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How to Use Instagram Ads

Updated: Dec 6, 2022

How to Use Instagram Ads

Instagram is one of the best social networks to advertise on. It has grown to be just as big of an advertising platform as its parent company, Facebook.

As of April 2017, Instagram hit over 700 million monthly active users.

Instagram Monthly Active Users

That’s more than double the monthly users who are active on Twitter.

Your best bet for Instagram success is to share stunning visuals and high-quality photos.

This approach creates opportunities for nearly every kind of company. After all, even brands in the most boring industries can post pleasing images and videos to captivate an audience.

They can do this even if they don’t have a tangible product.

Add in a branded or targeted hashtag and you’ll be connecting with your ideal customers in no time.

But if you’re not sure how Instagram ads work, you may be feeling overwhelmed.

If you’re not quite sure how to use Instagram ads or you’re worried about how much they cost, read on to find out how you can run effective Instagram ads on any budget. Why you should advertise on Instagram

Instagram is growing and it’s growing fast.

It doesn’t look like it’s going to stop anytime soon, either.

As a matter of fact, the number of companies using Instagram for marketing has almost doubled since 2016.

Twitter vs Instagram Monthly users

And as of March 2017, 1 million accounts were advertising on Instagram using the business profile feature.

In March of 2016, just a year earlier, only 200,000 accounts were advertising. That means the total number of advertisers on Instagram grew by 5x in just one year! See How My Agency Can Drive Massive Amounts of Traffic to Your Website

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And this incredible growth is all for a good reason.

Marketers know it’s worth it.

Instagram mobile ad revenues could reach $2.81 billion in 2017, according to a study by eMarketer. This would account for a whopping 10% of Facebook’s total revenue.

Instagram net mobile ad revenues

So Instagram is not only growing considerably, but it’s also bringing in some serious cash for businesses.

It’s attracting tons of big brands because it’s well worth it to advertise there.

But even if you’re not a multi-million dollar brand, Instagram ads are still just as important for you to use (if not more important).

Here’s why any size business should consider Instagram as a way to promote their brand, services, or products:

  1. Anyone can advertise on the platform.

  2. You can target audiences with Facebook data since Facebook now owns Instagram.

  3. Audience engagement is limitless. Businesses can interact with users in the comments section of their photos.

  4. Ads look just like any other shared post on Instagram, which makes them feel less conspicuous.

Whether you want to increase brand awareness, get more clicks to your website, generate sales, or boost downloads of your latest e-book, Instagram can help you reach a huge audience. There’s a total of six ad formats you can choose from.

Four are Instagram feed ads, while the other two are for Instagram Stories ads.

Here’s how to use each type, starting with the four kinds of Instagram feed ads.

Instagram feed ads

Instagram feed ads consist of:

  • Photo Ads

  • Video Ads

  • Slideshow Ads

  • Carousel Ads

Ad Format

Facebook Ads Manager, where you would normally upload media files, lists the recommended sizes for images and video.

Video Sizing

Let’s start out with photo ads.

1. Photo ads

Single-image ads allow you to create up to six ads containing one image each.

benandjerry's intagram post

How to create them:

Compared to carousel ads, single image ads are pretty easy to make.

Start out by selecting the image(s) for your ad. You can browse your image library, upload a new photo, or use a free stock image.

Images panels

Then, just add in your caption for the ad in the text field.

The caption can include up to 300 characters. Any text after the third line will turn into an ellipsis (…) that users have to expand in order to view the rest of the caption.

Facebook recommends sticking to 125 characters for these ads.

If you want to send people to your site from the ad, click “Add a website URL.”

Then, just enter your website’s URL and select a CTA button. You can disregard other fields such as Display Link, Headline, and News Feed Link

Description since they don’t apply to Instagram ads.

Video ads are very similar to photo ads.

2. Video ads

Single-video ads consist of a video or a GIF. How to create them:

Once you select this format, choose your video or upload a new one.

Then, choose a video thumbnail from the images selected by Facebook from the video or upload a custom one.

