Making the Most of Your Money with Instagram Ads


Instagram is one of the best platforms to use visually compelling content to reach a young, experience-focused audience. With its recent integration into the Facebook Ad manager, it’s now super-easy for not-for-profits and brands to target and serve content to a broad audience.
To get started on creating an Instagram, the organization must have a Facebook Ad account, and Instagram handle, and some like-ready images and stories.

What Ad Types Are Supported?

There are three main ad types on Instagram:

    1. Photo Ads (Left): Serve visually compelling photos with a variety of action types to drive engagement.
    2. Video Ads (center): Serve visually compelling videos with a variety of action types to drive engagement. Videos can be 60 seconds max.
    3. Carousel Ads (right): Serve a series of visually compelling photos that a user can scroll through, also with a variety of actions types to drive engagement.


instagram ad formats

What Objectives Are Supported?

Instagram Ads are built for the following objectives:

  • Click to Website: Send people to a specific page on your website through photo, video or carousel ads.
  • Mobile App Installs: Drive people to download your app through photo, video or carousel ads.
  • Video Views: Tell a story using video.
  • Mass Awareness: Drive mass awareness to a broad audience with guaranteed impressions and placement in the top ad position of Instagram’s feed. Only available with a large insertion order.

Ads are charged based on a cost-per-action bidding system, which means that you will set a limit of how much you are willing to spend per action (clicks, video views, installs) or choose automatic bidding. When your bid is set, your ad is ready to go live within the daily or lifetime budget you determine.

What Targeting Is Supported?

The great thing about Instagram is that it allows your organization the ability to utilize Facebook rich targeting options when serving your ads. Because of Facebook’s wealth of data and re-targeting abilities, this means that you’ll be offered some of the most specific audience targeting of any social platform out there.
Instagram allows for targeting according to the following parameters:

  • Location (include or exclude)
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Languages
  • Demographics, Interests or Behaviors
  • Connections (People who are fans / friends of fans / not fans of your page)


Best Practices for Advertising on Instagram

Like any other social platform, the best ads are ones that fit what the platform is built for. Instagram is primarily built as a platform to share experiences and stories coupled with rich, beautiful media, so any ads that are delivered must adhere to these standards.
In order to get the most out of Instagram ads, we suggest the following:

  • Only use high-quality photos and videos. The photos shouldn’t look like stock photos, but they shouldn’t look like cell phone pics either. Instagram is all about beautiful images and videos, and anything that isn’t created using that high standard will perform poorly. Only professional pictures and videos should be promoted.
  • Showcase a #FOMO-inducing experience. Millennials and gen Z especially are driven by experiences, and Instagram plays into that better than any platform. The more the images and videos that your organization promotes can induce the feeling of #FOMO in the viewer, which is the Fear Of Missing Out, the better. Everyone that sees your promoted posts should want to be part of the movement and associated actions that your organization is promoting.
  • Make the post short & sweet, but informative. Your image should tell the story of your organization and what you are trying to accomplish, so it must be very purposeful. But, you’ll also want to explain as much as you can about the content that is being pictured, and what users will see when they click to your site in the copy below your picture. If it’s too vague, you end up paying for clicks that don’t convert. If it’s too long, people won’t read it. You want to hit that sweet spot in the middle.
  • Optimize the landing page. When an Instagram user clicks through to your site, what do you want them to do? The page should be optimized to allow them to hit that goal with as little effort and as few clicks as possible. If the goal is scroll depth, the page should focus on telling a story that progresses down the page. If the goal is for the user to show their interest by creating an account, these buttons should be very prominent and ask for very little information. The landing page should be optimized before ads go live. Remember: A poorly performing page will continue to perform poorly once ads are pushing traffic to it.
  • Start Small and Test. When starting an Instagram ad campaign, you’ll have a number of options that should be tested on a small scale before a big ad buy is planned. This includes the target audience, images, and promotional copy. Plan a series of small tests that will allow you to collect data over 48-72 hours and focus on the ads with the highest clickthrough rate, lowest cost per click (CPC) or cost per view (CPV), and best goal conversion on your website.
  • Target. The more targeted your ads are to the right audience, the better chance you’ll have of the ad converting against your goals on your website. Before planning your ad campaign, think about your potential audience and everything that makes the demographically and psychographically unique. We suggest defining a few different audiences and running tests to see which perform best.



Instagram can be a great platform to advertise on because of their targeting options and robust analytics dashboard, but remember: just like any other social platform, the posts used to advertise must fit with what performs well on Instagram. Before jumping into advertising on Instagram, make sure to determine if the platform is right to reach your campaign goals and take a look through case studies from Instagram to find a campaign comparable to yours that you can learn from.
Instagram ads are still very new (launched Sept, 2015) which means it is still a bit of a wild west as Cost Per Mille (1,000 views)/Cost Per Click (CPM/CPC) find the true market value. Traditionally early social ad platforms have lower CPC/CPM and grow over time, think Facebook ads when they initially launched. In 2013 FB ads had a $0.24 CPC/$0.66 CPM  in late 2015 they had climbed to $0.64 CPC/$5.99 CPM (Data From Facebook Ads Benchmark Report from Salesforce Marketing Cloud). The current industry data on Instagram ads vary from $0.65-.51 CPC/$6.70-$6.10 CPM (Kenshoo). However as Whole Whale tests the Instagram waters we’ve found rates closer to  $0.30 CPC/$4 CPM.

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