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advertise on instagram

How to Advertise on Instagram: The Giraffe Guide

We live in an era when taking a photo of your food before eating it is the norm, the word ‘Instagrammeable’ has become an accepted and regularly used adverb and the commute from home would be a lonely journey without viewing our friends’ photos of their lunch  they had that day.

Instagram is a huge part of people’s lives and if you want your business to be noticed, you need to utilise every aspect of the app that can help your audience see your products and services. One of the best ways to get reach and engagement on Instagram is by using the app’s advertising feature.

What is Instagram?

Instagram is among the giants of the social media world, with one billion users and 500 million individuals using the social media app every day. It was launched to both Android and iOS devices in 2010 and was developed by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger.

After its rise in popularity, Facebook snapped it up in April 2012, paying $1 billion for the photo sharing app. It only had thirty million users before Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, took control of the social media site.

When did Instagram Advertising Start?

Instagram started advertising in 2013, but the platform’s tools changed when Facebook took over. Facebook really pushed the advertising feature of Instagram, and introduced both videos and directing messaging to the app. Back in 2016, it was recorded that Instagram have around 500,000 advertisers using the platform a month. However, in 2017, it was reported that the social media app hit two million monthly advertisers!

Why Should I Advertise on Instagram?

Instagram has a community of one billion users, so that’s a lot of people you can reach through social advertising. When you know the number of users, advertisers and businesses already using Instagram, the question of ‘Should I advertise on Instagram?’ tends to become redundant. Instagram is one of the best platforms to help you reach your business goals. The social media platform state that advertising can help with awareness (through reach, reach and frequency, brand awareness and local awareness), consideration (through website clicks, video views and reach and frequency) and conversion (through website conversions, dynamic ads on Instagram, mobile app installs and mobile app engagement).

Instagram, as they have the same advertising tools as Facebook, praise themselves on their ability to make your ads reach the exact audience you want, through their precise targeting options. These include location, interests, custom audiences, automated targeting, demographics, behaviours and lookalike audiences. This means you can find the people you are looking for more easily.

How to Advertise on Instagram

As Instagram state for themselves, getting started with advertising is quick and easy. You can set up, run and track campaigns all from one place. All you have to do is create a business page on Facebook and link it to a business profile on Instagram. You can then either promote through Facebook ads manager or select a post you’ve already shared and click the ‘Promote’ option. You then simply figure out how much you want to spend, select your audience and click publish!

Ads Manager

As we state in our Facebook Ads manager guide, ‘Ads manager is the hub of all Facebook advertising activity. As Facebook describe it themselves, it is an advertiser’s ‘starting point for running ads on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or Audience Network. It’s an all-in-one tool for creating ads, managing when and where they’ll run and tracking how well [their] campaigns are performing.’ Ads manager is created with advertising beginners in mind, so it’s efficient and easy to use.


If you’re deciding to stay in the app while advertising, you can either promote a post by directly pressing the ‘Promote’ button under it or going to Insights and creating a promotional link through there. You can then select your objective and audience, or let Instagram create a target group for you. Also, you can set a destination for your users to go to (either a website or Instagram profile) and add an action button. Alternatively, if you want to opt for a ‘Get Direction’ CTA button, you’ll need to add your location’s physical address instead. Finally, you can set your budget and then how long you want the ad to run for.

advertise on instagram

The Different Ad Types

According to the social media platform, there are three ways you can promote content from your Instagram business account:

  • ‘Promote a post that you’ve shared: If you have a picture or video on your profile that has earned attention from your followers, it would probably be successful as an ad to reach more people who are interested in your business.
  • Promote a story from your profile, highlights or stories archive: You can promote stories that are taken with the Instagram camera or that are in a vertical format. Some creative elements are not available with stories promotions, but try to capture authentic moments that speak to your business.
  • Create a promotion from the Promotions button on your profile: When you create a promotion from your profile, Instagram will recommend which posts they think will do well as advertisements. This option is best if you’re unsure which post you’d like to promote.’

Alike to Facebook, there are different ad types you can use when it comes to promoting a post. Each one delivers different results – some may work better for your brand than others. It’s all about trial and error and seeing what your audience reacts with the best.

Photo ads

Photo ads with copy are one of the most popular and common types of promotion. Sharing an image was once the only way users could post content on Instagram, but now it’s become a great way for businesses to showcase their products, services and latest news. When paired with competitions, photo ads can work particularly well in gaining engagement and reach too.

