So, a thing happened. We joined Instagram!
Follow us at @suparealmcr.
(Unapologetic self-promotion out the way) let’s get down to the real reason I’m here...
Having already written blog posts on the power of Instagram in B2B marketing and how your brand can make an instant impact on the world’s fastest growing social network - we thought it was about time we took a closer look at the paid side of the platform.
There is one side to Instagram that does ask for your hard-earned cash.
Give me the lowdown...
Now, I’m no self-professed expert on the subject. For the time being anyway!
I’m writing this alongside my own research, as we look to experiment with Instagram Ads and utilise their full potential to promote our clients’ content - as well as our own.
So really - we’re going to be learning together today.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re on Instagram already, toying with the idea - or just a little bemused by the whole situation - it’s always good to know this stuff, so stay with me...
Back in 2012, when Mark Zuckerberg and co. loosened their purse strings, Instagram Ads wasn’t a thing. But with the immense success of Facebook Ads, it came as no real surprise when the Instagram version was first rolled out in 2015.
Still relatively new to the boiling pot, Instagram Ads are (surprise, surprise) run through Facebook’s Business Manager - which you will need to sign up to prior to running your ad.
While Instagram Business accounts continue to grow in popularity - advertising is still available to all users, so don’t sweat it if you haven’t converted your account.
You do need a Facebook account to access the Business Manager, however - so if you haven’t got one set up already, it’s worth doing so before reading any further.
And remember to link your Facebook and Instagram accounts.
Just like Facebook, you can select different solutions depending on your objectives:
Clicks to Website - Direct users to important sections of your website
Website Conversions - Encourage users to take specific actions on your website
Mobile App Installs - Get people to install your mobile app
Mobile App Engagement - Get more activity on your mobile app
Video Views - Tell a story using video
Reach and Frequency - Achieve reach and greater control over message frequency
Page Post Engagement - Get people to engage with your ad
Mass Awareness - Drive awareness to a broad audience with guaranteed impressions
Local Awareness - Reach people near your business and drive them into your store
Whether you’re simply looking to amp up audience growth and engagement, or getting serious about driving conversions through Instagram, you can tailor your ads to best fit their purpose.
But beware, certain solutions only offer certain features - which can restrict your results. For example, if you’re deadset on including a call-to-action in your ad, you’re gonna need to follow the options which fall into the Consideration or Conversion fields.
Calls to action are chosen from a drop down menu which offers short, relevant verbs that instruct your audience to take the next step:
So, let’s say you want to get eyeballs on your latest blog post - as top of the funnel content, you may just want to stick with the default Learn More call-to-action.
But if you’re advertising a newsletter or your latest case study, you’ll need to opt for more conversion orientated language such as Sign up or Download. Simple, right?
Creating your Advert Set
Now it’s time to decide who exactly you want to see your ad.
Advert Sets are a selection of criteria - defined by you - which help to build a relevant, targeted audience for your ad. Data is pulled from users’ Instagram profiles - and Facebook too (if they have a linked account).
If you’ve previously created audiences you can choose these from the Saved Audiences drop down.
If you’re starting from scratch - here’s what’s up...
Start off by selecting the traffic destination. Likelihood is you’ll want to drive your audience to your site - but there’s also an app option for those wanting to - yep, you’ve guessed it - send users to a specific download page in the app store.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Next up is location.
Now’s your chance to hone the destination of your ad. Do you want to reach people who live nearby - for us it’s Manchester - or within an ultra specific radius? How about people who have visited your area - or even people who have travelled through your neck of the woods?
Or all of the above?
AGE, GENDER, LANGUAGE
Turn your targeting up a notch by choosing age, gender and language.
Who is your audience? Are they senior level management, or young executives?
Decision makers come in all shapes and sizes - go back to your intricately crafted buyer personas and make sure your choices align with the relevant profile depending on the subject of the ad.
This one is super important. It’s the one that can make or break your results.
