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How to Advertise on Instagram: A Complete Guide (2021)

Instagram advertising is a relatively new marketing practice that offers big opportunities to small businesses.

With more than one billion active users, the social media platform helps brands reach out to a broad audience and build an eager following.

Whether you want to improve your strategy, run your first Instagram ad campaign, or simply get social media and find out what the fuss is all about, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s our comprehensive step-by-step guide to Instagram advertising — you’ll be a pro in no time.

Using the Facebook Ads Manager

Let’s start with showing you how to advertise on Instagram.

There are two ways to use Instagram advertising — through the Instagram app or with Facebook Ads Manager.

Compared to the Instagram app, Facebook Ads Manager has many more built-in advertising tools.

Despite being a bit more complicated, it gives you added control over your target demographics, ad formats, budget, and campaign length.

Step 1: Navigate to Facebook Ads Manager

To get started, make sure your Facebook page is connected to your Instagram profile.

Next, log in to Facebook Business Manager with your business account credentials. Scroll down and click Add Ad Account.

You can integrate an existing ad account or, if you don’t have one, create one.

Having this account will allow you to organize your Instagram ad campaigns, view their performance, and control the ad settings.

Once you set up an ad account, navigate to Ads Manager from the top-left three-line menu. Select +Create to start making ads.

There are two methods to set up an ad campaign — Guided and Quick Creation. For this tutorial, we’ll show you how to create one using the Guided option.

Guided or Quick Ad Creation on Facebook Ads' Manager

Step 2: Set your primary objective

Your marketing objective will affect how Instagram broadcasts each ad across the platform. So, you need to choose carefully.

For ads on Instagram, there are eight objectives to choose from:

  • Brand awareness — let your target market know about your brand
  • Reach — spread the word to the maximum number of users, regardless of preferences
  • Traffic — direct users to your website or app store
  • Engagement — lead people to interact with your page or posts
  • App installs — encourage users to download your app
  • Video views — promote video content
  • Lead generation — get information about people interested in your brand
  • Conversions — drive people to perform specific actions on your site or app

After picking an objective, name your Instagram ad campaign and enable split testing to evaluate the effectiveness of your advertising strategies.

We recommend that you enable Campaign Budget Optimization as well:

  • This feature lets you allocate a Daily or Lifetime budget for the ad campaign
  • With a Daily budget, Instagram will spend up to a limit per day, set by you. This option is ideal for brands with a fluctuating budget that determines the campaign duration
  • On the other hand, the Lifetime budget allows you to set the campaign’s end date. It also lets Instagram spend funds during that period

You can also change the Campaign Bid Strategy to determine how Instagram will make the most out of your budget.

First-timers can opt for the Lowest Cost option — after all, you have no data to develop your bid strategy yet. This prevents you from overspending or underspending your bid amount.

Leave the Ad Scheduling and Delivery Type settings as they are, and we’ll customize them in the later steps.

Once everything’s set, click Set Up Ad Account and adjust the ad campaign’s country, currency, and time zone.

The app will then redirect you to the Ad Set section, where you can move to the next step.

Brand Awareness Objective for Instagram Ads

Step 3: Define your target audience

Ads Manager lets you create a new audience group based on these targeting options:

  • Location — include or exclude people living in specific countries, cities, or addresses from your ad’s target market
  • Age — pick an age demographic between 18-65 or over
  • Gender — target only men, women, or both
  • Languages — while the app will include the official language of the targeted locations, you can manually add other languages spoken by your target demographic if needed
  • Detailed targeting — further narrow the audience by demographic group, interests, and user behavior
  • Connections — look for people linked to your brand

When you modify the settings, Facebook will let you know if your audience base is too specific or too broad for successful brand awareness.

Once you find the right balance between each setting, select Save This Audience for future use.

Audience Size for Instagram Ads

As your brand grows, you should consider using the Custom Audiences and Lookalike Audience features.

