Instagram provides an active, visually striking social media community ideal for building your brand awareness. With the help of its parent company, Facebook, you can take advantage of incredible reach to talk directly to your target demographic with minimal networking efforts. Plus, take advantage of a powerful advertising engine to build single image, video and slideshow campaigns within minutes.
During this guide, we’ll walk you through the basic steps of creating an effective Instagram ad campaign to impress, engage, and expand your target audience. Enjoy!
Instagram is, at its core, a mobile photo-sharing app. The initial goal of the service was to let users snap pictures on their smartphones and share them with others either privately or publicly. Today, it also supports videos up to one minute in length. If you decide to advertise on Instagram, you can choose either medium – photo or video – to spread your message.
As a social networking site, Instagram thrives on word of mouth – friends sharing content with friends, colleagues with colleagues, and so on. That makes the service perfect for spreading your message, since you can accrue a sort snow-ball effect directly contained to your target audience.
Despite being launched in 2010, Instagram has also already amassed over 600 million active users. That ranks Instagram as the seventh most popular social networking site in the world, making it a vibrant ecosystem within which to spread brand awareness.
At the top of the list, meanwhile, is Facebook, with nearly 1.9 billion active users, who acquired Instagram in 2012. The combined user data of both services makes it easier to target individuals more likely to react positively to your ad campaign.
Facebook capitalizes on this advantage by tightly integrating the advertising capabilities of both services into a single advertising platform.
The goal for most advertisers is to create a viral advertising campaign, and Instagram is the perfect vehicle to get that done.
How to Get Started Advertising on Instagram
To advertise on Instagram, you don’t necessarily need to set up an Instagram account. However, we’d recommend you do so, since by immersing yourself in the Instagram ecosystem, you’ll obtain a better idea of what works and what doesn’t, and how people interact. That knowledge, in turn, will help you create more effective Instagram ads.
For example, Instagram is a “mobile-first” ad platform. Ads need to have a certain feel to work well. Additionally, even though Instagram has been evolving in everyday use, people still expect certain types of content on Instagram over traditional direct response ads.
While you don’t need an Instagram account, though, you must set up a Facebook page for your business. Doing so shouldn’t cause any headaches, since Facebook has streamlined the process to only take a few minutes.
You first need to visit Facebook’s business site and click the “create a page” button.
Afterwards, you’ll be asked to select the type of page you want to create. Options include:
- Local Business or Place
- Company, Organization or Institution
- Brand or Product
- Artist, Band or Public Figure
- Cause or Community
Selecting one option will lead to several more, like picking a business category (i.e., apparel, bar, tour agency) or product category (i.e., app, furniture, jewelry). You’ll also need to input your business, brand or product name.
After that you page appears online and active, although to attract an audience and effectively advertise you’ll need to spruce things up. These include adding a cover image, profile picture, and short page description. Plus, you’ll need to set a username to appear in your page’s URL, which will help customers remember how to get to your page.
We won’t touch on all the tips for creating an attractive Facebook business page here, since this article focuses on Instagram advertising.
Ads Manager vs Power Editor
Before you get started, it’s also helpful to have a general understanding of Facebook’s two advertising tools, Ads Manager and Power Editor.
Ads Manager stands as Facebook’s basic advertising campaign tool. It’s much simpler than Power Editor, which provides capabilities to create multiple campaigns, ad sets and ads. Power Editor also offers more advanced campaign tracking features than Ads Manager.
A good general rule of thumb is that if you’re new to advertising, or have relatively simply advertising needs and are working with small budget, go with Ads Manager. If you’re an experienced advertiser working with multiple brands or campaigns, pick Power Editor.
For the purposes of this article, we’ll focus mainly on Ads Manager. In part, that’s because if you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re new to advertising. Also, you need to set up your payment method through Ads Manager before rolling out a campaign via Power Editor, anyway.
Define Your Advertising Objective
With your Facebook page created, you can turn your attention towards your Instagram ad campaign.
First, you need to define your objective. Facebook categorizes advertising objectives as follows: awareness, consideration, and conversion.
