8-Step Guide to Using Instagram Ads [2024 Edition] Skip to content
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8-Step Guide to Using Instagram Ads [2024 Edition]

Learn how to create successful Instagram ads by addressing an audience that’s ready to shop on the platform.

Hannah Macready February 13, 2023
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If you have a budget for paid social, you should strongly consider running Instagram ads. Why?

Ads on Instagram reach 96.6% of Instagram’s active user base every month. That’s a total of almost 2 billion potential customers! And the target group is still gowing — data from Meta shows that Instagram’s ad reach has jumped by 21% in the last year, despite changes in its ad reporting.

This guide will walk you through how to advertise on Instagram, including an easy 8-step guide to creating your first Instagram ad.

Bonus: Claim your free pack of 15 Instagram ad templates created by Hootsuite’s professional graphic designers. Easily customize them in Canva, and start stopping thumbs and selling more today.

What are Instagram ads?

Instagram ads are posts businesses can pay to serve to specific target groups on Instagram.

These ads appear in users’ feeds, Stories, and explore pages in the same format as organic content from other Instagram accounts.

Instagram ads can contain images, videos, carousels (multiple images), or collections (dynamic product galleries).

Instagram ads look similar to normal posts but always contain a Sponsored label to indicate that they are an ad. They also often have more features than a normal post, such as links, CTA buttons, and product tags.

ted baker in feed instagram ad with carousel product gallery

Source: Instagram (@tedbaker)

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How much do Instagram ads cost?

The cost of Instagram ads depends on the total budget, duration, and objectives you’ve set for your ad or campaign. You can set a daily or lifetime budget for your Instagram ads, so it’s up to you how much you want to spend. Note that there is no best practice for how much to spend, but Meta recommends starting with at least $5.00 per day.

While there is no average or benchmark price, some cost factors can include:

  • Your specific audience targeting
  • The competitiveness of your industry
  • The time of year (costs often go up during holiday shopping periods in Q4 such as Black Friday)
  • Your chosen placement (costs can differ between ads shown on Facebook vs Instagram)

Advertisers can set their maximum bids for each auction or let Instagram optimize them automatically. So, if you’re new to advertising through Instagram, it’s best to start with a low maximum bid to gain some experience.

Once you have gained more insight into the competitive landscape for your chosen industry and demographics, you can decide if raising your maximum bid is necessary. We’ll explain this in more detail in our 8-step guide below.

The best way to evaluate your budget is to set up a draft campaign in the Instagram Ad Manager and look for the Audience Definition and Estimated Daily Results modules, which will tell you if your budget settings will be sufficient to reach your desired audience within your desired campaign duration.

Types of Instagram ads

There are many different types of advertising formats on Instagram, including:

  • Image ads
  • Story ads
  • Video ads
  • Carousel ads
  • Collection ads
  • Explore ads
  • Shopping ads
  • Reels ads

The wide range means that you can choose the best ad type that matches your specific business goals. Instagram ads now support six simplified campaign objectives. Call-to-action options will vary based on the ad type and objective you choose, see more on that below.

Image ads

Instagram image ads allow businesses to use single images to advertise their brand, products, and services.

instagram image ad for thursdays leather boots shown in feed

Source: Instagram (@thursdays)

Instagram image ads are best suited for campaigns with compelling visual content that can be conveyed in a single image. These images can be created from high-quality photography or design and illustration.

It’s also possible to add text to images. However, Instagram recommends limiting overlaid text as much as possible for accessibility and best results.

Supported objectivesCall-to-action (CTA) buttons
AwarenessApply Now
TrafficBook Now
EngagementContact Us
LeadsBuy Tickets
App promotionContact Us
SalesDownload
Call Now
Get Offer
Get Quote
Get Showtimes
Get Directions
Learn More
Listen Now
Order Now
Play Game
Request Time
See Menu
Shop Now
Sign Up
Subscribe
Watch More
Use App
Install Now
Remind Me
Send Message
Send WhatsApp Message
View Event
Try in Camera
Check Availability
Donate Now

Video ads

Instagram video ads are a great way to showcase your product or service in an engaging, eye-catching way. You can use video ads to demonstrate how products work, highlight unique features, or simply tell your brand story.

In-feed video ads can be up to 60 minutes long, but shorter videos are usually more effective. Read more about Instagram ad specs in our best practices for designing Instagram video ads blog.

the oodie hood instagram ad

Source: Instagram (@the_oodie)

Story ads

Instagram Story Ads are full-screen image or video ads that appear between users’ Stories.

