Thursday, September 24th, 2015 | 9 min read
Instagram is one of the world’s largest and most active social platforms, with 400 million active monthly users, 40 billion total photos shared to date, 80 million photos uploaded per day, and 3.5 billion daily photo likes. It’s no wonder, then, that marketers are so excited about the photo-sharing app’s recent big push around advertising.
In March, the mobile platform launched Carousel Ads along with an in-ad call-to-action button, which takes people to a website to learn more. Then, in early September, Instagram rolled out the Instagram Ads API, allowing major social media platforms like Sprinklr to offer Instagram advertising.
How can brands take advantage of these new advertising capabilities on Instagram? What do they need to know to get started?
While advertising on Instagram is relatively new, there’s already a wide range of formats available. Here are the four major types of ads brands can create, and what you can do with each one:
Photo Ads ads are what most of us are used to seeing in our Instagram feeds: a single image with a small “Sponsored” icon in the top-right corner. Available calls-to-action include: Book Now, Download Now, Learn More, Shop Now, and Sign Up.
These ads can also be used to promote mobile app downloads with the following calls-to-action: Install Now, Use App, Book Now, Download, Learn More, Listen Now, Play Game, Shop Now, Sign Up, Watch Video, and Watch More.
Carousel Ads allow brands to include multiple images within an ad in a horizontal scrolling format. Instagram recently explained that Carousel Ads were created because advertisers wanted to tell sequenced stories that lead to meaningful results for their business.
Like Photo Ads, Carousel Ads can include call-to-action buttons that open a browser window within the Instagram app. Brands can use the CTA to link to a product page, a video, a form for lead gen, and more. Unlike Photo Ads, Carousel Ads cannot be used to promote mobile app downloads.
Video ads have given some of the best returns in terms of engagement on social platforms, and this feature is a powerful way to reach Instagram’s audience. Users need to activate the sound on Instagram video ads in order to hear it, so it’s key to tell a story through compelling visuals that don’t depend on audio.
Video Ads also offer a call-to-action button, with options for driving website clicks or mobile app installs.
Here are some tips from Instagram on how to best connect with its community through video. These work for paid as well as organic content.
Marquee Ads are the latest addition to Instagram’s suite of advertising formats. Marquee is a single-day campaign offering guaranteed impressions and placement in the top ad position of Instagram’s feed. With the Marquee format, brands can show an ad with varying creative to the same user up to three times a day.
This tip may seem a little obvious, but it should be included in any post on Instagram best practices: make sure you only use outstanding images and video in your campaign. Unlike ads on other social channels, where the copy and/or CTA text are the focal point, Instagram advertising is all about inspiring visuals. This means that you should avoid simply reformatting ads created for other platforms to fit Instagram’s specs; your Instagram ads need to be designed with the mobile channel’s unique features in mind.
This doesn’t necessarily require spending a fortune on professional photography or videography, but brands should take the time to create well-composed, attention-grabbing images and entertaining video that immediately stand out in their audience’s Instagram feed.
Here are four quick visual best practices that Instagram shared with us.
It’s key to have branding elements present in paid media images and video – this ensures brand linkage. This may be a logo, an iconic brand element, or something more subtle, like a brand color.
On Instagram, consistency is key. If Instagram users can visit your account and quickly understand your brand’s message, then they will be more likely to follow your brand and engage with your content. Brands should ensure that their message is consistent across both paid and organic content.
Ideas are essential in paid advertising to drive metrics. To say something about your brand, you need an overarching message in your campaign. An idea can come to life through a storyline, a specific visual treatment, or a theme that carries through your brand’s content.
Subtle details such as the rule of thirds, straightening, and symmetry make a big difference in the overall polish of an image and affect the tone of your shot. It’s also important to have a clear focal point; avoid using imagery that is a busy or has complex composition. Even better – make your focal point a branded element.
If a user is browsing their Instagram feed and sees a post that looks like an ad, chances are they will scroll right past it. The most successful ad campaigns don’t look like ad campaigns at all – they blend in with organic posts, providing the same experience a user would get from standard content. In other words, they’re native. This means that, rather than disrupting a user’s Instagram feed with content that feels salesy or spammy, the ads fit seamlessly with the overall Instagram experience.
One of the benefits of Facebook owning Instagram is that brands can reuse their premade Facebook ad targeting for their Instagram campaigns. This means that Facebook interests, categories, and behaviors; connections; WiFi; and attribution windows can all be applied to Instagram ad campaigns, ensuring brands reach the right audience across both platforms. Additionally, campaigns can be deployed across both platforms at the same time, giving brands the opportunity to cross promote and optimize on two of the biggest, most active social platforms at once.
Social listening isn’t only useful for improving audience engagement or informing organic content; it can also help to optimize ad campaigns.
Brands can use their social media management platform to listen to their target audience, understand what they’re talking about online, and then make informed decisions about what kind of content to put in their advertising on Instagram.
Take, for example, a media network that wants to market its hit show on Instagram. It can listen to social chatter from millennials age 18-25 to find out who their favorite character is, then create ads featuring that character. Social listening can also help brands figure out which keywords to place in their ads so they’re most successful, if they should use static images or video, and which hashtags will generate the most views.
These five tips should help your brand get its bearings with Instagram advertising. Over to you: what questions do you have about advertising on everyone’s favorite mobile image sharing channel?
About the Author: Chloe Mason Gray is the Blog Content Manager at Sprinklr. Her writing on marketing, travel, and career development has been published by Mashable, Forbes, KISSmetrics, Entrepreneur, The Daily Muse, the Human Parts Medium collection, and other sites across the web.