The best way to think about these three objectives is as the path a potential customer follows. First, a potential customer must be aware of your brand. Only then can they seriously consider it. And, only after considering it will they decide to make a purchase, becoming an actual customer (conversion).
For each principal objective, Facebook defines several sub-objectives:
|Awareness||Brand Awareness||Increase general awareness of your brand|
|Local Awareness||Promote your business to people geographically close|
|Reach||Show your ad to as many people as possible|
|Consideration||Traffic||Send more people to another destination (like your ecommerce platform)|
|Engagement||Promote engagement with your business (comments, shares, likes, etc.)|
|App Installs||Send people to the app store|
|Video Views||Promote videos to improve brand awareness|
|Lead Generation||Collective contact information for people interested in your brand, services, product, etc.|
|Conversion||Conversions||Get people to take actions like making purchases|
|Product Catalog Sales||Create adds that automatically display products from your product catalog|
|Store Visits||Promote visits to nearby physical store locations|
Since you’ll be using Facebook/Instagram to drive your campaign, its useful to think about advertising in their terms. During the ad creation flow that Ads Manager uses, you’ll be asked to select the objective that best applies to you.
Also, these terms that are used generally in online advertising. Knowing the lingo and the theory will help you generate more effective Instagram ad campaigns and improve them over time.
Define Your Target Audience
As mentioned, a huge advantage of using Instagram – or any social media service for that matter – to boost your business, brand or product reach lies in the user data accrued by the platform. Instagram and Facebook knows the sex, age and geographic location of their user base.
They also have extensive knowledge of their interests based on shares, likes, and page views.
Having a clear understanding of who it is that you want to sell to will help you leverage that knowledge. During the ad creation process, based on the objective you define, you’ll also have a chance to select attributes of your target audience.
Doing so improves reach by maximizing your advertising budget to only target those most likely to pay attention to your advertisement and take meaningful action, whether that means liking or sharing your ad, clicking through to visit your website, or initiating a conversion.
So, spend some time thinking about your target demographic, and spend some time researching them online. Take plenty of notes, which, ideally, will lead to a dossier that you can evolve alongside your business.
Create Your Campaign in Ads Manager
Armed with an understanding of your campaign objective and target demographic, you’re ready to create an actual ad.
Facebook Ads Manager segments the process into four stages, each with their own page, or stage:
- Campaign: set ad objective
- Ad Account: set currency and time zone
- Ad Sets: define basic elements, like target audience, placements and budget
- Ads: create your ad
Note that if you start the ad creation process from Instagram’s business advertising page, you’ll be redirected to Ads Manager on the Facebook site as soon as you click “Create.”
Next, we’ll digest each of the four Ads Manager stages so you can effectively use the process to your advantage.
Ads Manager Campaign Stage
At the top of the Campaign page, input the name of your campaign. Your customer base won’t see this name, as its purely for your management needs. However, it helps to make the title as descriptive as possible so you that if you wind up creating multiple campaigns, you won’t lose sight of what they are.
Next, pick your primary campaign objective. These are the same objectives we discussed earlier. You can only pick one, and each choice has consequences on the third stage of the process, Ad Sets.
Don’t worry about getting stuck on this part. You’ll have the chance to change your objective at any time during the ad creation process, by clicking on the “Objective” link found in the Ad Manager’s left margin, under the “Campaign” header.
Once you’ve made your pick, scroll down and click the button that reads, “Create Ad Account.”
Ads Manager Ad Account Stage
The Ad Account page doesn’t require much thought. There are a few basic location fields you’ll need to set, and you’ll be asked to select a currency type.
Don’t rush through it though. Location information will be important if you’re trying to market based on geographic location. Currency impacts the type of payment options available to you, and you can only change your preferred currency once every 60 days, and if your campaign balance is zero.
Make your selections and click “Continue.”
Ad Manager Ad Set Stage
The Ad Set page lets you set elements related to your ad campaign. Elements in this page are broadly called “ad sets.” Which elements are available in the set depends on the objective you’ve defined for your campaign.
