Instagram Ads: A Complete Guide for Beginners

In the fast-paced digital landscape, Instagram has skyrocketed as a prime platform for businesses looking to expand their online presence.
With a keen eye on the over 1 billion monthly active users it boasts, crafting a robust Instagram advertising strategy can be the gateway to reaching a vast and diverse audience. For small business owners dipping their toes into the waters of Instagram advertising, the concept can be both exciting and daunting.
How do you create arresting ads that stop the scroll? What’s the magic formula for boosting brand awareness or driving sales? And most crucially, where do you begin?

Instagram Ads
Instagram Ads

This comprehensive guide is tailor-made for Instagram novices, packed with actionable insights, and expert tips to start your Instagram advertising on the path to success.
It’s time to unlock the potential of Instagram as a powerful marketing tool, reaching out to new and existing customers with precision and charm.

Table of Contents

  • What are Instagram Ads?
  • Why Advertise on Instagram?
  • How can Instagram ads help businesses succeed?
  • How do Instagram Ads work?
  • Types of Instagram Ads
  • Choose the right Instagram ad objectives for your business
  • Step-by-step guide to creating effective Instagram ads
  • How much do Instagram ads cost?
  • How to Optimize Your Instagram Advertising Campaign
  • Key Metrics for Measuring Instagram Advertising Success
  • FAQs
  • Conclusion

What are Instagram Ads?

Instagram ads are a form of paid content on the photo and video-sharing platform. Brands promote sponsored posts or stories created by businesses to users who match the targeting criteria, allowing them to extend their reach and engage with potential customers.

Through a systematic blend of appealing visuals and strategic placement, Instagram ads serve as a carefully orchestrated messaging tool that can drive various marketing goals, from brand awareness to conversions.

In essence, Instagram ads are about telling compelling visual stories that resonate with your audience and incite action, whether it’s in the form of a like, a comment, or a ‘swipe up’ on your ad.

Why Advertise on Instagram?

With its immersive visual nature and expansive user demographics, Instagram is a goldmine for businesses of all sizes. The platform’s highly engaged user base spends an average of 30 minutes per day, and the app’s intuitive shopping features have turned it into a thriving marketplace.

Here’s why Instagram is a must-consider avenue for your advertising efforts:

  • Massive User Base: With billions of monthly active users, Instagram is a hub of activity, ripe with potential customers waiting to discover new brands and products.
  • Engaging Visual Content: A picture is worth a thousand words, and Instagram’s visually driven platform gives businesses the canvas to narrate their brand stories creatively.
  • Social Proof and User Trust: Instagram’s user-generated content and influencer phenomenon foster a sense of authenticity, making ads feel more like valuable content.
  • Advanced Targeting Options: From demographics to interests, Instagram equips advertisers with tools to reach a hyper-targeted audience likely to be interested in your offerings.

How can Instagram ads help businesses succeed?

Instagram ads can be instrumental in driving business success in several ways:

  • Enhanced Visibility: By leveraging Instagram’s extensive user base, businesses can increase their visibility and reach a wider audience.
  • Targeted Reach: The most relevant audience can see Instagram ads through precise demographic targeting.
  • Engagement and Brand Awareness: With visually compelling content, businesses can foster stronger engagement and expand their brand’s reach on the platform.
  • Direct Response Opportunities: Instagram ads provide various call-to-action options, enabling businesses to drive traffic, lead generation, and sales directly from the platform.

By utilizing Instagram ads effectively, businesses can bolster their online presence, connect with potential customers, and achieve their marketing objectives.

How do Instagram Ads work?

At its core, Instagram’s ad system is designed to showcase the right content to the right people at the right time. An ad auction determines ad delivery and placement, ensuring that users see ads that are relevant to them.

The platform offers robust targeting options, including location, demographics, interests, behaviors, and more, which allows advertisers to refine their audience to a granular level.

You can choose to pay for specific actions (like clicks, app installs, or video views) or when your ad is shown 1000 times in Instagram ads using a cost-per-action or cost-per-mile approach.

Types of Instagram Ads


Instagram ads come in several formats, each tailored to meet specific marketing goals. Here are some you are likely to encounter:

1. Photo Ads

Simple yet effective, photo ads are single images that tell a story about your brand. They can showcase your products in high-definition, giving potential customers a close-up look at what you offer. 

2. Video Ads

Video ads allow you to engage with your audience using motion and sound. With their immersive nature, they are great for building brand awareness and storytelling.

3. Carousel Ads

Carousel ads enable users to swipe through a series of images or videos with a call to action at the end. This format is a fantastic way to highlight multiple products, features, or benefits in a single, interactive ad.

4. Stories Ads

With Instagram Stories Ads, you can reach a wider audience by creating full-screen narratives that disappear after 24 hours. This format is a gold mine for engagement since a vast majority of Instagrammers use Stories, which is a highly popular feature.

5. Collection Ads

These ads pair your video with four accompanying images, creating a unified shopping experience. Users can tap on the ad to browse through a variety of products and can be directed to the product listing page on your website.

6. IG Shopping Ads

A relatively new feature, Instagram Shopping allows users to discover and purchase products seamlessly through the app.
Shopping ads help you connect with your customers by letting them see your products in their Instagram feeds, and if interested, click through to purchase.

Choose the right Instagram ad objectives for your business

At the foundation of your Instagram ad campaign lies the choice of objectives, coinciding with your broader marketing strategies.
Whether it’s building your brand, driving traffic to your website, or generating leads, Instagram ad objectives are designed to be versatile and effective.

