Instagram is quickly becoming a staple among marketers and business owners for reaching their target audience. It’s also catching up to its parent company, Facebook, as a key advertising platform for expanding brand reach.
As of Q4 of 2017, Instagram has over 700 million active users every month, and that number continues to climb.Data shared by TechCrunch shows the tremendous growth of the platform since its 2010 launch on the iPhone and Facebook’s acquisition in 2012.
As the user count grows, so do the opportunities to expand business and reach new audience segments in your market. Other brands are seeing the return on their investment, which is why the number of advertisers using the platform is also continuing to grow.
Survey data from eMarketer shows that while advertising has remained fairly level on Twitter, it’s been a tremendous climb for Instagram since 2013. In fact, the number of advertisers on Instagram has nearly doubled between 2016 and 2017.
Why Advertise on Instagram
Strata revealed survey data in 2016 showing that 63% of ad agencies in the U.S. planned to include Instagram in their client ad strategies. That’s an increase from 34% in 2015. Advertisers are flocking to the platform for a number of key reasons.
Seamless integration – Ad content on Instagram, like Facebook, has little visual difference to normal posts. They integrate seamlessly with the other content in a user’s feed. This ensures more eyes on your ads.
Tremendous audience growth – Instagram is consistently outperforming all other social platforms in growth.Trackmaven’s 2016 Social Inflation Index examined over 26,000 brands across a variety of industries and found that organizations, on average, saw 100% growth between 2015 and 2016.
More engagement –According to comScore, Instagram ranks in the top 3, next to Facebook and Snapchat, for average time spent in social media among all age groups.
Part of the attention-grabbing nature of Instagram is its focus on visual content, and that’s where advertisers can benefit. Content with images gets more shares, reactions, and engagement across all platforms (150% more retweets and more thantwice the engagement on Facebook)
Most importantly, Instagram leads the charge.According to Forrester, user engagement with brands is the strongest on Instagram compared to other social networks. Most importantly,43% of consumers are influenced to make a purchase after seeing a product on Instagram and75% of Instagram users will take an action—like visiting a site—after viewing an ad on Instagram.
Improved targeting – Facebook arguably has the best audience targeting options with its advertising platform, allowing you to get extremely granular and laser-focused. That audience targeting extends to Instagram. You can craft your own custom audiences or take advantage of retargeting options using your own customer lists or pixel tracking data.
Instagram is a visual-first platform with a focus on visual content over text and promotion. It’s why the feed is dominated mainly by visuals with any text you create nestled in as a caption or description. It’s also why external links in posts aren’t possible unless you’re running an advertisement on Instagram where you can integrate call-to-action buttons in one of the various ad formats.
Each of those formats is driven by different types of visuals, providing advertisers with plenty of options to capture the attention of the audience.
Carousel ads allow users to swipe through two or more images or videos in a single ad post. These could be used to tell a story across multiple images, show multiple new products related to one another, or feature the ingredients of a new dish at a restaurant.
These ads are ideal for telling a compelling visual story using a single image. Rather than relying on simple product photos, many brands get creative to make those single image ads stand out and promote more engagement with followers, like this “Ice on Ice” add from Smirnoff Ice:
Slideshows are a bit like carousel ads, in that you can display multiple images, but slideshows play like a looping video, cycling through up to 10 images based on your settings. You can also add audio to the slideshow.
Here’san example from HomeGoods with a slideshow ad that builds a narrative about starting with a blank slate and adding products to transform a room.
Video ads on Instagram can run for up to 60 seconds, capturing the attention of your audience with movement in a sea of still images within their feed. Video ads are becoming the preferred media for consumers as well. According to data from Animoto,4x as many consumers prefer seeing product-related videos over text and still-image posts.
Airbnb’s use of video ads on Instagram resulted in a 4-point lift in purchase intent in the U.K. and a 6-point lift in Germany and Australia, and it expanded the brand’s reach to more than 125 million people.
Audience Targeting Is Crucial
No matter what ad format you use or how creative your marketing is, success from Instagram advertising will come from knowing your audience and knowing how to target them.
As I mentioned, Instagram leverages Facebook’s powerful advertising platform, giving you a ton of control over who you target. You’ll need good data in order to get granular with your targeting, which is why audience research is crucial.
If you don’t have good audience data, you’ll have to do some trial and error by working off audience personas you develop.
Based on your selection, the advertising platform in Facebook will indicate how well you’ve defined your audience along with an estimation of how many people you’ll reach with your campaign. If it’s too broad, you can add additional items to narrow your focus and avoid attracting people who aren’t likely to convert.
If it’s too narrow, trim and refine your targeting so your ad appears a larger audience of still-relevant prospects.
If you’re setting up your ads through Facebook’s ad platform, you’ll have a number of placement options that are enabled by default.
If you only want your ad to appear on Instagram, then you need to uncheck all the boxes except for Instagram. Otherwise, your ad will also be displayed across Facebook and its audience network on both desktop and mobile.
Alternatively, there’s a feature to set up an ad directly on Instagram that works like boosted posts on Facebook.
You canpromote an Instagram post with limited objectives, and then choose action button type, set your audience targeting, the budget, and the duration of your promoted post.
Determining Your Budget and Schedule
The cost of your Instagram ad depends on a number of factors, including your choice of bidding (manual or automatic) and the budget you establish for your campaign.
You’ll never spend more than the budget you specify, which is entered either as a daily cap or a lifetime cap. A daily budget is the average of how much you’ll spend on advertising each day. The lifetime budget is how much you’re willing to spend over the entire life of your campaign.
And you determine the life of a campaign when setting up your budget and schedule. Ads can run for as little as 24 hours or continuously until you turn them off.
Tracking Your Instagram Ads
Every decision made in advertising should be driven by data. That’s sometimes difficult to do when launching a new Instagram ad, but, once it’s running, you should keep an eye on the metrics to track the health and progress of your campaign.
You’ll have some basic insights in your Instagram business profile, but the full performance data will be founded within the Facebook Ads Manager.
Within the ad manager, you’ll find the tiers separated into tabs or a folder-like structure within a PC browser. Those tabs relate to the 3-tier structure of all Facebook and Instagram ads.
Within those tabs, you’ll find data variations for each level down to the performance of each individual ad. The columns can even be customized to display the metrics you want so the data is sorted to match your goals.
When you’re ready to dig in to the individual ad, just click on its name and Facebook’s Ad Manager will display a detailed report.
As improvements are made to platforms like Instagram, and the user base grows, I believe we’ll see an evolution in what is offered in terms of how we can show content to followers and how they can interact with those ads.
Don’t be afraid to start building and refining your Instagram ad campaigns. Take the data you have and what you know about your audience, create your ad using the formats and information mentioned in this article, and track its performance during and after the campaign. Once you have that data, never stop refining and improving your ads. Restart the cycle to find what Instagram ads will have the most impact on your audience.
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Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end eCommerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
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