How to Use Mobile App Ads for Facebook, Instagram, & Snapchat

By Tinuiti Team

Spending for mobile app install ads is expected to grow over 19% to reach $13.3b in the US market this year, marking an aggressive pace as app marketing continues to draw attention from brands and app creators.

While many marketers may be familiar with flagship app campaigns such as Apple Search Ads and Google App Campaigns, social platforms stand out as another important part of any advertiser’s app media mix.

Paid social app campaigns, such as Facebook Install ads and their Instagram and Snapchat counterparts, give marketers an effective way to reach users right within their favorite social apps, meaning conversions are only a couple of taps and swipes away.

Here’s a breakdown of today’s most popular mobile app ads for Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, with tips from our app marketing expert Yianni Kotsalidis.

“Social mobile app ads are essential for driving frictionless user acquisition as well as retention. They’re a great opportunity for boosting the lifecycle of your app and many of today’s most popular self-serve social ad platforms make it easy for marketers to get started with a full suite of marketing tools.”

yianni kotsalidis

—Yianni Kotsalidis, Senior Manager at Tinuiti


Jump to a Section


1. Facebook App Install Ads


2. Instagram App Ads


3. Snapchat Mobile App Ads



1. Facebook App Install Ads


Facebook App Install Ads are mobile app ads that are used to drive app installs across Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook’s Audience Network.

facebook app install ads
Source: Facebook


Facebook Mobile App Ads hold an enormous reach factor with placements across two of today’s largest social media networks and offer multiple objective types, meaning Facebook app campaigns can be used to support both acquisition and retention initiatives.

These campaign objectives include:


“Facebook mobile app ads can be used to get the most eyeballs as possible on your app. You also get access to their suite of advertising tools, an algorithm that helps make decisions for you, placements across the Newsfeed, Instagram, and they’re relatively easy to set up,” says Kotsalidis.

“You can use Facebook’s platform to accrue interest segments at a cheap cost and then retarget those segments using the algorithm. With Facebook’s app engagement ads you can track basic events such as clicks, uninstalls, and time in-app. For more advanced event tracking you’ll need a mobile measurement partner.”


How to Get Started With Facebook App Ad Campaigns


To get started with Facebook mobile app ads, you’ll need to make sure you have the following:


Once you have all of the requirements completed, you can access Facebook app install campaigns using Ads Manager.


how to set up facebook app install ads


  1. Select App install objective when creating a new campaign in Ads Manager
  2. Select the app that you wish to promote
  3. Complete the rest of your campaign settings and launch


2. Instagram App Adsinstagram app install ad


Instagram mobile app ads are also used by Facebook advertisers to drive app installs and in-app events.

What makes Instagram app ads great is that they offer the same functionality as Facebook app ads and are just as easy to set up.

Some of the major pros of Instagram app ads include:


“Instagram mobile app ads are a massive opportunity. Be mindful that Instagram audiences are different than Facebook’s, so they’ll respond differently. Younger audiences expect more authentic content that is less ad-like,” explains Kotsalidis.

“However, we don’t advise separating audiences because that can result in more expensive costs for Instagram. Allow Facebook’s algorithm to find the user that is most likely to convert, regardless of platform.”

“It’s recommended to let Facebook’s algorithm auto placements work their magic first before making decisions based on exclusions and placements. Don’t start with assumptions, let the algorithm work for you broadly to collect data before refining your audience buckets.”


3. Snapchat Mobile App Ads


If you want to reach an audience outside of Facebook and Instagram, then Snapchat ads may be the way to go.

snapchat app ads

With Snapchat app ads you can promote your app to users for both installs as well as driving in-app events for users that already have your app on their smartphone.

 “One of the most valuable features of Snapchat is its targeting capabilities. With a robust library of user GPS data, user interests, and demographic information, Snapchat targeting can get much more granular than other social platforms. We can target users based on current location ‘category,’ for instance, financial apps might find opportunity in targeting any user currently at a bank or ATM.”

makeda diggs

— Makeda Diggs, Senior Specialist at Tinuiti


“This feature is especially beneficial when it comes to app campaigns, given users often download apps on the fly when they realize they need an app at that moment. Snapchat is built for this kind of spontaneity,” explains Diggs.

“Given CPMs are an eighth of what they are on Facebook, Snapchat represents a strong opportunity for efficiency at scale. At the same time, Snapchat being a brand-only platform is a misconception. As they continue to update their Ads Manager features at a rapid pace, Snapchat’s Direct Response performance and capabilities rival that of other social platforms’. Not only are efficient Cost per Installs (CPIs) an easily attainable goal, but we can optimize toward and create strategies around down-funnel metrics that signify user quality, which is what we really care about at the end of the day.”

“The setup for Snapchat mobile app ads very similar to that of Facebook mobile app ads. What’s more is that Snapchat ads are considerably cheaper at almost an eighth of the cost of what you’d pay for similar campaigns on Facebook. The process is frictionless, meaning you can bring in new app users or re-engage existing ones with a single tap,” says Kotsalidis.

“Snapchat is also an interest-based platform, meaning there are plenty of opportunities and volume for advertisers to build interest groups.”

“There’s a common misconception in the marketplace that Snapchat is for young people only which is no longer true today. Snap users have aged with the platform, meaning you can reach your 20 and 30-year old audience here. Just remember that the cheaper the cost-per-install (CPI), the less the quality on the backend and the greater the need to be refined with your secondary targeting.”

To get started with Snapchat app ads, go to your Snapchat Business Manager account.


Mobile App Ads for Social Media: Final Takeaways


Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, social app campaigns can be an effective channel for driving acquisition and retention to support the entire lifecycle of your app.

All of these interest-based platforms can be great for driving volume, but be sure to refine your targeting after you’ve collected your initial audience pool to drive more cost-efficient installs down the road.

“The end goal of your social app campaigns is not much different than traditional marketing campaigns. You want to pique your audience’s interests, hone them down to intent, and drive them through your marketing funnel to support your greater business objectives,” says Kotsalidis.

Understand your mobile app audience vs. mobile web audience, who is most likely to use and purchase, what makes one user convert faster while another takes a long window. Your mobile app and mobile web strategies should both work together to provide overall user lift.”


“Making sure you have a cohesive experience for mobile web users and getting them to the mobile app is important because they become stickier.  A user that uses mobile web and app has a very different user behavior than one that doesn’t use both.”


Want to learn more about how to get started with mobile app marketing?

Take a look at our app marketing guide here.

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