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The Complete Guide to Instagram Advertising for the Holidays

Guest Author

January 20, 2021  •  10 min read

What’s better than showing up at your customer’s door disguised as a Christmas caroler and asking if they want to see your product catalogue? Well…pretty much everything, because that’s really creepy. But seriously, here’s the answer: Using a visual platform like Instagram to engage audiences where they’re already consuming content and are most likely to be receptive to your message.

With 1 billion monthly active users, Instagram isn’t just a place for people to share fun selfies with their friends; it’s a robust marketing platform on which brands can create their own streams of glossy photos, videos, and content experiences.

And by running ads, brands can get those experiences in front of specific groups of users, plant call-to-action buttons, and take advantage of different media formats like Instagram Stories and carousel ads. They can also ensure that they reach people who are most likely to convert.

During holiday time, when you’re looking to round out the end of the year with a boost in sales, those conversions can be invaluable.

Here’s what you need to know to kickstart your Instagram holiday advertising & marketing campaign.

Types of Ads for Your Holiday Instagram Marketing Campaign

Photo Ads

Photo ads are image posts that can be targeted towards specific groups of users. They look just like regular Instagram content, but they show up in-feed with a small disclaimer that reads, “Sponsored.” As with organic posts, you can also include a caption for your image that lets users know where they can find more information.

Photo ads can include anything from glossy product images to behind-the-scenes photos and DIY tips. For your holiday advertising, you might show how your products can make great gifts or take the stress out of traveling this season.

You can also spread the holiday cheer by sharing how your brand partners with charities and special causes. For example, Johnson & Johnson launched a photo ad inviting viewers to “Donate a Photo” for charity and put those camera albums to good use.

Instagram Donate a Photo Example

Video Ads

Instagram video ads can last up to 60 seconds, and they provide a great opportunity to tell your brand’s story in motion. Marketers have flexed their creative muscles by using video to share time-lapses of product sketches, animations, how-to guides, and funny or thought-provoking short films.

In 2015, Bloomingdale’s came up with an innovative way to fit 100 products into one brief, interactive video. The retail brand quickly flashed a selection of items inside of its animated “GiftBot” machine, inviting viewers to take a screenshot and see which collection they land on. For the campaign, Bloomingdale’s made four of these videos in total – one for each of its holiday gift guides.

When it comes to holiday ad efforts, this tool can be particularly useful for sharing pre-made commercials, showcasing festive recipes or crafts, and relaying extended messages – like ones that are themed for “12 Days of Christmas” or “8 Days of Chanukkah.”

Just remember not to rely on sound too much (since videos autoplay on mute), and to grab viewers’ attention within the first few seconds so they stick around to see your full message.

Carousel Ads

Carousel ads allow marketers to include multiple images and/or videos within one ad. This format is interactive in that viewers can swipe through the ad on their own. If they’re really interested in your message, they might view all of the images or videos, but if they lose interest, they might only make it through one or two pieces. At the end of the series – or, carousel – customers see a “Learn More” button, which you can link to your website.

Brands might use carousel ads highlight steps to completing a project, showcase multiple features of one product, or even connect images together into one big panorama, like GMC did.

During the holidays, a fashion retailer, for example, might include images from a product catalogue followed by videos of models wearing the clothes. Or brands could try telling their own holiday-themed stories in a video, followed by images that highlight the products shown in in that video.

Stories Ads

Each day over 400 million people use Instagram Stories – the mobile app’s Snapchat-like platform of photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. And brands can reach people in Stories with their own ads. Just like a regular in-feed ad, it will fit natively into the Stories stream and include a small “Sponsored” disclaimer.

The Virgin Holidays airline, for example, used Instagram Stories ads to generate awareness for its different destinations and drive conversions online and in-store.

As a result, they saw a 2.84X higher return on ad spend and a 5X increase in video completion rate compared to previous Instagram video campaigns.

Generating Leads From Your Holiday Instagram Campaign

For many marketers, ads are only as good as the leads they generate – especially during the holidays, when they’re trying to drive big sales and meet end-of-year quotas. That’s why, no matter which ad format you choose, it’s important to understand how you’ll measure your campaign’s performance and gauge success.

Thankfully, Instagram’s advertising page has has a nifty chart outlining key objectives and metrics that can be used to drive leads on the platform. These include clicks to website, website conversions, mobile app installs, mobile app engagement, video views, reach and frequency, page post engagement, and mass awareness.

