Instagram

A comprehensive guide to advertising on Instagram

Instagram was created on a simple concept: you take, edit, and share pictures. While this idea appears straightforward and is a considerable part of the app’s appeal, it poses challenges for advertisers. Unlike its owner Facebook, Instagram serves to the specific purpose of sharing inspiring photos and, more recently, videos. As a result, it is harder for advertisers to stand out in a user’s crowded feed.

Just because it is difficult it doesn’t mean it is not worth it. Instagram boasts some 600 million monthly active users – 80 percent of them are outside the U.S. – and is still growing. Around 90 percent of Instagram's users are younger than 35 and hold enormous purchasing power.

With its new Snapchat-inspired feature "stories," in which users can share photos and videos with a life span of no more than 24 hous, the potential growth for Instagram advertising is substantial.

According to a forecast by eMarketer , 48.8 percent of U.S. brands will use Instagram for social media marketing in 2016. This number will grow to 70.7 percent by 2017.

Companies like Tommy Hilfiger and Lay’s have already seen great success in their Instagram ad campaigns by partnering with influencers, using video and carousel ads to create interactivity and to engage with their audiences.

Instagram’s advertising services are equipped to help companies with click-throughs, conversions, app installs, engagement, video views, reach, and frequency, as well as mass and local awareness. Since it is owned by Facebook, Instagram uses the popular Facebook analytics to back many of the services it provides.

The potential for real growth is there. But before creating an ad campaign for Instagram, you need to decide whether or not it is a suitable platform for your business.

Read more: A begginer's guide to Instagram's direct response ads

Should you advertise on Instagram?

To answer this question you should first, consider what your market is, what your ads will look like and whether or not Instagram matches those needs.

As Instagram is a highly visual social media platform, you should create an ad campaign that places a high value on aesthetic and visual components. Bear in mind that most users of Instagram are millennials and thus may render Instagram an impractical advertising opportunity if those groups are not within your target demographic.

On an even broader scale, you also need to ask yourself whether or not highly aesthetic-based advertising suits your brand. The fashion industry benefits strongly from Instagram due to its reliance on appearance, but a heavy machinery company would not find nearly as much benefit.

If your brand fits these characteristics, you have a great opportunity ahead and can benefit from Instagram for business.

The three types of ads on Instagram

If you believe Instagram is the right social media channel to promote your brand, it is time to start considering what ad format would suit your business better.

There are three types of ads on Instagram: photo, video, and carousel ads. Each has their unique characteristics and as such serve their own unique ad purposes.

  • Photo Ads Instagram-photo-ad Photo ads serve the purpose of telling a brand’s story through clear, striking imagery. Unlike the other formats, for photo ads to be successful, they must rely on the boldness of the singular image to communicate whatever the company behinds it wishes to convey. Photo ads are particularly useful for presenting single products to customers like clothing or a restaurant meal.
  • Video Ads Instagram-video-ad As with photo ads, video ads also illustrate a brand's story by visual means. The difference, though, is that with video there are also sound and motion components to the ad. If your product or service benefits from a more immersive ad experience like showing a car moving down a street, then video ads may be better suited to your company.
  • Carousel Ads instagram-carousel If you’re finding photo ads to be limiting and video ads not in your business’ best interests, then consider using the carousel ad format. With carousel ads, users can swipe left or right to see additional images and add a call to action button. These ads are useful for showing an array of product offerings to give users an idea of what products or services you provide. Restaurants have found success in this by showing multiple dishes from the menu to promote the restaurant as a whole.

Regarding Instagram advertising costs, the platform has a bid style where you set the maximum amount that you are willing to pay. After you select the demographics that you wish to target, Instagram will serve your ad to the number of people within that demographic that you can afford. This means that if you target very specifically and efficiently, you can keep your advertising costs down.

How to set up an Instagram business profile

Creating an Instagram business profile is simple. First, you need to create a regular Instagram account for your brand and a Facebook page. Once you have both running, you can turn your Instagram account into a Business Account by following the steps below:

  1. Go to the gear Settings icon in the upper right-hand corner of your profile and tap “Switch to Business Profile”
  2. Connect your Instagram account with your Facebook account
  3. Tap “Next”
  4. Fill in the phone number, physical address, and email fields on the page
  5. Tap “Done”
  6. To edit your profile at any time in the future, go to your business’s profile, tap the gear icon and then tap “Edit Profile”

*For more information, visit Instagram’s website

Once you have your business account, you can create your Instagram ad by using one of these three tools: Ad Creation, Power Editor or Facebook Ads API .

Best practices for advertising on Instagram

We reunited a few good ideas for optimizing your Instagram ad campaign:

  • Make your ad look like organic content. Start by making your ad look very different from a traditional advertisement. You should aim for your ads to feel as much like user's content as possible because consumers do not like being bombarded with blatant ads;
  • Partner with an influencer. Find popular Instagram users among your target audience or within your industry and work together to promote your campaign and get the attention of more followers. People use Instagram looking for inspiration in other people's lives. By partnering with real people, you can connect with your target audience and convey your message in a more authentic way;
  • Include hashtags to keep the conversation going. You can create a brand-specific hashtag that represents and defines the unique value of your brand to promote your campaign. You should also include a variety of hashtags associated with your industry and your product. Instagram allows a maximum of 30 hashtags, but the standard practice is to keep this number between 5-10. A TrackMaven study of Instagram accounts with 1,000 followers or fewer reveals that posts containing four or five hashtags received an average of 22 interactions compared to 14 interactions on posts with zero hashtags;
  • Get customers involved. Get users to post about you to other users. The best example of this is a restaurant customer taking a picture of their meal and posting it on Instagram. If you are marketing a restaurant, for example, you can encourage your customers to do that by offering a prize to clients who share pictures of their meals using a particular hashtag;
  • Think mobile. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when using Instagram, though, is that it is a mobile platform. Instagram is accessed on a user’s smartphone, so if you are going to reach your target market you need to keep in mind the context in which the platform will be used.

You are ready to use Instagram for business

Instagram isn’t too difficult to understand, but advertising on the platform require an attentive hand if you want to do it well. You need to understand not only your own brand, offering, and target audience. You also need to know Instagram as a platform and how your company can best advertise and reach consumers using it.

Like so many other social media platforms available for advertising, Instagram is about the user first, and that’s why they are making their ads more interactive. Remember that, and your chances of executing a successful campaign will be much higher.

Ligia Aguilhar

Ligia Aguilhar is a Content Specialist at Strike Social and holds an MS from Medill. She was born in Brazil and has traveled the world, from Silicon Valley to Seoul, to cover tech.