Instagram Ads: A Step-by-Step Guide to Running Your Own Ad Campaign

We all know how great Instagram is for sharing creative and engaging visual content, but Instagram ads are also an effective way for businesses to generate sales and build engagement. According to a recent report from Locowise, 75 percent of Instagram users take action, such as visiting a website or making a purchase, after looking at an Instagram ad!

But setting up ads on Instagram requires a lot of thought: What should your target audience look like? What should your copy say? What image should you use? Not to mention the more technical aspects like tracking conversions.

In our complete guide to Instagram ads, we’ll walk you through how to create your first Instagram advertising campaign: developing effective ad creatives, targeting the right audience, and optimizing your campaign as it runs.

Quick Reminder: Instagram uses Facebook’s advertising platform. So even though this guide is about running ads on Instagram, all of the ad setup, budgeting, scheduling, and creation is done through Facebook.

instagram ads

What to Expect in This Guide

While creating and running an Instagram advertising campaign might seem like a daunting task, in the following guide, we’ve broken it down into 5 key steps: research, campaign objective, targeting, creative, and tracking.

Research is about finding inspiration for your own Instagram ads by analyzing what your competitors and other industry leaders are doing.

Campaign objective is the goal or desired outcome of your Instagram advertising campaign, whether that’s increasing brand awareness, generating traffic, or making sales.

Targeting is about finding audience groups that are most likely to help you achieve your campaign objective.  

Creative is the creation of images, videos, slogans, and call-to-actions that motivate Instagram users to engage with your ad.

Tracking is the process of measuring the results and impact of your Instagram advertising campaign according to the objective you set.

Instagram Ads Step #1: Researching Your Competitors

Before you can get started creating your own Instagram ads, you need to spend some time researching your competitors: What types of ads are they running? What call-to-actions do they use? How much engagement are they getting? 

One of the best ways to do this kind of competitive research is to visit a competitor’s Instagram account and click-through to their mobile website. From there, you can scroll through their product page and click on specific products.

If that Instagram account uses a Facebook pixel for remarketing (a form of advertising where you target users with ads who have previously visited your website), when you return to Instagram, you should be served with ads featuring the products you browsed on their site.

Here’s an experiment: Open Instagram on your mobile device and visit @article‘s account. Now click on the link in their bio to visit their mobile site. Once you’re there, scroll through their product pages and click on specific products. When you’re done, exit their mobile site and reopen Instagram on the same device. Did you notice anything? As you scroll through your feed, there’s a very good chance that an Instagram ad from Article will appear!

You can repeat this process a few times with different competitors to get a sense of what types of ads they’re running. It’s also a great way to get some inspiration for your own Instagram advertising campaign!

Instagram Ads Step #2: Creating Your Campaign Objectives

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of actually creating an Instagram ad, let’s talk about campaign objectives. A campaign objective is what you want people to do when they see your ads.

Instagram ads offers several campaign objectives that you can select from a premade list. The objective you choose will influence how your ads are optimized and how you pay for them. For example, if your goal is to get more followers, click-throughs on your ad will be less of a priority.

You may already be familiar with campaign objectives from creating Facebook ads. However, not all campaign objectives available for Facebook can be used on Instagram. On Instagram, the campaign objectives you can choose from are:

  • Brand awareness: reach people more likely to pay attention to your ads and increase awareness for your brand
  • Reach: show your ad to the maximum number of people
  • Traffic: for clicks to your website or to the app store for your app
  • App installs: send people to the store where they can purchase your app
  • Engagement: get more people to see and engage with your post or Page. Engagement can include comments, shares, likes, event responses and offer claims
  • Video views: promote videos that show behind-the-scenes footage, product launches or customer stories to raise awareness about your brand
  • Conversions: get people to take valuable actions on your website or app, such as adding payment info or making a purchase

If your objective is to sell your products (conversions) or to run a remarketing campaign for users who visit your website, you have to create and install a Facebook pixel first. As we mentioned above, a Facebook pixel is a small piece of code that you can place on your website to track visitors and conversions.

If you have a Facebook pixel on your website, when someone clicks on your Instagram ad, visits your website, and purchases one of your products, the pixel tells Facebook that a conversion occurred. Facebook then matches that conversion against the set of people who clicked on your Instagram ad so that you can see how many sales you actually made from that ad.

For more information, here’s a guide on how to create and install a Facebook pixel within Facebook’s Ads Manager.

Instagram Ads Step #3: Setting Up Your Instagram Advertising Targeting

Instagram ads targeting is about trying to find the best person to advertise to — as in, who is the most likely to perform the action you specified in your campaign objective. For example, if you’re an ecommerce business that sells performance gear for hikers, you’re going to try and target people who are most likely to purchase hiking products.  

