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Instagram Advertising: Getting Started with Advertising on Instagram

Aiden Dalley

Sr. Manager, Product Marketing

Much like its sister app Facebook, billions of people use Instagram to share their lives, connect with their favorite celebrities, and stay updated on trends and hot new brands. If you’re a brand that sells eye-catching products like makeup or clothes, advertising on Instagram can be the ticket to sharing your products with the world and influencing culture.

Paid Instagram advertising is a cornerstone of Meta’s business, with an estimated $50.58 billion set to enter the company’s coffers in 2023. That’s a huge number, but there’s a reason it’s so high: Thanks to its huge number of users creating a diverse audience, Instagram advertising works.

Let’s look at how building an Instagram advertising strategy can create meaningful results for your company and some basic ideas for how to sell on Instagram.

Types of Instagram Ads

The Instagram advertising platform gives you several options for creating Instagram ads. These include standard boosted posts but can also take the form of:

  • Video ads

  • Carousel ads

  • Story ads

  • Collection ads

  • Slideshow ads

If these ad types sound familiar, they’re mostly the same kinds of ads you can build on Facebook.

How much do Instagram ads cost?

Your Instagram ads cost can vary based on several factors. These can include the keywords you’re targeting, the size and type of audience you want, and even the kind of ad you’ve chosen to create. Most people measure Instagram ad costs in two ways:

  • Cost per click (CPC): $0.20 to $2.00

  • Cost per mille (CMP), or cost per 1,000 impressions: $6.70

Set up an Instagram Business Account

Before creating ads for Instagram, you need to have an Instagram business account. This differs from the traditional standard Instagram account, giving you several features unavailable to personal users.

Creating an Instagram account

Create an Instagram account in one of two ways: If you don’t already have an Instagram account, download the app from your mobile device’s app store. Create a new account in the app using an email address. Follow the instructions in the app. If you already have a Facebook account, use your existing account to create a new Instagram account, both accounts will use the same login information.

Once your Instagram account is live, you must convert the personal profile to a business account to access those features. To set up a business account, click the menu in the upper right corner and tap Settings. Sometimes, you may be prompted to switch to a professional account immediately. In other cases, you may need to tap the Account menu first.

Choose a category for your business and tap Done, then OK to confirm. Tap Business > Next and add contact details. You can skip this step if you don’t want to add contact information, but we recommend completing each field as you go.

Connecting your Instagram account to your Facebook page

Once you have a business account, you can follow the steps provided to connect the business account to your business’s Facebook page. It’s an optional process, but it makes managing ads across both platforms much easier.

Choose an Advertising Objective

Just like with Facebook, Instagram ads offer different advertising objectives. These objectives overlap with those on Facebook, which makes creating ad campaigns simple. Before you create an ad campaign, consider which of the following objectives makes sense for your business goals.

Meta is currently revamping its campaign objectives to simplify the process of creating ads. If you see more options, use this master list to choose which makes the most sense for your needs.


Brand awareness campaigns focus on getting your message out there and making potential customers more aware of your brand’s offerings, values, and—in the case of Instagram—visual aesthetics. Awareness replaces brand awareness, reach, video views, and store traffic objectives.


If you want to increase traffic to your website, app page, or shop, the traffic objective is the way to go. Imagine you must promote a time-sensitive flash sale to your shop or send customers to a page to learn more about your services. This kind of ad campaign can do just that.


Engagement ads push users to take desired actions on the ad or your Page, like sending you a message or watching a video. This ad objective replaces the video views, messages, and conversions objective.


Leads ads let you collect information for your business through messages, phone calls, or form fills. If you have a monthly email newsletter and want more subscribers, you can use the Leads ad objective to reach people willing to share their information. Previous ad objectives under this umbrella included lead generation, messages, and conversions.

App Promotion

If you want people to download and install your app (or perform an action inside the app), the app promotion objective can help. This objective was previously known as the app installs objective.


The sales ad objective focuses on finding people who are likely customers. This is an excellent solution for ecommerce companies that want their customers to purchase. You can also optimize this type of ad for other actions, including adding items to a cart. Previously, this ad objective included conversions and catalog sales objectives.

