10 Mistakes Newbies Make with Paid Instagram Ads


Facebook does not share how much revenue Instagram is making through ads. Instead, they combine the revenue generated from all of their properties, including Instagram, in one unified report. However, some analysts value Instagram at about $35 billion. This means that Instagram is making billions of dollars in ad revenue each year.

Brands as prestigious as Apple, Nike and Salesforce all use Instagram ads to reach target audiences. They rely on the platform because Instagram has better engagement than other social networks like Facebook. For example, one study found that Instagram provides brands with 400% greater engagement than Facebook.

Here are 10 common advertising mistakes every social media marketer should avoid in order to get the most out of Instagram ads.

1. Misunderstanding the target audience.

Creating a great ad campaign requires that you have a clear understanding of the target audience. What kind of content resonates with them? What are the key messages that should be put forth in order to connect with them?

Misunderstanding the target audience can lead social media marketers to make poor Instagram advertising decisions that either fail to resonate or that create a negative brand impression. Before launching a campaign, be sure that you have a strong understanding of who your target customers are and what matters to them.

It is also wise to ensure that the target customer is someone who regularly uses Instagram, otherwise your investment is likely to miss the mark.

2. Failing to use a third-party Instagram analytics platform.

Instagram ads are managed through the Facebook Ads Manager. The Ads Manager provides social media marketers with information related to ad engagement, clicks and reach. However, the Ads Manager does not necessarily provide advertisers with the full picture. That’s why it’s important to invest in an Instagram analytics platform like Owlmetrics that has the ability to show advertisers metrics related to overall follower engagement, growth and competitor behavior.

Owlmetrics also gives marketers greater flexibility in the type of ads they can run. For example, if you are interested in launching an Instagram ad campaign that encourages users to share a specific hashtag, it can “listen” for a specific keyword to help marketers understand if the ad is effective.

3. Focusing solely on Instagram ads.

Marketers should be sure to spend time developing an organic Instagram strategy as well as creating their ad campaign. For example, you can encourage followers to visit your company website by pairing compelling content with a caption that includes a clear call to action.

4. Underutilizing audience targeting.

Facebook, and by extension Instagram, collects a lot of information about each user. This detailed data means that marketers can create highly targeted campaigns, ensuring each dollar spent on an Instagram ad is put toward engaging with the target audience.

5. Ignoring behavior-based Instagram ads.

Have you ever noticed that a specific ad follows you around online? This is known as a retargeting ad. Retargeting ads are a great way for marketers to improve the efficiency of their funnel by encouraging people who left the brand website to come back and convert.

Marketers can create a behavior-based Instagram ad that is shown to users only after they visit your website, or after they visit specific high-value pages like a sign-up or demo request page.

6. Miscalculating your ideal ad budget.

Your Instagram budget should be based on the simple math of your marketing funnel, and not on a hunch. Calculating your optimal ad spend will help you to create an ROI-positive Instagram ad strategy.

Information to collect when calculating your ad budget includes the average conversion rate of a website visitor to a customer, the average value of a customer within one year and the average conversion rate you historically see from digital advertising.

7. Driving leads to a poorly optimized website.

The majority of people use social media platforms on a mobile device. Make sure that you are driving Instagram users to a website that is optimized for mobile, as well as other devices. As you improve the experience of a user who visits your website from an Instagram campaign, you will inevitably improve conversion rates, which in turn will help you to reach a return on your investment.

8. Overlooking the importance of creating a unified campaign.

The best marketing campaigns use a cross-channel approach. While Instagram is certainly an important social network for marketers, display ads, content marketing and email marketing (among other channels) are also important to incorporate into a unified marketing campaign.

9. Disregarding Instagram Stories ads.

Over 250 million people use Instagram Stories each month, making it the fastest growing component of the Instagram platform. Brands like National Geographic, BMW and CrossFit (to name just a few) regularly use Instagram Stories ads to reach Instagram users in a unique and compelling manner.

10. Creating bland advertising content.

Since Instagram is a visually based social media network, creating stunning visual content is a critical component of any successful paid Instagram ad. Your target audience and advertising goal should dictate the type of Instagram content you create.

Whatever you choose, remember that great content is unique and shares a piece of your brand narrative with the target audience, even if they glance at the ad for just a second or two.

The Facebook Ads Manager has the ability to test multiple types of ad content to determine what content resonates best with your target audience. Once the platform has completed an A/B test, it can automatically select the content that performs better. Marketers should be sure to upload multiple content variations to make use of this advertising tool. 


Brands big and small are already using Instagram advertising to engage with existing and prospective customers. To get started, be sure you have a firm grasp of the target audience and the type of content they prefer to consume. From there, you can calculate your optimal ad budget, and can share advertising content that includes a compelling caption and leads to a well-optimized company website.

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David Epstein

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