Instagram Story Ads first launched in 2017 as Story feeds began eclipsing news feeds in popularity, and have since become an essential component to any Instagram advertising strategy.
Not only is the Story format more popular than standard feed content, but it also offers marketers more capabilities to create interactive experiences that Instagram users have come to crave and expect.
Here’s how to set up Instagram Story Ads, Story best practices, ad specs, and 8 design tips and tactics for increasing your conversions.
1. What Are Instagram Story Ads?
Instagram Story Ads are interactive, swipeable image or video-based ads that live on the Instagram Story Feed. Story ads offer advertisers a more authentic and interactive way to engage mobile audiences on Instagram.
Not only do Instagram Story ads offer more ways to engage your audience outside the traditional newsfeed, but we’ve also found that Story ads can also be more cost-efficient in some cases.
We found that brands that tested running polling within the Instagram Stories placement have found up to a 17% lower CPA, according to data collected for our 2020 Facebook & Paid Social Guide. CPMs when running IG polls are ~10% higher, but this upfront cost is offset by an increased purchase conversion rate.
What makes Instagram Story ads even more compelling is that they’re easy to set up with Facebook Ads Manager:
- Similar to other posts on Instagram, they can be shared on the Facebook Feed as well. If you haven’t already, you’ll need to connect your Facebook account to your Instagram account via the Instagram app or website.
- Instagram Story Ads features the same measurement tools as Facebook and Instagram Feeds and allows ads to be published relatively quickly.
- Using these tools, businesses can be confident in which ads are most effective and how they can reach a wider audience for greater exposure.
Here are the steps to using Ads Manager on Facebook:
- Go to Ads Manager page on Facebook.
- Click Create an Ad. At this point, you will be asked to select an objective for your campaign. Currently only the “Reach” objective will allow Instagram Stories ad placements but Facebook will be updating this soon to include other objectives.
- Select the Reach objective. You will also be able to name your campaign at this time.
- In the Ad Set section, click Placements.
- Select Edit Placements, select the option for Instagram placement, and then also select Stories
- Complete the remaining steps to continue building your ad campaign.
- Once ready, click Review Changes to publish changes you have incorporated.
- Choose the ad format. You can choose from a single image or a single video.
- Upload your image or video file. Be sure that the image or video meets the recommended specifications. If you selected a single image you will be able to browse library and navigate to that image to upload it.
For Facebook, you can upload a photo or video and use Power Editor, Ads Manager, or the API to run the ads on Instagram Stories.
Note: When you create Instagram Story ads on Facebook it can only be run on Instagram Stories. However, if you create the ad on Instagram Stories Ads you can then share it to Facebook after it has been published to Instagram Stories.
Here are some tips to help you design Instagram Story ads that are visually appealing and eye-catching:
1. Tell a cohesive story so it’s thematic and engaging. Include holiday imagery for product-focused ads if it’s relevant. Show your product being used.
2. Make your stories interactive to boost engagement. You can do this by having users swipe to complete the story or having users vote in a poll — or even write their answer to a question.
3. Make sure you highlight your CTA with a graphic to make the next step crystal clear to your audience.
4. Don’t forget store-focused and local creative for store visits ads on Facebook.
5. Use imagery that’s relevant to your audience’s needs; it should be able to evoke the feeling of being that perfect gift — even without text.
6. Both video and single image ads have a relatively short lifespan, single image ads last up to 10 seconds and video ads last up to 15.
7. Story Ad design should be clear and easy to understand.
8. Focusing on high-quality visuals paired with simple messaging lets users know what you’re advertising and how it benefits them.
“Play with native elements when designing ads for Instagram Stories. Test text overlays and design elements that have the look-and-feel of an organic Story post. Try using less polished video and tap into influencer or UGC content to make your brand more relatable.”
— Suzie Chudzik, Paid Social Strategist at Tinuiti
“Start with your most important information. Videos that are quick to convey the key message typically see the strongest performance. Ensure your brand is identified early and often, and for promotional ads, lead with the discount to capture immediate attention,” says Chudzik.
For a complete list of social creative A/B tests and more best practices on designing and optimizing your creative, check out our Brand’s Guide to Facebook & Instagram Creative Performance.
It’s Okay For Story Ads To Resemble Real Stories; Authenticity Is Key
People access Stories to see friends doing spur-of-the-moment things in real-time. Brands should do their best to emulate this approach.
“Play with native elements when designing ads for Instagram Stories. Test text overlays and design elements that have the look-and-feel of an organic Story post. Try using less polished video and tap into influencer or UGC content to make your brand more relatable,” explains Chudzik.
A series of quirky images and video snippets with overlaid text will be much more effective than a slickly-produced video featuring actors.
“Video doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive to create. Brands are making their ads more visually engaging by transforming existing still images into video using lightweight animations,” says Miller.
Make Still Images Move
You can always break up the elements in a still image and make a video out of them.
Images can be exported as individual PNG or JPG files and used in Adobe After Effects to create movement, text, and music.
Use Existing Video
Remember all that b-roll and extra footage you never used? Don’t delete it. Unused video can always be composed together to create new ads.
Use Stock Images & Footage
Short on original photos and video? No worries. You can always use stock images and footage.
Keep Your Call To Action Simple and To The Point
Instagram Story Ads are short and sweet and make your brand and it’s message easily seen and digestible for users. Users are very likely to scroll past an ad once they realize what it is. Your call to action must be clear and punchy to earn conversions and avoid users scrolling right by it.
Tell A Story
Conversions come from convincing and sincere ads. Make sure that the aesthetic of your ads conveys your story and message—as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Make sure you’re using the right ones.
Instagram Story Ads give you the opportunity to leverage both single image and video advertisements. When it comes to brand storytelling, videos that are 6- 15 seconds long have a greater ROI driving more engagement and conversion.
“It’s more important than ever to tailor your creative to your audience. When prospecting new customers, leverage video or image ads that both introduce the brand and showcase the promotion. When retargeting loyal customers, go straight to featuring the sale within text overlays and copy tomaximize website traffic and conversions.”
— Kelsey Miller, Paid Social Strategist at Tinuiti
Don’t Forget to Add Sound (or Music)
Grabbing the user’s attention with your ads can be hard due to the nature of swipe through, but Instagram’s music feature gives your ads an extra edge. Music can draw their attention and keep them engaged rather than continuing to scroll.
Re-engage Warm Audiences to Prevent Swipe-Through
The last thing you want is for users to be constantly swiping through your ads rather than engaging with them.
Creating custom audiences of users who are familiar with your brand and can be retargeted with Instagram Story Ads is a great way to sharpen your engagement and Story campaign ROI.
You can use Facebook Custom Audiences to create five different retargeting audiences:
- Engagement: Users who have already engaged with previous ads
- Customer information: This can be phone numbers, email addresses, any information gained from lead generation
- Offline activity: Information from customers who have already interacted with your business by phone, email, or in person.
- App activity: Users who have downloaded and/or used your app.
- Website traffic: Users who have visited your blog or website.
As easy as it can be to create an ad using Instagram Stories Ads there are some key specifications that you’ll want to be sure to adhere to if you want your ad to be approved.
Instagram Story Video Ads
- Must be in an MP4 or MOV format
- Can be no larger than 4GB
- Have to have a minimum resolution of 720p, but the recommended resolution is 1080 x 1920 pixels
- Should have a 9:16 aspect ratio
Instagram Story Image Ads
- Must be in the same 9:16 aspect ratio and have the same recommended 1080 x 1920 pixels
- Image ads can’t be larger than 30MB