Instagram has quietly grown into a community of more than 400 million people. With that kind of size and daily activity, Instagram has also become one of the leading social media networks to spend your advertising dollars on.
In fact, according to a study by eMarketer, by 2017 Instagram's global mobile ad revenues will grow to more than two and a half billion dollars - over 10% of Facebook's global ad revenues.
That's impressive, and Instagram's growth is also important for your business' prospects. So without further ado, we present to you with 10 Instagram advertising tips that, if followed closely, can assist you in generating the type of ROI that you only hear about from other businesses.
Instagram Advertising Formats
Before we get into the tips (or as I see them, 'rules'), let's take a look at the basics of Instagram ads.
- Photo Ads: Businesses can tell their story through beautiful imagery. Whether it's inspiring people to see your brand differently or to take action, they offer a clean, simple and beautiful creative canvas.
- Video Ads: Video ads offer the same visually immersive quality as photo ads on Instagram - with the power of sight, sound and motion. And now, you can share videos up to 30 seconds long and in landscape format.
- Carousel Ads: Carousel ads bring an additional layer of depth to photo ads. People can swipe to see additional images and a call to action button takes them to a website to learn more.
10 Tips for Winning at Instagram Advertising
There are no guarantees in business, but there are things that you can do that'll increase your chances of success. Understanding and applying the following ten elements will boost the odds of your brand generating growth for your business via Instagram advertising. Here's what you need to focus on.
1. Powerful and Natural Images
Instagram is, after all, a photo sharing network, and as such, it's built around visuals. If there's one thing that all popular and successful Instagram accounts have in common, it's fantastic photos.
In order for your Instagram ads to bring increased sales, ad recall, and brand reputation, using high-quality images is a must. Aside from obviously looking better than blurry, average images, these images tend to fit in more naturally with other photos on the platform (so people don't skip it because it's an ad).
Philadelphia saw a 41% increase in sales with the following ad that captures the imagination (and stomach's attention).
Photos that blend in as if they are 'just another post' make your ad campaign look native (i.e. not an advertisement) - and hence, instead of Instagram users scrolling past your photos at the speed of light, they might actually take a look.
2. Go Diet on the Branding
As noted above, you want your photos to look amazing, like they're part of the feed - and at the same time your post shouldn't feel (for the viewers) like a direct sales pitch.
While it can be tempting to feature your logo heavily, don't let your brand overshadow your photo. Your creative elements should speak for your brand or product.
This ad from Sony used much less branding than the other photos in their Instagram feed. The results? A 43 point lift in ad recall, 6 point lift in product awareness, and a 6 point lift in message association (Instagram case study, "Pictures More Powerful Than Words").
Nanigans, a leading ad-tech company, noted the following in a blog post on Marketing Land:
"If you're going to include your logo in your ad creative, do so subtly. Otherwise, try focusing on an iconic brand element or signature color for memorable, but not overpowering, branding".
3. The Less Text in Your Image the Better
This should be clear by now, but the more your ad looks like a native post, the more likely you're going to see an above-average return on your investment.
Instagram's all about the photography - think of Instagram as the social network for art. If you take a look at the 10 most popular Instagram accounts (non-celebrity) of 2015, you'll see that hardly any photos contain text (few feature a logo).
The 20% text limit rule that exist on Facebook ads doesn't apply on Instagram. That, however, is because Instagram knows (their algorithm) that photos filled with text simply won't reach a large audience. Let's just say that this is an 'unwritten rule' on the platform.
Easy Canvas Prints, a US eCommerce company which transforms photos to custom prints, generated insanely positive results from their Instagram ad (pictured above). How's a 55% lower CPA (cost per acquisition than expected) and 3.19 return on ad spend (over 300% ROI) sound?
4. Keep the Copy Short
We know that consumers and social media users don't have big attention spans. Social media's all about getting your daily fix of news and gossip by doing as little reading as possible, and Instagram's no exception - if anything, it's a place where people want to read even less.
Just as your images shouldn't contain too much text, the text that accompanies the photos shouldn't tell a story in a thousand words ("sometimes less is more"). On Facebook, the ideal length of a post is 40 characters - Instagram caption length should max out at around the 40 character mark as well.
If you take a look at Instagram's case studies you'll notice that they all keep the caption length to a minimum.
5. Test Them Ads
One thing that has enabled Instagram to become such a powerful platform for businesses is that Facebook chose (wisely) to integrate Instagram into their simple, and effective, Facebook advertising process.