Instagram Story ads

Instagram’s Stories feature has risen in popularity since the social media site introduced it to users in August 2016 and as of January 2019, the Stories feature has been reported to be used by 500 million users a day. This makes it a great place for businesses to advertise their products. They keep your profile active and current, but only stay for twenty-four-hours. Instagram Story ads work in the same way as normal story posts but appear in between other users’ stories. They only appear once though, so it’s vital that story ads are eye-catching and of good quality – think of it as you’ve only got one shot that counts.

Carousel ads

Carousel ads are a great alternative to single photo or video ads. They are an interactive ad as they allow a user to swipe through three or four images. They’re useful if you’ve got multiple products you want to promote, or just can’t decide which image is best.

Video ads

Alike to photo ads, video ads are extremely useful for engagement. Video content attracts a lot of engagement, but Instagram only allows thirty to sixty second clips to be promoted. This means you’ve got to potentially fit a lot of information into a short amount of time. Subtitles are also a useful accompaniment to videos as more and more people are watching videos without the sound switched on.

IGTV ads

Instagram TV, a.k.a. IGTV is one of the newest features of Instagram as it was only introduced to users in June 2018. IGTV lets you upload videos that are up to an hour long, and unlike a Stories post, won’t disappear after twenty-four-hours. They are a vertical approach to video viewing and mirror the Snapchat format. They don’t necessarily have to be promotional but can help show users how your product works or showcase people using your service.

advertise on instagram

Sponsored ads

Sponsored ads come with Instagram business accounts and let you promote posts for engagement. They steer the target audience to a business’s Instagram profile, website or e-store through a call to action button (usually labelled ‘Shop Now’, but Facebook do offer other options through their ads manager). Sponsored ads let you promote a product directly.

The New Instagram Algorithm

We all know that the world of social media is an ever-changing sphere of updates and new features, and Instagram is no exception. The social media app is constantly updated and evolved, much to the annoyance of advertisers who think they’ve finally cracked the world of ads or gotten used to a new feature. New algorithms alter the way Instagram works, and they usually throw off advertisers who think they’ve figured out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to advertising. However, there are still a few ways to get your posts noticed and seen by your audience. Later has identified seven ways in which you can try to live with the new algorithm, instead of trying to fight it:

  • How much engagement you get: that’s right, the higher the engagement, the higher the reach. If your post has lots of likes and comments, then it will rank higher on Instagram feeds. It’s also good to reply to people within the first hour after they have commented on your post. If your post gets a lot of engagement quickly, then it’s more likely to be successful too.
  • How long people spend viewing your post: if users spend a lot of time looking at your post, then Instagram will deem it worthy. That means lengthy, interesting captions which need users to click ‘more’, may pay off when it comes to posting.
  • Your friends, family and favourites: the more you interact with a user, the more Instagram will keep you updated. That’s why you want to get into your audience’s good books. If they keep liking, they will keep seeing.
  • When you post the photo: Instagram luckily provides you with Insights, meaning you can see when your audience are online and active. Thus, if you post the photo around the time users are online, you’re more likely to get engagement, and more of your followers are likely to see it.
  • If people have searched for the account: if your account has been searched for by a user before, your posts are likely to show up in their feed.
  • Type of content the post is: the better the quality, the more likely Instagram is to put it higher at the top of users’ feeds.
  • If it gets a share into the DMs: if someone shares your post to another user through Instagram’s direct messaging feature, then Instagram will register this as engagement.

If these factors aren’t considered when posting, then they may impact how well the content does when promoted.

It’s important to always look at new and unique ways of communicating with your audience. Keep in mind that algorithms will change and what worked once, may not work successfully again. Stay on top of the latest news and keep an eye on what others in your industry are doing.

Setting Up an Audience

Instagram’s in-app advertising will create an audience for you, which they recommend you use. However, ads manager allows you to create and save an audience for future use, which will save you a lot of time in the long run. You can set up varied audiences with different demographics, interests and locations, so you can target them with a specific product or service. For example, if your business had five different offices throughout the UK, and you wanted to advertise a job vacancy in one of them, you could target people looking for a job in the London area. This audience would look different to the one that you were targeting your actual products to.


Instagram has a super nifty feature called Insights, which allows you to see the performance of your posts. It also lets you view the insights of your promotions too. Through this feature you can see how many people your post reached, and view who’s interacted with the content. Interactions, discovery and promotion (which lets you see how much budget you spent), can all be viewed through the Insights tool.

