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The Complete Guide to Instagram Ads: A Step-by-Step Guide to…

Instagram offers incredible opportunities for businesses of all sizes to reach their target audiences.

But as more and more brands join Instagram and the feed becomes more competitive, it can be harder to stand out.

Imagine being able to reach the specific groups of Instagram users you want to connect with, engage them, and convert them into customers.

Well, that’s totally possible!

In late 2015, Instagram opened up Instagram ads. Using the Facebook advertising system, marketers can now reach any specific segment of Instagram’s 600+ million users. And with 400 million people using Instagram every day, Instagram ads have become an enticing avenue for brands looking to increase engagement (and profits, too).

We’d love to help you get started and running with Instagram ads. In this post, we’ll go through all you need to know to create your first Instagram ad, measure your ad performance, and improve your results.

The Complete Guide to Instagram Ads

Navigating this guide

Instagram advertising uses Facebook’s advertising system which is very comprehensive and powerful. Never before could we target people based on their age, interests, and behaviors to such specificity. There’ll be a lot to cover in this guide. To help make reading this guide easier, I have divided the guide into six short, digestible chapters.

Feel free to read it from top to bottom (thank you!) or skip to your favorite section with the quick links:

Chapter 1: An Introduction to Instagram Ads: Studies on why Instagram ads are so popular and whether Instagram ads suit your brand, and instructions for getting started.

Chapter 2: Getting started with Instagram Ads: How to choose objectives, define your target audience, place your ads in Instagram, and set your budget and schedule.

Chapter 3: The 6 Different Formats of Instagram Ads: A detailed walkthrough of each of the ad formats you can use for your Instagram Feed and Stories ads and how to create them.

Chapter 4: Creating Instagram Ads Within the Instagram App: A quick how-to guide on promoting existing Instagram posts as Instagram ads.

Chapter 5: Measuring Success: Tips and screenshots on using the Facebook Ads Manager to measure and analyze your Instagram ad performance.

Chapter 6: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Helpful Tips: A short section to answer some questions you might have about Instagram ads.

Jump to any section of this post

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Chapter 1:
An Introduction to Instagram Ads

Why use Instagram ads?

Since Instagram launched advertising on its platform in 2015, Instagram ads have driven more than one billion user actions. And just last year, it more than doubled its advertiser base in six months to 500,000 advertisers.

A survey by Strata in 2016 found that 63 percent of US ad agency professionals planned to use Instagram ads for their clients. This is a huge jump from the 34 percent in the year before (when Instagram ads were not yet available to everyone), making Instagram ads one of the most popular social media advertising choice.

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(Image from eMarketer)

5 reasons to use Instagram Ads

Why are Instagram ads so popular? Here are a few reasons:

1. Audience growth: Instagram is one of the fastest growing social media platforms. TrackMaven studied 26,965 brands across all industries and found that brands saw a 100 percent median follower growth from 2015 to 2016.

2. Attention: Users spend, on average, 50 minutes a day on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. In the U.S., one in five minutes spent on mobile is spent on Instagram or Facebook.

3. Intent: A study by Instagram found that 60 percent of Instagram users say that they learn about products and services through Instagram, and 75 percent say that they take actions such as visiting sites, searching, or telling a friend after seeing an Instagram post.

4. Targeting: Instagram ads uses Facebook’s advertising system, which has probably the most powerful targeting ability. You can specify your target audience’s location, demographics, interests, behaviors, and more. You can even target people who have bought from you or interacted with you and others like them.

5. Results: According to Instagram, which looked at more than 400 campaigns globally, ad recall from Instagram ads was 2.8 times higher than Nielsen’s norms for online advertising.

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Should you consider Instagram ads?

So, should you be using Instagram ads? Likely, yes!

Instagram ads are incredibly powerful, but before you dive in, there are several factors to consider:

1. Demographics — Is your target audience on Instagram? According to Statistic, as of December 2015, the largest U.S. Instagram user group were between 18 to 34 years old (26%), followed by 18 to 24 years old (23%). Pew Research Center found that in the U.S., female (38%) are more likely to use Instagram than male (26%). While the study was only conducted on Americans, I believe similar patterns exist globally.

For more details on Instagram demographics, check out our Instagram marketing guide.

