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Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing
Free Social Media Course
View Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing

Free Course:

Learn how to actually use social media to successfully drive awareness, engagement, and more for your business

In this free course, you’ll learn:

  • How to choose the right social platforms for your business
  • Basic best practices for different social media channels
  • B2B vs. B2C practices on social media, and more!

How to Create Truly Great Instagram Ads

By Karisa Egan

Karisa Egan also recommends this free course, Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing.

How to Create Truly Great Instagram Ads Blog Feature

Instagram is by far my favorite app. I constantly check my feed to see what my friends or favorite celebrities are up to.

To me, Instagram is a personal way to connect with others by showing them exactly what you’re doing or what’s important to you.

And I know I’m not alone with my love for the app. With over 700 million monthly users, advertising your company on Instagram can put you in front of a whole new audience.

The best part? It’s all done right through Facebook, so if you’ve run a Facebook ad campaign recently you’re already ahead of the game!

If you haven’t been taking advantage of Instagram ads yet now’s the time to do it. Let’s break down how to do this.

Free Course: Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing

But First, Are Instagram Ads Right For You?

Unlike other social ad platforms like Facebook and Linkedin which allow many different types of content, on Instagram, the focus is visual. This is your chance to really showcase what your product, service, or brand is in a way that is memorable and unique.

Since it’s more of a visual app, Instagram evokes thoughts and feelings that other content-based apps might not. You can make your friends jealous by posting about your trip to Spain or make your family say “aw” by posting a picture of everyone gathered together for a reunion. If your brand or product can produce strong emotions or feelings then use it.  

Having a company that has a strong visual appeal like a well-designed product, a unique in-store experience, or bold, quirky branding could also be the formula for a strong Instagram ad.

For example, if you’re a makeup company, you have the perfect platform for highlighting the results of your product or, even a software company could show real people using their software or the results of how their software helps solve customers pain points.

If your product or service is hard to showcase through captivating images and requires more text explanation then it may be best to stick to the other ad platforms where you have the option to write more content alongside the image.

Instagram users are also in a totally different demographic than most LinkedIn and some Facebook users. While LinkedIn is used more by business professionals, Instagram users tend to skew young.

In fact, 59% of Instagram users are between the ages 18-29, so if your business has a target audience in that sector then you Instagram ads should be one of your focuses.

By going through and making sure your company hits all three of these marks, you’ll save yourself wasted time and money on advertising on a platform that just isn’t right for you.

What You Should Include in Your Instagram Ads

Once you’ve determined Instagram is right for you, it’s important to make sure you’re creating eye-catching ads that will get you the results you want.

Native-looking Visuals

It’s important to make yourself stand-out on a visual platform like Instagram, but not in an overly obvious way where someone knows it’s an ad right away.

Whenever I see super obvious ads in my timeline, I quickly scroll past them because I know I don’t want to be bothered. When I see something that looks native to the platform and similar to the accounts I follow, however,  I take a second to learn more. It’s less jarring and creates a more organic, less salesy experience.

The best option would be to have your own photos taken and on-hand for the ad. This will produce the most natural image for the ad. If you don’t have the budget or resources for that, the next best step would be to search resources like Unsplash, StockSnap, or one of these sites, to find images that fit with your ad strategy.

Here’s an example from Lenscrafter of a captivating, yet natural looking image that actually got me to click through and learn more.


Minimal Text

They should also have very little text on them, not only to be visually appealing and avoid looking spammy but to oblige by Facebook’s rules.

Ads and sponsored stories in the newsfeed may not include images made up of more than 20% text, including logos and slogans, excluding Book/Album Covers, Product Imagery, Games, and Event Posters.

But this is ok! Unlike user posts, Instagram ads include a call-to-action button that allows you to link viewers out to another location.

Ideally, you’d want to be able to only post an image and put the information in the caption and button, but for some posts, like an event, you may have to add some extra information.

