The 101 of Advertising on Instagram

If your audience is on Instagram, then boosting your visibility with ads is a no-brainer. With more than one billion people using Instagram every month, and 500 million using it every day (stats from Facebook), there’s a huge new market available for you to target. 

PLUS, one-third of Instagram users have purchased through the platform on mobile (GlobalWebIndex) already. This shows they’re not only a large audience; they’re a large audience that’s open to advertising and buying.
So let’s start at the beginning…


Historically, one of the issues with marketing on Instagram has been getting followers to your website, as you can’t place clickable links in post captions. Instead, brands (usually) direct Instagram followers to the link in their bio, and continuously update that link as they post new products. We use Linktree, to reduce the number of times we have to change the bio link.

Although this isn’t ideal, Instagram has still been a great source of traffic and sales for many businesses. 

THE GOOD NEWS: Links to your website (or anywhere else you want to send your customers) can be included in paid posts when you advertise on Instagram. 

In the example below, the “Shop Now” button takes readers directly to a product page. 


In early 2019 Instagram partnered with Shopify to enable product tagging and a Shop tab within the ‘gram interface. With this functionality, shopping on Instagram provides a seamless customer checkout experience for anyone who discovers your products in their Instagram feed. 

Once you’ve set up your catalogue on Instagram, and it’s been approved, you can tag any posts with your products. Yes, that means ORGANIC posts too! So, although you still can’t post a clickable link in your caption, your post can link directly to your website via these product tags.


There are six different types of Instagram ads:

Photo Ads: Photo ads allow brands to showcase products and services through compelling images. They’re the most simple ad type on Instagram as you only need a single image. If you’re already creating high-quality visual content, this type of ad can be a great way to get your imagery in front of more people.

If you’re just getting started with Instagram advertising, this is a great place to start - photo ads are easy to set up and tend to perform quite well.

Video Ads: FACT: Instagram users love video. Videos receive 38% more engagement than image posts and 2.1x the number of comments (Mention).

If you’re not already creating video content, this can be more complicated as you’ll need the budget and time for video creation, but it’s a proven way to catch the attention of your audience.

Carousel Ads: Carousel Ads can have up to ten images / videos that users can view by swiping through. This can be great to highlight a range of products, a range of uses of a single product, or any series of connected images.

This isn’t just for the retail store though; a restaurant could showcase how multiple ingredients come together to make a delicious meal, and then use the call-to-action button to direct customers to the reservations page of their website.

Slideshow Ads: Slideshow ads are similar to video ads in that they appear as a video in users’ feeds. However, they are made up of a series of still images which play as a video, much like a slideshow. This can be a great way for businesses that don’t have the time or resources to create video content to quickly create videos from assets they already have.

Collection Ads: Collection ads can help your audience discover, browse and purchase products. The way they work is simple: When users see an ad from your brand, they’ll have the option to purchase products directly from the ad.

Each collection ad features a primary video or image with four smaller accompanying images below in a grid-like layout. For example, a party supply store could have a picture of someone dressed up for halloween as their primary image, and then the components of the costume in the accompanying images.

Stories Ads: This is one of the newest kinds of ads available to businesses on the platform, and since 500 million users view Stories every day (Facebook), you have the potential to reach a huge audience with your ad. If you’ve not heard what stories are all about, you can read up, here.

Instagram Stories Ads appear as full-screen ads between users’ Stories. Brands using Stories Ads can take advantage of all Instagram Stories features, adding face filters, video effects, and text to create fun and creative promotions. This also means that your Stories ads can look & feel like your normal posts, allowing them to fill seamlessly into the Stories stream. The call-to-action allows users to swipe-up to be navigated directly to a website from the Story.


When advertising on Instagram, you can choose from several campaign objectives. An advertising objective is what you want the ad to achieve e.g. what you want people to do when they see your ad. 
It can be difficult to know which advertising objectives to pick to reach your goal, but we’ve got a whole blog dedicated to helping you with that. You can read about the different ad objectives for Facebook and Instagram here.


Before you get cracking with Instagram advertising, here are some quick recommendations on how to best engage the audience you’ll be advertising to:

Knowing your audience (current and potential customers) is vital to creating content and calls to action which they connect with. What solution does your product or service offer them? What do they need and want? Keep your customers goals and values in mind as you create your ads and theme your content around this.

Use your captions wisely, and keep your audience in mind with this too. A boring caption isn’t going to catch the attention of anyone, whereas a caption that engages, establishes trust, and builds relationships is likely to get people talking, sharing & ultimately purchasing.

Plus, write an effective call-to-action that will drive your audience to click on your ad. Buy, shop, order, join, download, try, and start are all great words to start you off. We’ve got more recommendations on how to write a great post here.

Hashtags are used to organise and categorise content on the gram, so users are able to find content which is relevant to them. Users can search by hashtag as well as follow specific hashtags - so it’s important to use the right hashtags that ensures your content gets in front of the right people.

Fact: Adding hashtags to an Instagram post boosts engagement by 12.6% on average (Simply Measured), and a branded hashtag (one that’s unique to your company or campaign) can boost engagement and awareness even more (not to mention it can provide you with some great user generated content - more on that here).

60% of top brands on Instagram use the same filter for every post. Whether it’s Earlybird, Sierra, or Ludwig, pick your favourite filter and stick with it, because consistency helps to reinforce your brand image.

Each element of your ad should represent who you are as a company. The visuals, message, and tone are all important.

If you create an ad that’s performing well, it’s easy to get attached. But it’s important to switch up your ads regularly to prevent your audience from tuning them out. If an ad comes samey or repetitive, your audience may get bored and uninterested. Fresh, new ideas that engage and interest your audience are sure to get the best results.

Super important: Review the performance of your Instagram ads in Facebook Ads Manager or Creator Studio. Using Sprout Social, we have access to detailed reports that show engagement & advertising data, which allow us to analyse which ads are performing best and which ones aren’t. It’s a super handy tool to have. 

Tracking performance and adjusting advertising is an important part of any ad strategy, as it helps you set realistic goals and objectives for each new campaign, gain an edge on your competitors, and prove 

And that’s a wrap! You’re now equipped with the basics of how to create a stand-out Instagram advertising campaign. If things are still feeling a little scary, or you want some expert help in running your campaign, get in touch! We'd love to help.