Instagram advertising has come a long way in the last year. It started out as just another ad placement but has evolved into a heavyweight advertising channel in its own right. Almost all of the same ad objectives and formats that are available on Facebook are now on Instagram too. Here are some important lessons we’ve learnt about Instagram ads along the way…

Choose Your CTA Carefully

The majority of clicks happen on the CTA button, even more than on the image itself. ‘Learn more’ is a favorite among users because it’s considered a low-pressure call to action. Facebook ads have more text and headline options so you are able to communicate more info and qualify the customer more, this is where Instagram falls short.

We suggest testing ‘learn more’ vs ‘sign up’ if you’re going for lead generation for your store because users often are not ready to convert with the little info that the Instagram ad unit allows for. Instead, use your Instagram caption as a hook and then make sure your landing page is optimized for your desired conversion and all the necessary info is readily available. For e-commerce stores that want to sell immediately, ‘shop now’ acts as a great filter to make sure you’re getting user who click that are emotionally ready to browse/shop.

Images Speak Louder Than Words

The 20% text rule applies to Instagram too but do not feel like you have to include text just because you can. In general, text overlays on your creative do not work as well here as they do on Facebook. Instagram found success because of its simplicity and emphasis on visual content so you should incorporate those elements into your creative strategy. You will find that your image, video or images that you use on Instagram often need to be of higher production quality than what you are using on Facebook. You want your ads to fit in seamlessly to the user’s feed so go easy on the branding and focus on building strong visuals.

As a best practice, lifestyle shots with a product focus work best. Like Pinterest, people use Instagram as a source of visual inspiration and like the idea of ‘buying into’ a particular image that appeals to them. Try to keep the product as the focal point of the ad so that users know what you are selling as well as promoting the lifestyle that goes with it.


Don’t Let High Cost Per Clicks Scare You Off

When a user clicks on the ad they are presented with an overlay to confirm their intent. This overlay acts as a good qualifier making sure that the user knows where they’re being redirected to and confirming their intent a second time. This may mean fewer clicks and higher CPC’s but on the flip-side this also means fewer mis-clicks and by driving more qualified traffic to your site it’s very likely you’ll see higher conversion rates.

It is important to make sure you’re looking at the full picture and evaluating conversion data and not just looking at certain performance metrics like CTR’s and CPC’s in a vacuum. As we can see in the example below below, CPC’s were almost half the price for Facebook ads and CTR’s were double the rate we saw on Instagram. A pretty stark difference, yet, we saw almost identical cost per conversions.


If you’re dealing with low conversion volumes on Instagram then try moving the conversion event upstream, so instead of optimizing for clicks, optimize for events like add to carts, and purchase. Remember that Facebook has an insane amount of data on their users so if you select your ad to optimize for clicks instead of add to cart, or checkout then Facebook will only serve your ads to users likely to click, and these users are not necessarily going to add any value to your business. For brand awareness objectives where you are just trying to get your ad served as many times as possible, optimize for impressions just like you would on Facebook. This will ensure you maximize your visibility and use up all the potential reach Instagram has to offer.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

For the caption, you’re working within a 300 character limit on Instagram and only about 125 or so of these characters are visible above the ‘see more’ tag. Make sure you open strong and treat the first sentence like your headline.


Engagement Conversion Rates Are Sky High

Instagram users engage with more posts per day than Facebook users do. In the example below, you can see twice as much is spent on Facebook as Instagram yet the Instagram reach was only 17% less. Thanks to strong user engagement, Instagram has incredible potential reach for your ads and it can offer a CPM that is 40% less or more than your equivalent campaign on Facebook.


Think Mobile

It is incredibly important to make sure that your landing pages and conversion funnels are optimized for mobile, the fewer clicks the better. Guest checkout options are a great idea, you can then try to get them to sign up to your mailing list in a follow up email which they may be happy to do on desktop at a later stage.

Be Square…Or As Large As You Can

Instagram allows landscape aspect ratio ads too (1.9:1) but you should always opt for square aspect ratio if possible (1:1). With a square format your ad fills the whole screen as the user scrolls through their feed so you’re not competing with neighboring posts. You get more return for your ad dollars by using the square format, the lost ad real estate is marked with a red ‘X’ below:


Get Creative With Carousel

Unlike on Facebook, organic posts can’t include hyperlinks on Instagram. The app is immersive and the feed has an easy flow so users are more reluctant to click through on ads and be redirected to a website. By using a carousel ad, it basically gives you 5 chances to engage the user, sell your story and earn that click!