads

Instagram used to have a 15-second limit for videos, but it has since lifted that rule. Now, videos can be up to 60 seconds long and shot in landscape or square format. Brands like Dollar Shave Club use the Video Ad format in some of its Instagram advertising to promote a new membership deal, highlighting the various products included in the deal.

3. Carousel Ads

An Instagram Carousel Ad can have anywhere from two to ten images and/or videos that users can view by swiping through. Brands like West Elm uses Carousel Ads to highlight its range of products for its Instagram advertising campaigns.

4. Slideshow Ads

Slideshow Ads are similar to video ads in that they appear as a video in users’ feeds. These ads, however, are made up of a series of still images which play as a video, much like a slideshow. You can add text and audio to your Slideshow Ads.

5. Stories Ads

Instagram Stories Ads is one of the newest kinds of ads available to businesses on the platform. Instagram Stories is similar to Snapchat in that it allows users, and brands, to share self-destructing photos and videos. Brands can also advertise on Instagram Stories with photo or video content. Online fashion brands like ASOS have used Instagram Stories Ads with much success to build brand awareness and ad recall.

How to create Instagram ads

So now that we have established the fundamentals of Instagram ads as a whole, let’s dive into exactly how you can create your first ad on Instagram.

Step 1: Establish your goals and Instagram ad campaign objectives

One of the best features of advertising on Instagram is that you have the ability to choose from several different campaign objectives. These objectives are potential goals for your Instagram ad campaign that you select from a list. This distinction is not to be overlooked. It will directly determine and influence how your Instagram ads are optimized and how you pay for them. For example, if your goal is to get people to watch your video and attain views, you probably don’t care how many users click on your link. So selecting the option that optimizes the ad for total views will likely be the best option in that scenario.

Step 2: Link your Instagram account to your Facebook page

After you have established the goals of your ad campaign, the next step in creating an Instagram ad is to link your Instagram account to your Facebook page. This only needs to be done once, and it syncs the two accounts for integration.

connecting your facebook and instagram accounts screenshot

Once your accounts are linked, click into the ‘Settings’ for your Facebook page and then click on “Instagram Ads.”

From there, you will click “Log In” and enter your Instagram login credentials. If you don’t already have an Instagram account, this is the time where you need to create one.

Step 3: Create an Instagram ad campaign

So now that you’ve linked your Instagram account to your Facebook page, it’s time to head over to the Ads Manager and create your very first campaign! Cue the music!

But on a more serious note, this is where some of the real work begins. If you happen to be more comfortable using other options like Power Editor, you can also create Instagram ads there. However, if you have already created Facebook ads for your brand or business before, much of this process will likely be familiar to you. The interfaces and UI follow a similar flow.

So when getting started, access your accounts Ads Manager and click on the “Campaigns” tab. From there, you then click “+ Create” near the top left corner of the screen.

Next, choose your campaign objective. Remember, not all objectives are compatible with Instagram Stories Ads, so make sure you tailor your objective to your campaign goals and intended style of content distribution.

creating an instagram ad campaign screenshot

Step 4: Create your Instagram ad set

On the Ad Set page, you’ll have the ability to choose “Purchase” as the type of conversion you want to optimize your ad content for.

Next, define your audience and who it is that you want to see your content, and how much budget you plan to allocate for the ad. Another benefit to Instagram ads is that all of the same targeting options that are available for them are also available to use in Facebook ads.

Additionally, if you have any Custom Audiences already created, you can select them for targeting with your Instagram ad at this point. Next, you’re going to select your ad Placements. You’ll see an option to run your campaign on Instagram, as well as Facebook and even Messenger. When figuring out how much you want to spend when you advertise on Instagram, it’s best practice to start low. You can always increase the budget later if your ad is performing well, and being that these will be your first ad sets, it’s a good idea to use this as an opportunity to learn and gather data while determining ways to continue to optimize the performance of the ad.

Once you have finished choosing who to target and how much to spend, click “Continue” in the bottom right of the display. On the next screen, you’ll see an option to choose your Instagram ad format. The Canvas format is not compatible with Instagram, so take note of this. Once you have made your decision, simply scroll down to upload your images or videos.

After your visuals have finished uploading, scroll down a bit further, and you’ll see an option on the left to add text to your ad.

And finally, to the right of the text editor, you’ll be able to preview how your ad will look on Instagram. Here’s how an example ad would look. You can also see how your ad would look in any other formats selected.

instagram ad preview screenshot

Step 5: Analyze and optimize your Instagram ads

So now you’ve launched your first Instagram ad campaign, and now it’s time to sit back and watch it work. Not so fast! Your work is not complete by simply launching the ad. Once it’s running, it’s best practice to monitor the performance of the ad, and test ideas to find the most effective messaging, creative, and targeting with the content. Within Ads Manager, you can edit your Instagram ad to incorporate options like split testing, changing the targeting parameters, and viewing analytics for the performance of your ads.

instagram ad analytics screenshot

Final Thoughts

Don’t worry, your first Instagram ad is always the hardest. Getting started can seem both daunting and complicated. But as you can see, the process is actually fairly simple. It’s all about just getting started. And once you’ve conquered your first one, it’ll be much easier the second time around. So get out there and get advertising!

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