Similarly to Facebook Ads, Instagram offer in-depth segmentation. Refine your audience by choosing multiple filters from three main categories:
- Demographic: Everything from job title to financial status, education and relationships
- Interests: Encompasses industry interests, hobbies and shopping habits
- Behaviours: Includes digital activity, consumer classification and cultural influences
You’re really going to have to play around, try and test detailed targeting if you’re going to find the best audience filters for your brand. But start off simple.
Run two identical ads alongside each other, but aim them at different audiences and compare the results. That way you can start to learn where your ad successes will come from in the future.
With Connections you can include people who have already liked your Facebook page (you can’t access Instagram Ads without one) - or even friends of your Facebook audience.
This feature also allows you to exclude people from your audience. Say you’re already running an ad for your Facebook fans - or you want to avoid sending out top of the funnel content to leads who are much further down the path to purchase - this is where you take control.
Choose where your ad will show up. While there is an ‘Automatic’ option, which leaves this decision down to the data crunchers at Facebook (I wouldn’t rule it out) - you can also select placement based on platforms and device types.
Are your audience predominantly mobile users or are they digital eggheads who are normally glued to their mac for upwards of 9 hours a day?
In terms of platform - I’d recommend you keep your ad exclusive to Instagram. And the same goes for Facebook Ads. Each social media network requires its own style of optimised content, so don’t confound your audience by sharing your Instagram Ads to alien platforms.
BUDGET AND SCHEDULE
By this point you’ll have a good idea of your potential reach, as Facebook works in the background to bring you a conveniently specific estimate.
But it is your budget and schedule which will likely determine your daily reach. Or in other words: how many people are likely to see your ad on any given day.
This one is really down to you and your business. But don’t start haphazardly throwing cash at Zuckerberg - he’s got enough already. Keep your budget small to begin with and increase it once you’ve tested and adapted your audience.
When choosing your budget, you’ll be asked to select your schedule dates and whether your spend reflects your daily or lifetime. To avoid losing your money hand over fist, set your budget and choose lifetime. That way you know how much you’re going to relinquish.
There’s also an opportunity to optimise advert delivery and choose your bid.
Based on your goals - link clicks, impressions, reach - Facebook will air your ads in a way that compliments your purpose.
Your bid will also have an impact on how and where your ad will show up.
But you’re best off leaving that on ‘Automatic’ for the meantime, while you get acquainted with everything else the platform has to offer.
What’s more you can choose the exact time(s) of day your advert goes out. So depending on your audience you may want your ads to be accessible during the daily commute, at work or in the evenings when they’re at home?
I do hear 5-9 is the new 9-5 when you’re targeting a business audience!
All that’s left to do now is name your Advert Set and start creating your ad.
Finding your format
Once you’ve defined your audience, it’s time to create your ad.
Instagram has also rolled out five different ad formats to help you get the biggest bang for your buck. Different audiences and different business objectives require different approaches.
So let’s explore...
Bread and butter stuff this one.
This feature allows you to create up to six ads using the same image, handing you the opportunity to play around with copy and call-to-actions, and determine which arrangement is most effective for your brand.
Simply select the image you want to use, insert the URL of the page you want to direct your audience to (if required), craft a hard hitting headline and additional text to clarify what it is you’re offering them, and choose your call to action.
Setting up video ads isn’t dissimilar from the above.
However you can only create one ad at a time. Usual restrictions apply, with a 2.3GB file size limit and the standard maximum time of 60 seconds.
Bringing a whole new dimension to your fingertips, Carousel ads have proven popular with Instagram users looking to up their game.
If you’re wanting to include multiple assets in your ad, this could be the best way to go about it.
The Carousel lets you create an ad with two or more scrollable images or videos, opening the door to the storytellers out there and/or those looking to promote numerous products.
It encourages deeper interaction with your ad, as users can swipe through your media as they please.
Each image or video can be linked to its own web page and copy can also vary. Which means one thing. More chance to grab the viewer’s attention and the capability to instantaneously send them directly to wherever they want to be.
The ads platform also allows you to control and reorder your content retrospectively - but remember that the first photo tends to foster the most interaction so be sure to start with a bang!
