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How to Advertise on Instagram: The Ultimate 2019 Guide to Instagram Ads

Everything you need to know about advertising on Instagram, including Instagram ads formats and objectives, how to set up Instagram ads, and much more.

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By Ana Simova
content writer at Ranking Press

Instagram has become a powerful marketing tool for both big and small businesses.  

That being said, with over 1 billion monthly active users, half a billion daily active users, and over 2 million businesses marketing their brands on Instagram, it gets harder and harder to break through the clutter and stand out. This is where Instagram ads come into play.

In today’s digital world, online advertising is a great marketing strategy that is extremely effective, mainly because you can select the exact target audience you’re trying to reach. Since 2015, this goes for Instagram as well. Instagram’s paid ads give brands the opportunity to reach the exact audience(s) they’re after, so the main question is – how to advertise on Instagram?

In this guide to Instagram ads, we’ll dive deep into advertising on Instagram, tell you if using Instagram ads is right for your business, explain everything there is to know about them, and help you measure your success.

Why Use Instagram Ads

According to Instagram’s own statistics, over 60% of their users have discovered a new product or service while on Instagram and over 200 million users take a look at one or more business profiles on a daily basis. This tells us that the 2 million+ businesses who use Instagram for advertising know what they’re doing.

You might be telling yourself – wait a second, isn’t Instagram mostly used on smartphones? Yes, it is, but did you know that over 33% of Instagram users stated they’ve bought a product or signed up for a service via their phones? That’s more than one-third of all Instagram users, most of who made those purchases via Instagram. If these statistics tell us something, it’s that Instagram ads really do work.

Do you need more reasons to be convinced about the great potential Instagram ads have for your business? No problem, we’ll give you a few more.

Let’s start with Instagram’s popularity growth. It’s one of the fastest growing social media networks out there with, as we said, over 1 billion active monthly users. What does this have to do with your advertising and growing your business on this platform? Well, as the number of Instagram users grows, the number of your business profile’s followers should grow as well if, of course, you know how to use Instagram to grow your business.

Another great reason is targeting. You can select the exact type of audience you’re trying to reach when advertising your business on Instagram, so your ads are seen by the users who are most likely to take interest in your brand and make a purchase.

Finally, Instagram has the most engaged audience when compared to other social media platforms.

This is why, according to Yotpo’s research, Instagram’s sponsored posts are much more effective than ads on other social media platforms when it comes to ad recall, Instagram having 2.8 times higher ad recall than the rest.

That being said, not all businesses are created equal. So, are Instagram ads right for your business? Let’s find out.

Are Instagram Ads Right for Your Business?

There are a few things you need to consider in order to figure out whether advertising on Instagram is the best marketing strategy for your business.

Your Target Audience

According to Sprout Social’s research about social media demographics in 2019, over 70% of Instagram users comprise of teenagers from 13 to 17 years old, 18 to 29 year olds making 64%, 30 to 49 year olds making 40%, those up to 64 years old making 21%, while users over 65 years make only 10% in the US.

As we’ve discussed previously, over 60% of Instagram users are women and over 80% live outside the US. Check out the other valuable statistics here to better understand who uses Instagram nowadays.

We assume that you already know your target audience(s), so if you think that the people you’re trying to reach are using this platform, Instagram ads can help your business flourish.


Most Instagram users are interested in fashion, beauty, food, hobbies like fitness, music, films, art, tech, and so on. So, if your business is a part of one of these industries or your target audience(s) are interested in some of them, your Instagram ads will have a higher chance to succeed.

Visual Storytelling

Instagram is the most popular visual social platform out there, meaning that images and videos are the only type of content you can post. Therefore, if you can advertise your brand effectively via high-quality images and videos and tell your story via visuals, Instagram ads are definitely something worth considering.

Sign up to Amplifr and connect your Instagram profiles to receive best posting time predictions and compare Instagram metrics with other sources.

Instagram Ad Formats

There are six Instagram ad formats: photo ads, video ads, carousel ads, stories ads, canvas story ads, and collection ads. Let’s go over each and see which ones will be most effective for your marketing campaign.

Photo Ads

Photo ads are exactly what the name says, ads that comprise of one single photo. In order for this ad to be compelling, you need high-quality image that’ll attract your target audience’s attention and include one of the following call-to-action buttons: “learn more”, “contact us”, “apply now”, “book now”, “call now”, “get directions”, “download”, or “get showtimes”. Users can also comment, like, or share the photo ad with their followers.

Video Ads

Video ads can include a video or a gif that lasts up to 60 seconds. Make sure that the first few seconds are attention-grabbing so the users don’t move on to the next post on their feed. Just like with photo ads, users can like, comment on, or share your video ads and you can include the following call-to-action buttons: “contact us”, “apply now”, “book now”, “call now”, or “download”.

