Since Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012, the photo sharing app has significantly improved its capabilities and user experience. Within that time, Instagram advertising has expanded to help brands engage and inspire users, and cultivate a thriving community of fans and advocates.

As a result, an increasing number of brands across product categories are investing more money in Instagram advertising’s standard photo ads (26%), video ads (14%) and carousel ads (11%), according to the Retail TouchPoints Social Commerce Survey.

Investing in any form of paid advertising takes time, money and careful planning. Despite more success stories emerging, it can sometimes be challenging for brands to determine how, or if, they should invest in Instagram advertising. This blog post will serve as your crash course on Instagram advertising, providing you with an overview of the different Instagram advertising offerings, their value, and some questions you should ask to guide your decision-making. We reached out to Instagram to get pricing information on each of these options, however, they don’t share that information with outside parties. So if any of these options pique your interest, we recommend contacting them directly:

Photo Ads

Businesses of all kinds are trying to push the marketing limits by telling their brand stories in more visual, contextual and relatable ways. Instagram Photo Ads allow advertisers to tie a call-to-action to a “clean, simple and beautiful creative canvas,” according to the Instagram Business site.

This advertising format is especially powerful if you want to boost brand reach and generate awareness to a larger audience. Tailor calls to action to encourage more specific actions, such as visiting the website, shopping a new collection or even downloading your mobile app.

Ad in action: McDonald’s is one of, if not the most well-known fast-food chain in the world. Despite its brand recognition, McDonald’s had a key goal of engaging millennials and satisfying their appetites. The chain threw away all traditional branding and came up with more than 50 images around a central concept: When you’re hungry, you see food everywhere you go. Delivering Instagram Photo Ads to users in Poland, McDonald’s saw a 57-point improvement in ad recall and an 11-point increase in campaign awareness.

McDonald's

Your brain on hunger.

Consider Photo Ads if you want to improve:

  • Brand reach and engagement
  • Website clicks
  • App downloads
  • Site visits for specific pages and products

Compelling calls to action:

  • “Learn More”
  • “Shop Now”
  • “Download Now”
  • “Contact Us”
  • “Register Today”
  • “Save Your Seat”
  • “Get Involved”

Video Ads

They say “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so a video can undoubtedly pay dividends for brands. The best part? Videos help brands tell more detailed and immersive stories. Instagram initially rolled out video to give users another outlet to connect with their fellow users. For brands, video ads offer the opportunity to create more immersive ads by incorporating sight, sound and motion. Not to mention, brands get 60 seconds to tell stories for each add, a substantial jump from the old limit of 15 seconds. Like any type of visual content, you want to make sure that if you invest in video ads, they are strategic and have relevant, compelling messages.

For example, cosmetic brands can show how different products work together to create the latest, trendiest looks. Food brands or cooking services can use video to provide fast-paced cooking commentary and recipes. Of course, the potential use cases for video ads are virtually endless, however, the key best practice to remember is that you align your video content with a relevant call-to-action that encourages your target audience to take the next step.

Ad in action: HappyFresh is an online grocery platform that operates in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Taiwan and the Philippines. Because online grocery shopping is still a relatively new concept in its target market, HappyFresh used vibrant photo ads that showcased specific products and offers. The company also used a video ad to walk viewers through the HappyFresh app experience in order to pique user interest and drive downloads. The purpose of the ad was to demonstrate how the app worked and the quality of the groceries shoppers receive. Targeting consumers near participating HappyFresh stores in Kuala Lumpur, the ads reached 3.6 million people in the area and achieved a 30% lower cost per app install.

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Bringing grocery delivery to the world.

Consider Video Ads if you want to improve:

  • Video views
  • Post engagement
  • Brand reach
  • Website clicks
  • App downloads
  • App engagement

Compelling calls to action:

  • “Watch More”
  • “Book Now”
  • “Download Now”
  • “Book Now”
  • “Shop Now”
  • “Apply Now”

Carousel Ads

We consider carousel ads a happy middle ground for brands that want to up the ante on their Instagram advertising, but their product offerings or services don’t quite warrant video. Rather than having one static image as the focus of an ad, carousel ads “bring an additional layer of depth to photo ads,” according to the Instagram Business page. Brands can feature four panels and combine a mixture of photos, messaging and calls to action. Users then swipe left and right to see all of the images and then click on a call-to-action to learn more.

Ad in action: Over the years, Too Faced has become a go-to brand for beauty lovers around the world. Known for its quirky product names and packaging, the brand wanted to drive awareness and excitement around its latest Chocolate Bon Bons eyeshadow palette. Using carousel ads, the brand was able to showcase a variety of creative focused on the palette’s unique colors. A “shop now” call-to-action ensured users were able to flow seamlessly from Instagram to the e-commerce site, so they could browse and buy as they wanted. During a week-long campaign, Too Faced published the carousel ad on Facebook and Instagram, leading to a 20% increase in Chocolate Bar Palette sales.

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Chocolate makes everything better.

Consider Carousel Ads if you want to improve:

  • Website clicks and conversions
  • App downloads
  • App engagement
  • Brand reach and frequency

Compelling calls to action:

  • “Watch More”
  • “Book Now”
  • “Download Now”
  • “Book Now”
  • “Shop Now”
  • “Apply Now”

Get on the Path to Advertising Success

The purpose of this blog was to break down Instagram’s different advertising options, their benefits and how they can connect users to brands’ products, services and stories. While we attempted to call out best practices and considerations, the most important thing to note is that there’s no silver bullet for successful advertising on Instagram.

At the end of the day, you need to establish your goals for a campaign, the audience you’re trying to reach and determine the role that Instagram plays in their day-to-day lives. From there, figure out what story you want to tell and what action you want them to take. This is your foundation for making the right Instagram advertising decisions.

If you want to learn more about how to create winning social ads, download our latest guide. Wanna be Instafamous? Check out these 25 tips from Instagram Influencers.