How to Create the Perfect Instagram Ad

By Mary Ivanova (1337)

With ads starting at 20 cents per click, the Instagram ad market is booming. In 2018, the app’s ad revenue is projected to exceed $6 billion. With brands rushing to cash in on the perceived high ROI of Instagram ads, you might find yourself in a pickle trying to stand out with your particular paid content.

In the face of such competition, every brand should be seeking ways to make every ad count. There’s a number of ways you can make your Instagram ad more appealing, so let’s take a closer look at the phenomenon and see what steps you can take to upgrade your Instagram ad mojo.

What makes an ad compelling? Surprisingly, it’s not how spectacular it is on its own, but its relevance to your target audience or, simply, being shown in the right place at the right time. To figure that out, you need to know two things – your target audience and what Insta ad options you have available to cater to that group. Assuming you’ve done your marketing research, we’ll skip the audience part and go straight into the ads and how to use them. Next, we’ll look at what elements of an Instagram ad work best and how you can implement it in your campaign.

Types of Ads

I’ll start with a brief overview of the ad macrocosm to get us started with understanding the different purposes Instagram ads can be utilized for. Simply put, I’ll classify all the main types of ads on Instagram and explain what purpose each serves.

Image or video

The most obvious distinction in the types of Instagram ads is, of course, images versus video. Advertisement options on Instagram include single image ad, single video ad or a carousel – multiple scrollable images or video.

Depending on the type of content you want to include in your ad, you can either choose to go with a static image that showcases your brand or product or present an engaging video that tells a story in just a few seconds.

Feed or Stories

The next major category of Instagram ad types is differentiated according to the placement of your ad – it can show up in either your audience’s feeds or Stories. The main distinction is that in a Story your ad by default shows up for a limited amount of time before user is taken to the next Story, while a feed ad is before your audience’s eyes until they scroll past it.

The option to run the same ad in both locations is also available, but due to the size and overall vibe differences between these formats, we’d advise to run separate campaigns for each of the two placings.

Now or later

We saved the most crucial classification of Instagram ads (for our purposes, at least) for last – ads vary in regard to the timing of the action they require. Your content can be calling for immediate action or aimed to prompt eventual action in the future or, simply, NOW vs LATER.

This determines the tone and emotion of your ad – with a now-ad you are aiming to up the emotional temperature to inspire action, while a later-ad is targeting users’ ability to retain information in their long-term memory in order to recognize your brand or product upon subsequent encounters. A now-ad would typically urge users to buy, call, visit website or page, install app, sign up for an event, etc. A later-ad is often a brand awareness one – it promotes brand recognition and triggers buying behavior at a time when your target audience actually needs your product or service and is actively seeking out options.

Most Effective Elements of an Ad

Now that we’ve learned about the key distinctions between various types of Instagram ads, let’s see what elements of such ads actually make them work.

Get to the point

Considering how little space and time your target audience is normally ready to dedicate to your ad, you can’t get to the point of your message fast enough. This might seem obvious, but having scrolled by numerous ads on my own Instafeed I can certify that most of them don’t even tell me what it is that they are advertising at least half of the time! Nondescript photo, long caption that gets cut off after the first handful of words or the first seconds of a video I have no idea why I should be watching are not going to get me even register your brand, let alone buy anything from you.

Go vertical

Sure, ig recommends using 1.91:1 format for your image ads but come on – scrolling past a vertical, or at least square image takes a second longer and gives you a chance of at least maybe being noticed for the useful information you (hopefully) provide for your carefully researched target demo.

By the time I scrolled to the bottom of this promoted post I was present enough to realize the shop was giving away free coffee. Should the ad have been a horizontal pic, I bet I would’ve been watching the next slime video on my feed faster than you can say “Ugh, ads.”

Try video

On Facebook and Instagram, people gaze at video 5 times longer than at static content. Video commands attention and conveys a message in just a few seconds, so you don’t have to include a long caption. “Video is something we’ve seen the most success with – whenever we use video content for ads, it blows up,” says social media guru and my colleague Oksana Danshyna, SMM manager at online graphic design tool Crello. “That’s why we’ve launched animated templates for social media last October and introduced huge updates just this month,” she says.

Use customer content

Another cool tactic in Instaadvertising is using user-generated content (with permission) – it’s genuine and blends in. Buffer suggests this strategy as such content does not immediately scream “sponsored”. Though, to be fair, that’s exactly what the note right under the advertiser’s username says.

Have a reason

Seeing how you are actually interrupting your audience’s experience with Instagram, at least try to bring actual value to them. Provide useful information (like times and dates of sales or upcoming events), host a giveaway or a contest, show ways to use your product that your customers might not have previously known about.

Bonus Tips

Here are a few extra tips you might find useful while preparing to run an Instagram ad campaign.

Exclude audience you don’t need

GetResponse provides an interesting insight into a campaign by online shopping hub Gilt, who excluded existing app users and current customers from their targeted advertisements – you are not only saving money you are not annoying the people you don’t need to annoy.

Use the Facebook interface

Although you can start an ad campaign via the Instagram interface, using Facebook Ad Manager gives you a little more audience options that help set ad showing to only your very narrowly targeted audience – not only does this save your money, it reinforces our previous tip. Here’s a brief how-to.

Check your text

Previously, Facebook had very strict text on ad image text rules which have since become more lax, yet an image you are using might not be shown to as many users if you include too much text. Interestingly, the algorithm is a bit unpredictable in terms of the size, location and letter count of the ads it deems “too wordy”. Use this official checker to see how your image fares.

In Conclusion

Well-targeted Instagram ad campaign may seem like an affordable option for many businesses, but it’s essential to use promotional materials that will prop up your brand. Make sure your ad is worth the audience’s time and attention, be specific about what message you want to convey and try to be useful – promote a giveaway or share a promo code. If you want to naturally grab your demo’s attention without being tacky, just use vertical images or utilize video for your ads.