The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide to Advertising on Instagram

Instagram is king when it comes to sharing visual content. This is why Instagram generates so much engagement for its users, even if they’re only posting photos of their pets or their latest entrée at a restaurant. People simply enjoy scrolling through the endless waves of colorful, stimulating content that Instagram provides.

This might explain why Instagram boasts over one billion active monthly users around the world. Instagram’s rise to prominence has been nothing short of meteoric, making rivals Snapchat and parent company Facebook look like small-time players by comparison.

In May 2012, Instagram had only 50 million unique monthly users and only 500 million in June 2016. In other words, Instagram’s growth trajectory has reached near-exponential status. For this reason, Instagram remains one of the most compelling draws for marketers and advertisers alike.

With the recent launch of Instagram’s long-form video sharing app, Instagram TV (IGTV), there’s never been a better time to invest in Instagram ads. Take advantage of this growing platform’s sky-high engagement rate by designing an Instagram ads campaign—get started by following these steps below.

Table of Contents

Why Instagram Ads?

A recent report found that 75 percent of Instagram users “take action”—such as visiting an online store or clicking a link—after being prompted by an Instagram post. There’s just something especially enticing about an Instagram ad in someone’s timeline that Facebook or Snapchat can’t offer.

Among niche industries and interests, Instagram is in a league of its own. For instance, users who are into “high fashion” brands follow 2.5 times more Instagram accounts than the average Instagram user, and they check their Instagram feeds more than a dozen times per day. In other words, Instagram is home to devoted fan bases that keep coming back for more content.

The key to a successful Instagram ad campaign is to capitalize on the energy and enthusiasm of Instagram’s niche communities. Whether you’re selling a product or service in the fitness, consumer electronics, or cosmetics industry, there is a highly-targeted niche that’s craving for more content.

Ultimately, people remember what they see, but not necessarily what they read. That’s why Instagram holds a special place in the hearts of savvy marketers and business owners—if you can show an audience what they want, they’re that much more likely to follow through on your lead and generate a conversion.

Instagram Ads: What You Need To Know Before You Start

Since being acquired by rival Facebook in 2012, Instagram has gone on to become the most sought-after digital marketing channel for brands looking to maximize their organic engagement. Unlike Twitter or Facebook, a visually appealing Instagram ad is guaranteed to generate Likes and Comments in numbers that dwarf those on competing social networks.

However, Instagram isn’t without its set of flaws. For all it has going for it, Instagram also has several unique setbacks that make it a bit more frustrating than other platforms. Below, we’ve listed a few of the most annoying aspects of IG marketing that you should be aware of before you get started.

To Link or Not To Link?

It’s relatively easy to find an audience on Instagram, but less so to lead them to your website. This is because clickable links are banned from organic Instagram posts. Instead, users need to be directed to the account’s bio section to find a clickable URL.

This is where most Instagram users lose interest. Unless you make the payoff worth their while (e.g., “BOGO Today Only!”), your audience won’t feel compelled enough to click first on your account profile, and then again on the link in your bio.

Fortunately, paid Instagram ad campaigns can now include a clickable “Shop Now” button at the bottom of their sponsored posts. Advertisers should always make use of this feature if they want their Instagram audience to generate conversions.

Underutilizing Audience Targeting

As a subsidiary of Facebook, Instagram has access to vast reserves of personal data. With it, Instagram has the capacity to zero-in on extremely granulated segments of the population. In effect, this allows advertisers to pinpoint their target market so that no impressions are wasted on users who aren’t interested in your product or service.

Not Using Stories

Today, over 500 million Instagram accounts use Instagram Stories to get the latest scoop on their friends’ and family member’s lives. However, roughly 33 percent of the most-viewed stories originate from sponsored posts from businesses. In response, about one-in-five sponsored stories get a response from their viewer.

These ephemeral ads are known to turn heads thanks to their eye-catching, full-screen format in a vertical orientation. Although they only display for a few seconds at a time, they provide a clickable call to action (CTA) at the bottom of the screen, which can redirect to an external URL or an app install page.

