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How to Run Effective Instagram Ads

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Since its launch in May of 2010, Instagram has grown by leaps and bounds. Today, the site welcomes 400 million visitors monthly who love the visual perspective on the world that the photo and video-sharing site offers.


Related: 7 Instagram Accounts That Inspire the Entrepreneurial Journey

With 800 million photos added daily, and a bank of 40 billion images already online, Instagram captures the world in ways never seen before . . . all thanks to its users and their smartphones.

No wonder Facebook acquired the site in 2012, a move that that launched Instagram's monetization via advertising. Currently, Instagram offers sponsored posts, set up in a way that's similar to Facebook ads. Brands such as Taco Bell, Chobani and Mercedes-Benz have all embraced Instagram ads and have successfully run campaigns on the platform.

Despite these brands' vast differences, their Instagram ads are effective because of several things they have in common. Here are five main factors that set apart Instagram ads that perform well from their less effective counterparts:

1. Build your ads around your overall marketing strategy.

Instagram ads, like other forms of social and digital advertising, shouldn’t be created in a vacuum. Instead, make sure they follow your company’s brand strategy and marketing strategy. The ads themselves should support your brand premise, with a call to action that feels natural and right for the brand.

Consider also how Instagram ads can enhance or complement your other social media campaigns. Mercedes-Benz, for instance, initiated a joint Instagram and Facebook campaign to launch its new SUV last fall, and earned a 580 percent increase in site visits thanks to the dual-channel approach.

2. Make the images central to the campaign.

Effective Instagram ads rely on a single image to entice viewers to respond. The images are central to the call to action. A standout image will get more viewer attention. Try using images specifically taken for Instagram campaigns.

Close crops, tight product shots and unusual angles impart energy and motion and generate curiosity which is satisfied by just one click.

Related: Instagram Is Too Large for Your Business to Ignore

3. Use keywords and hashtags.

Hashtags are those little keyword phrases after the # sign that help users sort content according to their interests -- and, importantly, they aren’t reserved solely for Twitter.

Instagram advertisers and users, in fact, can add hashtags to make their content appear in specific searches. Tapping the hashtag on Instagram brings users to a page showing all images tagged with the same hashtag, so think carefully about where you’d like your images to appear.

You can add hashtags to both new and existing content on Instagram, so if you haven’t added them before, go back and edit your old pictures to do that. Consider using relevant keywords for your brand, product categories and user interests when adding hashtags to your content.

4. Use your social media statistics.

Most social media sites provide data on the posts that perform best for you, as well as the days and times when your posts receive the most views, clicks and shares. Use this data to build your Instagram ad campaign around the days and times when people seem to be responding the most favorably to your organic posts.

You can also use your social media statistics to examine which offers are most appealing to your Instagram followers. Content on one social media site that appeals to many people may appeal to Instagram viewers, too.

5. Test your ad campaigns.

Instagram ads are like any social media ad campaigns: You can learn a lot from testing. After establishing a benchmark ad, run your test ads against the benchmark and examine the results. See whether the offer, timing (day or hour), audience or creative (images) bumps the response rate higher.

To keep it simple, use the standard A/B split test method to test one Instagram ad against another, using an ad with a known response rate as your benchmark and a new ad testing one element against it. Then use the ad data to refresh your campaign, continuing to test until you can’t move the response any higher.

To be effective, your Instagram ads need to tell a story.

Instagram users love to see visual stories scroll across their feed. Whether the stories consist of a series of hourly photos that tell a product story, or brief video snips that share special insights, storytelling is part of the content marketing appeal of Instagram. Everyone loves a good story, and people respond best to stories that engage them emotionally. Pictures can do this more effectively in some cases than words, and Instagram is the perfect platform to tell your brand story.

Related: 9 Tools to Improve Your Instagram Marketing

With Instagram now more popular than Twitter, it’s a platform that holds great potential for advertisers. With these tips and your own creative team’s ingenuity, you can maximize your Instagram ad campaigns to boost site visits and sales.

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