2. Topics — Do your target audience talk about your industry/product/service on Instagram? Facebook surveyed 11,000 young adults (13 to 24) across 13 markets and discovered that some of the most popular topics on Instagram are:

  • fashion/beauty
  • food
  • TV/films
  • hobbies
  • music

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but before diving into Instagram ads, I’d recommend doing some research on the topics your target audience engage with the most on Instagram.

3. Visual storytelling — Can you create visual content that blends into your target audience’s Instagram feed? According to the same Facebook study above, “Instagrammers appreciate aesthetic quality in visual content”. Instagram is a visual-first platform, where visual content, rather than text, is the primarily form of communication.

If you have a presence on Instagram already, it’s likely that you would have ticked all the checkboxes and Instagram ads are suitable for you. Otherwise, it might be great to start testing the water on Instagram without using any ad spend.

Tip: If you are just starting your Instagram account or wanting to refine your Instagram marketing strategy, check out our complete guide to Instagram marketing.

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Chapter 2:
Getting started with Instagram ads

Instagram made it so easy to create Instagram ads. In fact, there are five different ways you can create and manage your Instagram ads:

  • Within the Instagram app
  • Facebook Ads Manager
  • Power Editor
  • Facebook’s Marketing API
  • Instagram Partners

In this post, we’ll cover the first two (creating ads via the Instagram app and Facebook Ads Manager). These are the simplest two among the five and feel like the destinations where the vast majority of businesses will create Instagram ads.

The Power Editor and Facebook’s Marketing API are for people who want to create a huge quantity of Instagram ads at once while Instagram Partners are experts who can help with buying and managing ads at scale, engaging with your community, and creating Instagram content for you.

Creating Instagram ads using Facebook Ads Manager

Because the Facebook’s advertising system is so comprehensive, there are several steps we have to go through to create Instagram ads. They are quite straightforward, and we’ll go through each of them below. Here are the general steps:

  • Choose a marketing objective
  • Name your ad campaign
  • (Some marketing objectives require additional steps here, which we’ll go through below.)
  • Define your audience, placements, budget, and schedule
  • Create the ad itself or use an existing post

Tip: While there isn’t a fixed naming rule, you’d want to use a naming convention such that you (and your team) can differentiate between them by the name. For example, here’s the naming convention that HubSpot uses:

Company Department | Content/Offer/Asset Being Advertised | Date | Name of Creator

Navigating to the Facebook Ads Manager

This method tends to be the way most marketers create Instagram ads.

Using Facebook Ads Manager tends to be easier than creating ads within the Instagram app, and you can do much more through the Facebook Ads Manager, too.

Editor’s note: We’ll go through creating Instagram ads within the Instagram app further below. If you wish to learn about it now, feel free to skip to that section.

Creating Instagram ads is very similar to creating Facebook ads. Just like Facebook ads, Facebook Ads Manager is the go-to place for creating, editing, and managing Instagram ads.

To access your Facebook Ads Manager, click on the drop-down arrow in the upper-right corner of any Facebook page and select “Manage Ads” from the dropdown.

Manage Ads option

Alternatively, you can use this direct link: https://www.facebook.com/ads/manager/ to go to your Facebook Ads Manager.

Once you are there, simply click the prominent, green button “Create Ad” in the upper-right corner to get started.

Create ad button

(If you have multiple ad accounts, you might have to select your preferred ad account for your Instagram ads first.)

Tip: To create Instagram ads using the Facebook Ads Manager, you only need to have a Facebook Page. You don’t even need an Instagram account!

The 8 Different Objectives of Instagram Ads

While Facebook offers 11 objectives in the Facebook Ads Manager, only the following eight will allow you to create Instagram ads.

  1. Brand awareness
  2. Reach
  3. Traffic
  4. App installs
  5. Engagement
  6. Video views
  7. Lead generation
  8. Conversions

Some of these objectives are super straightforward — you just choose the objective and create your ad right away. Others, however, may require a couple more steps before you can set your ad live. Here’s a quick rundown of each of the objectives (and how you set them up using Facebook Ads Manager):

1. Brand awareness

Brand awareness objective

With this objective, you can help increase awareness for your brand. Your Instagram ads will be shown to people who are more likely to be interested in it.

There are no additional steps required for this objective.

2. Reach

Reach objective

With this objective, you can maximize how many people see your Instagram ads and how often. Unlike the brand awareness objective, the people who will see these ads might not all be interested in them.