Here’s a general look at the ad sets for each objective.
|Budget & Schedule|
|Budget & Schedule|
|Budget & Schedule|
|Budget & Schedule|
|Budget & Schedule|
|Budget & Schedule|
|Budget & Schedules|
|Budget & Schedule|
|Budget & Schedule|
|Product Catalog Sales||Products|
|Budget & Schedule|
|Budget & Schedule|
One of the key elements that each ad set includes is “Placements.” Placements is where you tell Facebook on what platforms you want to advertise. For this article, that at least includes Instagram.
To make sure Instagram makes it into your ad campaign, scroll down to the Placements header on the Ad Set Page and selected “Edit Placements.” By default, Instagram should be selected.
If not, click the radio box associated with Instagram and make sure Instagram Feed is selected.
There’s also an option for Instagram Stories. Stories let users post photo/video slideshows that expire after 24 hours. If you advertise a lot, stories are a good way to make sure your content doesn’t overwhelm the feeds of Instagram users.
No matter what objective you’ve defined for your campaign, you should be able to advertise on the Instagram feed. Not all objectives let you choose Instagram Stories, though.
The Ad Set page happens to be where you’ll define your target demographic, too. All ad sets include the “Audience” element to perform this function.
Spend some time playing around with the Ad Sets page before moving on by changing objectives and returning to it. Familiarizing yourself with settings based on objective will help you maximize the effectiveness of your Instagram campaign.
You’ll need to give each ad set a name at the top of the page, too. As with the ad campaign name, make sure that its specific and means something to you. The ad set name shows up in various reports later, and a descriptive name can help you analyze advertising data more quickly.
Ads Manager Ad Stage
With your objective and ad sets defined, it’s time to build your ad. This step is completed on the final Ads Manager page, the Ads page.
At the top of the page, you’ll select the type of ad you want.
The types of ad campaigns are straightforward in their descriptions, although there are a few things you’ll want to be aware of:
- Single Image Instagram Ad: lets you display up to six single image ads at no extra cost
- Single Video Instagram Ad: lets you create a single video ad campaign
- Carousel: lets you create an ad with two or more scrollable images/videos
- Slideshow: lets you create a looping ad with up to ten images
- Canvas: combine images and videos to create an immersive story about your brand. This ad format isn’t supported on Instagram feeds, so we won’t discuss it further here.
Since its key to creating an effective Instagram campaign, we’ll cover both required and ideal specifications for images and videos next, before returning to look more closely at creating ads of each type.
Image Requirements for an Instagram Campaign
The Ad Manager tool indicates that the recommended image size for ads is 1200 x 628 pixels. However, this applies only to Facebook. Instagram ad campaigns have different requirements that aren’t always fully detailed on the Ads page.
In general, you should go with a 1:1 images for Instagram ad campaigns, with a recommended image size of 1080 x 1080 pixels.
Instagram was popularized in part thanks to its distinctive square-image format. While landscape images are now supported, square images remain vogue because show up better on mobile devices than landscape images.
You can find exact specifications to design and optimize your ad campaign for Instagram in Facebook’s Ad Guide. These specifications are even listed by objective and platform.
Spend some time reviewing this guide to get an idea of what kind of image requirements your campaign will be restricted by. Having this information in hand will help you substantially if you plan on designing your own images or hiring a freelancer.
That said, here are the recommended specifications for effective photos in Instagram ads:
- Recommended Image Ratio: 1:1
- Recommend Image Size: 1080 x 1080 pixels
- Recommended Caption Length: 125 characters (text only)
Another key restriction you need to be concerned with is that both Instagram restricts how much text an image used in advertisements can contain. Typically, the requirement is that no more than 20% of your image should be composed of text. Ads with too much text may result in decreased distribution, or even no distribution at all.
To help you determine if your image may result in decreased distribution, Facebook provides a tool with which to gauge text content in your images.
Video Requirements for an Instagram Campaign
There’s also a significant length difference for videos used in Instagram ads versus those used in Facebook ads. While Facebook video ads can range up to 120 minutes, Instagram videos can only be 60 seconds long.
