How to Advertise on Instagram

By Tinuiti Team

How Retailers Can Advertise on Instagram

As we mentioned in the first part of  our social series, “Everything You Need to Know About Pinterest Promoted Pins“,  social commerce and paid advertising now falls onto the plate of most Marketing Managers.

Social advertising is here to stay, but is your company making the most of the marketing opportunity that these networks have created? While some brands already have a well-developed social strategy, almost all retailers recognize social marketing as a channel of unrealized potential.advertise on instagram

Below we discuss how retailers can advertise on Instagram and the best practices for a successful organic and paid marketing strategy with shared insight from AddShoppers.

Advertise on Instagram: Organic Marketing

Initially launched as a much broader failed app called Burbn, Instagram found success by keeping things simple. They stripped everything out of the app except for the photo sharing functionality and quickly found their groove. The concept is simple: snap a photo on your smartphone, add a filter to make it look pretty, and share to your followers.

Acquired by Facebook in 2012, Instagram was the fastest growing social network in 2014 and now boasts over 400 million members. As for its core essence, there are no surprises here: visual impact is clearly the star on Instagram and the caption plays a supporting role.

For brands, there are a couple caveats we must mention before talking about Instagram strategy:

1) Currently, the ONLY way to share to Instagram is through a mobile device (smartphone or tablet) using their app. This means people cannot directly share to Instagram from your website, or even from your mobile app if you have one. So which devices are supported? As of this writing, Instagram has apps for iOS, Android, and Windows devices.

2) Instagram does not allow hyperlinks in captions. You are only allowed one hyperlink in your bio, which makes linking to products or pages on your site from Instagram difficult.

Now, after understanding Instagram’s limitations, let’s look at some strategies that you can use to build your Instagram presence. Here are a few different ways most brands utilize Instagram currently―you can use any or all of these strategies if they make sense for your brand identity.

The “Social Lookbook” approach

This strategy works great for apparel, accessory, and home & garden brands. You can think of it as a place to showcase your best and most eye-catching lifestyle images, and Instagram can become another channel for distributing your seasonal lookbooks. Two great examples of brands that primarily use this strategy are American Eagle and J.Crew

The “Visual News” approach

Another excellent way to use Instagram is to turn your company’s news and events into clever, engaging mini-stories that can be captured in a photo. For example, show off new product launches, share photos from a recent fashion show, create excitement by teasing sneak previews of upcoming products, or simply highlight special events, awards, and promotions within your company.

The “User Generated Content” approach

Lastly, showcasing photos that customers have shared to Instagram (called “regramming”) is a great way to add social proof to your Instagram feed and help. A great example of a brand that frequently regrams photos from customers is GoPro.

Advertise on Instagram: Best Organic Practices

Make Your Photos Awesome

Like Pinterest, Instagram is all about the photo so it is an absolute must to have beautiful, quality images that make an impact. Don’t shy away from additional free photo editing apps. These can “save” some snaps that you might have thought weren’t worth posting.

Use Hashtags

While hashtags are obsolete on Pinterest, we can’t emphasize enough the importance of hashtags on Instagram. Images that include hashtags get more likes than images that do not. This is because hashtags allow Instagrammers to quickly find what they are looking for, resulting in exposure for your brand to new likes and followers. However, don’t use too many hashtags. No one likes the Instagram account that always includes 50 hashtags in every post.

Include Your Followers

Want to further increase your engagement on Instagram? Start a conversation to challenge your followers.

Here are some suggestions for how to maximize interaction with your Instagram Posts and potential examples of how some brands could put them into action:

advertise on instagram


As always, don’t forget to offer incentives for people to post photos and videos of “unboxing,” modeling, or using your product on Instagram. Comment on their post with a special coupon code just for Instagrammers that tag and post their purchases.

Advertise on Instagram: Paid Marketing

Instagram has become one of the largest social media platforms, gathering more than 300 million users in less than 5 years. Thanks to Instagram’s enhanced apps and buy buttons, advertisers can finally leverage these users and capitalize on a profitable marketing opportunity.

