Instagram Advertising

The low-down on running Instagram ads with social media expert Lisa Bullen.

Instagram logo graphic
Photo: Getty Images

You can either grow your organic social media followers by creating great, engaging and relevant content, referred to as “organic growth”. Or you can run ads. Often referred to as “paid social”.

Instagram Ads will look like regular Instagram posts but they have a “Sponsored“ label at the top. This means that they have been paid for. They will appear in the Feed, Stories or Explore placement in Instagram.

How much budget do I need?
There’s no single answer here. The cost will depend on your targeting choices, the ad placement, the ad format that you select and the time of year. You control your Instagram ads cost by setting a campaign spending limit, a daily budget and a bid strategy.

Types of Instagram ads
There are a variety of different types of ad formats, including Stories ads, Photo ads, Video ads, Carousel ads, IGTV ads and Shopping ads. Let’s focus on the most useful in this instance, namely Carousel, Stories and Video ads.

Each ad type works for different business goals and has different call to action options available including Book Now, Contact Us and Send Message. As with all of the Instagram ad types, think about which call to action best supports your goal. Do you want to send visitors to your website? Your Instagram profile? Or push them to a conversion?

The best ad type
This is the key question you need to ask yourself. What’s the end goal of your Instagram ads? Do you want to raise brand awareness, generate engagement or drive visitors to your website? Will you be using video ad copy or single image copy? Think about what sort of content gets the best response in your Instagram feed, and what doesn’t get any.

With Instagram advertising, there is one key rule. You must keep testing all the time. Test different formats, test different ad copy, test different images. By looking at your Insights you can see which ads are getting the results that you wanted. Do bear in mind that there are certain times of the year when running ads will be very expensive (Christmas, Black Friday, Mother’s Day etc.) and expect to pay more to get results as you will be bidding against many other businesses.

How to get started
There are two ways to set up your ads on Instagram. The simplest way is to simply promote an existing post directly within the app. However the method that offers the most customisation options is to create your Instagram ad using Facebook Ads Manager (Facebook owns Instagram). If you haven’t ever used Ads Manager then it is genuinely a cumbersome maze. It is constantly being updated and so nothing ever feels familiar or looks the same!

The simplest way is to go via the app and promote an existing post on your Instagram profile. If you have a post that’s performing well and getting lots of engagement then this is a quick way to reach more users. You will need a Business or Creator account to do this. Then go to your chosen post and click Promote underneath. Follow the options to choose who will see your ad, where you want to send them, how much to spend and for how long you want your ad to run. Then tap ‘Create Promotion’.

The alternative option is to run ads using Facebook Ads Manager. Although more complex, this option is much better as it offers you a very sophisticated targeted (and retargeted) options and the opportunity to run different creative copy as opposed to being limited to using a selected Instagram post that has already run.

If you do go down the Facebooks Ads Manager route, there are two immediate options; Guided Creation (good for those new to ads) and Quick Creation (good for those already familiar with the set up).


Quick Steps
1. Choose your campaign objective from, amongst others, Brand Awareness / Reach / Traffic / Engagement / Video Views / Lead Generation.

2. Identify your audience via Facebook’s very sophisticated targeting options – these will go way beyond age, gender and location and include setting audiences who “Lookalike” to your uploaded customer profiles (note all data is hashed in line with stringent privacy settings).

3. Select your ad placements – here you decide where your ads will appear on Instagram (and Facebook if you choose to run on there as well). This is separated into automatic placements or manual placements where you can choose exactly where you want the ads to appear.

4. Choose your budget and schedule – choose either a daily budget, offering a daily maximum spend, or a lifetime budget for an ad with a set lifespan (eg. a promotion for half term). As you adjust and set your budget you will see the estimated daily reach telling you how many people you can expect to reach each day with your ads.

5. Create your ads – choose your format then your pictures or video, pick a payment option, review your ad and click confirm.


Top Tips
● Emojis work on Instagram ads
● Consider what copy has been successful on your posts and try to use similar
● Define your customers’ pain points and why your product or service can help them
● Make sure that you respond to questions or comments on your ads – people may be about to book with you and need a little more advice to get them over the line
● Don’t touch your ads for at least 72 hours after they start as they will still be in the learning phase. You need to let the algorithm get going to find you the people who are most likely to respond
● Keep checking your data and results. Do this daily
● Try different copy, images, video, calls to action etc.
● Word of warning. Be prepared to curse frequently when using Facebook’s Ad Manager – it’s great but is peppered with tripwires!


About the Author
Lisa Bullen is director of Social Media Sussex and co-founder of the award winning The Secret Campsite. Her online course “How to use social media to grow your campsite or glamping business” is priced at £97 and available to purchase from

Lisa offers social media consultancy and training for all abilities. Do get in touch at


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