Best Practices for Advertising on Instagram

Opinion: Make the most of the unique opportunity presented by the visual social network

Instagram is all about inspiration, discovery, branding and the continuation of customer journeys courtneyk/iStock

As they consider their digital marketing mix and strategies for 2018, many advertisers and marketers are seeking ways to effectively engage consumers in every digital channel that’s relevant to their business.

Among those channels are the tried-and-true stalwarts like Google and Facebook; but growing in influence and popularity is Instagram, the photo- and video-sharing social network owned by Facebook, which now has more than 2 million monthly advertisers.

While it is part of the Facebook ad network, Instagram has its own rules of engagement that separate it from its parent network. A quick look at a recent comparison of ad performance metrics highlights some distinct differences:

What immediately jumps out are the differences in click-through rate and cost per click. With these vast differences, many marketers and advertisers may hesitate to jump into Instagram advertising, fearing that it may be a waste of time and money—both precious resources. But that may be a rash decision.

Why Instagram advertising may make sense

Each advertising platform offers unique advantages that may align with broader campaign goals. Advertising on Google, for example, is often targeted to consumers in both the research and near-purchase stages because search queries are loaded with “intent”—consumers have a product already in mind, and they are seeking more information or determining the best deals and purchase locations.

As a visual social network, Instagram’s unique offering to advertisers is all about inspiration, discovery, branding and the continuation of customer journeys.

Examining Instagram’s current ad offerings reveals what makes it unique: Everything is visual and feels at home within the natural Instagram experience. The image-centric nature of the platform is front-and-center with photo- and video-based ad options designed to capture consumer attention in a way that its users are accustomed to, and in a way that other ad platforms can’t quite match.

Of course, the tradeoff with ads focusing on inspiration, discovery and branding is that there’s less drive for consumers to click directly on the ads, since their engagement is more likely to be about simply viewing what ads are offering to them than, say, finalizing a purchase.

But this doesn’t mean that Instagram ads aren’t valuable—in fact, it can be quite the opposite. Instagram ads are an excellent mechanism for brands to engage with customers who may not have intended to purchase a specific product.

Best practices for Instagram advertising

Being a visual social network, content and delivery are two key components for successfully reaching and engaging customers and potential customers on Instagram. With that in mind, here are a handful of best practices advertisers should consider:

  • Maintain a tone that matches closely with the existing brand: For example, if a pet groomer calls its furry clients “pups” rather than “dogs,” it should use that same terminology within its Instagram posts and ads. Tonal consistency reinforces past experience with a brand, helping consumers quickly and easily identify and recall the source of the ad.
  • Maintain a consistent presence: Many people use social networks to get a sense of a business, including its offerings, location and hours, so feeding followers a constant flow of content can be extremely valuable.
  • Take advantage of Instagram’s unique ad offerings: The Boomerang and Layout features present a unique opportunity to showcase products or services in a simple yet compelling manner.
  • Use Facebook’s ad platform: Launching ads on Instagram is a simple process with the provided tools, which offer robust targeting options to deliver messages directly to existing and potential customers.
  • Be sure your attribution model accounts for Instagram ads: Ensuring that your Instagram ads get credit for their role in any conversion is paramount to painting a clear picture of the full customer purchase journey. How much credit they get for providing inspiration for a potential purchase is up to the individual advertiser, but don’t overlook that interaction or it will be difficult to justify further investment down the road.

By recognizing where Instagram ads can excel with the digital marketing mix and tailoring campaign strategies to match, advertisers can make the most of the unique opportunity presented by the visual social network.

Shane Ragiel is a digital media director at Chacka Marketing in Tampa, Fla. He can be reached at