Here are the recommended specifications for videos used in Instagram ads, as detailed in the Ad Guide:
- Recommended Aspect Ratio: 1:1
- Maximum Length: 60 seconds
- Recommended Format: .mp4 (full list of supported formats)
- Audio: Stereo ACC audio compression, 128kbps+ preferred
- Recommended Caption Length: 125 characters (2,200 max)
Again, familiarize yourself with the requirements outlined in the Ad Guide before logging long hours developing video ad content or paying somebody else to do so.
Single Image and Single Video Ads
The process for creating single image and single video ads is similar on the Ad page, so we’ll examine the process in tandem.
Content for single image and single video campaigns is loaded immediately following the campaign-type selection. When selecting images or video for an ad campaign, you’re given the option of picking content already associated with your Facebook page or loading content from your hard drive.
For images, Facebook also supplies free stock photos courtesy of Shutterstock. You can search the Shutterstock library by keyword to find images most suited to your ad campaign.
Most images in the Shutterstock library are landscape photographs. The Ads Management tool lets you automatically crop images to a 1:1 ratio to create the more visually effective Instagram ads. Auto-cropping can be performed by clicking on the “crop” icon found on the lower-right side of any loaded image.
There are no stock videos available, so you’ll need to create your own, hire a freelancer, or purchase a stock video directly through Shutterstock Footage or another website.
After you load your video, you can select a video thumbnail automatically generated by Ads Management. Be sure and choose an impactful thumbnail image like an action shot. This will increase the chance people watch.
You can also let Facebook automatically add captions to your video. In addition to using their speech-to-text capabilities to create captions, Facebook will review them for accuracy. Captions are a great way to enhance your video ad by letting people watch it without sound, including deaf people.
Alternatively, you can load you own captions using an SRT file.
Personalize and Preview Content
With your content loaded, it’s time to personalize your ad. Personalization options for single photo and single video ads are found at the bottom of the Ads page, and are identical for either type of campaign.
The first thing you need to do is make your Facebook page and Instagram account settings. You don’t need an Instagram account, though, since you can select your Facebook page to represented your business on Instagram.
Once make these two selections, you can preview your Instagram ad on the right side of the page by selecting “Instagram Feed” from the drop-down menu.
For single image ads, you can scroll through previews for however many photographs you selected for the ad (up to six). Single video ads only let you upload one video, so there’s only one preview – although the preview pane will show your video being played.
Above the Instagram ad, your Facebook page name and the words, “sponsored by” are displayed. Users will be able to click on that name to visit your Facebook page, which is why it important to make sure you’ve got a page optimized for your desired customer base and full of useful content.
Back on the left side of the Ad page are a few personalization options you won’t want to overlook. These include a text box to add a caption about your brand, business, or product, and a place to a URL link for your website (if you have one).
Additionally, you can define a headline and website description, although these don’t appear in Instagram feed ads, just Facebook.
The final crucial personalization element is a call-to-action button. Facebook features a range of buttons to choose from. Be sure and pick one that fits your brand and matches the action you want people to take. For example, if you run a tour company, a “Book Now” call-to-action button makes sense. If you’re marketing an app, go with “Download.”
Carousel ads feature multiple images or videos, and let viewers manually scroll through them. They’re ideal for creating interactive ads that tell a visual story about your brand or product.
Unlike with single image and single video campaigns, Carousel content is loaded near the bottom of the Ads page.
To load content, find the “Cards” header. Choose either the “Image” or “Video/Slideshow” button, and then click the “Select Image” or “Select Video” button.
You’ll need to load content for however many cards (or slides) your carousel includes. By default, that’s three, but you can have up to eight, or as few as two.
Content can come from either your Facebook page’s image library, or your hard drive. Unlike with single video ads, there’s not option to add a Shutterstock photo.
Personalize and Preview Content
Each card enhanced with a separate headline, description, URL, and call-to-action button.
Another useful option to maximize your Instagram campaign’s effectiveness lets you automatically show the best performing cards first.
As with single image and video campaigns, you’ll also need to set Instagram account before you can preview what it looks like on an Instagram Feed. Again though, you can pick your Facebook page as a proxy for an Instagram account.
