The Performance Advertisers’ Guide to Instagram

The Performance Advertisers’ Guide to Instagram


Growing user base Instagram has gained popularity with advertisers because of its immense scale.

After recently surpassing 500 million active users, it’s expected that 50% of all social network users will be using the app by 2017. This growth has been driven by 18- to 29-year-olds who have embraced the visual nature of the app, finding it easy to use and fun to consume.

Mobile-first platform 

Mobile is now the dominant way people consume digital media, making it a critical part of every marketer’s advertising mix. Mobile apps account for 52% of all time spent on digital media. For marketers, Instagram’s ability to provide access to a highly engaged and growing mobile audience is key.

Native ad format

Instagram ads appear in the same format as standard posts, allowing advertisers to integrate their ads with the native content users regularly consume in their feed. Native ads receive engagement rates 20–60% higher than standard display ads, which is nearly impossible to find on other mobile apps.

Millennial demographic

Currently, 90% of Instagram’s audience is under the age of 35. By the end of 2016, almost 50 million American millennials are projected to be active users of the platform. Given the fact that many millenials are ditching cable, Instagram provides marketers access to this sought-after demographic at scale.

Constant traffic from the feed

Unlike on Facebook and LinkedIn, the Instagram user experience is predominantly visual and self-contained inside the app. There are very few links to external content, rendering organic marketing useless at driving a high volume of traffic to a third-party site. Instagram lets marketers work around this by allowing embedded links in advertisements.


An Instagram ad is nearly identical to a standard post on the app. However, an ad can have a link to the advertiser’s site. It can also have swipeable, multi-image posts to help highlight products or services.

The Instagram ad platform supports four distinct ad types:

§§ Photo ads: Convey a complex story through simple, yet engaging, still images. This format resembles what most users typically see in their feed.

§§ Video ads: Show your product in action. Videos can be up  to 60 seconds long and automatically play when appearing in the center of a user’s feed.

§§ Carousel ads: Include multiple still photos or videos in a single carousel ad. Viewers swipe left on the ad to reveal more content from a series of photos or videos.

§§ Dynamic ads: After a customer visits your site, use dynamic ads on Instagram to show content related to the specific products they viewed.

Call-to-action (CTA) buttons are among the most important aspects of any ad. The job of the CTA is to tell the viewer how to interact with each ad.

Advertisers on Instagram can choose from eight CTA buttons: Book Now, Contact Us, Download, Learn More, Shop Now, Sign Up, Watch More, and (soon) Donate More.


Whether you’re an experienced Instagram advertiser or running your first campaign, we’ve identified the following best practices to help you get the most out of Instagram.

1. Segment your audience: We recommend leveraging your existing AdRoll segments to target customers across the entire funnel. This will allow you to serve general awareness ads to new customers and offer discounts to loyal customers. Segment even further with dynamic creative to serve ads to your customers based on the specific products they’ve viewed.

2. Target using your offline data: AdRoll’s platform allows advertisers to upload customer lists and create segments based on data like email addresses and phone numbers. AdRoll lets you use lists of prospective clients from platforms like MailChimp and Marketo to target audiences on Instagram. Marketers can use these lists to create things like loyalty campaigns that offer longtime customers exclusive discounts and deals.

3. Run your ads on Facebook and Instagram simultaneously: If you include both Facebook and Instagram in your AdRoll campaign, you ensure that your ads optimize for the least expensive, highest-performing available ad space across both channels at the same time. This gives you the potential to get more clicks at the lower cost regardless of the channel.

4. Reuse your top-performing creative from Facebook: While artistic images perform well, don’t be afraid to use your best Facebook ads on Instagram. In general, any ads that are hitting your key performance indicators (KPIs) on Facebook will also perform well on Instagram.

5. Use AdRoll Dynamic Creative on Instagram: One way to ensure you’re targeting the right user with the right product is to use AdRoll Dynamic Creative on Instagram. Dynamic advertising automatically serves users relevant product images based on their browsing history and purchase behavior. AdRoll Dynamic Creative has been shown to perform better than static ads, with a 150% increase in click-through rate (CTR) and a decrease in cost per acquisition (CPA) by as much as 50%.

6. Apply your learnings from Facebook to Instagram: A lot of us simply don’t have enough time to test and optimize a new channel from scratch. Work with a Facebook Marketing Partner, like AdRoll, whose deep expertise and knowledge will help you apply advertising performance learnings to get the most from your campaigns across both platforms.

7. Review ROI on a weekly and monthly basis: Return on investment (ROI) will fluctuate significantly from hour to hour and even day to day. You can get an in-depth performance analysis from your AdRoll dashboard, and we recommend that you look at the dashboard on a weekly basis to get a sense of how your campaigns are performing over time.

8. Outsource creative development to fans and customers: It’s well documented that millennials trust and remember user-generated content more than traditional media. Search Instagram for organic posts related to your product. If you find great content (and you will), ask these customers if you can use their photos in your marketing.

9. Make your customers feel famous: The more engagement you can generate on Instagram, the more likely it is that your product will come to mind when your customer is ready to buy. Tag customers in comments and share their photos online to create a personal connection with your audience and make them feel important.

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Coyalita Linville

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