Both photo ads and video ads are a great advertising option for almost any type of brand whose target audience is on Instagram.

Carousel Ads

Carousel ads give you the option to add multiple photos or videos in one ad. They blend into your Instagram feed like a regular post and viewers can see all photos or videos simply by swiping left and right. These types of ads are excellent for showcasing your new and upcoming products. Carousel ads can be especially useful for displaying different items of clothing or accessories like rings, glasses, or necklaces.

As you can see here, GAP posted 2 photos and by swiping right we got to the second one.

Users can interact with the carousel ads in a regular way (like, comment, share) and take a specific action by clicking on the CTA button. You can choose between the following five: “download”, “contact us”, “apply now”, “call now”, or “book now”.

Besides clothing brands, carousel ads are great for most visual brands out there. Whether your business sells cars or is in the food industry, you can benefit a lot from these ads by telling a story or showing visually stunning products and places.

Tourist agencies can reap the benefits while showing beautiful beaches and cities where people can go on a holiday. Other companies can use them to tell a story of how their product was developed, show their amazing team of professionals, and so on.

Stories Ads

These types of ads are best fitted for videos that last up to 15 seconds. They are shown on full-screen in-between the user’s stories as he or she is swiping them. As of 2019, approximately 500 million Instagram users actively use stories, so now you can target a large audience in a fun and highly engaging way.

When creating your story ad, you can use all the effects Instagram offers. You can attach a face filter, add a video effect, or add text and manipulate its size, color, and font. Stories are great for showing your promotional offers as well as for items that are available for a limited time. Given that stories last for 24 hours only, you can use them to advertise those products with a discount that’s only good for that particular day.

You can add a link to your website so people can swipe-up to visit it. The same call-to-action buttons available for the carousel ads can also be used here. Stories ads are great for boosting your brand awareness, enhancing the engagement of your followers, and sharing an important message.

Canvas Story Ads (Instant Experience)

Canvas Story Ads are relatively new and maybe one of the most powerful types of Instagram ads overall. They can grab the user’s attention pretty quickly. However, they require some technical expertise to be created. Advertisers can use them to reach a new customer base in an original and exciting way. The click-through rates these ads offer are much higher when compared to the other ones, so if that’s your goal you should definitely consider them.

Now known as Instant Experience (IE), this ad format is only available for mobile users. While creating them, you can choose one of the IE templates, though you can also build your own custom Instant Experience. They load very fast and offer many options like a catalog of your products, 360 videos or photos, forms that users can fill out, and more.

Collection Ads

The latest and definitely the greatest ad format for e-commerce businesses that want instant and direct purchases are the collection ads. Instagram tested them in 2018, so now advertisers can blend their products, videos, or images in a single ad on someone’s Instagram feed.

Users can view the video or the image and browse products without leaving the app. Not only that, but they can even make a purchase while still using Instagram. Under the image or the video, the collection ads will show 3 products from your shop. When users click on the ad’s call-to-action button, they’ll see the rest of your company’s products. Afterward, they’ll have the option to visit your store in a very seamless way, and that’s how these ads can help you turn an Instagram user into a customer.

Instagram Ads’ Objectives

Now that you know the different types of Instagram ads comes the question – what do you want to accomplish with your ad? What’s the specific goal of your advertising campaign and what do you want those who see your ads to do? Let’s see the 8 campaign objectives you can choose from since your ads will be optimized based on the objective you select.

Brand Awareness

Your ads will be shown to those most likely to be interested in your brand and what you sell, and most likely to recall your ad. So, if your goal is to boost the awareness of your brand, this is the objective you should choose.


By choosing this objective your ad will be shown to the maximum number of people, according to your budget, of course. This is a good choice if your goal is to reach as many Instagram users as your budget allows.


Want to drive people to your website or app store? Then the traffic objective is the one for you. Simply add the URL of the website or app store that you want people to visit, a call-to-action like “shop now” and watch how your site’s traffic grows.

App Installs

Do you have an app that you want people to download? By choosing this campaign objective that’s exactly what your ad will accomplish. Just beware that if your app is on both iTunes and Google Play, you’ll be able to choose only one platform.


If your goal is for people to like, comment on, or share your ad, like your page, or to engage with your ad in another way, the engagement objective is what you should choose. You’ll even be given the option to choose the exact type of engagement you want, whether that’s page likes, event responses, post engagement (likes, shares, and comments), and so on, so choose wisely.

Video Views

Do you want to promote a video with your ad and are in need of views? The video views objective will do just that plus drive awareness of your brand as well.

