Instagram Advertising 101

We've talked about Instagram before. Now it's time to boost those beautiful, curated, brand-friendly Instagram posts to your target customers.

Before we get into the technical specifics of how to run an Instagram ad, let's talk about the two most important things: your visuals, and your captions!

Next week, we'll go over the basics of running an ad on only Instagram, and explain your options for which types of ads you can run through the Instagram app, too. So get those visuals and all those captions ready! 


Image is Everything

Instagram is a very special Millennial place. According to Pew Research Center, about 1/3 of adults between the ages of 18 and 29 are on Instagram, and many of them have multiple accounts.

Why is that important? This audience is consuming content on Instagram many times per day, and all kinds of brands are targeting the heck out of these people to sell them all kinds of things. If this age range is at all a part of your target customer audience, you should know that they are used to a high standard when it comes to their visuals.

Your images and video matter; great ones cut through the clutter of information that your audience sees on a minute-by-minute basis when they're scrolling on their feeds, and 67% of customers say that a detailed, clear image makes them trust a brand more than product reviews or customer ratings. 


So before you plan to run your first Instagram ads, find or create the best images or video of your product or services that you possibly can. Invest in a photographer if you have to; you can use those images on your website, in other marketing materials, on other social channels, in printed brochures and postcards... The investment is worth it, because you always want to put your best foot forward. Make sure your images are bright, attention-grabbing, and will stand out compared to all the other ones in your customer's Instagram feed.

Stuck for ideas on what you should take photos of? Do your research: Find some of your competitors on Instagram and see what kinds of photos they are posting that drive great engagement. Look at their comments and see how people respond. Are the photos of staff and products being made, or are they aspirational and meant to let the customer imagine who they could be? Take notes of what you respond to the most, and what you don't like, and ask your friends who might fit your target audience profile too. 

And while we're at it, take a look at your current Instagram feed and see if there are any posts you should remove that aren't high-quality or don't speak well to your brand. You want to keep your profile clean, curated, and looking spiffy so that when you drive traffic to it via ads, your target customers go, "Yes, please!"

Oh Caption, My Caption

We are all inundated by marketing messages on a pretty consistent basis. So don't try to be like the next big brand out there; create interesting captions that tell stories, inspire some emotion or reaction, and give your customer something they should remember the next time they see your product or your logo.

How to do that? Start with thinking about what problems you are solving for your customer.

If you're selling baby blankets, for example, you're, yes, providing a solution for keeping a baby warm. But what else are you doing through your product? Are you giving your customer peace of mind with a product that's made from organic fibers? Are you making your customer laugh with a blanket that has a witty saying on it or is designed to look like a superhero's cape?

Btw, the baby is not your customer in this scenario; her mother and father are, and they are looking for something that gives them just a little bit more than warmth. Figure out everything that you're providing through this blanket, and express that in your copy. 

And don't forget that customers are smart. Don't try to dupe them or trick them with false or over-inflated promises, because they'll see through it and you'll end up looking silly.

Now, maybe you've come up with multiple answers to our questions in this exercise. Wanna know what's great about ads? You can test everything!

Come up with at least three different captions that use different angles; for our baby blanket company, we might write three captions that talk about:

  1. Our committed sourcing of high-end, organic fabric,

  2. Our kid-tested designs that will fit in great with the rest of the nursery, and,

  3. Our promise to donate 10% of our proceeds to organizations working for maternal health. (If you like what you're hearing, feel free to steal these ideas!)

You can create three different ads that will be delivered to the same audience, with the same image but different captions, and use the results to figure out which caption drives the most engagement and clicks to your website. You might think that organic fabric will sound great to the Millennial moms out there, but they might respond more to clever design workโ€”that will tell you what to focus on.

In fact, if you're already on Instagram and posting regularly, you have data to look at. Use our guide to Instagram Insights to see which of your posts are the most engaging, and see if you can find out why those posts worked the best. Are they the ones with the funniest captions? The best quality photos? Or do they just use the most emojis?

Ready, Set, Advertise

If you're familiar with running Facebook Ads, you might already know that Facebook has incorporated Instagram into its broader ad platform. If you run a Facebook ad and don't de-select Instagram as a place where your ad will appear, congratulations: You've already run an ad on Instagram!