Luckily, Instagram ads have all the same targeting options as Facebook ads, including targeting based on location, demographics, interests, behavior, and more. At the most basic level, your campaign needs to target a specific country, gender (if promoting a gender-specific offer) and age group. For example, your campaign could target men and women aged 25 to 60 who live in US states with large hiking communities. But it’s better to get as narrow as possible with your target marketing. The more targeted your ads are to the right audience, the better chance they have of achieving your campaign objective.

You also have the option to create a Custom Audience to reach people who have already interacted with your business, or a Lookalike Audience to reach new people on Facebook who are similar to your most valuable audiences.

Custom Audiences

Facebook Custom Audiences are groups of people who have already visited your website or shared their contact info with you. Ads targeting these groups tend to perform really well because they’ve already expressed an interest in your business.

When you set up targeting on Facebook based on location, demographics, interests, behaviors, or any of the other options Facebook provides, you are building a regular audience. As you select targeting options, you’ll notice your potential reach grow or shrink under the Audience Definition section to the right of your targeting options.

When you build a custom audience, you do not select any of Facebook’s built-in targeting options. Instead, you upload a database of emails or phone numbers and Facebook matches those up with Facebook users. You can then target ads to this audience on Instagram.

Using our ecommerce business example from above, if you collect information about your audience (email, phone number, first and last name, city, state/province, country, etc.) through a hiking newsletter, surveys, interviews, or otherwise, you can upload this data to Facebook’s Ads Manager. Simply navigate to the Ads Manager, open Tools, click the Create Audience dropdown and select Custom Audience. Next click Customer File and Add from your own file. After uploading your data, Facebook will create a new custom audience that you can target with your Instagram ads.

Lookalike Audiences

A Facebook Lookalike Audience is a type of custom audience that allows you to create super specific targeting for your ads. These audiences tend to convert really well because they target people who are most like your established customers.

Basically, Lookalike Audiences let you take your custom audience and then serve ads to people who are similar to that audience. Facebook identifies the common qualities of the people in your audience, such as demographics or interests, and then finds people who are similar to them in the country you choose. You can also create a lookalike audience based on people who like your current Facebook Page. This could lead to better results because you’re targeting people who already know your business and have shown an interest in what you have to offer.

You can narrow your reach even further by collecting targeted information about your audience’s demographics, interests, and behaviors. Facebook’s Audience Insights and Google Analytics are two of the best tools to do this:

Facebook Audience Insights

Audience Insights is a tool from Facebook that lets you gather insights about your target audiences, including aggregate information about geography, demographics, purchase behavior, and more. You can use Audience Insights to help make advertising decisions about who you should be targeting.

Google Analytics

If you use Google Analytics to track traffic to your website, you can use also use it to collect demographic information about your target audience. Under the Admin section, go to Property Settings for your desired analytics property. Next, go to Data Collection under Tracking Info. Then, toggle the switch under Advertising Reporting Features on.

Instagram Ads Step #4: Building Your Instagram Advertising Creative

Building your Instagram ad creative is part art and part science. Before you get started, you need to think about what your objective is, who you’re trying to reach, and what kind of message and tone will motivate your followers to engage with your ad.

There are three different kinds of Instagram ads that you can choose from: photo ads, Carousel ads, and video ads.

Instagram photo ads

With photo ads, businesses can tell their story and feature products through visually engaging imagery. If you’re just getting started with Instagram advertising, it’s best to stick with photo ads. They’re the easiest to set up and tend to perform quite well.

Instagram Carousel ads

When it makes strategic sense to showcase multiple products (or multiple uses of a single product), Carousel ads are a great option. With Carousel ads, Instagram users can swipe to see additional images, and a call-to-action button takes them to a website to learn more.

For example, a new restaurant could showcase how multiple ingredients come together to make a delicious meal. Once the user has swiped through the images, you can use a button to direct them to the reservations page of your website.

Instagram video ads

You can make Instagram video ads up to 60 seconds long, but according to data from Wistia, the first 30 seconds of a social video is what matters most. If you can hook your audience in that timeframe, they’re more likely to stick around and engage with your business.

Visually, Instagram is built around high-quality image and videos. When designing new ad creative, try aiming for more stylized, atmospheric photos that convey your brand’s unique message and value.

Some businesses also see great results by basing their ads off user-generated content (UGC). If you’re promoting a product in your Instagram ad, try showcasing it in real-life situations that your audience can relate to. For example, for an ecommerce business that sells hiking equipment, it would make sense to feature images of people wearing or using your gear.

Now that you know how to set objectives, target audiences, and build your creative, it’s time to create your first Instagram ad!

How to Create An Instagram Ad

Step 1: Link Your Instagram Account to Your Facebook Page

The first step to creating an Instagram ad is to connect your Instagram account to your Facebook page. Head over to the settings area of your Facebook page (you need to be an administrator) and click on Instagram Ads.

Next, click Add an Account and fill in your Instagram login credentials. When you’re finished click Confirm.

Step 2: Create a Campaign

Next, head over to the Facebook Ads Manager and click on  “+ Create Campaign” near the top left corner of the screen. 

This is where you pick your campaign objective.