Lead Generation

If you want to learn more about how to generate leads on social media, check out our lead generation strategies guide.

This is the perfect objective to choose if you need some information from the Instagram users who’ll see your ad, like their e-mails, so you can later send them offers.


If you have an e-commerce business and your goal is to drive as many sales as you can, or you have an app and you want downloads, this is the right objective for your campaign. You can choose website conversions, dynamic ads, mobile app installs, or mobile app engagement.

How to Set Up an Instagram Ad

Ready to create your first Instagram ad? It’ll be a piece of cake if you follow our instructions, so let’s see what steps you need to take in order to successfully do this.

Define Your Audience

Who are the Instagram users that you’d like to see your ad? By targeting the right people your ad will have much higher chances of being successful so you can reach your desired goal. This targeting option is exactly why Facebook advertising is so effective, and it works in the same way here.

If you know your target audience and your customer persona, include all the information you have like age, gender, education, location, connections, behaviors, interests, and so on. You can then save this target audience and use it for your future ads.

Select Your Ad Placements

If you skip this step, your ad will be shown on both Instagram and Facebook, so if you want to choose only Instagram you need to click on “Edit placements” and remove Facebook from the list. Afterward, you can choose whether you want your ad to appear in people’s Instagram feeds, stories, or both, even select a specific mobile device or operating system where you want your ads to be shown, and more!

Decide on a Budget and Schedule Your Ad

When setting the budget, you’ll be given two options: daily or lifetime budget. The former means that the budget for your ad is good only for 24 hours, while the latter that the budget is good for however long your ad campaign runs. We recommend that you set a low budget simply to test your ad and see how it’ll perform. If you’re satisfied with the results you can increase it, if not you can change your target audience, the type of ad, or the campaign objective – it all depends on what you want to accomplish.

Then comes the scheduling part. Again, you’ll be given two options: to run the ad continuously starting that day, or to choose the exact time and date when you want your ad to start and end. If you have a limited budget or want to test your ad for a specific number of days, we recommend that you choose the latter.

Choose the Ad Format

Remember the six Instagram ad formats we mentioned? Now is the time to choose how you want your ad to look like.

Final Steps

If your desired campaign objective is traffic, make sure to include the URL from your website or app store. You’ll then be given the option to add a short headline even though it’s not always shown in the ad, but do it just in case. Select the right call-to-action, depending on your objective, so that people can visit your site, download your app, or sign up for an event with just one click, and you’re almost done. You’ll be given a preview of how your ad will look like once launched, and if you’re satisfied with how it looks, click on the “Confirm” button and you’re done!

Sign up to Amplifr and connect your Instagram profiles to receive the best analytical insights and posting time predictions.

Manage Your Instagram Ads and Measure Your Success

So you launched your first Instagram ad, congratulations! But how will you know if it’s successful or not? By tracking its performance, of course.

You can easily do this in your Facebook Ads Manager. The reporting table will show you everything you need to know about your ad – the total budget spent on a specific ad or a whole campaign, the exact number of how many times the ad was viewed, liked, or shared, cost per result, app installs, and much more.

According to the results, you’ll know what to change in your next ad so it’s even more effective than your first one.

More Tips for Instagram Advertising Success

Here are a few more things to consider when creating your first Instagram ad.

Make Your Ads Look Like Regular Posts

The truth is, social media users don’t really like ads that are obviously that – ads! This is exactly why some of the most successful Instagram ads don’t really look like ads but are more like regular posts which is why they receive more engagement and clicks. This is exactly what you should do with your ad.

Use stunning visuals is our number one advice. Also, use only the call-to-action button that’s given by the platform instead of including “shop now” on the ad’s visual. This will make it look like more of a regular post that’ll blend into their feed, and that’s exactly what you want to achieve.

Use Hashtags

Twitter and Instagram are all about using hashtags, and you should include them in your Instagram ads as well. You can either use popular hashtags related to your brand or make your own branded ones if you have a large enough following.

Test, Test, and Test

Remember, your first Instagram ad might not be that successful, even if follow our guide step by step and do everything the right way. Why? Well, because when it comes to online advertising, there isn’t one right way for everyone. That’s why we recommend that you set a low budget and track your ad’s performance. You might need to tweak a few things in order to get the desired results, and once you figure it out, you’ll know what works for your brand and your audience best.

Final Words

We hope that our guide on how to advertise on Instagram will help you create an effective advertising campaign and get the results you’re hoping for. We have other guides that can help you with your Instagram advertising, so check them out if you’re interested in the following topics.

Guide to Scheduling Instagram Posts

How to Drive Traffic With Instagram Stories

Instagram Marketing Guide

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