Instagram Stories are a well-used part of the app, with over 500 million Instagram users viewing Stories every day. Engagement is often higher with Stories ads, as the format covers the mobile screen and feels much more immersive than in-feed ads.

The best Instagram Stories ads look and feel like normal Stories and don’t stand out as ads. When designing Stories ads, businesses can use all organic Instagram Stories features like filters, text, GIFs, and interactive stickers.

cambells soup instagram story ad showing animated children eating and laughing

Source: Instagram (@campbellscanada)

Stories ads can use still photos, videos, and carousels. The call-to-action is presented as a swipe-up link at the bottom of the Story.

woods canada instagram story ad showcasing everest jacket

Source: Instagram (@woodscanada)

Supported objectivesCall-to-action (CTA) buttons
AwarenessApply Now
TrafficBook Now
EngagementContact Us
LeadsBuy Tickets
App promotionContact Us
SalesDownload
Call Now
Get Offer
Get Quote
Get Showtimes
Get Directions
Learn More
Listen Now
Order Now
Play Game
Request Time
See Menu
Shop Now
Sign Up
Subscribe
Watch More
Use App
Install Now
Remind Me
Send Message
Send WhatsApp Message
View Event
Try in Camera
Check Availability
Donate Now

Carousel ads

Instagram carousel ads feature a series of images or videos that users can swipe through. They can appear both in-feed and within Instagram Stories, with a call-to-action button or swipe-up link that leads users directly to your website.

You can use carousel ads to:

  • Showcase a collection of related products
  • Tell a multi-part story
  • Share up to 10 images or videos

bash paris instagram carousel ad with multiple clothing items

Source: Instagram (@bashparis)

Supported objectivesCall-to-action (CTA) buttons
AwarenessApply Now
TrafficBook Now
EngagementContact Us
LeadsBuy Tickets
App promotionContact Us
SalesDownload
Call Now
Get Offer
Get Quote
Get Showtimes
Get Directions
Learn More
Listen Now
Order Now
Play Game
Request Time
See Menu
Shop Now
Sign Up
Subscribe
Watch More
Use App
Install Now
Remind Me
Send Message
Send WhatsApp Message
View Event
Try in Camera
Check Availability
Donate Now

Collection ads

Instagram collection ads are a combination between carousel ads and shopping ads. Collection ads showcase products directly from your product catalog.

Collection ads are best suited for ecommerce brands, as they allow users to purchase products directly from the ad. When a user clicks on the ad, they’re directed to an Instagram Instant Experience Storefront where they can learn more about the product and proceed to purchase.

instagram collection ad showing various black leather shoes

Source: Instagram (@flattered)

Supported objectivesCall-to-action (CTA) buttons
AwarenessNot all calls to action may be available to you, depending on your industry.
Traffic
Engagement
Leads
Sales

Explore ads

Explore ads appear within the Explore tab, an area of the platform where users discover new content and accounts that are tailored based on their Instagram usage habits.

halara pants instagram explore ad showing features of mustard yellow pant

Source: Instagram (@halara_official)

Instagram Explore ads do not appear in the Explore grid or the topic channels, but rather are shown after someone clicks on a photo or video from Explore. As the content in users’ Explore tabs is constantly changing, Explore ads allow businesses to be shown alongside culturally relevant and trending content.

Explore ads can be both images and videos.

Pro Tip: No need to design brand new assets for Explore ads. You can simply re-use existing Instagram ad assets.

Supported objectivesCall-to-action (CTA) buttons
AwarenessApply Now
TrafficBook Now
EngagementContact Us
LeadsBuy Tickets
App PromotionContact Us
SalesDownload
Call Now
Get Offer
Get Quote
Get Showtimes
Get Directions
Learn More
Listen Now
Order Now
Play Game
Request Time
See Menu
Shop Now
Sign Up
Subscribe
Watch More
Use App
Install Now
Remind Me
Send Message
Send WhatsApp Message
View Event
Try in Camera
Check Availability

Reels ads

With the successful launch of Reels, Instagram recently announced the ability to advertise within Reels.

Ads are shown in between Reels, with similar specs to Stories ads (full-screen vertical videos), and can be up to 60 seconds. They should include sound or music to be well-integrated with organic Reels. All Instagram Reels ads will show a Sponsored mark underneath the account name.

redbull professional climbing ad shown in instagram reels

Source: Instagram (@redbull)

Note that Instagram Reels ads will loop infinitely unless stopped. As well, users can like, share, comment, and save your Reels ads.