Additional step:

After choosing this objective and naming your ad campaign, you’ll need to choose a Facebook Page to be associated with this ad campaign.

If you do not have an Instagram account, this Facebook Page will represent your business in your Instagram ads. If you have an Instagram account and prefer to use it, there’ll be an option to connect your Instagram account when you are creating the ad itself.

Tip: To create Instagram Stories ads, you can only use the Reach objective at the moment.

3. Traffic

Traffic objective

With this objective, you can send people to your website or to the app store for your app from your Instagram ads.

Additional step:

After choosing this objective and naming your ad campaign, you’ll need to choose where you want to drive the traffic. You can choose either:

  • Website or Messenger, or
  • App (mobile or desktop app)

You’ll get to enter the destination URL when you are creating the ad itself.

4. Engagement

Engagement objective

With this objective, you can get more people to see and engage with your post.

For this objective, you can choose the type of engagement you want such as post engagement, page likes, event responses, and offer claims. For advertising on Instagram, you can only choose “Post engagement”.

If you want to promote an existing post, this will be the objective to go for. But note that you can only promote an existing Facebook Page post. To promote an existing Instagram post, you’ll need to do it within the Instagram app. Click here to skip to the section.

5. App installs

App installs objective

With this objective, you can send people to the app store where they can download your app.

For this objective, there is a bonus feature — split testing (or A/B testing). This feature allows you to easily test different versions of your ads to find out what works best so you can improve your future ads.

Additional step:

After choosing this objective and naming your ad campaign, you’ll need to choose the app you want to promote and the app store you prefer (iTunes or Google Play for mobile apps or Facebook Canvas for desktop apps).

You can only promote one platform at a time. If you want to promote multiple platforms, you’ll need to re-create the same ad but select another platform.

6. Video views

Video views objective

With this objective, you can promote a video to more people. This objective is very straightforward, and there are no additional steps required for this objective.

7. Lead Generation

Lead generation objective

With this objective, you can create lead generation Instagram ads to collect relevant information from potential leads.

Additional step:

After choosing this objective and naming your ad campaign, you’ll need to choose a Facebook Page to be associated with this ad campaign. If you do not have an Instagram account, this Facebook Page will represent your business in your Instagram ads.

Note:

  • Lead ads on Facebook and Instagram have several differences:
    • Not all pre-filled fields are supported on Instagram. Instagram currently support only these fields: Email, Full name, Phone number, and Gender.
    • The ads look different. To complete your Instagram lead ads, people will need to open the ad and click through a few pages to fill up their particulars. On Facebook, people only have to scroll down and not click through.
  • For your lead ads to appear on Instagram, your ads have to follow Instagram’s design requirements for lead ads.
  • When you are creating the ad itself, you’ll need to create a lead form. Click here to jump to the section on creating lead forms.

8. Conversions

Conversions objective

With this objective, you can drive people to take actions on your website or app. Similar to the app installs objective, you can do split testing of your ads with this objective.

Additional step:

After choosing this objective and naming your ad campaign, you’ll need to choose the website or app you want to promote and a Facebook pixel or app event to help track the conversions.

If you haven’t set up a Facebook pixel or app event, there are instructions at that stage to help you.

Choose the audience, placement, and budget in 3 steps

1. Define the audience for your ads

Facebook advertising (and by extension, Instagram advertising) is so powerful because of the ability to target a very specific set of people. You can create a precise target audience by combining factors like:

  • Location — You can enter global regions, countries, states, cities, postal codes, or addresses to show or exclude your ads to people in those locations.
  • Age — You can select a range of age, with the widest range being 13 to 65+.
  • Gender — You can choose to show your ads to all gender, men, or women.
  • Languages — You can leave this blank unless your target audience uses a language that is uncommon in the locations selected.
  • Demographics — You can target or exclude people based on their education, employment, household and lifestyle details.
  • Interests — You can target or exclude people based on their interests, their activities on Facebook, the Pages they liked, and related topics.
  • Behaviors — You can target or exclude people based on their purchasing behavior or intent, device usage, travel behavior, activities, and more.
  • Connections — You can target people who have connections with your Page, app, or event.

Wow! And that’s not all…

You can also target people who have a relationship with your business such as customers or people who have interacted with your app or content (using “Custom Audience”). You can even target other people like them (using “Lookalike Audience”).