The Insights tool allows you to figure out the time when it’s best to post or promote your content. Insights will tell you when your audience are online and active, so you can parallel their activity to get the best results in terms of reach and engagement for your post. ‘Insights and metrics about your account include paid activity as well,’ so make sure you’re keeping an eye on the feature.

Our social media manager Joaquin’s favourite aspect of Instagram advertising is the Instagram engagement that comes with it. He states, ‘it’s great to see how using the right targeting can lead to a huge increase on likes and comments from people that are interested in yours or your client’s industry.’

Instagram’s Advertising Policies

Like we discussed in our Facebook Ads Manager guide, Instagram also follows the same policies as its parent’s social media platform. That means no offensive language, no adult or sensational content, no promotion of tobacco or drugs and no ads that promote surveillance equipment or spyware. It’s a long list that should be studied and recalled every time you advertise, especially if you’re in the finance or pharmaceutical industries.

As it is primarily a photo sharing app, you need to take particular care in the images and videos you choose. Make sure there is less than 20% text in the image, or it won’t get very far, and ensure the pictures aren’t blurry or distorted.

Luckily, Facebook has provided advertisers with a really nifty tool called Text Overlay. You simply upload the image you want to use in an Instagram promotion to the tool and Facebook will analyse and rate it. If it classes it as ‘OK’, then the advert will run normally, with no limitations. On the other hand, if it classes it as ‘Low’ then Facebook state the advert’s reach may be slightly lower than if the image was ‘OK’. Furthermore, if the image is highlighted as ‘Medium’, it is predicted to be much lower. However, if Facebook mark it as ‘High’, then is may not run at all! Sometimes Facebook will see shapes as words, so you can submit a picture for manual review if you feel there isn’t a lot of text in it.

What to do if your ad is disapproved:

Like Facebook advertising, if your Instagram doesn’t follow the social media platform’s polices, it’ll be disapproved. If this does happen, double check the policies and community guidelines Facebook have provided on their website. Make sure you haven’t included any questions alluding to personal attributes and that the URL included in the ad isn’t broken. It may just be a simple mistake, but Facebook will keep a careful eye on your account if you keep repeating the errors.

If you think the disapproval was an error on Facebook’s side and they have misinterpreted your post through their algorithm, request for a manual review.

Tips for Instagram Advertising

What works best is normally down to your own audience. Advertising on Instagram gives you the chance to get to know your audience a little bit more, so make sure you’re always learning from your mistakes and successes.

Our social media manager Joaquin shares his top tip for Instagram advertising: ‘A good tip for promoting is to make sure there’s always a call to action button whether it’s leading people back to your profile, website, or shop. Another great way to give your Instagram post an extra post is by adding locations on the post. This helps improve overall reach and engagement.’

Use the Insights feature to see when your audience are online and post around that time. This maximises the potential for engagement from your followers, thus increasing your overall reach. Also, make sure to add hashtags to your post, specifically in the comment section. You can use up to thirty hashtags, so make sure they are all popular and relevant. Both these will increase engagement and reach, so are useful if they are your objectives. You can then promote the content that does best!

Furthermore, our social media manager Dominic recommends advertisers to ‘add a ‘call to action’ button when promoting a post on Instagram. Depending on your objective this will help drive traffic and build brand awareness for your brand.’ When first introduced to Instagram advertising, call to action (CTA) buttons improved clicks by 45%. The feature really helped direct the audience to do something, whether that be ‘Learn more’ or ‘Shop Now’.

Make sure your video ads are compelling! You’ve only got a few seconds to catch your audience’s eye, so ensure you’re making a video that’ll stop your followers scrolling.

Should I Outsource My Instagram Advertising?

Social advertising can be a tricky and confusing place, especially with Facebook’s limitations, the list of policies you must abide by and the two different ways to promote your content (through the app and through Facebook’s ads manager). Outsourcing your Instagram advertising will be a huge benefit to your business. It not only frees up your time to get on with your actual work, but you can also relax knowing your social media is in safe hands.

Advertising requires a lot of optimising and checking in daily on the promotions. If you’ve got other things to do during the day, you may forget to check in to see how your ads are performing. It’s essential you keep an eye on what is and isn’t working, so you can replicate the successes in the future. Busy business owners won’t have the time to dedicate to this process, so it’s better left in the hands of social media specialists.

How Giraffe Can Help Your Business

At Giraffe, we specialise in social media and everything that goes with it. We have helped supported over 300 businesses in achieving their goals. We’ve also spent half a million on social ads, so we know what we’re doing! If you need any help with your social media advertising or want any more information on any of the topics discussed in this article, please get in contact today.