The Beginner's Guide to Advertising on Instagram

The Beginner's Guide to Advertising on Instagram

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Instagram now has more than 400 million users. That’s a big audience. For comparison, Twitter only has 320 million monthly active users.

But it’s not the size of Instagram’s user base that makes it such an enticing marketing channel—it’s the level of engagement that brands get on the platform.

If you’ve ever posted anything on social media as a small brand, you know how often if feels like you're talking to a void. Too often, no one even responds! No likes, comments, retweets—you get the idea.

Not so with Instagram. No matter how small your audience, your posts probably still receive at least a few likes and comments—especially if you use relevant hashtags.

According to a recent study by Forrester, Instagram drives more engagement than any of the other major social networks, beating out Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, and LinkedIn.

Kind of makes you wonder why more brands aren’t on Instagram, right?

The "Link Problem"

Classically, the big problem with marketing on Instagram has been the difficulty in getting your fans on Instagram back to your website. Since you can't place clickable links in your posts, brands must direct Instagrammers to the link in their bio, and continuously update the link as they post new products.

Although this isn’t ideal, Instagram has still been a major source of traffic and sales for many companies. In fact, Instagram was the most successful source of traffic in one of our recent case studies. All that traffic came from the same link in the bio.

But here’s the really exciting part. You can now include links to your website in Instagram posts—if you advertise. In the example below, the "Learn More" button takes readers directly to a webinar registration page.

Instagram link screenshot

This alone is a great reason to start advertising on Instagram! 

Introduction to Instagram Advertising

Instagram advertising is still quite new. Before recently, though, there was a workaround: sponsored posts.

In the past, if you wanted to advertise on Instagram, you had to do it by negotiating privately with other Instagram users and asking them to promote you on their account. While this could be a very effective way to drive traffic and sales, it had limitations:

  • Often expensive
  • Required reaching out and negotiating
  • No accountability or recourse if they didn't deliver
  • Limited audience targeting

Now, sponsored posts haven't completely gone out the window. Getting someone else to promote your product carries solid benefits. It provides social proof, adding a cool factor to your business, and of course, people are more likely to buy something when someone they trust bought it first. Plus, while you don’t have a lot of control over the influencers audience, at least you don't have to make any decisions about who to target.

Sponsored posts are still a great way to do influencer outreach, especially if you sell a product. 

However, there's now a new way.

How Instagram Advertising Works

Anyone can now create Instagram ads through Facebook's self-serve advertising platform. With it, you have total control over your ads, how they appear, and who sees them. And unlike sponsored posts, your ads get posted directly from your own account. The advantages to the new method include:

  • Scalable pricing
  • Self-serve, instant
  • Robust reporting, you’re in control
  • Highly-refined audience targeting

What's more, Instagram recently announced that they're moving away from a chronological feed in favor of a curated feed. This means there's no guarantee your followers will see your posts in the future. With this change, we'll likely see more brands starting to advertise in the future. 

Campaign Objectives

Instagram Ads offers several campaign objectives. These are potential goals for your campaign that you select from a premade list. Don't neglect this choice—it will influence how your ads are optimized and how you pay for them. For example, if your goal is to get more followers, you probably don’t care how people click on your link. You want them to follow you first.

You may already be familiar with campaign objectives from creating Facebook ads. However, not all campaign objectives available for Facebook can be used on Instagram. On Instagram, the campaign objectives to choose from are:

Clicks to Website - Send people to important sections of your website (make sure it's responsive).

Website Conversions - Get people to take specific actions on your website.

Mobile App Installs - Get people to install your mobile app.

Mobile App Engagement - Get more activity on your mobile app.

Video Views - Tell a story using video.

Reach and Frequency - Achieve predictable reach and greater control over message frequency.

Page Post Engagement - Get people to engage with your ad.

Let’s go over a few scenarios:

1. If you have an ecommerce business and you want to use Instagram to drive more sales, you could use the Website Conversions objective.