Ad selection

If you want to add video captions, then upload an SRT file. Just like you would in a photo ad, include a caption for your video in the text box. Just remember that the same rule applies to the caption length: it’s best to stick with 125 characters.

If you want to send traffic to your site, add your website URL and select a CTA button.

Now, let’s discuss slideshow ads.

3. Slideshow ads

Slideshow ads are basically video ads on a loop with as many as 10 images (with music). It’s similar to a carousel ad that scrolls on its own. How to create them:

Upload a slideshow from your library or create a new slideshow using the slideshow creator in Facebook Ads Manager.

You simple have to upload images, arrange them, adjust your settings, and add in music.

Choose a thumbnail, then a caption and add a website URL if you want.

You can even use an existing post from Facebook for an Instagram ad. This tactic is great to keep in mind for Facebook posts that performed well in the past.

You can also use carousel ads to showcase several images or videos at a time.

4. Carousel ads

Carousel ads consist of two or more images or videos. How to create them:

Add in your caption, which will stay the same no matter what image a person is viewing when scrolling through the ad.

Then, you’ll want to create the cards for the ad. You can add up to 10 cards in a single ad.

For every card, upload an image, video, or slideshow.

Then, fill in the headline, which will be the first line of your caption. This text can be different for every card.

Leave the description blank and add in a destination URL for your CTA button.


Leave the “See More URL” and “See More Display URL” fields blank since they’re for Facebook carousel ads.

Choose a CTA button that is the most appropriate for the entire set of images since it will be the same for every card.

If you need design recommendations, guides, and tips for carousel ads, check out this Facebook Business Help page.

You should also add lead forms to every ad on Instagram.

Add lead forms

No matter which ad format you decide to run, you’ll want to create your lead form.

You can use one you’ve already created or you can make a new one.

Lead form

To create a new one, here are the fields you’ll have to fill in:

  • Welcome screen

    1. Headline

    2. Image

    3. Layout

    4. Button Text

  • Questions

  • Privacy policy

  • Thank you screen

    1. A website link for people to visit after completing the form

Once you have completed these fields, click “Finish.”

You won’t be able to edit the lead form once you’ve clicked this button, though. If you aren’t finished with a lead form, use the “Save” button instead.

Now that we’ve gone over the different forms of Instagram feed ad formats, let’s talk about the ad formats for Instagram stories.

Instagram Stories ads

Instagram recently opened up Instagram Stories ads to businesses across the globe.

Instagram Stories ads will appear in between people’s Stories.

There are two different Instagram Stories ad formats: Single image and single video.

ad post

To create Instagram Stories ads, you’ll need to choose the “Reach” objective and select “Stories” in the placement section.

1. Single image

With this format, you’ll be able to make up to six ads with one image each. Each ad looks exactly like an Instagram Story post with text at the bottom that says, “Sponsored.”


How to create them:

Instagram stories ads are pretty straightforward. You just need to upload your images. That’s it!

If you want to enable pixel or offline tracking, change your selections under “Show Advanced Options.”

Next, let’s tackle how video ads work on Instagram Stories ads.

2. Single video

With this format, you’ll be able to upload a video or GIF that’s up to 15 seconds long. How to create them:

Upload your GIF or video and select a thumbnail.

The thumbnail you select will be the image that people will see before your video plays, so be sure to pick a clear, high-quality image.

Again, you can enable pixel or offline tracking by clicking “Show Advanced Options.” And that’s it.

Now that you know how each kind of Instagram ad works, you’re probably wondering just how much they’re going to set you back.

How much do they cost?

Since Instagram ads work using the same system as Facebook Ads, you might think that they cost the same.

But the cost of Instagram ads will depend on your budget and whether you want to use manual or automatic bidding.

Timothy Masek, the senior growth strategist at the marketing agency Ladder, says that running ads on Instagram is at least twice as cost-effective as running ads on Facebook.

And while there’s no exact figure that you can expect an ad to cost, Masek says that the CPM on Instagram ads is around $5.

“…while a typical CPM on Facebook Ads will be around the $10 mark today, it was closer to $5 on Instagram,” Masek said.