Running Your First Instagram Ads Campaign: A Step-by-Step Guide

To avoid confusion, it’s important to note right off the bat that, as a subsidiary, Instagram uses Facebook’s advertising system. Consequently, we will be walking you through the process of setting up an Instagram ads campaign while providing screenshots of the Facebook ads set-up process—this is because Facebook handles all aspects of ad creation on Instagram.

Step 1: Configuring Facebook Business Manager

To get started designing your first Instagram ad campaign, you need to access the Facebook Business Manager dashboard. This is the primary point of contact between Instagram and business owners interested in running advertisements on their social platform.

By default, Instagram ads run on both Facebook and Instagram. Once you’ve created your first campaign, you can toggle the settings so that the ad will only run on Instagram rather than Facebook. This is worth noting in case you find your ad not running properly or as frequently as you expect.

Accessing the Facebook Business Manager requires you to have a personal Facebook account, with a Business Page activated. Below, we’ve listed the initial steps to creating a Facebook business account.

  • Visit the Facebook for Business homepage
  • Select “Create Account”
  • Input your business’s name and location information
  • Continue the onboarding process by continuing through the on-screen prompts

After creating your business’s Facebook Page, you will have full access to the administrator panel. From there, you can add or remove members of your organization, including admins who can make changes to your Instagram Ads campaigns.

The Business Manager panel allows you to add or remove Admins on your account.

Step 2: Launch the Ads Manager

From the Facebook Business Manager, you can access the Ads Manager by clicking the drop-down menu at the top of the screen. Select “Ads Manager” under the Create & Manage tab of the menu. If you don’t already have an existing ad campaign, you can click the blue “Create Ad Account” button at the bottom of the screen to start creating one.

Follow the on-screen prompts to create your first ad account, at which point you will be able to create new ad campaigns on the Facebook or Instagram platform. However, you will have to verify your business first by selecting the “Start Verification” process from the initial Business Manager screen


The Create Ad Account screen is your first step toward building an Instagram ad presence.

In an attempt to minimize spam and malicious advertising, account verification is required of all new ad accounts. Usually, Instagram can automatically verify your account details to ensure they align with a real-life business. However, if their automated system fails to complete the verification, you may be asked to provide any of the following supporting documents:

  • Bank statement
  • Business license
  • VAT certificate
  • Phone or electric bill
  • Articles of Incorporation

Once your account is confirmed, you will be able to proceed to the Ads Manager “Campaigns” section where you can start designing and purchasing your first advertisements on Instagram.

Step 3: Start Your First Campaign

The Ads Manager screen, below, is the primary interface where users can manage their Facebook or Instagram ad campaigns. Under the “Campaigns” tab, the green “Create” button allows you to start your first campaign construction process.

The Ad Accounts dashboard is the central hub where your Instagram campaigns are managed.

You can select the green Create button to move on to the next step. However, it might be a good idea to first acquaint yourself with the various columns on the Ads Manager interface. Below, we’ve listed a few of the column names to help you understand what they mean and why they’re important for the success of your campaign.

  • Budget: The pre-determined daily spending limit set by the account administrator.
  • Results: The number of times your ad achieved its intended outcome according to the settings you input during the ad creation process.
  • Reach: The number of people who saw your advertisement at least once.
  • Impressions: The number of times your advertisement was on screen.
  • Cost-per-click (CPC): The average cost per result (i.e., URL click, swipe) from your ad.

Step 4: What’s Your Objective?

Instagram needs to know how you want your marketing funnel arranged. During this initial phase, it’s important that you specify one of the following overarching objectives for your Instagram advertising campaign:

  • Clicks to Website (Default)
  • Mobile App Installs
  • Video Views

Unless you’re advertising a mobile app or are previewing video content, it’s likely that you want to generate clicks to an external URL.

Therefore, your pay-per-click (PPC) strategy should be focused on generating reach or brand awareness through increased traffic to your website. Ensure that whatever website you link to in your ad is optimized for mobile viewing.

The Awareness-Consideration-Conversion panel helps Instagram learn about what you want your advertisement to achieve.

