With over a billion users, Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media sites out there.
However, with more and more brands posting on the platform, reaching the right audience – and enticing them to follow your account – is getting harder.
Brands are using a range of tactics to grow their follower count. But what most don’t know is that you can use an advertising strategy to build that following – fast.
In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about how to create Instagram ads specifically to grow followers and convert them into loyal customers.
Let’s jump right into it!
Use Ads to Determine Cost per Acquisition for New Followers
You may be wondering why using ads is a worthwhile strategy when it comes to building followers.
For one, it gives you the opportunity to reach a much larger, more targeted audience.
It also allows you to determine just how much you’re spending on that audience.
One metric that can help you track your ads’ value is cost per acquisition.
To calculate your cost per acquisition, simply divide the total cost by the number of new customers acquired from the same campaign or channel. You can use this framework to measure your cost per follower on Instagram.
For example, let’s say the campaign cost $900 and you were able to get 200 followers.
Divide 900 by 200, giving you a cost per acquisition of about $4.50 per follower.
Keep in mind that your cost per acquisition is not a static number. With frequent changes in ad performance, you might see one month is particularly low cost, while the next month is… not so much.
Once you know how much you’re spending per follower – which can be anywhere from a few cents to a few dollars – you can make sure you’re spending money wisely by running ads to the right audience.
Identify Your Audience on Instagram
Remember, the most important part of a follower campaign is to ensure you’re running ads to a specific audience.
You want to make sure your budget is going towards showing ads to the right people – those most likely to become actual customers.
So make sure your audience niches in the direction of your customer. Now, if that means you need to pay more per follower, don’t worry. It’s better to spend more to get high-quality followers.
Create a Persona
To begin building your target audience, you need to define your buyer persona.
This will enable you to pinpoint the follower you want to attract and run ads to people with those characteristics.
The goal is to define the person, create ads they like, get them to follow you, post content they enjoy and eventually they become a customer.
You can’t do this though without a target persona.
Build Your Audience
Now, you need to build an audience.
What does that audience look like? Are they located at the national or state level? Are they male or female?
What do they do? How old are they?
Do they have specific interests, or is it just based on a remarketing audience that you already have from your CRM?
All of this information is essential in building the right audience to run ads to and reach the people most likely to engage with your brand.
Use Facebook Audiences
Good news: you don’t necessarily have to build this new audience from scratch.
Because Instagram leverages Facebook’s advertising system, these audiences can also be the same audiences that you’re already targeting on Facebook.
By tracking and learning from the reports and built-in analytics this tool provides, you’ll be able to find the best ad sets to run for your campaign.
To get started, open Facebook Ads Manager and go to Audiences.
Click Create audience and click on Custom Audience from the drop-down menu.
After the first window appears, select Engagement as the type of custom audience. Then choose Instagram Business Profile in the next window that pops up.
From there, select the correct Instagram account.
Next, enter “5” in the In the Past Days box. Enter a short, yet descriptive name for your audience and click on Create Audience.
At this point, Facebook will start tracking a custom audience for anyone who double-taps, comments, saves your content, sends you a direct message, or clicks on the link in your bio.
This is pretty incredible because it allows you to convert all of your organic actions on Instagram (sharing posts, uploading stories, responding to comments, etc.) into actions that will allow you to drive new leads for your business.
Now, audience creation is a big topic in paid media. So I won’t go into all of that now.
What I will say is that you want a good mix of new audience targeting and utilization of your current audience databases.
Use Lists from Your CRM
If your CRM has been uploaded to Facebook, you can find the exact people to target and build your following on Instagram based on your email lists.
That way, you can create Instagram ads that your followers will see on a regular basis.
Next, Create Instagram Ads
Equipped with that information, it’s time to create an ad. That ad is the most important part of this whole process and it’s a good idea to test a variety of different ones.
It’s also critical that the ad is designed specifically for Instagram, so that it’s native to the platform and looks like the ads people are accustomed to seeing.
That means using only high-quality photos accompanied by compelling captions that, in this case, encourage viewers to follow your account.
When in doubt, use creative that features people. Photos that contain people tend to perform better compared to photos without faces.
Pro tip: Make sure to tag the account name in the first line of the ad copy. This makes it easy for people to click on and follow you.
How to Gain Followers Through Instagram Ads
Remember, the key to this campaign is to find the people who would most benefit from following your account, and encouraging them to do so.
Here are a few tips to make sure you do just that.
Try Going for Shock Value and Movement
Nothing too shocking, of course.
When I say shock value, I simply mean something that will cause your audience to take notice. Something they don’t see on their Feeds every day and will catch their attention long enough for you to convey your offer.
My go-to: Images that include people, and anything with a little movement. This doesn’t have to be a full-blown video ad, but anything that moves in the first couple of seconds will inevitably get someone’s attention.
And speaking of video ads, any time you can include one in your ad strategy, I encourage you to do so. These tend to keep people’s attention the longest — and the longer you can engage them, the more likely they are to convert into followers.
Be Upfront With Your Offer
What’s the offer?
If you want people to follow you, give them a reason.
Are you going to be hosting an event on your Instagram page? Giving away a free class or product?
Or will you simply deliver valuable content tailored to their wants and needs?
Tell them what they’ll get by following your page, and how regularly interacting with your content will benefit them.
Take a Cue From Your Email List
Think of your Instagram ads and offers like your email opt-ins. The same strategies you use to grow your email list can be used to grow your Instagram follower count.
Usually, an email strategy starts with an irresistible offer. It could be gated content – a free PDF, white book, etc. – a discount code, a free class, what have you.
In exchange for those offers, people give you their email addresses, which enables you to stay in contact and nurture them into qualified leads.
Take that same strategy and use it on Instagram. If you have an opt-in offer that’s converted well on your site, use it in your Instagram ad. Instead of more email addresses, you’ll get more Instagram followers.
Ask For the Follow
A clear CTA is critical to getting the conversion.
At the end of the day, you’re looking for more followers. Don’t be afraid to ask for them.
Just remember, be sure to always demonstrate the value they’ll get in return.
For your Instagram account to be successful, you need to continuously find new ways to add new followers.
Using Instagram ads isn’t a tactic usually talked about, but I’ve found it to be one of the most effective ways to actively grow your account by reaching a highly targeted audience.
Try it out, and continue to test your creatives and offers.
You’ll be surprised at how successful an ad campaign can be at building your follower base.