However, Instagram ads won’t ever cost you more than you choose to spend. If your budget is $10 per day, they’ll never cost you more than that figure.

A 2016 Marketing Land study found that Instagram ads had a lower CPC than Facebook Ads, too. When you’re creating a campaign, it’s important to select an objective from the list.

These include brand awareness, reach, traffic, app installs, engagement, video views, and conversions.

Next to “Campaign Name,” you can add a name for your campaign or use the default name that Facebook assigns it.

Instagram Campaigns

Then you’ll need to create and customize your Instagram ad to fit your advertising needs and budget.

1. Define your audience

As you know, Facebook Ads work well because you can target a specific set of people. The exact same targeting methods apply to Instagram. Target your audiences by selecting certain factors like location, age, gender, demographics, interests, behaviors, connections, or languages.

You can also target people who have interacted with your content or who have a relationship with your customers.

From there, you can target others like them using a Lookalike Audience.

Look a like audience

Once you’ve selected all of your targeting options, Facebook Ads Manager will reveal information about your audience, such as:

  • Potential reach

  • Estimated daily reach

  • How broad or specific the audience is

  • The criteria of your targeting selections

From there, you’ll need to pick the placement of your ads.

2. Choose ad placements

This step is important if you want to run the same ads on both Facebook and Instagram or run Instagram Stories ads and feed ads at the same time.

If you only want to run Instagram ads, select “Edit Placements” and deselect “Facebook” under platforms.

For Instagram Stories ads, select “Stories” from the drop-down menu to the left of “Instagram.”

placement picture

Here, you can also use advanced options to select which operating systems or devices you want to push ads to.

This option is helpful if you are trying to market a mobile app that only works on iOS, for example.

Here, you can select “iOS Devices only.”

mobile devices

The final step is to set your budget and schedule.

3. Select a budget and schedule

In this step, you’ll be able to select exactly how much you want to spend on Instagram ads and how long you want them to run for.

You can select a daily budget or a lifetime budget depending on your needs.

The daily budget is the average amount of money you’ll be spending on ads each day, while a lifetime budget is the total amount you’ll spend for the lifetime of your ad(s).

You can allow ads to continuously run until you reach your total budget amount or set a start-and-end date and time.

Budget & Schedule

There are also advanced options you can play around with to customize a campaign to further fit your schedule and budget.

If you’re running your first campaign, just use the recommendations that Facebook sets by default for these options.

Once you get the hang of it, test out some of the advanced options. For now, get creative to lower your total ad spend.

4. Lower costs with influencer outreach

If you’re looking for a quick way to lower your ad costs, try finding a relevant Instagram influencer. Once you find them, tag them in your post or reach out to them to see if they will promote your brand.

A perfect tool for finding influencers is Ninja Outreach.

WordPress Dashboard

Just type in a keyword to find Instagram influencers in your niche.

You can filter by tags, such as bloggers, companies, and so on. There are over 2 million Instagram users in Ninja Outreach’s database, and they’re always adding new ones.

You can also filter your searches by Instagram follower count or see additional data and insights about any user, like their other social profiles or contact information.

Once you’ve found an influencer (or several influencers), you can manage your relationship with them right in the Ninja Outreach interface or export them to your CSV.


Instagram is one of the largest social networks out there, which means the opportunities for its reach are endless.

It’s even bigger than Twitter, and big brands are putting a ton of effort into running Instagram ads.

And that means you probably should be, too.

To get started, just decide which ad formats work best for you and your company.

Run Instagram feed ads to appear right in the news feeds of the audiences you target, alongside normal Instagram posts.

These include photo ads, video ads, slideshow ads, and carousel ads.

Don’t forget to add lead forms to these ads to get more information on the audience you’re reaching.

Run Instagram Stories ads to advertise to users in between their friends’ Instagram Stories.

You can easily run a single image or singe-video ad.

The cost for each type of Instagram ad campaign is totally customizable, so you’ll never go over your budget.

Just define your target audience, select ad placements, and choose a budget and schedule that works best for you and your business.

It really is as simple (and cost-effective) as that!

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