Here’s an example from MileIQ where they added in just the right amount of text to give you a little more insight into what the product is.


Optimized Captions

Finding a balance between informative and salesy content can be difficult in any medium, but with Instagram ads not only does your image need to be good, but your caption needs to be on point as well.

You want to make sure the caption relates to the image you’ve selected and gives enough information as to what your goal of the ad is without rambling.

Make sure it relates to the image and resonates with your audience and brand. You want it to be informative but not give everything away so they click through and complete the goal you laid out earlier.

Here’s a great example from Hendge Docks where they pull in a testimonial from a relevant source. Not only does the caption reiterate what the product is, it also pulls in social proof and makes you trust the brand a little bit more.



Use a hashtag to get your ad shown not only in your target audience feeds, but a wider relevant audience.  

Start be researching some popular hashtags related to your industry/service and used by your audience. Check out what kind of posts are shown in that hashtag and make sure it makes sense for your ad to feature the hashtag in the caption.

Here’s an example from Aerie that includes a relevant hashtag for the brand’s campaign.


The hashtag not only encourages people to share their experiences using it but also highlights the brand's emphasis on positive body image and real beauty.

How to Setup Your First Instagram Ad


Before you set up your first ad, it’s important to build the strategy behind it.

Start with the goal of the ad; what are you trying to accomplish? Are you trying to get 50 demo requests from this ad? Get 1000 website visits? You need to know where you’re going before you can start action; otherwise, you won’t know if what you’re doing is actually working.


Now that you have a goal, who needs to see this ad?

Go back through your buyer personas and pull all the demographics of the persona that would be interested in this offer. On Instagram, you have access to the same audience options you have with Facebook; age, job titles, interests, etc.

Plan all of this out before you head into the actual tool so you have even more of an understanding of who you’re looking to attract.


Once you’ve laid out a goal and audience it’s time to set your budget.

How much can you afford to spend on the ad? If you want X amount of demo requests, what do you think this is going to cost?

This part is where you’re going to have to do a little testing. The budget depends on how targeted your ad is, whether it’s a video or a single image and whether you choose to do a daily or lifetime budget.

For your first ad, I suggest starting with a $50 lifetime budget. This way you can see how quickly you run through the value and how many conversions you get with it. It’s a good baseline to judge budgets later on down the road.

Now that you have everything laid out and ready, head into your company's Facebook Ad manager. Since Facebook owns Instagram they’ve kept the ad manager within Facebook so it keeps things pretty easy

Once you’re in the ad manager, you set up an Instagram ad the same way you would with a Facebook ad.

  1. Go to ad creation.
  2. Choose an objective from the list that works towards your goal
  3. Add a name for your campaign
  4. Create an audience for your ad that you already laid out in your strategy.
  5. Choose a budget and set your ad's schedule.
  6. Add a name for your ad set
  7. Choose the type of creative you'd like your ad to include.
  8. Choose a Facebook Page to represent your business
  9. Choose an Instagram account to share this ad from.
  10. Fill in the content for your head
  11. Choose your ad placement (Facebook, Instagram, or Both)
  12. Place your ad order for review

For more detailed instructions head to Facebook’s Instagram Ad guide.

'Gram it!

If Instagram ads are right for your company, brand, and audience then it’s time to get started!

These ads are a space where you can get really creative so don’t be afraid to test out some of your wildest ideas, as long as they work towards your overall goal. Which is why you need to make sure you start with a strategy and then go into creating the ad to make the process easier. Don’t forget to go back and report on the results of the ad to make changes if necessary the next time around.

Featured Image Created with


Free Course:

Fundamentals of Social Media Marketing

Learn how to actually use social media to successfully drive awareness, engagement, and more for your business

In this free course, you’ll learn:

  • How to choose the right social platforms for your business
  • Basic best practices for different social media channels
  • B2B vs. B2C practices on social media, and more!


Instagram Marketing
Paid Media
Published on September 21, 2017

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