Custom Audiences helps you target people who have already interacted with your business, while Lookalike Audience is useful for finding users that are similar to your existing customers.

Step 4: Configure ad placement

If you want to broadcast ads on both Instagram and Facebook, simply select Automatic Placements and let the Ads Manager configure the settings for you.

However, if you only want to run an ad campaign on Instagram, choose Edit Placements and uncheck the other platform.

You can also choose whether your ads are shown on the Instagram FeedExplore page, and Stories.

Edit Placements for Instagram Ads

Step 5: Control your budget and schedule

Next up, it’s time to decide how Instagram spends your money, plus how it shows your Instagram ads.

Optimizing Budget for Instagram Ads

Here are the advanced settings that you can modify:

  • Optimization for Ad Delivery — define how the platform delivers your ads. For instance, the Ad Recall Lift method lets Ads Manager display your ad to users who are likely to remember seeing it after two days
  • Cost Control — depending on the chosen campaign bid strategy, you can set a maximum bid for each auction or control the average cost of the ad. However, selecting the Lowest Cost strategy from step two will disable this setting
  • Schedule — select the date and time range to run your ad
  • Ad Set Spend Limits — use this feature if you have specific budget requirements for that particular ad campaign
  • When You Get Charged — depending on your objectives, the app may charge you based on the CPC or CPM pricing models

Some objectives have additional settings you can customize for better ad performance.

For instance, choosing the Reach objective allows you to modify the Frequency Cap — stopping the app from overplaying your ad to the same user within a specific time frame.

Once you’re done, click Continue and go to the Ad section to finish your ad creation.

Step 6: Create Instagram ads

This is the fun part, where you can get started with creating your standout Instagram ad.

First, determine whether you want to feature an existing post or a new post.

If you want to push an existing post for promotion, simply select one from your feed and preview the ad. Make sure you include an appropriate call-to-action button.

Existing Instagram Post Used as an Ad

To create a completely new Instagram ad, pick a format — you can choose from Carousel ads, Single image or video, or Collection.

If you’re not sure which ad format to choose, take a peek at the next section where we’ll explore this topic.

Formats for Instagram Ads

If you want to show the ad in both Instagram Feed and Story, you’ll be able to upload one media file for each placement. After adding the files, click Edit to customize the image or video’s appearance.

In the Text & Links section, you can fill in the ad copy and links.

Write attention-grabbing copy on the Primary Text box, as it will appear on all placements. Don’t forget to choose a fitting call-to-action button.

Previewing Text and Links for Instagram Ads

You could also include a translation of your Instagram ad campaign in the Languages text box if needed. This is a great accessibility feature for brands with global ambitions.

Click Review to double-check the ad campaign details, then press Confirm to submit your ad for review.

Using the Instagram app

You can also advertise on Instagram by using just the app itself.

While advertising directly on the Instagram app is relatively easy, you only get basic control over your ad campaigns.

For better Instagram ad campaign management, connect the account with your Facebook Business Page via Facebook Ads Manager.

That said, if you’re new to advertising on Instagram, managing ads in this more simplistic way might be all you need to get started. Let’s go through the steps.

Step 1: Create a professional profile

To create Instagram ads and manage them, you need to set up a professional Instagram account. This type of account gives you access to business-related features for marketing purposes.

When setting up an Instagram account, you can opt for a Creator or Business profile:

  • The Creator profile is ideal for public figures like celebrities, influencers, and content creators who want to cultivate personal brands
  • The Business profile is more suitable for companies with a more traditional setup, who want to advertise on Instagram

While both profiles offer promotional tools, there are specific features on each that may be more useful depending on your user demographics.

For instance, Business profiles have contact buttons that redirect users to a phone number or email address so they can directly contact brands.

Another essential thing you should do if you want to advertise on Instagram is prepare a Facebook page.

There’s a huge benefit to cross-platform advertising.

Connecting your Instagram account to a Facebook page will give you access to all the business and cross-app tools on both social media platforms.