You might launch a video ad, for example, with the aim of driving holiday-time purchases on your online store. Reach and frequency will show how many people were exposed to your content; video views will tell you how many people watched your content; clicks to website will show how many people were interested enough to check out your store page; and website conversions will show how many people actually became customers.

Now you just need the right tools to help you reach those goals. Let’s take a look at the most effective ones.

Advanced Targeting Options Through Facebook

Thanks to Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, the mobile app is armed with some of the most advanced targeting options on social media. Marketers can target by location, age, gender, interests, and behaviors. As with Facebook ads, they can also create Custom Audiences (people who already have data about through email lists, for instance) and Lookalike Audiences (people who are similar to your followers and customers).

Through Facebook, Instagram also offers dynamic ads, which target users based on their shopping habits. If a consumer puts a holiday gift in their shopping cart, you can buy ads that will ask them if they’re ready to purchase that product.

As on Facebook, brands can even target holiday shoppers – that is, people who engage with content related to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other seasonal shopping events.

Since Instagram ads can be purchased and managed through Facebook Ads Manager and Power Editor, that means they can also be bought in tandem with Facebook ads. This can be particularly useful for brands that are looking to reach a wider audience and bump up their metrics.

Call-to-Action Buttons

It’s easy to encourage viewers to take a specific action after seeing your ad. Just include a call-to-action button. Depending on their goals, marketers can choose from different prompts such as “Learn More,” “Install Now,” “Sign Up,” and “Shop Now.”

Retailer MeUndies, for example, used the “Shop Now” call-to-action button on its retargeted ads for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The brand built a Custom Audience of people who had already visited its website; the goal was to inspire them to continue shopping and complete their order.

As a result, the two-day campaign delivered a 5X return on ad spend and 25% lower cost per purchase than other social channels.

Shopping in the App

Instagram launched an in-app Shopping feature in November 2016. This tool allows brands to tag products in their images, which users can then click to see more details or visit the company’s website and make a purchase.

Shopping in Instagram App

“During holiday 2016, we introduced a few quirky products (a sleep mask, for example) to celebrate the season,” said Dave Gilboa, co-founder and co-CEO of Warby Parker. “Our followers weren’t expecting our brand to introduce new product types, so we used shopping tags to make it more clear that they were available for sale.”

Instagram Partner Program

Need some help navigating Instagram’s rich advertising platform? Look no further than Instagram’s Partner Program, which pairs marketers with tech experts who can help them grow their businesses on Instagram. At Sprinklr, we’re proud to be a part of this program as we continue to empower brands around the globe to reach new audiences with engaging content.

3 Tips for Holiday Advertising on Instagram

1. Take Advantage of User-Generated Content

Instagram gives everyone a chance to be a published photographer. That’s why it can be a goldmine for user-generated content (UGC) that is both professional-looking and engaging. By incorporating UGC into their campaigns, brands can strengthen relationships with their audience: Customers feel connected and grateful because they gain exposure for their creations, and the brand gets to share authentic content that users can relate to.

If you’re not sure where to find UGC for your brand, try running a contest. Marketers can encourage consumers to submit their own photos or videos for a chance to win a special prize, such as a product, discount, or holiday gift. In return, the brand gains exposure and a wealth of content at little to no cost.

In 2015, Starbucks ran its #RedCupContest. To participate, Instagram users posted photos of themselves with the iconic red holiday cups. The five winning customers each received a $500 Starbucks gift card.

2. Keep it Native

Your ad content should blend in with people’s feeds so it doesn’t disrupt the user experience. As they’re scrolling through, viewers shouldn’t be distracted by the fact that your post is sponsored, otherwise they develop a negative association with your business. If your content jives with the content they already choose to consume, they will be more likely to find it engaging and enjoyable.

It’s also wise to create ads that have a similar look and feel to your organic Instagram posts. This way, consumers will have an easier time associating your ad with your brand. Also, if they like your sponsored message, they know that they can go to your Instagram account for more content of the same nature.

3. Experiment with Vertical Video

Snapchat was arguably the first social channel to make vertical video cool. But now that Instagram supports vertical video on its Stories platform, brands are able to experiment the unique format.

’Tis the Season to Drive Leads

By using Instagram ads, you can reach people where they’re already consuming content, and drive leads with some of the most innovative tools available. Whether you choose to launch photo ads, video ads, or carousel ads, Instagram has a wealth of resources to help you boost seasonal sales and end the year with a bang.

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