Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Ads

Due to their similarity to Facebook ads, Instagram ads are confusing to many marketers.

How is Instagram advertising different from Facebook advertising? What campaign objectives are available on Instagram? Where can businesses place their ads on the platform?

Read on to get detailed answers to these questions and learn how to make the most of the Instagram advertising options:

As business owners, marketers, and advertisers, we’re constantly on the lookout for new opportunities to connect with our potential customers. We also want to discover places where we can reach and exceed our goals - be it for our own businesses, our clients, or the brands we represent

With the spotlight often being on Facebook, Instagram tends to get overshadowed as the adopted little sister of the tech giant. Until now...

In recent years, businesses increasingly started to leverage Instagram as a new, powerful advertising channel. And for a good reason - having a presence on Instagram allows companies to get ahead of a multitude of companies relying exclusively on the ad-filled Facebook.

Marketing on Instagram allows you to avoid the over-saturated advertising space of Facebook. More importantly, it can help you diversify across platforms and effectively drive business results.

Are you interested in learning how to tap into Instagram's potential? Or, perhaps, you'd like to pick up some tips for your pre-existing Instagram campaigns?

Read on to learn more about Instagram advertising - from the available opportunities for advertisement, to strategies for success, content ideas, predictions for the future, and more.

Instagram Campaign Objectives

Let's begin our journey through the world of Instagram advertising from the basics: campaign objectives.

Of the current thirteen available campaign objectives in Facebook, eleven of them are available for Instagram Feed Ads, and only seven are available for Instagram Stories Ad placements.

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For Instagram Feed Ads, the supported campaign objectives are: Brand Awareness, Reach, Traffic, Video Views, App Installs, Lead Generation, Engagement, Messages, Conversions, Catalog Sales, and Store Traffic.

For Instagram Stories, in turn, the campaign objectives available at this time are: Brand Awareness, Reach, Traffic, Video Views, App Installs, Lead Generation, and Conversions.

If you’re new to Facebook and/or Instagram advertising, look at these campaign objectives as if they were your funnel.

A great way to get a cold audience into your funnel is to begin with an awareness or reach campaign. These campaigns are lower in cost and can be great in expanding your reach and visibility.

As you move down the funnel, test out consideration stage campaign objectives. These may cost slightly more than an awareness campaign since the goals are of higher value, such as driving users from the app to your website or app.

Finally, as you’re targeting warmer audiences, perhaps in a re-marketing campaign, test out a conversion campaign objective for the final push to drive sales.

Instagram Ad Placements

Ever since Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, it has been incorporating the app into its ad platform.

While Instagram ad placements are limited at this time, they are nevertheless powerful - especially since Instagram is a high-performing channel for both B2B and B2C whose usage continues to grow.

Currently, Instagram offers just two ad placements. However, we can certainly expect the platform to add more advertising opportunities as it continues to evolve. As Facebook’s advertising costs are going up and the share of impressions decreases, Instagram is likely to expand its ad inventory.

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Feed Ads

As the original organic posting placement and later an ad placement, the Instagram Feed enables marketers to show content to their target audiences in between organic posts of users they follow.

Instagram Feed ads, if done properly, can appear as native content. That's why they can be highly effective in driving new users into your funnel and encouraging them to engage, click through, or convert through a remarketing campaign later on.

Here’s an excellent example of an Instagram Feed ad done right from Home Depot. The company showcases multiple products in one ad to grasp users' attention.

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The company decided to go with a single image here, but if you want to feature even more of your products, we recommend that you use a Carousel ad.

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Instagram Feed Ad Specs

The Instagram Feed supports both single image or video creatives, or multi-creative image and video carousel ads.

Unlike Facebook, where you can test longer duration video content that's up to 240 minutes long, Instagram Feed caps out at 60 seconds. The bad news here is that no matter how interesting, educational, useful, helpful, or entertaining your video may be, people tend to bounce after watching the initial 10 seconds. So, utilize this brief time you have to put your best foot forward for your brand before people lose interest.

According to Facebook, the technical specs for the Feed Ads are as follows:

  • File Type: jpg or png
  • File Size Max: 30MB
  • Video Layout: Square or Vertical
  • Video Max Size: 4 GB
  • Video Duration Max: 60 seconds
  • Hashtag Max: 30
  • Carousel Cards Max: 10

Instagram Feed Video Ad Captions

According to Forbes, 85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound. There are three reasons for this: auto-play being set without sound, people watching videos in places where they don’t want to use sound, and hearing impaired users.

On Instagram, if your device sound is on, videos will by default play with sound. However, keep in mind the users who for whatever reason are watching with the sound off, and ensure that your videos tell a story not only acoustically, but also visually and textually.

How to do this, you may ask? Easily!

Facebook and Instagram make it simple for advertisers to add captions to their videos - and News Feed Ads are fortunate to have this built-in option.

You can either have Ads Manager scan your video automatically, or you can upload your own SubRip Subtitle file, or SRT file. The former option tends to be more efficient - just be sure to review the captions before saving, especially if someone is speaking in your video with an accent, or you have an unusually spelled brand name, as the system can often miscaption those.

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Instagram Feed Ads Content Ideas

Regardless of your industry or goals, ads are the place to show off your products and your services.

While content is important, your creatives get center stage. Work in Ecommerce? Show your products on their own or in use - for example in lifestyle photos. Advertising a service? Showcase the people using it in the respective environment, such as their homes or at work.

Static images work very well, however, to cut to the chase and leave less room to the imagination, convey the same messages about your products and services using video.