These settings are made just above the “Cards” section. You’ll know your Instagram account settings are configured correctly because the preview pane for “Instagram Feed” on the right will display a preview of your Instagram Carousel ad.
Slideshow Ad Campaign
Slideshows are a bit like Carousel ads, except that they’re automated and can only use images. They’re ideal for telling an engaging story about your brand through photographs. As such, done properly, slideshow ads are perhaps the most effective Instagram advertising campaign.
Slideshows can include up to ten images, which are loaded by clicking the “+” sign below the “Slideshow” header. Doing so opens a work pane.
Each image will display for one second during the slideshow by default. You can change the display time if you’d like by using the “Image Duration” drop down. The max delay available is five seconds, so the maximum length a slideshow can run for is 50 seconds.
If you can, go with shorter durations, though. The average person has an eight-second attention span, so there’s a good chance most viewers won’t make through a 50-second slideshow.
You can also a select an aspect ratio to apply to the entire slideshow. Remember that Instagram ad campaigns work best with 1:1 images, so we’d recommend you choose that as your aspect ratio.
A third option lets you add a fade effect to image transitions. This can help catch the eye of your audience, but some find it disruptive and off-putting if you’re using more than two or three images.
The slideshow work panel also has a “Music” tab. Use this to spruce your slideshow ad campaign with a prerecord track supplied by Facebook, or upload your own file. Be sure and only use music you have rights to use, or Facebook might penalize you for a DMCA violation.
Personalize and Preview Content
Once your slideshow has been created, you can personalize the ad further down the Ad page. Options available are identical to those for single image and video campaigns. Definite inclusions for an effective ad are the text box, website URL, and call-to-action button.
Once again, other options, like headline and news feed description, don’t display on Instagram ads. Use them only if you’re also launching a Facebook ad campaign.
To preview your slideshow, as with other ad types you first need to make sure you’ve connected your Instagram account, or assigned your Facebook page as a proxy. Once done, your slideshow will display on the right side of the page.
Launch and Monitor Your Campaign
Once your content has been loaded and personalized, you’re ready to launch your ad.
You can click the “Review Order” button first if you want to go over things one more time. When you’re ready to proceed, click the green “Place Order” button.
Launched, you can monitor the performance of your ad campaign through Ads Manager. Doing so will help you gauge its effectiveness, which in turn will help you create better campaigns later. Ads Manager also lets you compare the performances of multiple campaigns against one another.
With Ads reporting, you can customize the way data displays. That will let you focus on the data you deem most vital to your business’s success, such as shares or conversion rates.
Ads Manager even generates a “relevancy score” for ads once your ad has reached at least 500 impressions. The relevancy score is a measure of how well your target audience perceives your ad. The score is rated 1-10 (10 being good) and is based on activity like positive feedback.
A full accounting of the reporting options available via Ads Manger (and Power Editor, for that matter), would require an article of its own. We encourage you to become an expert in the reports and metrics that are tracked, since they’re key to improving your advertising performance on Instagram.
Facebook covers all the basics, here.
Next Steps & Additional Resources
Launching an Instagram ad campaign will help you grow your brand by letting you take advantage of one of the most popular, dynamic social network ecosystems available today. Instagram receives its fair share of active online consumers, covering a broad range of vital demographics.
However, approaching the task without proper planning and knowledge of the options and tools available will most likely result in your campaign falling flat.
Don’t let yourself get too intimidated, though. As we’ve shown, at its core, Facebook’s primary ad campaign tool, Ads Manager, benefits from a beautifully streamlined design. That design lets you focus on selecting relevant images and videos best designed to market your product or services.
Here are additional resources that have been highlighted in the weekly ShivarWeb newsletter –
- Getting Started with Instagram Ads
- 20 Instagram Ads Best Practices That Will Make You an Outstanding Marketer
- I Spent Two Years Botting on Instagram — Here’s What I Learned
Here are additional resources on PPC advertising –
- How To Advertise Your Website Online Effectively in 5 Steps
- How To Improve Your Online Advertising Campaigns
- Alternative PPC Ad Networks To Find New Audiences for Advertisers