Define Your Target Audience

One of the best parts of advertising on Facebook and other social media platforms is the ability to target an audience. It helps show your ads to the people you care about. Knowing and properly targeting your audience goes a long way in predicting your ad campaigns’ success. 

Instagram and Facebook allow you to target specific audiences within strict parameters, but you could also let the platform handle most of the work. Broad targeting might make sense if you’re unsure whom you want to target. Most users, however, choose to target specific segments.

Location based

Location-based targeting does what it sounds like it does—targeting potential customers based on location. It uses location information shared by a user’s device(s) to serve ads to people in those areas. Advertisers can target audiences in specific ZIP codes with a process called geofencing. 

Use demographic data

Instagram also allows you to target users with specific demographic information such as age, gender, and language. 

Reach users by interest

The most noticeable way advertisers reach their audience is to use what those viewers are already interested in. If you love fashion, video games, and board games, chances are incredibly high that you’ll be served ads based on those preferences. Facebook and Instagram use the content you’re interested in viewing to show you ads. You can even target audiences who are interested in your competitors.

Advertisers can also target audiences based on their behaviors, like following the business on Instagram or Facebook. Other behaviors or actions this kind of targeting involves can include:

  • Previous website visits.

  • App downloads or installs.

  • Signing up for a customer list.

  • Engaging with profiles and content.

Lookalike audiences

If you have an existing custom audience, Instagram gives you the tools to expand that reach even further with lookalike audiences. Lookalike audiences share demographics, interests, and behaviors with people in your source audience. Using a lookalike audience allows you to reach more people who might be receptive to your message but may not have heard of you.

“Automated Targeting”

If you feel courageous, you can even let Instagram handle the bulk of the targeting work with automated targeting. With this method of audience targeting, instead of you setting the parameters of whom you want to see your ads, Instagram uses your existing followers to target viewers. 

Create Your Instagram Ad

Instagram ads appear in people’s Instagram Feeds and Stories and share space with the content they already follow. Sometimes, ads will appear in the Explore tab. 

Every Instagram ad has a Sponsored icon. Most of them contain calls to action (CTAs) in the form of buttons below the image and the ad’s caption. 

To create your Instagram ad, head to the Ads Manager and select Create. You’ll then be able to take the following steps:

  1. Choose an objective that supports Instagram ad placements. Not all ad objectives work with Instagram. Select Continue.

  2. Fill in your ad set details.

  3. Choose your placements. With Manual placements, you can choose Instagram by itself. With the Advantage+ placements option, your ads can run on different Meta products to give you more value.

  4. Click Continue.

After setting your Instagram placement, complete the ad by providing details about its identity, related links, and format.

Format-based Instagram Ads

Instagram’s format-based ads share many characteristics with their Facebook cousins. Depending on your goals, some formats may work better than others. The major types of Instagram ads, and whom they may make sense for, include: 

  1. Photo/Image Ads: Photo or image ads are some of the most common Instagram ads. They pop up in the feed and emphasize the image itself. They’re excellent for companies with access to high-quality images. As a bonus, they’re usually the cheapest option.

  2. Video Ads: Video ads grab customers’ attention in 60 seconds or less. 

  3. Carousel Ads: Carousel ads show a series of photos and videos that rotate in and out. This format best works with multiple variations or pictures from different angles.

  4. Collection Ads: Collection ads are like carousels in how they display multiple photos. Instead of one product, it’s usually a series of related items in a single layout

  5. Shopping Ads: Shopping ads showcase products. You include a product tag on the image or ad that viewers can click. Customers can purchase the product through Instagram checkout or links to that product on an advertiser’s website. 

Section-based Instagram Ads

In addition to the format-based ads, Instagram can display different types of ads based on where an advertiser wants them to show up:

  1. Stories Ads: Stories ads display promotions within the Instagram Stories section. They usually pop up in between stories on a user’s following list. Stories typically go away after 24 hours, which makes them an excellent option for limited-time offers.

  2. Explore Ads: Explore ads appear in a user’s highly targeted Explore section. They will show up for customers who have similar interests or are in your brand’s target demographic.