Facebook ads manager audience selection

Once you have chosen your criteria, Facebook Ads Manager will show you information about your selected audience on the right. This breakdown includes information such as:

  • How specific or broad your selected audience is
  • Your targeting criteria
  • Potential reach
  • Estimated daily reach

Facebook ads manager audience information

Tip: This is a very brief rundown of the audience targeting options. For a more detailed explanation of each targeting option, feel free to read this chapter of our Facebook advertising guide.

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2. Choose the placement of your ads

This is an important step if you want your ads to appear in only Instagram and not Facebook. Facebook Ads Manager tends to select both Facebook and Instagram placements by default. If you only want Instagram ads,

  • Select “Edit Placements”
  • Deselect “Facebook” (and for some objectives, “Audience Network”) under Platforms

If you want to create Instagram Stories ads, click on the arrow to the left of “Instagram” and select Stories from the drop-down:

Instagram ad placement

If you prefer, you can use the advanced options to specify which mobile devices and operating systems (Android or iOS) you want your ads to appear. This is helpful if you are promoting a mobile app. For example, if you want to promote your iOS app, you might want to select “iOS Devices only”.

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3. Set your budget and schedule

The next, and the final step before you create your Instagram ad itself, is to set how much you want to spend on your Instagram ads and how long you want to run the ads.

For your budget, you can set a daily or lifetime budget. The daily budget is the average amount you’ll spend on your ads every day. The lifetime budget is the total amount you’ll spend over the lifetime of your ads.

For your schedule, you can let your ads run continuously (until you hit your lifetime budget or you pause them) or set a start and end date and time.

Facebook ads manager budget and schedule settings

There are also advanced options for you to tweak your budget and schedule. If you are just starting out, you can ignore those options as Facebook sets them according to its recommendations by default.

How much does it cost to put an ad on Instagram?

Instagram Ads work on the same system as Facebook Ads. Costs depends on a few factors including your budget and whether you select Manual or Automatic bidding. Instagram Ad will never cost you more than you have to spend, though. If you have a budget of $15 per day, Instagram Ads will never cost you more than $15 a day.

Further reading: For more context on the cost of ads, check out: The Complete Guide to Facebook Ads Pricing

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Chapter 3:
The 6 Different Formats of Instagram Ads


Now, with your budget, audience, and placements set, you are ready to create your ad.

For Instagram ads, there are six formats you can choose from — four for Instagram Feed ads and two for Instagram Stories ads.

Instagram Feed Ad Formats

Here are the four for Instagram Feed ads (we’ll cover Instagram Stories ads below):

Instagram ad formats

  • Carousel (multiple scrollable images or videos)
  • Single Image
  • Single Video
  • Slideshow
  • Canvas (This format is not supported on Instagram at the moment.)

Tip: All the recommended image and video specifications are listed in the Facebook Ads Manager by the section where you would upload your media files.

1. Carousel

Carousel ads are ads with two or more scrollable images or videos.

Instagram carousel ad example

How to create a carousel ad:

If you haven’t connected your Instagram account, here’s where you can connect it.

Connect Instagram account in Facebook ads manager while creating the ad

Next, fill up the text field with the caption you want for your Instagram ads. This caption will remain the same even when a person scrolls through your carousel ad.

Carousel ad text

The next step is to create the cards of your carousel ad. You can create up to 10 cards in a single ad. For each card,

  • Upload an image, video, or slideshow (The specifications are all provided there.)
  • Fill in the headline (This text will form the first line of your caption and will change as a person scrolls through your carousel ad. See the example above.)
  • Leave the description blank (I believe this is for Facebook carousel ads.)
  • Fill in the destination URL (This is the URL behind your call-to-action button).

There are also some settings for the entire carousel ad.

  • Ignore the See More URL and See More Display URL fields (They are for Facebook carousel ads which have an end card.)
  • Select the most appropriate call-to-action button (This will be the same for every card of the carousel ad.)

Carousel ad cards

Tip: Facebook has a great resource and FAQ site for carousel ads. There are examples, best practices guides, design recommendations, and more.

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2. Single Image

Single Image ads are what they say they are — ads with a single image. If you choose this format, you can create up to six ads with one image each.

