Like all things in marketing, there’s no single silver bullet to find success with Instagram advertising.
Though it can be a highly successful ad channel for brands of all sizes and is among the most popular with advertisers in consumer-facing brands, it requires both channel and user knowledge.
Instagram advertising is a delicate mix of strategy, targeting, budget, and creative outputs. Eye-catching creative goes a long way towards effectively influencing conversions and managing ad spend efficiency.
Looking to create a stellar set of high-performing ads on Instagram? Start with these ideas.
1. Use Content That Feels Feed-Native; Try User Generated Content (UGC)
No one sells your product quite like the people who love it most.
In an era of personalization and representation, your customers are your single best billboard for your products on the internet, and no ad strategy is complete without UGC in the mix.
There is something innately personal about seeing that you are a part of a larger brand community and seeing “yourself” in that mix.
However, truly embracing UGC as more than just a one-off ad does require a great deal of trust in their ability to capture quality photography that feels both compelling enough to be real and produced enough to be usable.
UGC generates rapport and an instant identification with a brand and product set.
Your company’s products through your customers’ lens? It’s easy to see why it resonates. The best-in-class category for UGC is often destination marketing organizations (or DMOs).
Experiential brands excel in the social space through visual storytelling and creating a sense of place that allows users to preview their own (potential) trip through someone else’s eyes.
The best DMO ads don’t show staged shots of exhibits, attractions, or cityscapes. Although all have their place in marketing, the best show the destination through visitors’ lens using UGC and let you “feel” what it would be like to be there.
2. Utilize Attractive Ecommerce Photography With Dynamic Ads
Have a crack creative team that knows exactly how to stage, shoot and edit your products to shine on the web?
Utilize this existing set of assets in dynamic product ads that pull directly from your product catalog.
If the products really can sell themselves, let them (with creative copy and a great CTA, of course).
3. Make Sure Your Targeting Is Aligned With Your Audience & Outcome
So many great ads have gone awry because of lazy, careless targeting. The lowest hanging fruit in advertising is to make the ad appealing to the people you want to sell to.
This requires them to be the ones to actually see it.
Forgetting basics such as age, location, language, and working in customer data and interests are table stakes in ads, but often get left behind in the quest for innovative creative.
The bottom line is that the best creative assets in the market can’t sell to people who simply won’t buy what you’re selling.
They won’t buy, and even worse, they might click and blow the budget and throw MER, ROI, and ROAS out the window.
4. Put Your Products in Context
It can be hard to sell a product or service in abstract, even really great ones. Content (and in this case, I mean on-location, styled, and shot photography) helps your audience to imagine themselves using, experiencing, and loving your products.
For best-in-class content shoots, look no further than Nuuly (that in full disclosure is a client of mine).
Expertly styled, meticulously thought out, high contrast images front every ad, perfectly capturing the breadth of products and proclivities of their subscription clothing rental.
Each image feels tied to season and place, even though it’s the clothes on display.
Take this concept a step further and ease the path to conversion by making sure that the products are linked up to the product catalog and are tagged/shoppable in your organic posts, as well.
5. Use Social Identity Theory for Creative Positioning
Any long-time communications or psychology student is probably familiar with social identity theory, although it may be new to you as a marketer.
Social identity theory describes the process of creating a negative cognitive stigma against something else as “othering.”
As much as it’s not great for building mutually beneficial communication, it is a great ad tactic to build instant identification around what your brand is or is not.
Body care brand, Harry’s, does this explicitly in its Instagram bio saying. “Harry’s is not the same.”
This immediately prompts you to think, “So what are they?”
By creating ad creative or copy that clearly lays out the ways your products are different from competitors (and how yours is obviously superior), you help answer the immediate question of, “Why product x and not product y?”
This is often best done visually, as users are not apt to spend much time reading a comparison for a brand that is prospecting them when they were scrolling for fun.
This “us vs. them” approach is tried-and-true, though tricky to pull off without coming off as petty.
6. Use Your Words Carefully
There are times to use wordplay, puns, and in-the-know audience/community language, but ads for top-of-funnel acquisition are generally not it.
Ad copy must be clear, direct, and inform users about what the product is or how it works.
Creativity absolutely has its place — except when it’s attempted at the expense of clarity.
And while I don’t personally subscribe to generic platitudes like, “Shorter ad copy is always better,” I do generally agree that clarity supersedes all else.
And generally, brief begets clear.
7. Stop the Scroll With Motion
Slideshows, videos, GIFs… there are so many ways to build motion into ads. Though video isn’t the right avenue for every ad campaign, it is effective at interrupting the scroll.
Consider when flighting in a new asset what video could do for your product.
Ask a few key questions to help you find early opportunity:
- Is it easier to see in motion?
- Can we show a unique attribute through motion?
- What would be the most effective type of video/moving asset to deploy?
- How does this asset perform compared to static images?
Creative that shows products in motion can help sell the USP and help demonstrate value and clear market fit (like Billie is known for). There’s no guesswork involved for consumers that are able to easily see the product “working.”
Ultimately, there is no right answer to what makes an Instagram ad “great.”
However, eye-catching and high-converting ads have a few things in common.
They speak to their core audience, showcase the product in a clean, clear, and compelling way, and are well-targeted to the end-user.