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By now, we all know that social media advertising is a “pay to play” world. 

If you want your posts to be seen, you have to put some money behind them to maximize your reach. But how much does it really cost? The short answer: it depends.

What are Instagram sponsored posts?

Instagram sponsored posts are the entry-level access point to advertising on the platform. 

Facebook (which owns Instagram) severely limits organic reach, causing the likelihood of your post being viewed without money behind it to be very slim. 

To overcome this, businesses are allowed to “boost” existing posts by putting some money behind them. This increases the reach of the post and it is guaranteed to be seen in more users’ feeds depending on how much money is put behind the post.  

A sponsored post, or boosted post, is the pared down version of an Instagram ad. 

All Instagram ads require you to select an objective for your ad and depending on the ad type, there are a slew of options to choose from. 

For a sponsored post, however, there are only two options: website visits and engagement (such as likes or comments). 

Similar to the other ad types, a sponsored post will display “sponsored” under the business’ handle in the top left corner of the post. This helps to subtly-yet-clearly make users aware that the images and information they are viewing have been paid for by a brand.

Check out the subtle differences below.

Non-Sponsored IG Post Example

Organic Instagram Post

Sponsored IG Post Example

Sponsored Instagram Post


Note that a sponsored post is not the same thing as a paid sponsorship, which you will see when an influencer is promoting a product on behalf of a brand. 

Photos of that influencer may be turned into an ad or may be boosted, thus causing them to appear with “sponsored” under the brand handle. Typically, however, sponsored partnerships attempt to blend in and look as little like an ad as possible. 

This is where you’ll most commonly see an influencer posting organically to his or her grid and then using the #ad hashtag to ensure that users know that they are being paid to promote the product.

You may also see a “Paid Partnership” tag underneath an influencer’s handle to indicate that they are being paid to advertise the product in their post. This feature allows the same transparency when using #ad, but allows both the influencer and the brand to gather better data on the post. 

How do sponsored posts compare to other Instagram ad types?

Simply put, sponsored posts are an easy way to dip your toe in the water of Instagram advertising.

Unlike other forms, they work off of existing content you have already posted to your Instagram grid so there’s no need to start from scratch. (This can be handy when you have limited resources available to create a fresh campaign.)

Their biggest selling point is that they will get your post in front of a wider audience. 

This is great for content amplification — getting more engagement on an already popular or important post or getting a larger pool of people to view blog posts and other content that has a high potential for converting.

This is also a less expensive option for building an interested audience for you to create look-alike-audiences off of to better fuel your ad targeting.

Remember, as mentioned earlier, there are only two objective options available for Instagram sponsored posts. This is a much more limited Objective set than the other ad types. You get what you pay for with Instagram advertising. 

Other Instagram ad types

There are eight other types of Instagram ads:

  1. Stories ads
  2. Photo ads
  3. Video ads
  4. Carousel ads
  5. Collection ads
  6. Explore ads
  7. IGTV ads
  8. Instagram Shopping ads

(Note: If you’re not familiar with all of these, check out Hootsuite’s article “How to Advertise on Instagram: A 5-Step Guide to Using Instagram ads” for a great breakdown of ad types and different use cases to be aware of. )

These ads are fully equipped with the bells and whistles that pro-level Instagram advertisers need to effectively drive results for their brands. 

They can be hyper-targeted and offer a smorgasbord of objective options and call-to-action options (i.e. shop now, get offer, watch now). These options give you more control and flexibility over your creative so you can more effectively match your specific needs. 

You’ll likely pay a bit more for these ads, but you’ll be able to customize your campaigns at a much deeper level. 

Overall, if you want good, measurable data and more control, go with Instagram’s full-horsepower ads, not the sponsored, or “boosted,” posts.

For a deeper dive on this, check out what Ali Parmelee - our resident Facebook and Instagram expert - has to say about using ads versus boosted posts on Facebook

(Note: Facebook and Instagram are owned by the same company and their advertising platforms are identical. Swap “Facebook” with “Instagram” while you’re reading, if it helps.)

How much do Instagram sponsored posts cost?

It’s impossible to make a blanket statement about price when talking about boosting organic posts. The quick answer is: you decide.

You could spend $1 a day or you could spend $1000 a day. 

It really depends on how fast you want to move the dial and how willing you are to properly train the algorithm as your account grows. 

A recommended tactic is to determine how much you’re willing to pay to generate the engagement or traffic you desire from the post and go from there.

Instagram will then work within your budget to get you as many results as possible.

Sponsored or boosted posts can cost much less than the other, more complex and customizable Instagram ads types. 

When you’re running these higher-octane ad types, we recommend spending no less than $3000/month, split between Instagram and Facebook if it fits your needs. 

This budget will allow you to go deeper into targeting your desired demographics and will help you cast a wide enough net to yield great data and good results. 

When considering whether to simply boost your organic posts or run actual ad campaigns, another thing to consider is who manages the effort. 

You likely don’t need an agency or expert to help you with your sponsored organic posts. They were created to be easy to manage without too much knowledge of the ecosystem. 

Instagram ads, however, benefit from deep strategic planning and expert execution. 

While it’s definitely possible to manage your ads campaigns in-house, a lot of businesses opt for hiring an agency or an expert to run their Instagram campaigns for them. 

The additional cost of hiring an agency or outsourced expert may affect your approach to getting in front of your audience, especially if you’re working with a smaller budget. 

How do I choose which posts to sponsor?

When choosing which one of your organic posts to put some money behind, consider the following:

  • Choose a post that supports your greater marketing goals.
  • Choose posts that are informative and engaging.
  • Choose posts with compelling visuals. (Video is always good!)
  • Be mindful of comments on the organic post. Address unfavorable comments before boosting and have a response plan just in case you get new ones.

Overall, you want to back posts that support your initiatives, but if what you’re looking for is engagement or awareness, look for posts that are already performing. 

In other words, look for posts that are already delivering in likes, comments, views, etc. As proven performers with your audience, these are likely wise investments. 

Regardless of which avenue you choose, start with a smaller budget and scale as you acquire more data around which types of posts yield the best results when sponsored. 

Always review your results and determine key takeaways for the next time you sponsor a post.

Take the leap

In email marketing, clicking “send” can sometimes be the hardest part of the job. 

Similarly, it’s not uncommon to feel a little nervous when putting your budget on the line by advertising on Instagram but you have to start somewhere! 

Choose a thumb-stopping organic post and put a little push behind it. 

If you’re just getting started, it doesn’t have to be a lot of money. Just enough to see what kind of results you can get.

If you’re an established brand, wrap your plan for sponsored posts into your overarching advertising strategy and continue to train the algorithm in your favor. 

As always, head over to IMPACT Elite and let us know about your experience with Instagram Sponsored posts - the good, the grind, and the great learnings that come from it. 

Free Assessment:

How does your sales & marketing measure up?
Take this free, 5-minute assessment and learn what you can start doing today to boost traffic, leads, and sales.

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