There's no doubt that having the ability to apply targeting and the same creative that has already brought you success minimizes the uncertainty that comes with starting to work with a new channel.
Some businesses might assume that they can just copy and paste what's previously worked - and that may work, but you're better off testing your ads before you start spending money to reach your entire audience.
You need to find out what your target audience likes, loves, and ignores on Instagram. Even if it's the same exact, young audience that you target on Facebook, there's no guarantee that the same practices will work on Instagram. Run a few mini-campaigns to better understand what triggers a positive reaction.
6. Instagram is Not Facebook
Yes Instagram is owned by Facebook, and yes the ad integration between Facebook and Instagram is seamless. However, that doesn't mean that the two networks - from an advertising point of view - are the same. Both have very different demographics and user-behaviors.
Instagram's user base is younger. As you can see in the table below, among internet users, 28% are on Instagram. Key takeaways are that women make up a larger portion of the user base, and minorities also make up for a larger portion of Instagram's audience.
That being said, on Facebook women outweigh men, and the dominant age groups are also the 18-29 and 30-49. The key difference is that Facebook has attracted exponentially more people from the older age brackets (50-64, and 65+).
The root of the difference in behavior on the two platforms is the essence of each one: Instagram focuses on photos and videos, while content shared on Facebook is much more mixed and widespread in regards to the type of content formats.
Here's what you really have to know and then leverage:
- People are more than two times more likely to engage with a brand on Instagram
- Instagram has 58 times more engagement per follower than Facebook
The lesson: use Facebook's ad capabilities, but know how to customize/optimize in order to maximize engagement.
7. You Must Add a Call to Action
Instagram posts that aren't advertisements don't include clickable call to actions - and as you probably know, the only clickable link is the one in your Instagram profile. Bummer.
As much as brand awareness is important, if you're not a Fortune 500 company, you're probably more interested in seeing actual results from your ads (sales, lead generation, etc). With Instagram ads, you can add CTAs and skip the usual "link in bio" reference.
The different CTAs available include: Shop Now, Book Now, Learn More, Sign Up, Download, Watch Now, Contact Us, and Apply Now.
8. Don't Disappoint With Unresponsive Landing Pages
There's nothing that reduces an ad's conversion rate more than a bad landing page.
Imagine you've create a wicked good ad that's getting engagement and clicks, however upon reaching your non-mobile landing page (the page to which your advert directs those that click on it), everyone closes the page.
Visiting an unresponsive webpage on a mobile device is like getting to the movie theater and being told that there is no popcorn or soda. That's a poor customer experience that needs to be avoided at all costs.
Instagram is a mobile platform. Everyone clicking on your CTA is expecting to arrive on a mobile-friendly page. Don't disappoint.
9. Use Those Hashtags
Here's another way in which Facebook and Instagram differ - hashtags. Whereas on Facebook the hashtag is not prominent in posts, the opposite is true on Instagram. As per the first tip. you need to create Instagram ads that look like native photos and are a part of the normal stream. Included in that is adding in a hashtag - or 11.
Adding hashtags is a must, and according to a study conducted by TrackMaven, posts with 11 hashtags generated the most interactions.
Aside from using a number of hashtags, you also need to use the right ones. Quantity is not everything, and 'quality' also needs to be taken into account.
Resources for finding hashtags:
The following ad from @Scotiabank, was one of several ads that asked users to identify a collection of items from a movie. The campaign was assisted by using the popular hashtag #ThingsOrganizedNeatly hashtag (the hashtag was relevant to the image).
At the end of the campaign, Instagram reported a 20-point lift in ad recall and a 6-point lift in brand awareness for @Scotiabank.
10. Implement User-Generated Content ASAP
Trust. It's an important word and one that you need to understand if your ads are going to be a source for sustainable, long-term growth.
How can you create trust with your advertisements? User generated content is exactly how you can create trust that leads to purchases.
As you can see from the data, the two most trusted forms of advertising are, "recommendations from people I know", and "Consumer opinions posted online", both of which can leveraged through promoting photos shared by your customers.
Not only is user generated content great for trust, but these type of photos also tend to meet the criteria of points one through three - you've got down four of the points already just by using UGC.
Time to Begin Advertising on Instagram
It's time to set up your first Instagram advertisement. Excuses like "I like Facebook" and "I'm scared of trying a new platform" need to be thrown out the window - Instagram advertising is becoming more popular, and Instagram is growing. Now is the time to jump on board, not after everyone else already has.