Supported objectivesCall-to-action (CTA) buttons
AwarenessShop Now
TrafficRead More
EngagementSign Up
LeadsClick Here
App promoton
Sales

Shopping ads

With 44% of Instagram users shopping on the platform every week, it’s no wonder Instagram has been heavily improving its ecommerce features over the last 1-2 years.

With Instagram’s newest Shopping features, users can now view and purchase products without leaving the app (limited to businesses with Instagram Checkout enabled).

Instagram Shopping ads take users directly to a product description page within the Instagram app. They can then purchase through your mobile website.

To run Shopping ads, you need to set up your Instagram Shopping catalog.

Pro tip: Take advantage of Hootsuite’s integration with Shopify to access your catalog right from your Hootsuite dashboard.

three instagram shopping ads advertising pink eyeshadow palette

Source: Instagram

Supported objectivesCall-to-action (CTA) buttons
AwarenessApply Now
TrafficBook Now
EngagementContact Us
LeadsBuy Tickets
App promotionContact Us
SalesDownload
Call Now
Get Offer
Get Quote
Get Showtimes
Get Directions
Learn More
Listen Now
Order Now
Play Game
Request Time
See Menu
Shop Now
Sign Up
Subscribe
Watch More
Use App
Install Now
Remind Me
Send Message
Send WhatsApp Message
View Event
Try in Camera
Check Availability
Find Your Groups
Dial Code

How to advertise on Instagram: setting up an ad step-by-step

There are two routes for creating Instagram ads campaigns: boosting an existing post and creating a new ad in the Meta Ads Manager (f.k.a. Facebook Ads Manager). Promoting an existing post only takes a few taps and can be done right from the Instagram app, but lacks the customization options available in Instagram Ads Manager.

Below, we’ll walk you through both methods.

Method 1: Using Instagram Boost

The easiest way to start advertising on Instagram is to promote one of your existing posts. This is similar to Facebook’s Boost Post option.

If you have a post that is performing well in terms of engagement, promoting it within the app is a quick and easy method to scale up the post’s success—and show it to new people who aren’t following you yet.

You’ll need a business or creator account on Instagram to do this. You’ll also need to have a Facebook Business Page connected to your Instagram account (here’s how to connect your Facebook and Instagram accounts in Facebook Business Manager).

Then, it’s as simple as clicking Boost post on the post you wish to turn into an ad.

boost post option on single instagram post

Next, choose your goal. You’ll have three options: more profile visits, more website visits, or more messages (this includes more WhatsApp messages).

goal options on boosted instagram post

Then, define your audience. You can either choose to let Instagram automatically determine your audience (based on your follower data). Or, you can create your own audience by manually entering your targeting options.

You can also choose to run the boosted post on Facebook, if you want.

instagram boost audience targeting options shown in instagram app

Now choose your daily budget and the duration of time you want the ad to run. You can either choose a set number of days or let it run infinitely until you manually pause it.

instagram boost budget and duration options shown in instagram mobile app

Finally, review your ad and click Boost post when you’re ready to go live.

That’s it! Your ad will be reviewed and approved by Facebook. Once it goes live, monitor your ad’s results in the Promotions tab of your Instagram profile.

Psst: If you’re having trouble boosting on Instagram, we’ve got tips to help you sort that out.

Method 2: Using Ads Manager

To get the most out of Instagram’s extensive ad targeting, creative, and reporting abilities, you can use the Meta Ads Manager to create ad campaigns (remember that Meta owns Instagram).

Although it requires a bit more work, our 8-step guide will guide you through the process.

Step 1: Create a new Instagram ad campaign

To start, go to Meta Ads Manager and click +Create.

meta ads manager create new ad button

Step 2: Choose your objective

You can choose to pair your ad with an existing campaign, or start a new one from scratch. To start a new campaign, you’ll need to choose your objective first.

There are six campaign objectives available for Instagram ads. Those are:

  1. Awareness: Reach the largest number of people who are most likely to remember your ad.
  2. Traffic: Send people directly to your website, Instagram Shop, or app.
  3. Engagement: Increase views, likes, comments and shares on your Instagram posts.
  4. Leads: Collect leads for your business via Instagram ads. Or, encourage them to share information in exchange for content.
  5. App promotion: Promote app engagement and Installs.
  6. Sales: Find people likely to purchase your goods or services and drive more sales.

