By Brian Bowman, CEO of Consumer Acquisition
Very quickly, Instagram ads have become a high priority for marketers. As Instagram has continued to mature as a platform, a variety of new ad formats have been introduced over the past year – Story, Carousel, Slideshow, Video, and Single Image – and with strong effectiveness among audiences. Instagram has become a compelling platform to advertisers because it is connected to the larger Facebook ecosystem, which provides rich data and audience targeting capabilities. There is also Facebook and Instagram’s undeniable scale. The more discoverability of Instagram profiles and scale from existing followers has encouraged a significant number of publishers, influencers, and brands to prioritize Instagram, creating a content-rich environment that complements a variety of content-driven advertising.
As you look forward in your advertising strategy this year, here are the best practices for strong ad creatives to engage your audiences on Instagram, and ways you can keep your ads achieving a positive return on advertising spend (ROAS) all year long:
Stories & Carousel Ads
Instagram Stories hold a strong advantage in its ability to scale quickly, given its immediate plugin to the existing and proven Facebook to Instagram ad infrastructure, making it a highly popular format among advertisers. These full screen, high resolution single image or video ads appear between Instagram user stories for up to 15 seconds, or until the user dismisses the ad. The shorter video format has become increasingly effective among consumers who want concise ads with an immediate call to action.
Carousel ads leverage the popularity of the swiping action on phones, which have made it a likable ad format offering for users. Currently, Facebook is testing a new carousel ad format that can include three photos or videos in the same post instead of just one. Tripling the images in an ad gives marketers greater creative freedom and the ability to show a sequence of three static images or 15-second videos that maintain a narrative or lead to a call to action.
For Story Ads, make the first second visually compelling with bold colors, clean fonts and a prominent logo. Make your product the focal point of the video upfront and add music to set the tone, and grab the attention of audiences. See this example from The Gap, which includes all these elements:
(Source: Gap Inc. Instagram. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Dec. 2017.)
Slideshow ads are looping video ads with up to 10 images and music. It’s similar to a carousel ad, but the content scrolls on its own along to music. You can upload an existing slideshow or create a new slideshow using the Facebook Ads Manager. Simply upload your images, arrange them to your liking, adjust the settings, and select your music. Just like a video ad, you can also choose a thumbnail and upload video captions.
Given the volume of ad creative that you’ll need to create and test to keep your campaign engaging and achieving ROAS with audiences, you can conveniently leverage winning ads and posts from Facebook, and port them into Instagram slideshow ads to get the most out of your creative.
Slideshows work really well for products and services with high quality photography or cinematography – beauty products, travel and tourism, entertainment and more. Here’s an example from the Montana state tourism board where a slideshow of visually stunning photos and video are used to showcase the reasons that visitors should come to the state:
(Source: Montana Office of Tourism. Instagram. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Jul. 2017.)
Single Image Ads
Single Image ads are what they say they are — ads with a single image. If you choose this format, you can create up to six ads with one image each. Single image ads are much easier to create than carousel ads. The first thing to do is to select the images for your ad, and you’ll want to be continually testing hundreds of images monthly to find winners. Then select the text field with your caption for the ad. The caption may include up to 300 characters and Facebook recommends using 125 characters. If you want to drive traffic to your site, select “Add a website URL” to fill in your website URL and select a call-to-action button.
To add more eye-catching action to single image ads, you can add clickable calls-to-action, such as to your download page, your website, an online shop and more.
Alternatively, you can add animations, like for instance in this Volkswagon ad. What you can’t see in this still screenshot is the animation of the car entering and then existing the screen. Keeping the ads simple, less text, and adding movement will be more effective in attracting attention.
(Source: Volkswagen. Instagram. N.p., n.d. Web. 4 Aug. 2017.)
A Winning Strategy on Instagram this Year
Instagram’s pure scale, evident in its reach, targeting and retargeting capabilities, has made it an attractive platform for advertisers moving millions in marketing dollars to run ads on it. At the same time, maintaining ROAS is important for performance advertisers, and it’s achievable with frequent creative testing. Throughout your campaign, constant creative testing is necessary to uncover winning ads that significantly improve ROAS. Using high-performing creative can rapidly increase ROAS. Your best-performing ad creatives may have a lifespan of fewer than 30 days, so you’ll need to continue your creative testing to produce wins that offset performance degradation that happens naturally as creative fatigues. Creative testing is absolutely required to maintain ROAS at scale, and it never stops — but the results will be worth the continual campaign and creative management.