13 Ways to Improve Instagram Advertising

Instagram is one of the most popular social networks, reaching more than 400 million users in less than five years after the launch. That’s more than Twitter and Snapchat. Now that the Instagram  advertising platform is available for everyone, it’s a particularly useful way to connect with potential customers – especially Millennials – and grow your following. Did you know customers are 58x more likely to engage with your branded Instagram content than they are on Facebook? And perhaps even more surprising, they’re 120x more likely to engage with that Instagram content than they are on Twitter. But, like with any other social platform, bland and boring advertising will be a waste of money. Check out these secrets to creating better, more effective Instagram advertising campaigns.

13 Ways to Improve Instagram Advertising - Sachs Marketing Group


Tell a Story

As a visual marketing platform, Instagram ads, particularly the carousel format, make for a great story-telling opportunity. You have four images, and though your first one should grab user attention, it shouldn’t rely on others to get the point across. Whatever story you’re telling – be it about your brand or about a product you sell – make the images compelling enough so the user swipes through all of them.

Use Video

Video ads can be up to one minute long, and are available in landscape format, too. You have plenty of time to get your message across, while still leaving room for interactive shots. For the most effective ad, opt for no more than one filter throughout the entire ad, keep the video in either .MP4 or .MOV format with a minimum 720p resolution and a 16:9 aspect ration. With the video ad, you’ll also have the option to upload an image to display when the video isn’t playing.

Choose Your Objective With Care

Of course you want to to increase your sales and profits – don’t all businesses? I mean, isn’t that the point of marketing? With the obvious out of the way, let’s dig a bit deeper into the importance of choosing your ad objective with care. You have several ad types to choose from, and you should choose the one that’s best for the type of engagement you’re looking to get.

Your Instagram advertising can:

  • Drive traffic to any number of landing pages – choose the clicks to a website objective. Keep in mind, users are asked if they want to go to the website, and are only redirected if they agree.
  • Help increase brand awareness
  • Create/engage loyal brand advocates
  • Promote products – share one product and include a call to action.

Instagram Screen Shot


If you want to promote products – choose the carousel ad. This one will allow you to include four images, along with live product links. But, if you want to drive brand engagement, opt for the video ad. If viewers like it, they may share it with friends.

Blend in with the Feed

It’s critical that your ads allow you to blend in with the feed, rather than standing out as a sponsored post. For example, take a look at how Michael Kors used the Instagram advertising platform. The ad pictured was their first experiment with Instagram’s paid advertising. It helped them get nearly 40,000 new followers, earning them nearly 16x the new followers than their non-sponsored content. It looks less like an ad and more like an actual photo someone posted on their account – and that’s exactly what your brand needs to go for. Like with anything else, you want to add value – rather than blatantly advertise your product or service.

Run Small-Scale Campaigns First

If you’re still relatively new to Instagram advertising and don’t have a lot of information available about your audience, it’s a good idea to run multiple smaller scale campaigns before launching a larger scale version. This way, you can learn key information about the audience you’re targeting and how well they are responding to the ads, so you can create an optimized version of the campaign for the best possible results. This way you can learn what call of action is most likely to entice them to take action, the messages they are most likely to respond to, and the ones they are most likely to share. Rather than focusing solely on the sales and attaining other business goals, run smaller campaigns that are designed to help you find out more about your audience. This way, you’ll be able position larger scale campaigns to get positive results.

Split-Test Visuals

The only way to determine the kinds of visuals your audience will respond best to is to split-test the images. Try creating a standard photo ad with up to four photos in a carousel format, and comparing it to a video, or try multiple standard ads, with different photos. Try using your own photos and using some of the user-generated content you’ve collected, if you have any. Test the variants to see which one gets the best results.

Beyond split-testing the visuals themselves, you could also split-test your posting schedules and calls to action. Over the course of a few split tests, you could easily craft the perfect ad for your audience engagement.

Make Instagram Shoppable

If you’re an e-commerce store with a lot of products, treat Instagram like a product catalogue of sorts. On each of your product photos, make sure the caption includes a link to the page where customers can buy the product. This makes it easy for people to browse and make purchases immediately, which is what you want. Instagram users are spending an average of $65 per referred sale, compared to just $55 on average from Facebook, and $46.26 from Twitter. It literally pays to maximize your Instagram advertising and engagement, and keeping things simple makes for a better user experience.

Use Real-Life Situations

Staged photos scream ad, which will contribute to it being ignored. But, showing your products in real-life situations will help your audience relate to it. When someone relates to it, they are more likely to click on it, simply because it helps catch their attention, which leads them to identifying with the ad, and increasing the ad’s trustworthiness.