These are the ad objectives available on Instagram:

  • Brand Awareness: Introduce your brand to a new audience. This objective often prioritizes reaching and showing your ad frequently to people who might be interested.
  • Reach: Maximize the number of people who see your ads and how frequently they are displayed.
  • Traffic: Drive users to your website, app, or a designated landing page.
  • Engagement: Encourage likes, comments, and shares, promoting user interaction with your ad.
  • App Install: Encourage users to install your app directly from your ad.
  • Video Views: Focus on getting people to watch your video content.
  • Lead Generation: Collect lead information such as email addresses with a streamlined form, right from the ad.
  • Conversions: Encourage valuable actions on your website, app, or Messenger, typically leading to sales or leads.
  • Store Traffic: Poynt potential customers to your physical location.

Step-by-step guide to creating effective Instagram ads

Creating Instagram ads is a blend of art and science, mixing creative elements with precise targeting. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to create an Instagram ad that wows your audience and delivers on your business objectives:

Set Up Facebook’s Ads Manager

Before creating your Instagram ad, you need to set up Facebook’s Ads Manager, which is the central hub for managing your ads. It’s the control room where you select ad objectives, define your target audience, set your budget, and analyze your ad performance.

Choose Your Instagram Ad Format

Decide on the format of your ad based on what works best with your content and the goals you want to achieve. Will a single photo convey your message, or do you need the interactive storytelling power of a carousel ad?

Define Your Audience

One of the most powerful Instagram ad features is the ability to target a specific audience. Use factors such as location, age, gender, language, interests, behaviors, and more to pinpoint your ideal customers.

Set Your Budget and Schedule

Decide how much you want to spend on your ad. You can choose a daily or lifetime budget, and set the start and end dates for your campaign.

Create Your Ad

Now for the exciting part — creating your ad! This includes choosing your visuals, crafting your ad copy, and including a call-to-action to direct users on what to do next.

Review and Publish

Before you hit publish, review everything to make sure your ad is error-free and ready to go. Once you’re confident, go ahead and launch your ad to the world.

How much do Instagram ads cost?

The cost of Instagram Ads varies depending on several factors, including your bidding strategy, your audience, the quality of your ad, and the competitiveness in your industry. Instagram uses the auction system to determine which ads are shown and how much advertisers pay for them.

How Much Do Instagram Ads Cost
How Much Do Instagram Ads Cost

Bidding Strategies

Instagram offers several bidding strategies, each with its cost model:

  • Cost-per-click (CPC): You pay when someone clicks on your ad.
  • Cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM): You pay for every thousand times your ad is shown, regardless of clicks.
  • Cost-per-acquisition (CPA): You pay when a specific action is completed, like a purchase or a signup.

Factors that Influence Ad Cost

  • Ad Relevance and Quality: Ads that are well-designed and relevant to the audience often have a lower cost.
  • Audience: The size and specificity of your audience can affect your ad cost.
  • Competition: In highly competitive markets, the cost to reach your audience is generally higher.
  • Seasonality and Demand: Certain times of the year may have a higher demand for ad placements.

How to Optimize Your Instagram Advertising Campaign

Optimizing your Instagram ad campaign is about refining your strategy based on what the metrics and data tell you. Follow these best practices to ensure your campaigns continually improve:

  • A/B Testing: Test different elements of your ads — such as visuals, copy, and CTAs — to see what resonates best with your audience.
  • Monitor and Tweak: Keep a close eye on your campaign’s performance and make adjustments as needed. If some ads aren’t working, turn them off. If others are performing exceptionally well, consider scaling them up.
  • Use Insights for Audience Targeting: Leverage the data you gather from your ad performance to refine your audience targeting. This could include creating lookalike audiences based on your most engaged users or excluding those who consistently don’t convert.
  • Landing Page Optimization: Ensure your landing pages are optimized for mobile and are congruent with the ad users interacted with. The smoother the customer’s experience from ad to landing, the higher your chances of success.

Key Metrics for Measuring Instagram Advertising Success

Understanding how your ads are performing is key to refining and improving your Instagram advertising strategy. Here are the most important metrics you should track:

  • Impressions: The number of times your ad was viewed.
  • Clicks: How many users clicked on your ad to view your content or visit your page?
  • Engagement Rate: This includes likes, comments, shares, and other interactions, divided by the number of impressions.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of users who have completed a desired action, such as making a purchase, after clicking on your ad.
  • Cost Per Click (CPC): The average cost you’ve incurred for each click on your ad.
  • Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): Your revenue from the ad campaign, is divided by the cost of the campaign.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): The percentage of people who clicked on your ad after seeing it.


How can I target the right audience for my Instagram ads?

Instagram offers a range of targeting options, from basic demographics and location to more in-depth behavior and interest targeting sections. Use these to hone in on the audience most likely to engage with and convert from your ads.

Can I hire an agency to create and manage my Instagram ads?

Yes, many digital marketing agencies specialize in social media advertising and can create, manage, and optimize your Instagram ads for you. This can be a great option for small businesses with limited time and resources to dedicate to advertising.

What are some tips for selecting the best images for my Instagram ads?

Align your brand aesthetic and messaging with high-quality images. Avoid overly salty or staged photos. Instead, opt for candid, authentic, and attention-grabbing images that tell a story and connect with your target audience.


Instagram advertising can be a game-changer for your business, opening up new channels to connect with your audience and achieve your marketing objectives.
By following the steps in this guide, you will become well-equipped to start crafting Instagram ads that not only look great but also deliver tangible results.
Remember, the key to success with Instagram ads is to stay creative, stay data-driven, and always be willing to test, learn, and adapt.

The digital sandbox of Instagram is rich with possibilities, and it’s time for you to start building your business’s castle in it. Now go forth, and may your ads thrive in the countless scrolls and Stories of Instagram users around the world.

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