Instagram has never been more popular than it is now. It was already on the fast track to success when it launched in 2010, and it seems to have strapped on a jetpack after Facebook’s acquisition of the site.
According to eMarketer, the number of companies leveraging Instagram for advertising has steadily increased year over year, and this number is likely to surpass other social channels like Twitter by 2017.
Instagram is becoming one of the top channels for marketers, likely due to the fact that visual media is far more useful for engaging audiences than other traditional marketing channels online. Whether this popularity is caused by the expansion of mobile technology or the widespread use of smartphone and tablet applications by Millennials is harder to determine.
Much of the success that marketers have been able to attain from the photo-sharing site comes from Instagram’s advertising division leveraging Facebook’s data-packed advertising algorithm. The combination of the two advertising platforms allows for multi-layer audience targeting, including everything from basic demographic information to analytics on users’ behavior and interests.
However, using this powerful platform won’t necessarily guarantee a successful outcome for every campaign. Audiences are still a fickle bunch and your advertisements need to go far beyond the traditional “buy this now” approach in order to stand apart from the competition and reel in new prospects and customers.
Let’s look at how you can get more out of your Instagram ad campaigns with these seven tips:
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1. Use Instagram’s new zoom feature
Instagram recently launched an update to the service that gives you the ability to do a little close-up marketing with your Instagram ads.
Instagram’s new zoom feature allows users to pinch the screen to zoom in on both photos and videos. The addition was implemented due to the high number of user requests Instagram was receiving to have the feature added to its platform.
It didn’t take long for brands to start experimenting with the zoom feature, either. Some clever companies even tried out slow-motion effects and new filters, in addition to advertising through the use of storytelling on their Instagram feeds.
Each new feature offers opportunities for brands to flex their creativity and find new ways to make their ads shine through the sea of uninspiring, overly salesy ads pushed out by their competitors.
The zoom feature can help you amplify engagement on your Instagram ads, especially if you include a hidden gem that users can discover in your photos.
Tugging at their curiosity with the offer of somewhat interactive content could be enough to make them pause whenever they come across one of your photos in their feed.
2. Promote your best content
The typical approach companies take to generating new content for ads usually involves them carefully scripting ad copy and developing calls-to-action that will have the greatest impact with their audience. If you want to have more impact with your ads, don’t follow this approach when advertising on Instagram.
You already have a wealth of content that you know your fans appreciate.
Look back through your organic posts to find images that sparked the most engagement from your audience. Repurpose those posts as ads to get a huge lift in response from a wider audience.
That’s what Paper Boat Drinks did. Check out this original post on their Instagram page:
After seeing decent engagement on the first post, the company decided to reuse the photo and its caption to create an Instagram ad. At the end of a 6-week campaign, the post saw over 26,000 likes, a stream of comments, and a tremendous lift in their brand’s visibility.
Not every campaign you create is going to be a smashing success, given all the variables that go into creating and targeting ads. However, you can improve the likelihood of success by starting with something you know your audience already likes.
3. Improve your targeting
The fact that Instagram draws on the extensive user data available within Facebook’s ad platform means you can really zero in on your audience within Instagram.
But you have to know how to leverage different aspects of the platform to really make it work for you and your brand. Aside from the standard targeting mechanisms, there are some other features that can help you narrow your focus.
Custom and Lookalike Audiences: The lookalike audience feature allows you to create a custom audience for your ad that replicates your existing followers. This can help you bring in new people who have similar interests, demographics, behaviors, and employment backgrounds to your current audience.
Remarketing: Facebook has a pixel you can place on your website and track visitor behavior. While its primary purpose was intended for monitoring and tracking conversions from social, it can also be used for ad targeting.
You can then create a custom Instagram ad audience consisting only of people who have visited your website. Other modifiers can be added as well, such as only targeting the people who visited your website and either took a specific action or abandoned their carts.
Since the average cart abandonment rate is over 68%, remarketing through Instagram can be a great way to win back those lost customers.
Using the advanced targeting features will get your ad in front of the most relevant audience segments, which should improve your click-through rates. When you specifically target people who are more likely to convert, and your click-through rates subsequently increase, you’ll bring down your cost per click rate as well.
Spend extra time experimenting with Instagram’s audience targeting features, as they can dramatically impact your campaign’s performance.
4. Don’t make your ads look like ads
If you want to boost engagement and score more click-throughs with your Instagram ads, then don’t make your ads look like ads.
Your audience is far more likely to respond to posts that look like natural content as opposed to blatant product promotion. Incorporating actual people into your images and videos is critical; images that contain faces get 38% more likes than other types of content.
Make sure your fans don’t feel like you’re constantly trying to sell them something. While some won’t mind the marketing attempts, you should still aim to create the most organic experience possible. For this reason, plan your ads carefully. When you’re getting ready to launch a new Instagram ad, start creating organic, high-value posts with the same theme as your ad.
After your ad goes live, make a few similar organic posts. Creating a theme for your promotion will lead to a smoother transition that interweaves similar ads of both the paid and organic variety.
5. Use the call-to-action button
When you create an Instagram ad, you can include a call-to-action button near the image caption (bottom right of the image.) This CTA button is in the same spot for Facebook ads. The button offers you several choices in the messaging of your call-to-action.
If you find one that is relevant to your campaign, use it.
Clover, a dating app, launched an ad campaign on Instagram to promote their mobile app. The ad targeted 18-35 year-old singles. The goal of the campaign was to reach a wider audience and increase the number of mobile downloads of the app.
Using Instagram’s ad platform, Clover developed a series of ads featuring single men and women (see the above advice on using faces), along with the “Install Now” button on the ad.
“Hands down, Instagram has been the most successful platform for acquiring high quality app users,” said Kris Armstrong, Director of Marketing for Clover. “We’re familiar with Facebook’s ad management platform, which has really helped us optimize our campaigns quickly since Instagram uses the same interface.”
6. Promote with video
When most people think of Instagram, especially those who don’t use it often, they probably imagine an endless stream of static images. They forget that Instagram is also a great channel for promoting videos.
Videos instantly capture the attention of users because they stand out from the content around them. People love watching videos, even if they are short. When Instagram introduced videos, there were more than 5 million videos shared within the first 24 hours. If you put product videos in front of your customers, they are nearly twice as likely to make a purchase, especially if you couple it with a call-to-action button.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with material for a video, turn to your audience. User-generated content is a powerful tool for building trust with your community. Curate their videos or get video of your customers with your products on location or at events. Share their enthusiasm for your brand and promote those videos through ads.
7. Tell a story with image carousels
You aren’t stuck with a single image for your Instagram advertisements. The platform is based on a carousel, which means you can showcase more images for your fans to browse.
If you’re trying to sell a product or service, weave a story into the content to make it more engaging. Intrigue your audience with a storyboard of striking images that not only highlights the best parts of your brand but also connects with your fans in a meaningful way. Don’t just post product images; use photos that represent the experience of your product or service and how it makes people feel.
With Instagram’s carousel feature, you can build a connection from frame to frame, crafting a story and subtly enhancing your sales pitch within the ad.
Are you currently advertising on Instagram? Has your approach changed with the updates to the platform? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below:
Guest Author: Andrew Raso is the co-founder and director of Online Marketing Gurus, a fast-growing, award-winning search company working with brands including HelloMolly, Baku Swimwear, and Forcast. Follow him on Twitter at @andrewraso1 or on LinkedIn.