Example of website conversion Instagram ad

2. If you haven’t launched your business yet but you want to build your community, you could use the Page Post Engagement objective to grow your Instagram following.

3. If you have a product that needs some explaining, you could create a video tutorial and use the Video Views Objective to get people to watch it.

Targeting Options

Instagram ads have all the same targeting options as Facebook ads (woohoo!). These include targeting based on location, demographics, interests, behavior, and more.

Even better, if you have Custom Audiences, you can target them on Instagram. Custom Audiences are groups people who who have already visited your website or shared their contact info with you—and ads targeting these groups tend to perform well.

How to Create Your First Instagram Ad

Let's dive into exactly how you can create your first ad on Instagram.

Step 1 - Link Your Instagram Account to Your Facebook Page

The first step to creating an Instagram ad is to link your Instagram account to your Facebook page. You only need to this once.

Visit the Settings for your Facebook page and click on "Instagram Ads".

Facebook page settings

Next, click "Add an Account" and fill in your Instagram login credentials. If you don't already have an Instagram account, you can also create one now. When you're finished click "Confirm".

Add credentials

Step 2 - Create a Campaign

Now that you've linked your Instagram account to your Faceook page, it's time to head over to the Ads Manager and create your first campaign. If you're more comfortable using Power Editor, you can also create Instagram ads there. If you already create Facebook ads, much of this process will be familiar to you.

In the Ads Manager, click on "+ Create Campaign" near the top left corner of the screen. 

Create campaign screenshot

Next, choose your campaign objective. Remember that not all campaign objectives listed are available on Instagram. If the objective you're interested in is available for Instagram, a popup will appear when you hover over it.

Screenshot of objectives
The "Increase conversions on your website" objective is great choice for ecommerce businesses that want to drive sales. Note that in order to use this objective, you need to have a conversion pixel installed on your website. If you don't have one installed yet, you'll get a message letting you know.

Screenshot of website conversions

Resource: The Beginner's Guide to the New Facebook Pixel

Step 3 - Create Your Ad Set 

Once you've chosen an objective, it's time to create your Ad Set. This is where you define who you want to see your ads, and how much money you want to spend. All the same targeting options are available for Instagram ads as for Facebook ads.

Screenshot of targeting options

If you have any Custom Audiences already created, you can select them for targeting with your Instagram ad at this point. 

ResourceThe Beginner's Guide to Facebook Custom Audiences

When figuring out how much you want to spend, I recommend starting low. You can also increase the budget later if your ad is performing well. Screenshot of how much to spend

When you're finished choosing who to target and how much to spend, click "Choose Ad Creative" in the bottom right.

On the next screen you'll see an option to choose if you want to use a single image or video in your ad, or if you want to use multiple images (also known as a carousel ad). Once you've decided, scroll down to upload your images or videos.

Screenshot of where to add creative

After you've uploaded your visuals, scroll down further and you'll see an option on the left to add text to your ad. One Instagram, this will show up in the form of a caption.

If you chose "Send people to your website" or "Increase conversions on your website" as your objective, you'll also be able to customize the text on your link button. 

Screenshot of where to add text

Finally, to the right of the text editor, you'll be able to preview how your ad will look on Instagram. Here's how my ad would look if I uploaded a picture of our office dog, Petuna. You can also see how your ad would look in other formats shown below.

Instagram ad preview screenshot

You can run the ad on Facebook and Instagram, but if you only want to run it on Instagram, make sure the other distributions options have been removed. 

Once everything looks good, click "Place Order". Otherwise, go back and make changes. 

Place order screenshot

Step 4 - Repeat!

The first one is always the hardest. Once you've created your first ad on Instagram, it'll be much easier the second time around. In the meantime, use the Ads Manager to keep track of how your first ad is performing.

If you've already started advertising on Instagram, share your tips in the comments! 


shopify-author Casandra Campbell

About The Author

Casandra Campbell is an entrepreneur, craft beer nerd, and content creator at Shopify. 

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