Yearning for more? Test out testimonials, behind-the-scenes images or videos, links to your site, and visually appealing backdrops in your product shots.

If you are looking for further inspiration, check out what larger brands are doing. Since they have the budget, staff, resources, and historical testing data, they usually are well aware of what works on Instagram.

Following this last tip can save you time you'd normally have to spend testing. Of course, you’ll still want to test to learn what works best with your audience, but learning from big companies can give you a lot of great Instagram advertising ideas.

Instagram Stories Ads

Instagram continues to gain popularity among users with its Stories feature.

Located at the top of the app, Stories ad placement enables marketers to post images and videos that will appear for up to 15 seconds in between the organic content posted by other users.

Instagram Stories ads are not highly intrusive to users which is why they're highly effective in driving clicks to your designated landing page.

Instagram Stories Ad Specs

Instagram Stories ads may be much shorter in duration than Feed ads, but they’re just as mighty, if even more so these days.

As more users join the platform and short form content gains more popularity, this ad placement is where it’s at.

According to Facebook, the design and technical specs of Instagram Stories Ads are as follows:

  • Layout: Vertical
  • Photo Stories Visible: 5 seconds
  • Image ratios: 9:16 and 16:9 to 4:5
  • Image Size: 1080x1920 however, key elements will appear within a 1080x1420 space.
  • Carousel Cards Max: 10
  • Carousel Video Duration: 15 seconds
  • Prompted Carousel Video Duration: 60 seconds 
  • Video Duration Max: 120 seconds
Instagram Stories ads placement is great for businesses who are targeting younger audience segments. That's because the platform's users are primarily young people - according to Statista, the two biggest segments of Instagram users are 18 to 24 year-olds and 25 to 34 year-olds.

If your target audience is more mature than that, you might want to place your ads in Facebook Stories.

Here is an excellent example of a video ad in Instagram Stories. It’s simple but effective, clearly outlining a problem of an ungroomed dog and offering a solution, with a strong call to action to swipe up to book a dog washing appointment.

In the video, the dog shakes its head. Subtle motion can go a long way in getting users to stop scrolling through and start paying attention.

The key takeaway here is this: first grab users' attention and then give them a reason to swipe up by offering something of value.

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Instagram Stories Video Ad Captions

At this time, captions are not yet available for Stories. But because they are available for every other ad placement on Facebook and Instagram, we can most likely expect to see them in Stories in due time as well.

Keep in mind that if you are using an SRT file or leveraging Facebook to auto scan your video to provide captions, they will not display in Instagram Stories. However, if you have your designer embed captions directly into the video file, you can get around Instagram's limitations.

Stories Ads Content Ideas

Stumped on what to create for a quick Stories ad? Whether your audience is colder in an awareness campaign or warmer coming back in through a remarketing campaign, there are endless creative opportunities here to quickly capture impressions and conversions.

If you’re testing out an awareness campaign, introduce your brand by showcasing your products or services, and invite viewers to swipe up to send them to your landing page.

If your audience is warmer, showcase your new product features, a sneak-peek of how the product is made or how a service is being used, highlight a promotion to entice the conversion, or display a brief customer testimonial.

Still stumped? Evaluate content that has worked well on other social media channels and repurpose it to be in line with the Instagram Stories ads specs.

Instagram Checkout

In March 2019, Instagram launched their new Checkout feature enabling users to easily shop in the platform without having to leave the app.

The feature looks like this:

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Checkout has been in beta for some time, but with the recent announcement, Instagram is encouraging brands to get ready as the feature is being rolled out to all accounts.

Do you work in Ecommerce? Then you need to start planning ahead, get your creatives ready, and jump on the new Checkout feature as soon as it appears in your account.

Using Your Existing Organic Instagram Posts as Ads

Have you seen success with your organic Instagram posts? Boost them!

In the ad level, you have the option to create a new ad or to use an existing post. Select “Use Existing Post”.

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Here, you can select an organic Instagram post to promote using Instagram Ads, as seen here:

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In the first two tabs of this new pop up window, you will see all organic Facebook and Instagram content on your accounts, view its engagement stats, and select posts for promotions.

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In addition, there is also a tab labelled “Branded Content.” It shows you posts that other business pages on Facebook created and tagged your brand in which you can later promote in your own account.

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Republishing posts you were tagged in works especially well if you were mentioned by a big, recognized brand. It enhances your authority and can help you gain trust of new audiences.

Testing branded content typically works well in converting users in remarketing campaigns, but feel free to test it yourself and see what kind of results it brings.

There's one thing you need to keep in mind here, though - Branded Content is not yet permitted on Instagram. Instagram has been beta testing the feature with influencers and has reported success. The feature is expected to be rolled out to brands later this year, so talk to your team and strategize how you can jump on this opportunity early on.

The Takeaway

Now that you're well acquainted with Instagram Ads, its campaign objectives, ad placement options and their specs, and different types of ad content you can test, you can set up some campaigns on your own and track how they perform.

Over time, as you test the different ad variables, such as objectives, targeting, and call-to-action, you'll begin to understand what works for your business. Make sure to run multiple tests to optimize your strategy and get the best results out of your Instagram advertising efforts.


About the Author

As someone who lives for connecting people, making the connection between consumers and brands is what Akvile DeFazio, President of AKvertise, a social media advertising agency, does best. As a conversion driven marketer, she is passionate about helping businesses expand their online visibility and reach their goals via Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest Ads.


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