Choose the objective that best matches your goals, and click Continue.

instagram ad objectives in new campaign screen

Step 3: Name your campaign

After selecting your objective, you’ll be prompted to name your campaign.

Pro Tip: Give it a specific name based on the campaign objective to help you keep track of your campaigns.

naming new instagram ad campaign

Once you’ve chosen a name, click Next.

Step 4: Choose your budget and schedule

Once you know what you want your ad to look like, choose New [your ad goal here] Ad Set from the left-hand menu.

Here, you can choose how much you want to spend and how long your campaign will run.

For your budget, you’ll have two options:

  • Daily budget: Set a maximum daily spend, useful for always-on ads
  • Lifetime budget: Set a maximum spend for your whole campaign, useful for ads with a clear end date

choosing budget and schedule for instagram ads

Under Ad Scheduling you can choose to run ads continuously (most common), or only at certain times of day (for example, if you’re a food delivery company and only want to run ads in the evening when your audience is most likely to place delivery orders).

As you adjust these options, you’ll see the Audience Definition and Estimated Daily Results modules in the right-hand column, which will give you an idea of your budget’s expected reach.

Pro tip: Try to make your ad set fall in the middle of the green range.

audience definition and estimated daily results modules in instagram ads manager

Step 5: Identify your audience

Now it’s time to choose your audience.

You can either use a previously saved audience or create a new audience.

Saved Audiences are useful if you have your own custom audience data (i.e. past website visitors) or past audiences from previous campaigns that performed well. If not, you can create a new audience based on demographics, interests, and behavioral targeting.

If you choose to create a new audience, you’ll have the option to target by location, age range, gender, demographics, interests, behaviours, and languages.

audience targeting options in instagram ads manager

Step 6: Choose your Instagram ad placements

In the Placements section, you can decide where your ads will appear.

There are two options:

  • Advantage+ Placements: Ads will be shown to your audience wherever they’re likely to perform best.
  • Manual Placements: You can choose specifically where your ad will appear (and not appear). If you want to limit your ads to show only on Instagram (not Facebook), you can choose these using Manual Placements.

If you’re new to Instagram advertising, we recommend going with Advantage+ placements.

two types of ad placements options in instagram ads manager

If you choose manual placements, the Ads Manager will display the technical requirements for each one. To ensure your visual assets are optimized for each format, see our guide to social media image sizes or head straight to our guide to Instagram video sizes.

instagram ad manual placement previews

Step 7: Create a new Instagram ad

Finally, it’s time to create your new Instagram ad. Choose New [your goal here] Ad from the left-hand menu. This will open up a screen where you can customize your new Instagram ad.

customize individual instagram ad in ads manager

Here, you can edit your ad name, choose from different Instagram ad types, and add creative elements like images, videos, headlines, and CTAs.

editing creative elements in instagram ad

You can also add any copy, website links, and tracking parameters on this screen.

If you want to track conversions from your ad, it’s important to select the Facebook Pixel in the Tracking section.

Once connected to your website or app, your Facebook pixel will allow you to see insights about how your audience interacts with your business after clicking on your ad.

facebook tracking pixel options in meta ads manager

Step 8: Publish your Instagram ad

Once you’ve filled out all the necessary fields, click Publish in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.

Your Instagram ads will now run on the chosen budget and timeline. Be sure to check your Instagram Analytics regularly to see how your ads perform.

6 Instagram ad tips

Now you have everything you need to know about setting up and launching Instagram ads. The next step is designing effective visual assets for your ads.

Here are some tips for how to design attention-grabbing creative for Instagram ads.

1. Design mobile-first ads

More than 4.08 billion users access social media via a mobile device, so it’s vital to design your creative for mobile viewing, not desktop.

Here are a few tips for designing mobile-first ads:

  • When capturing video content, make sure to film in vertical (9×16) as this is easier to crop to 4×5 than from landscape
  • Minimize the amount of text in your ads
  • If you do add text, choose large font sizes that are easy to read on mobile screens
  • Add animations and motion graphics to videos to quickly engage viewers
  • Keep videos short (15 seconds or less)

2. Keep branding and messaging upfront

The first few seconds of your ad will determine whether a viewer will stop scrolling and watch the whole thing. That’s why it’s important to start your ad with the key message and showcase your branding within the first 3 seconds.