Single image ad example

How to create a single image ad:

Single image ads are much easier to create than carousel ads. The first thing to do is to select the image(s) for your ad. You can choose from your previous uploads (i.e. Image Library), select free stock images, or upload new images.

Single image ad images upload

Then, the main field to fill up is the text field (i.e. your caption for the ad). The caption may include up to 300 characters but note that characters after the third line will be truncated into an ellipsis (“…”). Facebook recommends using 125 characters.

Single image ad text

If you want to drive traffic to your site, select “Add a website URL” and more options will appear. All you have to do is to fill in your website URL and select a call-to-action button. The remaining fields (Display Link, Headline, and News Feed Link Description) won’t be used for Instagram ads.

Single image ad URL

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3. Single Video

Single video ads are ads with a video or a GIF.

Single video ad example

How to create a single video ad:

After you select this ad format, select a video from your library or upload a new video. Then, you can choose a video thumbnail from the list provided or upload a custom thumbnail. You can also upload a SRT file for the video captions.

Single video ad video upload

Then, fill up the text field with your caption. Similar to single image ads, the caption may include up to 300 characters but note that characters after the third line will be truncated into an ellipsis (“…”). Facebook recommends using 125 characters.

Single video ad text

If you want to drive traffic to your site, select “Add a website URL” and more options will appear. All you have to do is to fill in your website URL and select a call-to-action button. The remaining fields (Display Link, Headline, and News Feed Link Description) won’t be used for Instagram ads.

Single video ad URL

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4. Slideshow

Slideshow ads are looping video ads with up to 10 images and music. It’s almost like a carousel ad that scrolls on its own — with music.

Slideshow ad example

How to create a slideshow ad:

You can upload an existing slideshow or create a new slideshow. Facebook Ads Manager has an easy-to-use slideshow creator. Simply upload your images, arrange them to your liking, adjust the settings, and select a music.

Slideshow creator

Just like a video ad, you can also choose a thumbnail and upload video captions.

Then, fill up your caption and add a website URL if you prefer. This part is the same as the single image and single video ads.

Slideshow ad URL

Tip: If you have an existing Facebook Page post that performed well and you’d like to use it for your Instagram ad, you can select “Use Existing Post” at the top of the page. Note that this option only allows you to choose from existing Facebook Page posts. If you want to use an existing Instagram post, see the Chapter 4.

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Lead ad example

If you are creating lead ads (i.e. using the lead generation objective), there is an additional step, regardless of the ad format you choose. That is to create your lead form. You can use a previous lead form you have created or create a new one.

Lead form creation

To create a new lead form, there are several fields to fill in:

  • Welcome screen (You can turn this off, and the form will appear first.)
    • Headline
    • Image
    • Layout (Description)
    • Button text
  • Questions (You can pick from a list of options or create custom questions.)
  • Privacy policy (As you will be collecting user information, you need to include your company’s privacy policy)
  • Thank you screen
    • A website link which people can visit after filling up the form

Once you have filled in these fields, click “Finish” and your lead form is ready!

Tip: Once you hit “Finish”, you won’t be able to edit the lead form. You can use the “Save” button to save a draft of the lead form if you wish to edit it afterward.

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Instagram Stories Ad Formats

Instagram just opened up Instagram Stories ads to businesses globally. If you don’t see this option in your Facebook Ads Manager, it might be that it hasn’t been rolled out to your country yet.

Instagram Stories ads appear in between people’s stories. Here are the two Instagram Stories ad formats:

Instagram Stories ad formats

  • Single image
  • Single video

Tip: To create Instagram Stories ads, you’ll have to choose the Reach objective and select “Stories” under the Placement section.

5. Single Image

With this format, you can create up to six ads with one unique image each. It looks just like a normal Instagram story with a tiny “Sponsored” at the bottom.

Instagram Stories single image example

How to create a single image Instagram Stories ad:

There isn’t much customization you can do with Instagram Stories ads, making them very straightforward and simple to create. All you have to do is to upload your image(s).

Single image upload

If you wish to enable pixel or offline tracking, you can find the options under “Show Advanced Options”.

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6. Single Video

With this format, you can upload a video or GIF of up to 15 seconds in length.

Instagram Stories single video example

How to create a single video Instagram Stories ad:

Simply upload your video or GIF and choose a video thumbnail. The thumbnail you choose will be what people see before your video plays. It can influence people’s decision to watch your ad.