Remember, if your goal is to increase conversions, you need to have a conversion pixel installed on your website.

Step 3: Create Your Ad Set

Once you’ve chosen an objective, it’s time to create your Ad Set. This is where you define who you want to see your ads, and how much money you want to spend.

If you have any Custom Audiences already created, you can select them for targeting with your Instagram ad at this point.

There are two options for your budget, daily budget and lifetime budget. A daily budget sets your ad up to run continuously throughout the day, meaning that the algorithm will automatically pace your spending per day. A lifetime budget sets your ad up to run for a specified length of time, meaning the ads algorithm paces your spending over that entire time period.

If you’re just starting out, it’s better to start low with your ad spend. You can always increase the budget later if your ad performs well.

When you’re finished choosing who to target and how much to spend, click Continue at the bottom of the page.

On the next screen, you’ll see an option for whether you want to use a single image or video in your ad, or if you want to use multiple images for a Carousel ad. Once you’ve decided, scroll down to upload your images or videos.

After you’ve uploaded your visuals, scroll down further to find an option to add text to your ad. Here you can pick your headline and text caption.

If you chose traffic or conversions as your campaign objective, you’ll also be able to customize the call-to-action in your link button. There are several different options for your button, and they vary based on the page you’re sending your visitors to.

Your call-to-action has a huge effect on your campaign’s click-through and conversion rate, so make sure you pick something that’s relevant to your offer and target audience.

You can also click Show Advanced Options for additional creative options. However, keep in mind that creative options may differ based on the objective you chose.

Finally, to the right of the text editor, you’ll be able to preview how your ad will look on Instagram. You can also see how your ad would look in other formats.

You can run the ad on Facebook and Instagram, but if you only want to run it on Instagram, make sure the other distribution options have been removed.

Once everything looks good, click Place Order.

Instagram Ads Step #5: Track Your Engagement and Conversions

Unless you strike it lucky and have a successful campaign from day one, just launching your Instagram ad and hoping for the best is unlikely to produce great results. Instead, you need to edit and optimize your Instagram advertising campaign as it runs.

When choosing which tool to track your Instagram advertising campaign, you’ll want to consider both your company size and the number of ads you plan to run. If you’re managing a large number of campaigns, or you’re looking for really precise control over your campaigns, you might want to use the Power Editor. If you’re part of a large team, then Facebook’s Business Manager is probably best. However, if you’re just starting out with Instagram advertising, Facebook’s traditional Ads Manager should suit your needs fine.  

Performance metrics for your Instagram ad will be available in the Ads Manager shortly after your place your order. You’ll be able to look at metrics at the campaign, ad set, and ad levels. You’ll also be able to schedule reports, save reports and customize columns in Ads Manager so that you only see the data you care about. For more information, here’s a guide on how to use filters to customize the information you see in Ads Manager.  

To see your Instagram ad metrics, go to the Ads Manager and click on the name of your Instagram ad campaign. From here you should see a section at the top right that includes Performance, Audience, and Placement data.

Depending on the objective you chose, you’ll see different results available. For example, if you created an engagement ad, you’ll see how many post engagements your Instagram ad has received as well as total reach. You can also view Amount Spent and Cost per Result to understand how your budget is being allocated.

As a general rule, if you have an ad that performs well, you should increase the ad spend every three days. On the other hand, if your ad doesn’t perform, don’t hesitate to shut it off.

Summary

  • It’s important to do competitive research before you get started creating your own Instagram ads. The best way to do this is to visit your competitors’ websites through the Instagram app to get tagged with a remarketing Facebook pixel.
  • A campaign objective is what you want people to do when they see your ads. The objective you choose plays a big part in how your ads are optimized, how you pay for them, and how you track them.
  • If you run a campaign with a conversions objective or a remarketing campaign for users who visit your website, you have to create and install a Facebook pixel first.
  • Instagram ads targeting is about trying to find people who are the most likely to perform the action you specified in your campaign objective.
  • Instagram ads offer the same targeting as Facebook ads. The best approach to targeting involves creating Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audiences, as well as using  Audience Insights and Google Analytics to go as niche as possible.
  • When developing your Instagram ad creative, you should think about what your objective is, who you’re trying to reach, and what kind of message and tone will motivate your followers to engage with your ad.
  • Once your Instagram advertising campaign is live, you need to constantly edit and optimize it. If you’re a beginner, the best tool for this is Facebook’s traditional Ads Manager.
  • Always start with a small ad spend. If your Instagram ad performs, increase your spend every three days. If it doesn’t, don’t hesitate to shut it off.

That’s it! Armed with this information, you’re now ready to run a successful advertising campaign on Instagram! In the meantime, you can use Later to plan, manager, and schedule all of your Instagram posts!

Later is the #1 Instagram marketing platform for business. Sign up for free to schedule Instagram posts, organize UGC, plan your feed, and more:

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Written By

Benjamin Chacon

Benjamin is a Content Writer at Later.