September 12, 2016

4 Tips for Driving Sales with Instagram Ads

Post by Adi Englander


In the six years since its launch, Instagram has become a dominant photo sharing platform. Its more than 500 million monthly active users share more than 95 million images each day.


Engagement on Instagram is astounding, making it a visual marketer’s dream. Instagram users like shared photos 4.2 billion times a day. With a global community like this, it’s no surprise that brands are increasingly excited about the advertising opportunities and business opportunities found on Instagram.

The company has released a number of advertising options for brands in recent months that advertisers love. Instagram’s ad formats have evolved to encompass truly compelling paid conversion mechanisms, such as call-to-action buttons. In addition, innovative third-party tools have developed solutions that leverage Instagram’s advertising API to allow people to create engaging promoted posts that convert more effectively than conventional ads.

Here are a few tips for successful Instagram ad strategies, to help you launch captivating ad campaigns on this hugely popular social platform.

  1. Leverage UGC as Ad Content

Instagram was built on its users’ beautiful photos and has become even more compelling since rolling out video options and Instagram Stories. There’s an authenticity to user-generated content (UGC) of this type that professional production photos can’t match.

Visual marketers who find the most success on this social channel know how to create photos and videos that are highly engaging, particularly when they are carefully curated or produced. They are also a perfect medium for connecting with fans and cultivating strong communities of interest.

The potential for brands is remarkable. Social recommendations are powerful forms of marketing. When someone you admire and respect recommends a particular product or service, you’re more likely to buy it, aren’t you? Imagine the impact of that simple, social dynamic applied to Instagram, and you have a sense of how effective Instagram ads can be.

Yotpo Ads

Yotpo-generated Instagram ads are powered by real UGC

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One company, Yotpo, has blended social recommendations with Instagram’s ad products to create an innovative solution. Using Yotpo, brands can invite their customers to share reviews and images of the products they love. Those recommendations and visuals can then be shared on Instagram as well-designed ads.

  1. Select the Right CTA

Unless your goal is simply to increase brand awareness with your Instagram posts, it’s important to remember that a strong call-to-action (CTA) is essential. A CTA’s purpose is to give prospective customers an opportunity to engage with you in a specified way. It may be to find out more about your product or service; make a purchase or sign up for more information and become part of a more engaged direct marketing channel.

Although organic posts on Instagram don’t allow you to include clickable links in their captions and comments, brands now have a variety of paid CTA buttons to choose from. Among others, these include:

  • Shop Now
  • Book Now
  • Contact Us
  • Sign Up
  • Learn More
Clickable CTA

An ad for the Job Today app uses design elements to draw the eye towards a clickable CTA

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Instagram’s solution takes care of the design aspects of the CTA and has pre-defined the CTAs you can use with your ad. The real challenge on Instagram is to pick the best visual to capture a prospective customer’s attention and motivate her to click on your CTA. In general, the best images are those that evoke strong emotions. Use high-quality, authentic-feeling images to create compelling, bite-sized experiences and that your audience won’t be able to resist. This is a great tool to use to quickly connect people with your products.

  1. Keep Your Visuals Simple

With visual content being the primary communication medium on Instagram, it may be tempting to use the platform to replicate ads you may be accustomed to seeing elsewhere. This is probably not the best strategy to use on Instagram.

Remember that at its core, Instagram is a platform for people like you and me to share photos and videos that are meaningful to us, with our communities. The Instagram crowd values genuineness and creativity. Content that is too obviously advertising will stand out as forced and won’t be nearly as engaging. Obvious advertising includes photos with blatant branding or images with banner text. Instead, keep it simple and aim for in-the-moment, real-life content.

Instagram Ads Sparkle Pink

Children’s clothing brand Sparkle Pink’s Instagram ads look like they could have been shot by doting parents

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Another effective tactic is to work with popular influencers who are passionate about your brand to help you spread the word. RhythmOne published a study revealing that influencer marketing on Instagram can have as much as eight times the impact of an equivalent Facebook campaign. A benefit of collaborating with Instagram influencers is that they often have deeply passionate followers, and their posts retain an organic feel that resonates well on Instagram.

  1. Make Sure Your Ads Are Seen

It sounds obvious, but you need to ensure that people actually see your Instagram ads. Even though your focus is on sharing great photos and videos as the basis of your ads, there is much you can do with captions and comments to help more prospective customers discover your promoted posts and entice them to engage with you.

To begin with, use hashtags in the text that accompanies your visual content. Think of hashtags as a quirky equivalent of SEO keywords. Instagram allows you to add as many as 30 hashtags to your posts, and the right combinations can go a long way towards making sure your ads come up in popular search results.

Qantas Sponsored Post

Qantas uses a hashtag and an extremely brief caption in a sponsored post

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When it comes to your ad copy, those descriptions themselves, the optimal length seems to be around 40 characters (about the same as a Facebook post). Yes, that’s extremely short, but bear in mind that your customer’s focus will be on the visual element of your ad.

Getting Started

Because Instagram is part of Facebook’s corporate family, brands have the power of Facebook’s ad targeting options available to them. Advertisers on Instagram can use the same Ad Manager they use for Facebook ad campaigns.

You can reach prospective customers based on their age, gender, location and a myriad other signals, which Instagram receives through those people’s interactions with other users. It is a truly powerful toolkit that will help you reach the right person with the most relevant ads.

Instagram’s origins as a popular photo-sharing social network have positioned it as a compelling platform for innovative brands. It has complemented its photo sharing base with video ads, Instagram Stories and CTAs that promise increased engagement and higher click-throughs.

Its huge appeal as a way to share great visuals with communities highlights Instagram’s potential impact as a means for brands to connect meaningfully with passionate fans and drive more sales through social recommendations and creative flair.Adi Englander is a freelance writer and social media expert who writes for Gerris digital, a full-service digital strategy firm in the Washington, DC, area.

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One thought on “4 Tips for Driving Sales with Instagram Ads

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