Single video upload

If you wish to enable pixel or offline tracking, you can find the options under “Show Advanced Options”.

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Chapter 4:
Creating Instagram Ads Within the Instagram App


The alternative to creating Instagram ads with the Facebook Ads Manager is to use the Instagram app. The Instagram app allows you to promote an existing Instagram post, and I believe this is the only way to do that.

There are a few requirements to meet before you can promote directly from the app:

Once you are set up, here’s a quick run-through of the process in three simple steps:

1. Select the post you want to promote

Find the post you’d like to promote and click on the blue “Promote” button. You may be prompted to log in to your Facebook account.

Instagram ads from Instagram app

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2. Choose an ad objective

Unlike in the Facebook Ads Manager, there are only two objectives to choose from:

  • Visit your Website
  • Call or visit your business

Instagram ads from Instagram app objective options

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3. Set your action button, audience, budget, and duration

Depending on your ad objective, you will have different action buttons to choose from. After you choose an action button, you can enter your preferred URL, address, or phone number.

Instagram ads from Instagram app action buttons

Just like in the Facebook Ads Manager, you will set who you want to target, how much you want to spend, and how long you want to run the ad.

For your audience, you can target by locations, interests, age, and gender.

For your budget, you determine the total budget for the ad. Unlike in the Facebook Ads Manager, you can’t choose a daily or lifetime budget or change any advanced options.

For your ad duration, you enter the number of days you want to run the ad. The ad starts immediately.

Once you are ready, you can review your order, preview the ad, and promote it.

Instagram ads from Instagram app - Audience, budget, duration

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Chapter 5:
Measuring Success


Like Facebook ads, the performance data of your Instagram ads will be available in your Facebook Ads Manager.

The Facebook Ads Manager reporting table might look intimidating at first glance but don’t let that scare you. Think of it as a spreadsheet of all your ads and their performance metrics — and it’s easier to use.

Facebook ads manager reporting table

The reporting table is quite easy to use once you get a sense of what can it do. To get you started, here are some of the things you can do with the reporting table:

Toggle between ad campaigns, ad sets, and ads

The first thing you might want to do is see all the ads you and your team have created to understand the big picture.

Facebook (and Instagram) ads follow a simple three-tier structure: Ad campaigns > Ad sets > Ads.

Facebook / Instagram ads structure

(Image via Digital Vidya)

Ad campaign is the highest tier of the structure, where you decide your marketing objective for the campaign. Within each ad campaign, there is one or several ad sets.

Ad set is the second tier of the structure, where you set your audience targeting, placement, budgets, and schedule. Within each ad set, there is one or several ads.

Ad is the final tier of the structure and the “final product” that people see on Facebook.

Facebook Ads Manager has a folder-like navigation that lets you toggle between your ad campaigns, ad sets, and ads. This way, you can quickly compare how various ad campaigns, ad sets, or ads are doing.

Facebook Ads Manager toggle

Tip: If you want to find a specific ad campaign, ad set, or ad, you can also use the search bar at the top of the page.

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Analyze the performance metrics of your Instagram ads

Just like a spreadsheet, the reporting table allows you to see the performance of your Instagram ads at a glance. You will be able to see metrics such as the results obtained by the ads, the cost of the ads, and the amount spent.

If you do not see the metrics you are interested in, you can change the columns by clicking on “Columns: Performance” and then “Customize Columns…”. A popup will appear, and you can select the metrics you want or deselect those you don’t want.

Facebook ads manager customize columns

Once you have the metrics (or columns) you want, you can sort the data by clicking on the heading of a column or export the data using the export button on the right.

Finally, if you want to drill down into each ad campaign, ad set, or ad to see more detailed metrics and charts, simply click on its name. This is an example of what you’ll see:

Example of an ad campaign's details

Tip: If you want to dive deeper into Facebook Ads Manager to manage and analyze your ads, here’s our one-stop guide to the Facebook Ads Manager.

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Chapter 6:
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and Helpful Tips

FAQs

Can I create Instagram ads without a Facebook Page?

It seems like a Facebook Page is required if you want to run Instagram ads. If you don’t have a Facebook Page, another option is to run Facebook ads (with some limitations).

Can I create Instagram ads without an Instagram account?