  3. Feed Ads: Feed ads are the most basic form of Instagram ads and will be sandwiched between the posts of accounts that users follow.

  4. Reels Ads: Many people talk about Reels like it’s Instagram’s TikTok clone. Reels ads are short video clips that won’t disappear after 24 hours. They can be up to 60 seconds and include audio or music to appear organic. Reels ads can only be video assets.

Set Your Ad Budget

Instagram ads give two options for budgets: daily and lifetime. A daily budget estimates how much you’re willing to spend to show your ad to users daily. A lifetime budget is how much you’re willing to spend over the campaign’s life. Many brands increasingly focus on their return on ad spend (ROAS). You can use AdRoll’s ROAS calculator to optimize your budget.

Launch and Monitor Your Ad Campaign

Once you create, proof, and test your ads, it’s time to launch and monitor them. You can use Facebook’s Ad Manager tool to view data related to your ads. Still, AdRoll’s Instagram advertising platform can simplify the data and give you more control over your ads. You can find and retarget customers, run multi-channel campaigns, and view the impact of your advertising efforts compared with other channels.

Advanced Instagram Advertising Strategies

Once you’ve mastered the basics of advertising on Instagram, consider the following advanced strategies. Many tactics we describe below dovetail neatly with an existing organic social media strategy and may not fit all brands well.

Optimize your Instagram profile

You may be running compelling ads that cause customers to visit your page, but is your profile optimized? Ensure your Instagram profile is buttoned up with a quality profile that reflects your branding. Include relevant keywords in your name and bio, and don’t forget the importance of hashtags and CTAs. Finally, ensure your URL points toward a part of your website that makes sense for your current advertising or product goals. 

Use memes and image macros

You may think memes and image macros don’t have their place in an Instagram business account, but nothing could be further from the truth. You can supplement your paid social media efforts and increase brand recognition by including content that drives engagement and shares.

Instagram hashtags

Don’t forget about hashtags. You don’t need to include 50 hashtags on every post, but a few targeted keywords can make a difference in your content’s discoverability. Combined with memes and trending topics, they can help users find you in the Explore tab.

Influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is an essential part of most brands’ Instagram paid advertising matrix. If you’re a direct-to-consumer brand or have an ecommerce platform, partnering with Instagram influencers can help drive your products toward more users and encourage them to buy. Finding the right influencer can be tricky, however. Do your research and find someone who fits your brand and audience.

Maximize the Impact of Your Instagram Ads with AdRoll

Instagram ads are just one piece of the social media advertising puzzle, but managing them doesn’t have to be a headache. AdRoll can help streamline setting your budgets, targeting your audience, and reviewing the data so you can make more informed marketing decisions. Learn more about our Instagram advertising management tool today.


What types of Instagram ads are available?

Instagram offers format- and section-based ads, including videos, images, and carousel content. 

How do I target my Instagram ads to reach the right audience?

Identify your ideal customer profile and use those factors to refine your target audience. Sometimes, that might be someone who lives near your store or business. In other cases, you may want to target people based on their interests or behaviors. 

Can I track the performance of my Instagram ads?

In addition to their in-house methods of tracking Instagram ad performance, you can use AdRoll’s Instagram advertising platform to view up-to-date data about your advertising performance, including:

  • Click-through-rate (CTR)

  • Budgets

  • Engagement

What kind of content works best for Instagram ads?

When it comes to content for Instagram ads, it's important to remember that Instagram is a visual platform. Striking images and videos typically perform best. Here are a few types of content to consider when creating Instagram ads:

  1. Lifestyle shots: Lifestyle shots that showcase your product or service in action can be a great way to connect with your target audience.

  2. User-generated content: User-generated content (UGC) is created by your customers and can effectively build trust and social proof.

  3. Behind-the-scenes footage: Behind-the-scenes footage can help add a human touch to your brand and help customers feel connected to your business.

  4. Product demos: If you have a product that requires a little explanation, a product demo video can help people understand how it works.

  5. Influencer partnerships: Partnering with an influencer who aligns with your brand values can effectively reach a broader audience and increase brand awareness.

Remember to also keep your target audience in mind and tailor your content to their interests, needs, and preferences.

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