A Step-by-Step Guide to Advertising on Instagram

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These days, businesses simply cannot survive without a social media presence. A vast majority of the public interacts on social networks for hours every day. If brands want to rise above the digital noise and be noticed, they too must join these communities.

Platforms like Facebook and Twitter are the 2 most commonly targeted by advertisers, due to their mainstream recognition. Many companies have flourished after interacting with users on these sites. However, there’s third popular website that all businesses should target: Instagram.

Instagram is a site where users can upload and share their photos and videos. Since its launch in 2010, it has proven such a massive success that Facebook moved to acquire it in 2012 for approximately $1 billion. It has since grown even faster than its parent company. Given the visual nature of marketing, Instagram is an ideal platform for brands to attract new consumers.

Why Use Instagram?

While it doesn’t yet have a user base the size of Facebook, Instagram is expanding rapidly. Young people in particular are flocking to the site. A study by the Pew Research Center found that 55% of people between the ages of 18 and 29 in the United States used Instagram.

That means more than half of the youngest generations are on the platform, which should make any brand wanting to reach the Millennial and Gen Z markets sit up and take notice.

High Engagement Rates

Multiple studies have found that Instagram has the highest engagement rate of any social media channel. Yotpo, for instance, found that Instagram traffic stays on the site 45% longer than Facebook, 62% longer than Pinterest and 40% longer than Twitter.

Instagram even tops direct traffic to a company’s website in terms of engaged interactions. Not only do Instagram users stay engaged for longer periods of time; they also purchase advertised products at a high rate.

About 30% of those surveyed said that they bought something they first saw on Instagram, while 72% said that seeing product photos on Instagram increased their likelihood of buying them. As the network currently has over 600 million monthly active users (and rising), it would be foolish for any brand not to take advantage of these remarkable engagement rates.

Targeted Advertising

One of the keys to Instagram’s success is its targeted advertising system. Based on the same methods used by Facebook, Instagram allows you to choose specific social demographics for your intended audience. You can even narrow it down to certain niche interests.

This means you can make sure that the people who see these ads will be the most receptive to them. It is far more precise and effective than stumbling around in the dark and hoping that viewers somehow find you.

Instagram also offers analytic tools that allow brands to measure the engagement rates and audience reach of their posts.

Proven Success

If anyone has doubts about using Instagram, the site offers a wide variety of brand case studies to peruse.

For example, the restaurant Dairy Queen launched a promotion called “Upside Down or Free” on Instagram. It was an offer for free ice cream upon a customer’s next visit if their Blizzard treat was not served upside down to them.

The campaign involved a series of carefully designed, eye-catching photographs featuring actors in upside-down rooms decorated to resemble the Blizzard flavor being advertised.

Targeted primarily toward people aged 18–34, the ads were viewed by an audience of over 20 million. It resulted in an 18-point lift in ad recall in a demographic notoriously resistant to traditional advertising methods.

Advertising on Instagram

If you believe that Instagram is the right platform for your brand, then you should move forward in creating content for it.

However, you should remember that what works on other social media networks might not necessarily work on Instagram. It is best to develop your content specifically for the platform, keeping in mind its unique trends and expectations.

Step 1: Research

First, do some preliminary investigation. Take a look around Instagram for a while and make notes. Observe what the typical post looks like, and what content seems to generate the most views.

You are going to want your campaign to fit in rather than stand out. This might seem counterproductive at first. After all, aren’t advertisements supposed to pop out and draw attention to themselves? However, obvious ads that don’t feel like natural Instagram content will likely be ignored or rejected by the community.

One thing you might notice, for instance, is that Instagram posts rarely have much text in the photos. Most of the description is placed in the accompanying captions or hashtags. This lets the image speak for itself.

People are drawn to Instagram because of the interesting pictures and videos. They want to feel that they’ve gotten value from what they’ve viewed, and flagrant marketing is a distraction from their enjoyment. Delivering that value through high-quality content is what ultimately grabs eyes and produces results.

Step 2: Planning the Campaign

As with any campaign, it is best to start with a conceptualization of what you wish to achieve.

Narrow down your target demographics. What captures their interest and imagination? Consider the brand’s image, and what you wish to convey about it. How can this be represented in visual form?

Most important of all, think about how Instagram can best accommodate and communicate these things. Will it be in the form of a single image? A carousel of multiple images? A short video?

The more thoroughly a plan is sketched out, the easier its execution will be.

Step 3: Setting Up Your Account

An Instagram account isn’t the only thing necessary to begin. In order to advertise on Instagram, the first thing you will need is a Facebook account and Business Manager. After creating an account and filling out the required information, you can link it to your Instagram account.

All you have to do is open Business Manager, go into Business Settings and then click on Instagram Accounts. From there, choose the Claim New Instagram Account option and put your Instagram account’s name and password into the required fields. Finally, check the authorization box next to the intended account and confirm it with Save Changes.

Step 4: Design Suggestions

For a photo, a 1:1 image ratio is the standard. The overall size should be around 1080 x 1080 pixels. If there has to be text in the photo, it should cover no more than 20% of the image.

A video advertisement should have the same 1:1 ratio. The file size should be no larger than 4 GB. Videos can be up to 60 seconds long, although studies show that audience engagement tends to drop quickly after 30 seconds.

Captions for both photo and video ads can be up to 300 characters. However, aim to make them as concise as possible.

Step 5: Creating Ads

In order to begin creating ads, go to Facebook’s ad creation page.

Choose the most suitable objective from one of the following options: brand awareness, reach, traffic, app installs, video views and conversions.

The app will then prompt you to create a name for the campaign. After inputting some basic account info, you will be prompted to define your custom audience. You can specify the audience’s age range, location, gender, language and a variety of other personal details.

Farther down you will find the section where you set the ad’s budget and schedule. The former can be set to either Daily Budget or Lifetime Budget. The difference between them is that the Daily Budget paces the spending on a daily allowance, while Lifetime Budget creates a finite spending budget between start and end dates.

There are further advanced options to optimize ad delivery and set bidding amounts for the ads.

Finally, after setting the ad’s name and clicking “continue,” you will be taken to the Format page. This is where you choose the ad’s appearance and the media it will utilize. You can also get a preview before submitting the order.

Step 6: Final Touches

Here are some last things to consider before publishing your content:

Visual cohesion is an important part of any marketing campaign. So, before you are tempted to slap one of Instagram’s trademark filters over your images, ask if it really fits with the brand’s established aesthetics.

Don’t forget to include appropriate hashtags. Hashtags are how many users find and stumble across content. Some brands create their own unique hashtags, usually related to a specific phrase used within the campaign. Other brands use currently popular and trending hashtags.

Also consider incorporating a link to a corresponding landing page. This is typically an offsite web page that acts as an extension of the advertisement, with similar visuals and additional information.

Instagram has also implemented a few helpful tools for advertisers. There are call-to-action buttons that can be attached to a post, such as “shop now,” “learn more” and “sign up.” Another tool in development will help disclose sponsored content.

Using it adds a tag at the top of the post that reads “Paid partnership with (company name).” At the moment, this tool will not be mandatory. Instagram is currently testing it out with a small group of businesses and influencers before implementing it on a wider scale.

It would be wise to disclose this information in any case, though. While the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t currently have a way to enforce its advertising rules and guidelines, that could change in the future.

About the author

Neal Hallenbeck

Neal Hallenbeck is a graduate of Adrian College. He is a freelance writer, media critic and computer game designer.

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