3. Use sound to delight

Data suggests that 69% of users consume social media with sound off. As such, it’s important to design your ads for sound-off consumption and to use sound to delight users who do have sound on. Here’s how to do that:

  • Use visual elements to tell your story and deliver your key message without sound
  • Add captions for any voiceover or scripted audio
  • Use text overlay to deliver your key message without sound

4. Pitch, play, plunge

Facebook recommends designing a combination of creative types that work together to grab attention and reward interest:

  • Pitch: Short assets that get the campaign idea across immediately and grab attention
  • Play: Assets that allow light exploration and interactivity for interested audiences
  • Plunge: Immersive assets that allow people to go in-depth into your campaign idea

5. Use a variety of ad types

With so many Instagram ad types to choose from, you can experiment to find the right combination of visuals and messaging that resonates best with your target audience. Consider incorporating video ads, Story ads, carousel posts, collections, shoppable posts, and more into your advertising approach.

Similarly, get creative with your creative! Why not test out some meme ads, or create custom illustrations, or GIFs to get your message out? Remember, Instagram ads should reflect your brand’s overall aesthetic and style. But that said, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t switch things up to keep your audience engaged.

6. Leverage analytics to see where you stand

The best way to know if your Instagram ads are performing well is to measure their effectiveness with analytics. Instagram’s native reporting tool offers insights into key metrics such as impressions, clicks, engagement rate, and ROI.

You can also use third-party tools to track your campaign performance in more detail and make data-driven decisions on improving future ad campaigns.

Instagram ad examples

To get inspired, let’s look at some successful Instagram ad campaigns from other brands. As you browse these Instagram ad examples, consider the types of visuals used, where ads are placed within stories, and how businesses use copy to engage their target audiences.

Skip puts its offer front and centre

Skip the dishes knows it only has a few seconds to grab its viewer’s attention–so they don’t waste any time telling you what they’re selling. In one simple and effective graphic, they give you the what, why, and where.

skip the dishes animated instagram story ad

Source: Instagram (@skipthedishes)

The Bay leverages VR/AR capabilities

Today’s online shoppers expect interactive experiences–and The Bay delivers. By combining Instagram story ads with its VR/AR capabilities, the retailer creates a unique shopping experience that takes users out of their phone, and into the store.

hudsons bay vr instagram story ad

Source: Instagram (@hudsonsbay)

Birdies speaks to the stomach

Marketing is all about emotion, right? And what’s more emotional than food? Birdies does a great job of connecting with its audience on Instagram by showcasing mouth-watering images of its most drool-worthy dishes.

birdiesyvr instagram feed ad showing delicious breaded chicken burger

Source: Instagram (@birdiesyvr)

Vessi shows its product in action

Instagram Reels, Story, and video ads are a great way to showcase how your product works–especially when it’s a technical item like Vessi’s new waterproof gloves. Here, Vessi uses an Instagram Reels ad to show the product in action.

vessi instagram reels ad for waterproof gloves with tactile fingertips

Source: Instagram (@vessi)

Cider keeps it simple

You don’t need to break the bank every time you create an Instagram ad. Clothing brand Cider’s in-feed image ad is simple but effective. They show you the product and tell you why you should buy it. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.

Cider in-feed image ad with colored overalls

Source: Instagram (@cidergang)

Dank Mart uses collab posts to build hype

Instagram now allows brands to create collab posts. These posts will show two account names–the brand and their partner–and link to both accounts. Canadian specialty snack store Dank Mart used this feature to advertise a new product with its upcoming collaborator, Nemesis Coffee.

Nemesis Coffee and Dankmart Dunkaoos croissant collaboration

Source: Instagram (@dankmart)

Storyworth turns customer testimonials into ads

Social proof is the idea that seeing other customers use and recommend a product will make you more likely to buy it.  a company that helps you record your family history in a book, leveraged this idea by using customer videos in their ads. By showing grandparents opening this gift for the first time, they created a personalized, emotional Instagram ad that customers could relate to.

Source: Instagram (@storyworth)

Looking for more inspiration? Check out the Facebook ads library to see how other companies advertise on Instagram. You can search for Instagram ads by keyword and better understand how different brands approach the platform. From there, you can confidently test your campaigns, knowing what’s already worked for others in your industry.

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By Hannah Macready

Hannah Macready is a freelance writer with 12 years of experience in social media and digital marketing. Her work has appeared in publications such as Fast Company and The Globe & Mail, and has been used in global social media campaigns for brands like Grosvenor Americas and Intuit Mailchimp. In her spare time, Hannah likes exploring the outdoors with her two dogs, Soup and Salad.

Read more by Hannah Macready

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