While not too far removed from how a Carousel would look in your feed, Slideshow ads work on loop. In contrast to other formats, Instagram recommend a widescreen ratio (16:9) for the videos or GIF style images you use. So make sure your assets are optimised!
Slideshows also have a 50 second limit, which is shorter than standard video ads - but this shouldn’t really hold you back. And it’s the only format that allows you to combine images and video.
The only real downsides that come with this format (compared to the Carousel) are that you’re stuck with the same headline and message throughout - and you can only direct viewers to one web page.
The sweet spot
So, now we’ve familiarised ourselves with the basics, how can you go about maximising the returns of your Instagram ad?
Well - just for you - I’ve assembled a bunch of go-to tips:
GIVE SOMETHING AWAY FOR FREE
Bare with. This isn’t counterproductive.
People love free shit, and they’ll love you for giving it to them.
Whether it’s eBooks, case studies, software trials or a consultation - your audience will be more inclined to click on your ad if they feel like they’re gonna get some tangible value from it.
Especially in the B2B world.
So make it worth their while.
USE POPULAR HASHTAGS
While including hashtags in your advert will not influence who sees the ad, when and where - there’s still a great reason for their inclusion…
Brands can use hashtags to send users (who choose to click on the link) to other content that’s relevant to the ad.
Whether its an already popular hashtag that’s being used as part of a wider marketing push or your own, customer campaign hashtag that keeps all your content in one place - hashtags have a big role to play in advertising outside of their usual promotional capabilities.
FOCUS ON QUALITY IMAGERY
Bucking the video marketing trend somewhat, images still perform better than video on Instagram. Traditional, die hard Instagrammers can’t get enough of a good photo.
Get creative with your image(s), but make it look natural/organic so that when it pops up in the user’s feed it almost looks like it’s supposed to be there.
Unearth an awesome stock photo or, better still, put your photography cap on and get yourself some original images.
Prioritise high resolution imagery and work your magic with editing software and mobile apps.
“Editing and/or adding a filter to your Instagram photos can increase the number of views by 21 percent, and comments and engagement by 45 percent.” - Hootsuite
WHEN IT COMES TO TEXT, LESS IS MORE
Don’t clutter your ads.
People on Instagram want clarity and simplicity, so don’t confuse the situation and essentially ruin your image by slapping on unnecessary text.
If you do overlay your image with copy - work out what you want to say, make it concise and make sure it befits the overall style of your ad.
You should also aim to keep your headings and captions short and sweet. You can use a maximum of 300 words per ad (including hashtags), so choose them wisely - no-one’s saying you have to use them all either!
VIDEO IS STILL EFFECTIVE (DEPENDING ON YOUR AUDIENCE)
With Cisco projecting that global Internet traffic from videos will make up 82% of ALL Internet traffic by 2020 - there’s some serious potential to engage and convert your audience.
While the image remains the king of Instagram, if you already post plenty of video footage to your feed, then your audience knows what to expect.
If you’re a video production agency, a stock motion designer, or the owner of the next big thing in video software - there is an opportunity to show people what you’re all about.
And don’t forget to take a leaf out of Charlie Chaplin’s book...
Ok… so we’re not talking Facebook right now.
But the world’s biggest social media network doesn’t lie.
People are watching more and more videos on mute, so create a video ad that gets the message across, sound or no sound. Silent movies are in.
Get ready to grow
And there it is.
Your (our) introduction to the Instagram ads platform, and how to make it work for your brand.
When 50% of Instagram users follow at least one business and 60% saying that they learn about products and services on the platform (Locowise) - the door is open for brands - just like yours - to get in front of half a billion switched on consumers.
The platform itself is simple enough to navigate, so there’s no worries there. And if you’re already a polished Facebook Ads user, it should all seem pretty familiar.
But at the end of the day, it’s down to you to refine your Advert Sets, get creative and produce ads that really nail the sweet spot.
The possibilities might not be endless just yet, but you can bet your mortgage that Instagram will roll out new, sophisticated formats and targeting features in the near future.
Time to join over 500K other Instagram advertisers?
We’re definitely going to be experimenting in the coming months...