It’s worth noting that external apps or programs like Power Editor in Facebook can streamline and even automate the Instagram ads creation and management process. Here’s a short video tutorial that might help you decide whether Power Editor is right for you.

Step 5: Who’s Your Audience?

The most important step in the Instagram ad creation process involves targeting your audience. If you skip this step or overextend your audience due to the belief that “more is better,” then you’re setting your ad campaign up for failure.

The truth is that you need a focused and highly curated audience if you want the clicks you pay for to convert to sales.

Under the “Audience” panel you can create a new Custom Audience according to key demographic, location, and socioeconomic indicators. Alternatively, you can import an existing list or select an audience based on their ‘Liking’ behavior on Instagram and Facebook (e.g., target those who ‘Like’ NBC Sunday Night Football on Facebook).

The “Audience” panel lets you select who you want to view your ads.

It’s always a good idea to take the time to “micro-target” your audience by being as specific as possible about who your intended audience is. This way, you won’t be sending advertisements to uninterested parties—in turn, your value per “click” paid for will increase.

Be sure to fully utilize the “Detailed Targeting” section of the Audience panel.

Step 6: Settle on a Budget

The finishing touch on your first-ever Instagram ad campaign involves finalizing a budget. To do this, use the Budget & Schedule panel to find a daily budget allotment that you can afford while still satisfy your outreach goals. In the example below, we’ve used the daily budget field to ensure that we’ll spend no more than $700 per week on Instagram ads.

The Budget & Schedule panel lets Instagram know how often the ad should run and when it should stop running.

Like Facebook Ads, Instagram advertising has the unique ability to daypart. This a fancy marketing term for restricting the display of your ad to a certain time of the day. For instance, a nightclub might want to run advertisements on Instagram in the evening before people leave the house. By contrast, an espresso company would want to advertise first thing in the morning.

Instagram Ads vs. LinkedIn Ads

Both Instagram and LinkedIn are hotbeds of business-to-business (B2B) marketing. For this reason, they’re often pitted against each other by marketers and business owners looking to squeeze the most value out of their PPC marketing campaigns.

Below, we’ve broken down some of the key differences between these two B2B marketing platforms, and explain why you need to incorporate both if you want to maximize your potential audience and drive conversions.

Differences in User Intent

LinkedIn users aren’t there to zone out and scroll through photos of their friend’s puppy or their co-worker’s latest night out on the town. Instead, LinkedIn users know that the platform exists to serve working professionals and help them network.

For this reason, LinkedIn Ads are a great complement to Instagram Ads if you want to advertise job postings or new professional opportunities at your company.

Cost-Per-Click (CPC)

LinkedIn is more expensive to advertise on than Instagram. At present, LinkedIn hovers over the $5.00 CPC mark, making it far and away the costlier option than paying for Instagram ($1.28) or Facebook ($0.51) ads.

You’ll have to consider how much more every click earns you in real value compared to Instagram and other social networks.

Audience Targeting

Both Facebook/Instagram and LinkedIn allow advertisers to narrow their audience down to specific demographics and behavioral cohorts. However, LinkedIn goes a step further by offering targeting options by job title, company, and firm size.

Instagram marketers may want to tap into LinkedIn if they want to access white collar professionals.

Are Instagram Ads Worth It?

Instagram ads rank among the best regarding overall cost-per-click ($0.70-$0.80 on average). This is due, in large part, to the comparatively high engagement rate that Instagram enjoys when contrasted with other social network platforms such as LinkedIn and Snapchat.

In other words, advertising on Instagram offers some of the best return for your money. This is especially true of companies interested in advertising to younger age groups (i.e., 13-24 demographic), which have a significantly lower CPC rate than older demographics on Instagram. For this reason, Instagram is the go-to choice among youth-oriented brands.

Overall, Instagram is certainly worth the investment. For companies that target adolescents and young adults, Instagram should be the focal point of your social network advertising campaign due to its relatively low CPC for this age group.

Savvy marketers should consider combining Instagram ads with ad campaigns on other social platforms such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Snapchat, as well as pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns on Bing and Google for maximal exposure.

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