A Crash Course in Instagram Advertising #smlondon

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gram ads

Whether you’re an experienced Facebook advertiser looking to branch out onto a new platform or you’re new to social media advertising entirely, advertising on Instagram offers another way to reach your target audience on one of their most-loved and most-used platforms.

Step #1: Define your objective and choose a campaign type

When creating an Instagram ad campaign – as with any campaign – the first thing you should do is determine what you want to get out of it. Do you want to promote specific products or just raise awareness about your brand in general? Is there a specific action that you would like consumers to take when they see your ad (e.g. visit your website, download your app, sign up for your newsletter)? By defining your objective (and the related conversion metric), you will be able to choose the campaign type that will best help you achieve that objective.

Instagram offers a number of different campaign types based on your objective and the type of creative you would like to use.


  1. Photo (The standard and most commonly used format)
  2. Video (Ideal for increasing brand engagement since users are more likely to comment on videos and share them with their friends)
  3. Carousel (Ideal for promoting multiple products and increasing sales)


Objectives Supported



Use If

Clicks to Website ·      Photo

·      Video

·      Carousel

You are looking to drive traffic to your website.
Website Conversions ·      Photo

·      Video

·      Carousel

You want people to take a specific action on your website.
Mobile App Installs ·      Photo

·      Video

·      Carousel

You want people to download your app.
Mobile App Engagement ·      Photo

·      Video

·      Carousel

You want people to be more active on your app.
Video Views ·      Video You are looking to boost brand engagement.
Reach and Frequency ·      Photo

·      Video

·      Carousel

You want to achieve predictable reach and better control frequency.
Page Post Engagement ·      Photo

·      Video

You want users to engage with your ad.
Mass Awareness ·      Photo

·      Video

·      Carousel

You want to generate mass awareness among a wide audience with guaranteed impressions (only available via insertion order).
Local Awareness ·      Photo

·      Video

·      Carousel

You want to reach people near your business and drive them to your store.


Depending on the objective you choose, you will also be able to choose from various call-to-action buttons like “Shop Now”, “Sign Up” or “Download” that will encourage users to visit your site, subscribe to your newsletter or install your app, among other possibilities.


Step #2: Create ad content

Once you have defined your objective and campaign type, you can begin crafting attractive creatives that will catch the eye of your target audience.

For each content type, Instagram imposes certain requirements that you’ll need to follow:


Image Type Aspect Ratio Min Resolution Max Resolution
Square 1:1 600 x 600 pixels 1936 x 1936 pixels
Landscape 1.91:1 600 x 315 pixels 1936 x 1936 pixels
Vertical 4:5 600 x 750 pixels 1936 x 1936 pixels


  • Supported image formats: .jpg & .png
  • Image size: max. 30 MB
  • Caption: max. 2200 characters
  • Images cannot contain more than 20% text (Use the Image Text Check tool to see if your image is admissible)



  • Video size: max. 4 GB
  • Minimum length: 3 seconds
  • Maximum length: 60 seconds



  • Minimum number of images: 3
  • Maximum number of images: 5


When using photos, try to abide by the following guidelines to ensure optimal results: 

  • Use clear images with a strong focal point
  • Feature your logo in a subtle way or, ideally, replace it with another recognizable part of your brand.
  • Use as little text as possible. Like Facebook, Instagram doesn’t allow text to take up more than 20 per cent of the image. Depending on the image, you might want to consider using speech bubbles to help tie in the text with the image.
  • Strive to produce authentic-looking photos that look like something your target audience’s friends would post. Instagram users are accustomed to seeing ads appear in their feed and often skip over images that are obviously ads and spend more time looking at their friends’ photos. If you can succeed in appearing less like an ad, users will more likely spend more time looking at your image.
  • Consider showcasing experiences instead of products. Product photos can get boring after a while. By choosing images that show people using and enjoying your product in a variety of situations, you can liven up your ad content, subtly highlight different product features and give consumers ideas about how they can use your product.


Step #3: Follow these best-case practices

Now that you’ve got your ad content ready to go, ensure that you get the biggest bang for your buck by implementing these best-case practices.

Accompany ads with organic posts.

Sometimes consumers see your ad, but get distracted by something else before they can take action. By accompanying your ad with an organic post using a similar image and messaging, you can allow consumers who may have missed your ad the first time to come back and take action.

Target different customer groups with exclusive content.

Whether you want to reward your loyal customers with a special deal or encourage your newsletter subscribers to also follow you on Instagram, the Custom Audience feature allows you to only target a specific set of users.

Use lookalike audiences to engage new followers

Instagram allows you to target users who resemble your existing customer base, increasing the likelihood that your ads will reach people who are actually interested in your product or service.

Get creative with your CTAs

By coming up with creative calls-to-action that encourage comments or invite users to tag their friends, you can generate engagement that goes beyond a simple “like”.

Step #4: Test, test, test

Just like on Facebook, it is also possible to do split testing with Instagram ads. You can design tests that compare the effectiveness of different creatives, ad types, captions, targeting, posting times, calls-to-action and more.

Since every brand’s audience is different, it will be necessary to find out what types of ads resonate the most with your audience. The fastest way to do this is by making ample use of split testing.

Step #5: Evaluate your results

After each campaign, analyze the results to see what worked and what didn’t and adjust your strategy going forward. Use the findings from your split tests to influence future campaign decisions and choose new variables to test next time around.

Kyle Krawchuk

Kyle is a marketing professional who has worked all over China and Europe and is now based in Vancouver, Canada. You can follow him @kylekrawchuk.