According to a Pew Research study, 55 percent of all 18- to 29-year-olds in the United States are using Instagram. That’s a whole generation of people viewing the world through sepia-filtered glasses.

Companies who can harness the power of that platform to share what’s great about their business stand to grow their presence and profit among millennials considerably.

One of the best ways a business can make use of the photo-sharing platform is to invest in Instagram ads. Advertisers of all sizes are seeing fantastic results. From driving mass awareness, to increasing website sales and mobile app downloads, Instagram offers limitless possibilities for the creative marketer.

Why advertise on Instagram?

Instagram ads have proven to be an effective means for generating new business. A report from market research firm eMarketer predicts that nearly three quarters of American companies with 100 employees or more will turn to the photo-sharing app for marketing purposes in 2017—up from a little more than half this year, reports Mashable.

Instagram offers several compelling case studies demonstrating the effectiveness of their ad features.

They measure each campaign’s success based on metrics such as reach, ad recall, and awareness, instead of likes, comments, and follower counts over the span of the campaign.

For example, monthly book subscription service Read Dog Books used Instagram Stories to connect with its audience while running a single ad campaign on Instagram and Facebook to encourage people to subscribe. The result? A seven times return on ad spend.

A study conducted by Forrester in 2016 reviewed how the top 50 global brands market on social media. Forrester evaluated 11.8 million user interactions on 2,489 posts made by 249 branded profiles. Data was collected on how many top brands use each social network, how many fans they have, how often they post, and how often users interact with their posts. Forrester found that the average number of Instagram followers for a top brand is now over 1 million—almost five times higher than in 2015.

Types of Instagram ads

There are three main types of Instagram ads to choose from. Whether your goal is to build brand awareness, get more website visits, or increase downloads of your mobile app, Instagram can help you access a huge, engaged audience.

Instagram photo ads

With photo ads, businesses can tell their story and feature products through visually engaging imagery. Market your brand to a broad audience or just the customers in your hometown with guaranteed impressions.

For example, Brazilian paint brand, Suvinil launched an Instagram ads campaign focused on a specific target audience—people over 35. With the help of Instagram’s segmentation tools, Suvinil targeted people who might be interested in buying their paint. People who announced moving, or had recently changed their relationship status, as well as people who had interests in pregnancy and decor.

In just 2 months, the campaign achieved a 15-point increase in ad recall on Instagram.

Instagram video ads

You can make Instagram video ads up to 60 seconds long, but according to data from Wista, the first 30 seconds of a social video is what matters most. If you can hook your audience in that timeframe, they are more likely to stick around and engage.

Many brands have had great success with Instagram video ads. Creative app company Lightricks used beautiful Instagram videos to help them hit the top of the download charts with their new app Enlight.

The direct-response video ads were a huge hit, boosting Lightricks’ conversion rate by 50 percent compared to non-Instagram campaigns. They achieved enormous reach and a lower cost per install, while racking up 40 million post engagements along the way. In the end, Enlight secured more than 300,000 downloads and hit the number one spot in the global iOS paid app charts.

Instagram carousel ads

With carousel ads, Instagram users can swipe to see additional images and a call to action button takes them to a website to learn more. Carousel ads are like the digital version of the multi-page print campaigns of yesteryear. Unlike print ads, carousel ads offer the added benefit of taking people to a website to learn more.

For example, a new restaurant could showcase how multiple ingredients come together to make a delicious meal. Once their appetite is whet, you can have a button that directs them to the reservations page of your website.

Call-to-action buttons

In late 2015 Instagram added several new features to its advertising platform, including call-to-action buttons such as Shop Now and Install Now. The Call to Action (CTA) button is designed to bring a business’ most important objective to the front lines of its Instagram presence. Call to action buttons link to any destination on or off Instagram that aligns with a business’s goals.


Instagram ads best practices

Know your audience

One of the most wonderful features of Instagram ads is the targeting capabilities. Rather than sending a photo of your business out into the ether, you can send it directly to people who might already be interested in what you have to offer.

Captivate with captions

Images aren’t everything. The caption on your Instagram post provides an excellent opportunity to show off your brand’s personality. Your brand voice is part of you broader social media marketing plan. Start by asking yourself: what are the qualities and values I want my brand to promote? Make a list and use it to shape your image. You might also try brainstorming a few adjectives that describe your brand and use those to refine the voice.

Use hashtags

Instagram posts with at least one hashtag average 12.6 percent more engagement than those with no hashtags, according to a study by Simply Measured. So use them when they are relevant to your post and target audience—but don’t use so many that they crowd your copy and make it difficult to read.

Be consistent

Using the same filter or style on your brand’s Instagram posts can give your feed a consistent look. Your audience will recognize you right away in their feed. Researchers found that 90 percent of immediate judgments made about a product can be based on color alone.