Instagram welcomed advertisers to the platform in 2013, but their recent targeting capabilities now make it easier than ever for users to “shop now”, “install now” or “sign up” while browsing their favorite interests, hobbies and pictures.

Because these ads are powered by Facebook’s Ad Manager, this also opens up Instagram advertisers to Facebook’s robust demographic data and retargeting capabilities. While the intent on Instagram wasn’t initially to shop, like many other platforms such as Facebook, the social media application has become another channel for retailers to pitch their products to interested buyers.

Instagram paid advertising focuses on 3 main areas:

Working with Facebook, Instagram’s paid ads enable advertisers to reach people on Instagram based on demographics and interests, as well as information businesses have about their own customers.

Thanks to Instagram’s buy out by Facebook for 1 billion dollars in 2012, the platform, which previously only had access to target ads based on age, gender and country will now be able to leverage more specific demographics including interest data based on email addresses provided by the business.

Visually, the ads look comfortable within the application and streamline nicely along with images of friends, travel, food and hobbies (as seen below).

advertise on instagram


Advertise on Instagram: Best Paid Practices

Multiple Images

Retailers can now create carousel ads (multiple images) through their Facebook Manager.
Previously, retailers could only feature one video or one image. As far as we know―this
feature is still in beta at the moment.

Avoid Wasted Ad Spend

Additionally, Instagram has changed their layout. Before, a user could click on an Instagram
ad and was brought directly to a retailer’s site. Unfortunately, this often resulted in wasted ad
spend since the majority of Instagram users operate through the mobile app and would click
on an ad by accident. Now, when you click on an image the original image blurs and a pop out
appears. If you click again – this will bring you to the retailer’s site.

Avoid Suggested Bid

Similar to Facebook, you should never use the suggested bid amount since this price is
typically inflated. You want to start with a more conservative bid (we’ve seen an average of
.40 per click).

Creative Hashtags

We’ve seen a strong response from creative hashtags. Just like in organic advertising, paid
advertising can utilize hashtags to help capture the attention of users.

Advertise on Instagram: Paid Advertising Requirements

Essentially, the setup process for Instagram is fairly simple if you already have your paid Facebook advertising platform in place.

Below we outline the 3 steps to setup paid advertising on Instagram:

1) Facebook Business Manager Settings Go to Pages (left side of navigation) > click the Facebook URL to go to the business page

2) Facebook Business Page Go Settings on the right hand side of the page. Once settings select, you should see on the left hand side Instagram Ads.

3) Instagram Ads Connect Business Instagram Account in Facebook

advertise on instagram

Advertise on Instagram: Early Results

Unfortunately, Instagram doesn’t have a pixel installed just for Instagram itself, so there is still some debate over how to attribute conversions (Facebook vs. Instagram). This is a developing area for our team as we continue to explore the advancing benefits of paid advertising through Instagram’s platform.

elizaAccording to Eliza Cuevas, Retail Search Manager at CPC Strategy, although it’s still early – so far she has seen low conversions, low volume and average CPCs for Instagram paid advertising but retailers should keep in mind the success of their paid Instagram advertising is very dependent on their goals.

For example, if you have low spend you can still target a specific audience, versus if you are trying to gain exposure for your brand name but have less of a concern on conversion rates.

One of the major benefits to Instagram advertising is the targeting and retargeting technology available through Facebook.

For example, if you shop on a site and log-in using your Facebook profile – all of that information including your name, age, location, interests and more will be automatically cookied and tracked through Facebook and Instagram.

According to Cuevas, this advanced targeting is what will, in the long run have the biggest impact on paid Facebook and Instagram advertising efforts.

For more on how to advertise on Instagram, email [email protected]


The Retailer’s Guide to Social Commerce Channels

advertise on instagram


You Might Be Interested In

*By submitting your Email Address, you are agreeing to all conditions of our Privacy Policy.