Yes, you can! All you need is a Facebook Page. If you don’t connect an Instagram account, here are a few things to be mindful of:

  • Your Facebook Page’s name and profile photo will be used on your Instagram ads to let people know the ads are from your business.
  • You can’t reply to comments on your Instagram ads.
  • Your Facebook Page’s name will be used as your Instagram handle, which won’t be clickable. If your Facebook Page’s name is more than 30 characters, it’ll be truncated with an ellipsis (“…”).

Where will my Instagram ads appear? Can they be seen on a desktop computer?

Instagram ads will only appear in the Instagram app on iOS and Android devices. They will not be shown to people who are browsing Instagram on a desktop computer or other mobile sites. If you want people to see your ads on a desktop computer, Facebook ads might be a better option.

Should I run my ads on both Facebook and Instagram?

Facebook’s recommendation is yes. When you run ads on both platforms, Facebook will optimize your ad placement to achieve the most results with the lowest cost. Facebook Marketing Science did a study and found this to be true. Smartly.io’s experience with Facebook and Instagram ads confirmed this, too.

Having said that, it might be worth considering if your Facebook and Instagram strategies are aligned and if your Facebook ad might look out of place on Instagram and vice versa. For instance, as our Instagram account focuses on user-generated content, an ad for Facebook about video marketing tips will likely look odd on people’s Instagram feed.

Are there any guidelines for Instagram ads?

Yes! Facebook has an incredible resource about every type of ad for every marketing objective. In there, it previews an sample ad and lists the design recommendation, technical requirements, and call-to-action information for every single type of ad.

Facebook ad guide

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3 Helpful Tips for Creating Instagram Ads

Creating ads (and paying for them) for the first time definitely doesn’t feel easy. As I’d love to help you succeed with your Instagram ads, I curated several helpful tips on creating great Instagram ads. Feel free to explore the articles below to read more Instagram ads tips.

Blend in, don’t stick out

(from Doug Baltman, Instagram Advertising in 2017: What You Need to Know)

Doug Baltman’s advice is to use photos that blend in with other photos on your target audience Instagram feed. Otherwise, your ad will stick out as inorganic content and be less effective. This is the same advice given by Facebook. This could mean to use photos of people or your product instead of illustrations or…

A general rule is to try to avoid putting words on top of images…

As most Instagram posts do not have text on the photos, any photos with text on them will feel out of place. Instagram users might detect that it’s an ad immediately and quickly scroll past it.

Tip: The more text you have on your ad, the less reach it’d receive (apart from a few exceptions). Here’s Facebook’s guide for using text in ad images.

Leverage user-generated content (with permission)

(from Pawel Grabowski, 26 Instagram Ad Best Practices That Will Make You an Outstanding Marketer)

In his article for AdEspresso, Pawel Grabowski shared 20 best practices for Instagram ads. Among the 20, the advice on using user-generated content stood out for me.

User-generated content is more genuine and helps potential customer gain trust in you. Pawel quoted a report by Nielsen which stated that “92 percent of consumers around the world say they trust earned media, such as recommendations from friends and family, above all other forms of advertising.”

Using photos from your customers in your ad design (with permission) makes your Instagram ads more effective and helps your ads blend in, too.

Use targeting to connect with a local audience

(from Ana Gotter, 26 Instagram Ad Best Practices That Will Make You an Outstanding Marketer)

This is a great advice for local brick-and-mortar businesses. Facebook’s advertising system allows you to target very specific locations while Instagram’s business profile features allow customers to contact you or get direction to your business.

Imagine being a local restaurant which shows an ad featuring their most mouth-watering dish to a user within a close proximity, just in time for dinner, and that user immediately sees a map and directions to you. All it takes is a click to your profile, and you can get both a new customer and a new follower at the same time.

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Over to you

Wow, that was a long guide. Thanks for making it all the way to the end!

I’d love to hear about your experiences with Instagram ads. If you have run Instagram ads before, what was your strategy, and how did they perform? If not, is there anything that is giving you a pause with Instagram ads?

Just like Facebook ads, I believe Instagram ads will constantly evolve and improve, allowing us to create even better ads. A good case in point: in the process of writing this guide, Instagram introduced lead gen ads and Instagram Stories ads.

If you have not looked into Instagram ads, I think it’ll be worth checking it out for your business.


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