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Instagram ads: what makes them work?

With over 1 billion active monthly users, social networking platform Instagram is a great place for any brand to advertise.

However, Instagram’s rapid growth in popularity in recent years has seen brands moving to the platform in droves, making it an increasingly crowded advertising marketplace where user attention is at a premium. As many brands and advertisers have already seen in the evolution of Facebook advertising, those wishing to make the most of a social network’s marketing potential under such conditions will need to stay ahead of the curve if they want to stand out.

For those who can navigate such waters effectively, the rewards can be huge. For those who fall behind, the returns on (often substantial) advertising investment can leave much to be desired.

Understanding what separates the Instagram ad haves from the Instagram have-nots can go a long way toward helping your brand stand out from the crowd, grab user attention, and generate the clicks-through that make social media advertising pay off.

Let’s take a look at what makes Instagram ads work…


Let’s get visual

More than almost any other social network, Instagram is a visual platform.

That means that for an Instagram ad to work – really work, it absolutely MUST be visually appealing. It might seem obvious, but it needs to be said anyway: the images and videos you use in your Instagram ads will have a big impact on your ability to capture and retain user attention. While getting your Instagram ad’s copy just right is what really drives revenue, great copy can only do its job if users read it. Sharp visual Instagram ad elements are the surest path to getting eyeballs on your ads in the first place and allowing your ad copy to do its job, which is why it is imperative that your ads’ visuals be on point at all times.

While developing and building top-notch visuals for your Instagram ads will involve a significant investment of time, effort, and money, that investment will certainly be worthwhile. In fact, advertising on Instagram without investing the time and effort to ensure that your visuals are on point amounts to little more than a complete waste of time.

That’s not to say that Instagram ad videos and images need to be overly complicated. In fact, simple basic designs can get the job done just as well, provided they are on-brand and able to retain user attention long enough for your Instagram ad’s copy to turn that attention into sweet, sweet clicks-through. And those sweet, sweet clicks-through is where the money is.


Be cool

In the Instagram feed, fitting in matters.

Although “fitting in” and “standing out” at the same time might sound like a fine line to walk, it isn’t impossible. If your Instagram ads look odd and out of place in users’ feeds, they (and your brand) will come to be viewed as an unwanted nuisance. That’s the last thing you want.

Always endeavor to ensure that your ads look like they belong on the Instagram feed. Tacky visuals or overly salesy copy will flag your ad up as an Instagram interloper instantly. Speak to Instagram users in a way that reasonably approximates the way they speak to each other.


Copy matters

Great visuals can only take an Instagram ad so far. Then it’s time for your Instagram ad’s copy to do its job.

One of the truly revolutionary things about social media advertising is its ability to convert users instantly. Sure, advertising for the purposes of effective branding and sales down the line is still certainly worthwhile, but the power to turn audience attention into sales with little more than a few clicks of the mouse is an awesome one indeed.

While effective visuals may provide an uplift in user attention, effective, optimized Instagram ad copy is where your ad can really deliver an increased clickthrough rate. And a robust click-through rate is the most important social media advertising metric when it comes to actual revenue generated. And isn’t generating revenue what this was all about in the first place?

Remember though, every consumer touchpoint is a branded moment. Even when off-brand copy promises a short-term uplift in Instagram ad performance, the tradeoff is rarely worth it. Ensuring that your Instagram ad copy remains inoffensive and on-brand is crucial for protecting the positive brand perception you’ve worked so hard to build.

Stand and deliver

When someone clicks on your Instagram ad, you’d better be able to make it worth their while.

Use deceitful/dishonest tactics, redirect users to a poorly designed website, or offer a clumsy journey to purchase, and all the progress your effective Instagram ad has made will amount to nothing. Less than nothing, in fact. Not only will your ad fail to generate the ROI numbers you’d hoped, but you may actually do significant damage to your brand and any future campaigns you run.

The social media world is entirely user-driven. Brands that wish to claim an advertising place in that world need to understand that they must have all their digital ducks in a row before jumping in. Be user experience focused and customer experience driven at all times on any social media advertising platform, including Instagram.




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