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Social Media Marketing: How to Run an Ad on Instagram

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Social Media Marketing: How to Run an Ad on Instagram

Information and Tools You Need to Tap into Social Media’s Most Image-Driven Platform

Certain eCommerce merchants have become adept at using Instagram for social media content. These companies realize Instagram is more than a platform for travel photos and selfies, and they made it a priority to use the social network for other purposes. Certain business have built their entire image through Instagram (think the likes of famous photographer Chris Burkard and clothing company ASOS).

Yet, the brands that truly understand how to run an ad on Instagram are few and far between. Even eCommerce companies, which should be begging for more space and fewer constraints to post images of their products, aren’t maximizing the social media platform’s potential. So how do you tap into the image-driven platform?

History of Advertising with Instagram

Can you recall the reaction when Instagram first introduced ads in 2013?

Prior to October 2013, the social media platform had taken a firm, and quite frankly, effective stance of not allowing paid advertising on its site. Instagram gained traction among artists, photographers, and hipsters because the platform was ad-free. Yet, to be profitable in the long-term, Instagram had to build revenue, like any other business. The platform, naturally, turned to advertising.

It caused a stir among users in 2013, when they learned Instagram, owned by Facebook, would run corporate, paid advertising. Long before this point, businesses had seen the value of joining the social media platform, and many companies were building intriguing, on-brand content without a formal advertising process. While this generated some traffic for these businesses, both Instagram and advertisers saw the potential in paid ads.

“Enjoyable and creative in much the same way you see engaging, high-quality ads when you flip through your favorite magazine.”- Instagram’s promise to users when it introduced advertising in 2013.

When Instagram did roll-out ads, it actually received enough backlash from social media users that it discontinued them in the short-term. When it did reintroduce paid advertising, Instagram wanted users to accept the concept. So, the platform promised all ads would include “beautiful, high-quality photos.” In part, Instagram needed these ads to blend in on the platform, as much as advertisers wanted them to stand out.

Then in 2015, Instagram allowed clickable ads. This change in policy was specifically to attract more eCommerce businesses to Instagram ads. Before the switch, eCommerce companies had to find creative ways to facilitate direct engagement from Instagram.  These clickable ads became the way eCommerce companies could directly track ROI and other performance indicators for their ad.

What’s with the Social Media History Lesson?

Whether you invest in paid advertising on Instagram or build your brand’s business account, how Instagram users approach advertising is important. While Instagram has amassed a community of 700 million monthly users, the demographic is different than Twitter, Facebook, and even Snapchat. What these users like, dislike, and quite frankly despise is valuable information.

Unlike other forms of social media, Instagram wasn’t able to smoothly integrate advertising into its platform. There was a sense, from a majority in the Instagram community, that advertising would inherently change the social media site, for the worse. This fear of advertising has dissipated but not disappeared. Knowing the backstory is important, if you want to build a successful Instagram ad.

After all, while Instagram is providing the platform, it is social media users you are ultimately targeting with your advertising.

Stick to Your Brand’s Story Across Social Media

Even though you are utilizing visuals as your primary messenger, instead of words, it doesn’t mean storytelling and branding go out the window. Instgram is actually a fantastic social media platform for building a cohesive, congruent story for your brand, specifically because it focuses on visual content. For example, several of Instagram’s successful advertisers turned to color theory to develop content. Every post incorporates the same color scheme, even if the filter changes. Often, this color palate matches their other digital marketing materials, including logo, website text, and product design.

As well, storytelling gives you a basis for creating compelling content. Remember the backlash to advertising by Instagram users? These individuals are still on the social media platform, only more of them. The community still places emphasis on high-quality, thoughtful, or funny visual content. Many people come to Instagram to be inspired, and you want your ad to capture that purpose, because it can lead to engagement.

When you tell a story through Instagram ads, it also gives you a plan. One of the biggest mistakes eCommerce companies make when they advertise on Instagram is not fully developing a plan to utilize the social media platform. Instead they jump in, hoping the obvious benefits of Instagram will keep them afloat.

In addition to sticking with your brand’s story, your Instagram ad should have a set strategy. What does your brand accomplish with this ad? Answer this question before anything else.

Spend Time Setting Your Target Audience

If you have ever advertised via Facebook, you know the tools available to set your target audience are robust. You can connect with potential shoppers based on geographic area, interest, age, gender, and a slew of other factors. Instagram, as a Facebook-owned platform, is integrated with Facebook Ads. Therefore, you have access to the same specific targeting tools.

An eCommerce business can access Facebook’s “Audience” tool and better target potential customers. This improves the click through rate on your ads,and increases engagement. Therefore, choosing how to manipulate these settings should not be rushed. Instead, take the time to think about you target audience.  For a specific ad, remember your audience might differ from previous posts.

Also, keep in mind that Instagram’s algorithm won’t punish you for setting a small target audience. The social media platform revamped its algorithm back in 2016, and there are new opportunities for small businesses and self-starters in eCommerce to reduce and refine their target audience.

Don’t Make an Ad at All

If this sounds like counterintuitive advice, then there is still a lot to learn about Instagram. Remember Instagram users really dislike blatant advertisements. However, if you can sell your brand without sounding like a salesman, they will love you.

If you are looking for assistance with social media marketing for an eCommerce company, or simply want to talk with an expert on Instagram ads, the team at 1Digital Agency can help. We handle social media marketing, in addition to SEO for eCommerce, PPC marketing, email marketing, and digital marketing. Find a full overviews of our eCommerce expertise here.

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