Limit Use of Text

Adding text to the image may scream to the audience that it’s an ad. For best results, if you must use text, keep it to no more than 20% of the image. It’s the same guideline with Facebook ads, though instead of a requirement, it’s now just a suggestion.

Highlight User-Generated Content (UGC)

UGC is a powerful form of advertising, with 92% of global consumers saying they trust earned media more than they trust all other forms of advertising. Your customers want to see people using what you have for sale – and happy customers like the idea of sharing their photos and experiences with you (and others) for a chance to get their 15 minutes of Internet fame.

Have your customers submit candid photos of themselves, either alone, or with friends and family, using your products. Your Instagram photos should look real, and shouldn’t look like they’ve been staged for marketing purposes, so UGC is an ideal option. Plus, UGC helps boost conversion rates. Simply displaying customer product photos on a product page increases conversion by nearly 5%, and if a customer interacts with the photos, the rate nearly doubles to 9.6%.

If you can find pictures including people’s faces – that’s great. These are the most compelling type of images – after all, there’s a reason behind why everyone loves the selfie. In fact, more than 300 million Instagram photos have been tagged with “selfie.”

From a psychological standpoint, it’s said the selfie is way to figure out who we are – suggesting that how we see us doesn’t come from who we actually are, but how we think others see us. The more photos we post of ourselves promoting a certain identity, the more likely others will think that is our identity.

If we go beyond the photo of ourselves, we’re also drawn to photos of other people – especially faces. Face-tracking studies show that the profile picture is the first thing we look at on social media profiles, and the numbers prove them helpful on Instagram, too. Pictures (thereby ads) featuring human faces are 38% more likely to receive likes, and 32% more likely to receive comments, when compared to photos that don’t feature faces.

Interestingly enough, eye tracking studies show we tend to follow the eyes of the faces we see on the screen – and looking at faces helps create empathy, even improving the way doctors treat their patients.

Create and Use Hashtags

Ads won’t show up in hashtags, but including hashtags in your ad copy allows you to send the viewer to relevant content based on the ad. But, you can’t just use basic, run of the mill hashtags, or else you can’t really have control over what the user sees. Instead, you’ll need to craft your own branded hashtags, and then use those on other posts to curate the library of content users will find when they follow the hashtag from the ad.

Use the Call to Action Buttons

Like Facebook, Instagram allows you to include a prominent call to action button on your ad, making it easier to achieve your marketing goals. You can choose between:

  • Shop Now – best for ecommerce ads
  • Install Now – best for app promotion
  • Sign Up – best for email marketing
  • Learn More – best for encouraging people to learn more about product and service offerings, driving traffic to landing pages

You can split-test these calls to action to see what works best with your audience, but all of them can help them learn more about what you have to offer, with action taken directly from the ad itself.

You can support your ads by including the same calls to action in your organic posts. Though it will be different because the segment and posts will not be the same as the ad, your audience will get a chance to take action on your message after the ad has left their feed.

Build Stronger Relationships with Your Best Customers

Using the custom audiences feature, you can reach out to your existing customers, particularly the ones that are the most loyal, and target them with their own set of ads. You can use those ads to offer exclusive deals, promotions, and the chance to be the first to try a new product or service you’re offering. If they’re not already following you on Instagram, this is a great way to convert them to followers.

You can also use this approach to target potential customers with exclusive content. You can set a custom audience to target email subscribers who have yet to make a purchase from you, showcasing ads that promote your company’s culture. Once they see those ads, they may be more inclined to make a purchase when they get your next email.

The “Lookalike Audience” feature can run your ad to a series of users that share common traits with your current customers’ profile. This means you can find new followers that match your best customers, and then use ads to introduce them to your brand.

Instagram is Not Facebook

Though Facebook owns Instagram and you can run the same ads on the two networks, it’s important to remember the platforms are different in nature with different audiences. While you will have some overlap, naturally, people are on Instagram to experience something different than what they find on Facebook. As such, you need to treat your ad campaigns completely differently, using different audiences accordingly.

If you really want to see what a customer sees, and get an idea of their experience, create or use your personal account to follow your own brand. This will allow you to see your brand from the eyes of your target customer, and help you get a better idea of what kinds of ads work best with them, and what may entice them to interact.

What tips for a successful Instagram advertising campaign can you share with us?  Let us know in the comments section below.

Photo credit: Adobe Stock

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SEO virtuoso, CEO @Sachs Marketing Group. Focused on being of service to business owners - helping to better position them in the eyes of their audiences.

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