Instagram will prompt you to create a Facebook page if you don’t have one already.

To set up a professional Instagram account, you need to sign up for a personal one first, then follow these steps:

  1. Go to Settings from the three-line menu on your profile
  2. Go from Select Account to Switch to Professional Account
  3. Pick the type of professional profile that best describes you — Creator or Business
  4. Select the category your brand falls into
  5. For Business accounts, fill in the contact details for your Public Business Information
  6. The app will ask you to connect the account to a Facebook page. You can either log in to an existing Facebook account or create a new one
  7. Fill in the Page Title and Choose a Category details for your Facebook page, then press Done

Step 2: Choose which posts to push

Promote an Instagram post you already have on your grid, or upload a new post, then hit the Promote button.

When promoting a post on Instagram that’s already online, it’s worth finding out what kind of content is most successful for your brand.

You can access the Promotions menu on your profile, and it’ll tell you which of your posts will perform the best. Select Promote Top Post to go with the app’s recommendation.

Step 3: Choose your objective

By now, you’re already familiar with choosing an objective for your campaigns.

For each Instagram promotion, you need to determine where the ad will send people to — your profile, website, or direct messages.

Consider the purpose of the Instagram ad campaign. Perhaps you’re committed to lead generation, or maybe this promotion is all about connecting with audiences.

Destination of the Instagram Ads

If you simply want to generate more user engagement on your Instagram account, it’s best to go with the Your Profile option.

If you have a separate website, choosing Your Website allows you to turn the promoted post into a gateway to your website or eCommerce store.

This is great for pushing brand awareness. Plus, driving traffic to your website from Instagram will help with lead generation, getting users one step closer to buying from your brand.

You can also set up call-to-action buttons like: Learn MoreShop Now, or Watch More.

Pro tip — if you don’t have a website yet, use the Zyro Website Builder to create one.

With ready-to-use designer-made templates and AI-driven features, you’ll have a professional website in minutes. That’s not an exaggeration.

Back on Instagram, Your Direct Messages option is best for prompting users to contact you directly.

It’s ideal for businesses with customizable products or services, as customers are more likely to submit their preferences before making a purchase.

Step 4: Set your target audience

Instagram provides two ways to define your target audience — Automatic and Create Your Own.

The Automatic option lets the app analyze your followers, and it reaches out to users with similar profiles and preferences.

For better control over your target audience, you can go for the Create Your Own custom audience option. With this, you determine audiences based on the following metrics:

  • Location — target particular regions or local areas within a maximum 30 miles radius
  • Interests — match users’ preferences with your business’ niche
  • Age & Gender — select the desired age and gender demographics
Create Audience for Instagram Ads

As you modify the targeting options to create a custom audience, Instagram will calculate the number of potential people the ad can reach.

Once you’re done, name the new custom audience group for future use.

Repeat the previous steps to create multiple audience groups as needed, then proceed to the next step.

Step 5: Set your budget and campaign duration

You can adjust your ad’s daily spend by dragging the Budget and Duration sliders. Instagram will tell you the number of users you can reach based on your budget.

If you don’t know how much to allocate, feel free to follow Instagram’s recommended budget shown in the Learn about budget, duration & distribution section on the bottom.

The app won’t spend more than your budget limit.

Step 6: Publish your Instagram ad

The last step before publishing your Instagram ad is to review all the data we explored in the previous steps.

Make sure you’ve added the right information to optimize the ad campaign’s results.

Complete the process by making a payment, then wait for Instagram to approve your ad.

Is advertising on Instagram worth it?

Pretty much all brands should get social media if they want to connect with people — and Instagram is one of the biggest.

But despite mainly serving as a social media platform, Instagram helps businesses use paid advertising thanks to its massive following.

A huge 90% of its users follow at least one brand profile, with the main intention of looking for a reason to make a purchase.

Credibility-wise, researchers predict the app’s ad sales growth and a 46.6% revenue increase in 2020.

This shows that the social media app is a top player in digital ads, and will remain so for a long time. With that in mind, promoting on Instagram is well worth the effort.

If you already run ads on Facebook, Instagram lets you use its parent company’s user data to set up your target audience.

This helps you make a highly targeted marketing strategy, and saves you time by not having to start from scratch with Instagram ads— this means higher conversion and engagement rates.

While you can choose the target market for your Instagram ads, the app also broadcasts them based on user preferences.

By tailoring people’s online shopping experiences, it gives your brand’s Instagram ads a much better chance of influencing buying decisions.

How much does Instagram advertising cost?

As Instagram ads run through Facebook Business Manager, the platform uses similar pricing models as its parent company — cost-per-click (CPC) and impression (CPM).

The CPC model calculates the cost based on the number of clicks your Instagram ad gets. The CPM model requires you to pay per thousand impressions the ad generates.

The median average cost for Instagram ads is $0.83 per click and $4.80 per thousand impressions. Meanwhile, the median clickthrough rate (CTR) reached 0.55% in 2019.

Advertisers buy their ad placements through a bidding system.

The auction takes place each time the platform sees a chance of showing an ad. It regulates which ads Instagram should broadcast to a particular audience.

The following factors determine the winner of the auction:

  • Bid — the amount you’re willing to pay for the advertising service
  • Estimated action rates — the chances of an ad causing engagements or conversions
  • Ad quality — the ad’s ability to attract attention and generate clicks

While the bid size plays a big part in the system, Instagram ads that are relevant to their audience’s preferences have better odds of winning the auction.

So, all advertisers have an equal chance of having their Instagram ads broadcasted regardless of their budget.

Other factors that may influence advertising costs on Instagram include audience demographics, ad placement, and ad scheduling.

Because of this, ads with popular audiences tend to cost more due to the competitive bidding process.

The best way to reduce costs is to create Instagram ads that are compelling, and make sure they’re relevant to your target market.

Brands that are first-time users may also want to use the automatic bidding strategy, which lets Facebook manage your budget for the best results.

Instagram ad formats

Depending on the content and goals of your Instagram ads, some ad formats may suit better than others.

Remember, your ads don’t have to always stick to one format when you promote with Instagram. Create content that’s as varied as your brand.

Here are the six ad formats you can choose from when you create an Instagram ad.

Photo ads

Image

Any social media user is probably familiar with sponsored Instagram posts.

The classic Instagram ads format, this uses a single image to bring brand awareness to your product or service on your audience’s Instagram feed.

You can choose one of three formats when using photo ads:

  • Square — with a minimum resolution of 600 x 500 pixels
  • Landscape — the resolution must be higher than 600 x 315 pixels
  • Vertical — ideal for images with at least 600 x 750 pixels

You can add text to the image if needed, but make sure it passes the Text Overlay test. As a rule of thumb, the text on your instagram posts shouldn’t distract users’ attention from the image.

Since you only have one image to display on this kind of Instagram ad, make sure you pick a compelling picture to maximize your chances of getting clicks.

Video ads

Video

Diversify your Instagram ad content with single video ads. You can upload a maximum of 120-second video file smaller than 4 GB.

Facebook recommends keeping the video length below 15 seconds for better engagement.

Similar to image ads, this Instagram ad type has three different formats based on the aspect ratio — square (1:1), landscape (16:9), and vertical (4:5).

You can also create a slideshow out of multiple images with a 15 second limit.

If your audience uses more than one language, consider adding an SRT file for subtitles and captions.

Adding these texts will greatly benefit users with hearing loss and those who watch your ads in public places without headphones.

Carousel

The Carousel ads format can display up to ten images or videos within a single ad post.

Create Instagram ads in this format if you need to show off product details from different angles, tell a story, or explain actions.

The image and video specifications are the same as the ones applied to previous Instagram ad formats.

While you can include different-sized images and videos in the same carousel promotion, it’s better to keep the same aspect ratio and theme through the entire post.

Instagram stories ads

Story

Stories ads are videos or images that appear as users tap through the Instagram stories in their Feed or Explore sections.

If you want to pop up quickly on a user’s feed while they’re checking the app, Instagram stories ads are one of the best formats to choose.

Since Instagram stories ads use the entire device screen, they create an immersive and distraction-free ad viewing experience.

When using stories for Instagram ads, make sure that the visual content is shot vertically in full-screen mode, and has a 9:16 aspect ratio for optimal display performance.

The maximum duration of video-based Instagram stories is 15 seconds. For longer videos, Instagram will break them down into 15-second parts.

Remember, stories need to be instantly captivating. Story ads are all too easy to flick past while the user is checking the stories of the accounts they’re actually following.

Collection ads

Collection

One of the newest ad format options for Instagram ads is Collection.

In a nutshell, Collection ads display an image or video as the ad’s hero shot, followed by a product catalog at the bottom.

The hero shot can be in either photo or video form.

As the audience clicks on the post, the ad will enter full-screen mode — creating an immersive mobile experience.

You can include more than 12 images within these Instagram ads, with up to four products displayed under the hero shot.

Make sure you pick compelling content to prompt users to explore your full collection.

Explore ads

Instagram ads don’t just appear on the Feed anymore. If you want to maximize lead generation opportunities, use Explore ads as your ad format of choice.

The Explore page on Instagram is visited by over 200 million active accounts. It offers endless curated content in the form of posts, videos, and reels from all over Instagram.

Rather than viewing the content of accounts they follow, here people are shown posts that Instagram thinks they’ll find interesting.

For example, if you often view foodie photos, you’ll uncover plenty more in Explore.

Users on Explore are in the discovery mindset, which presents a great opportunity for promotion. Create your Instagram ad as a post, video, or carousel, then extend your ads reach to Explore.

Unlike the Instagram ads that show up on the Feed, these ads aren’t visible from the grid on the Explore page.

Instead, users will discover your promotion when they tap on related content and start scrolling.

This is a great way to blend Instagram ads into user interests — be sure to add call-to-action buttons to each ad to let people check out your full offer.

Instagram advertising tips and best practices

If you’ve read this far, we’re confident that you’re ready to promote on Instagram. Here’s our final checklist of best practices for serving Instagram ads like a pro:

  • Use high-quality content. Instagram is a visual platform, so make sure your Instagram ads are bold, bright, and captivating. Although it’s tempting, don’t go too heavy on the filters.
  • Be consistent with your brand identity. The style and tone of voice of your Instagram ads should match your website, packaging, and other marketing materials.
  • Keep content fresh and relevant. It’s not about posting an ad per day, but ensure you stick to a schedule with your promotional content, just as with any campaign.

Start advertising on Instagram today

Instagram advertising is simple yet effective. With the right ad campaign, you can take advantage of the platform’s massive audience to grow your brand.

Remember, there are two methods of advertising on the platform — using the Instagram app or the Facebook Ads Manager.

With the Instagram app, you need to:

  1. Create a professional profile
  2. Pick the post you want to promote
  3. Choose the ad’s objective
  4. Set the audience base
  5. Determine the ad campaign’s budget and length
  6. Submit your ad for review

If you use the Facebook Ads Manager, you need to:

  1. Navigate to Facebook Ads Manager and set up an Ad Account
  2. Pick the primary objective best suits your ad
  3. Define your target demographic
  4. Configure the ad placement
  5. Set up the ad campaign’s budget and schedule
  6. Create the ad

Written by

Author avatar

Martina

Martina is an expert in writing about website building and eCommerce, but her real passion is helping others grow their small business online. From solid branding to punchy marketing strategies, you can count on her for the best growth tricks. In her spare time, Martina loves nothing more than a good scoop of ice-cream and a sweaty match of tennis.

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