Building A Winning Instagram Ads Strategy


If you’re a business running a page on Instagram looking for ways to ‘boost’ your sales or engagement on the platform, Instagram Ads are the way to go. Why?

According to Hootsuite’s Digital 2021 October Global Statshot report 27% of users find new products and brands through paid social media; hence, running Instagram ads can increase your bottom line and enrich your brand popularity.

In our effort to help D2C brands grow their business, we are bringing you a three-part series on Instagram Ads where we will talk about everything there is to know about running ads on Instagram – right from strategy to execution. In this first blog post of the series, learn how to build a strategy for Instagram ads that can get you conversions. Read along!

ProTip: You MUST have a business account to be able to create and set up ads on Instagram to build your social network.

Firstly, if you’re not sure why you should be advertising on Instagram, we tell you why:

  • It doesn’t need expertise to start with; ergo, anyone can advertise on Instagram.
  • It is guaranteed to increase your engagement.
  • It is very simple and easy to set up, and can be managed along with your Facebook Ads in the same place.
  • It has multiple varieties that you can play with (Think photos, videos, text, and more)

Whatever your goal is, be it increasing engagement or boosting sales or anything at all, Instagram Ads help you achieve it. Using this advertising platform to boost the sales is what marketers nowadays aim for.

What are the different Instagram Ad formats?

Instagram offers its users a variety of ad formats to explore and leverage to grow their businesses. They appear in various places throughout the Instagram app. Here are some of the most commonly used formats for you to consider:

Instagram Photo Ads

Photo ads are basically just the picture that you post otherwise on your account. They look similar to normal posts but always contain a “sponsored” label to indicate that they are an ad. Additionally, they also have a few added features like a CTA, or a ‘See More’ option that leads the audience to the desired webpage. Look for your most well-performing product related post and start promoting it so you can see for yourself the power of Instagram ads. Photo ads are best suited for campaigns with compelling visual content that can be conveyed in a single picture.

See how Licious promoted their offer with this ad that promotes one of its products while not drawing the attention away from the numbers.

Credit: Licious Instagram

ProTip: Check out the explore image ads on Instagram so your ads can come on the “Explore” page (The options are available in the Ads manager). Instagram Explore ads are shown only after someone clicks on a photo or video from Explore.

Design Recommendations

  • Caption upto 125 characters
  • Recommended aspect ratio: 1:1
  • Recommended resolution: 1080×1080
  • All file formats should be either JPG or PNG
  • All image files are 30MB max

Instagram Video Ads

What is more fun than pictures? Videos! Instagram allows you to advertise using videos that also appear as posts on a user’s Instagram feed. Depending on your need, the video can be as detailed or as mysterious as you would like. 

For example, if you want to let your audience know about your upcoming launch, creating a short video teaser would help pique their interests and ensure they are hooked to your page to solve the mystery. On the other hand, if you want to promote the benefits of one of your products, a detailed video explaining the same would be more effective.

Notice how Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters have craftily described how to use the french press coffee maker with subtitles for easy reading. This would increase the engagement and hence the video views.

Credit: Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters Instagram

ProTip: Convey the essence of your message in the first few seconds to make sure you grab your audience’s attention

Design Recommendations

  • Aspect ratio: 4:5
  • Recommended resolution: 1080×1080
  • Recommended video formats include MP4,  MOV or GIF
  • Max video size for all formats is 4GB

Carousel ads are just an enhanced version of photo (Or video) ads that let you add up to 10 media files in a single post. These are mostly used to convey a story. For example, if you are looking to promote the 7 steps your product goes through to reach its final retail form, you can use carousel ads to showcase that. Fun part? Each media file can lead the user to a different URL! 

This ad from St.Botanica is a perfect example of using carousel ads to its advantage. These type of Instagram ad campaigns highlights the benefits of an ingredient used in one of its products using different images. How cool is this?

Credit: StBotanica Instagram

ProTip: Use carousel ads if you want to promote a catalogue or a set of products that go together. If you think about it, carousel ads are very similar to mini catalogues.

Design Recommendations

  • Recommended aspect ratio: 1:1
  • Recommended resolution: 1080×1080
  • All image file formats should be either JPG or PNG
  • All video file formats should be MP4, MOV or GIF
  • All image files are 30MB max and  video files are 4GB max

Bonus: When you create Instagram carousel video ads, there must be a thumbnail image over the videos. The ratio for this image is recommended to match the video’s aspect ratio. 

Instagram Stories Ads

Who doesn’t like Instagram Stories? Just like post ads, Instagram Stories ads are placed strategically between other organic stories so they don’t seem too pushy, and for your target audience to find it when they are just casually swiping through stories.

Engagement is often said to be higher with Stories ads on the mobile app, as the format covers the whole mobile screen and feels much more immersive than the normal photo ads. 

See how St.Botanica, a bath and body essential brand, promoted an offer on their products in their Instagram stories ad. Notice the use of vibrant colors and pictures of products from most of their categories along with a CTA.

Credit: StBotanica Instagram

Here’s another example where the brand has used the stories ad brilliantly, highlighting everything a user must know about the product.

Credit: Ditch the guilt Instagram

ProTip: Create ads that look and feel like an organic story – Use stickers, filters, and more. It makes it less salesy and would encourage people to engage more.

Design Recommendations

  • Aspect ratio: 9:16
  • Recommended resolution: 1080×1080 pixels
  • All formats should be either JPG or PNG for pictures and MP4 or MOV for videos
  • Max image size is 30MB and video size is 4MB

Bonus: You have the option of using sound and captions in stories, which experts highly recommend in order to stand out from the crowd.

While considering which ad format to choose, ask yourself these questions:


Once you have the answers to these questions, you will know which format to go for!

How to set up an ad on Instagram?

Setting up ads on Instagram is quite simple. Instagram offers two ways to do this: Promoting an Instagram post and using the Ads manager. While the former can be done quickly, it lacks the customization options the latter offers.

As mentioned earlier, you need to have a business account in order for you to create ads. Promoting a post is as simple as clicking on the “Promote” button on any post. Once you do that, you will be asked to input basics like the target audience, your budget, etc, post which you are good to go!

While using ads manager, the process can be divided into 5 steps:

  • Step 1: Choose your campaign objective – This can range from brand awareness to traffic generation to generating more sales, depending on your end goal

ProTip: Name your campaign based on your objective so you can keep track of your campaigns

  • Step 2: Choose your budget and schedule – This option lets you choose if you want to have a daily or a lifetime budget and lets you set the time duration of the campaign while highlighting the total spend. You can also choose to run the ads throughout the day, or at certain intervals when you believe you get the highest engagement.
  • Step 3: Choose your target audience – You can then choose your target audience based on various criteria like geography, age, gender, interests, languages, and more. 

ProTip: If you have multiple media that you wish to promote, select the “Dynamic creative” option so the platform chooses the best media depending on your target audience’s interests and online activity.

  • Step 4: Choose ad placements – This option lets you choose where you’d like your ads to appear: Post, stories, explore page, etc.
  • Step 5: Choose media and set up ads – This is the stage where you also get to add a custom URL where the audience would be led to. You can then select the media you want to promote, add content, and set up your ad! 

Tada! The ad is set up, and only a few days before you start seeing the results.

Now that you have seen the different types of ads you can leverage and know how to set up an ad, let us look at some tips to building a winning Instagram Ads strategy.

How to build a winning Instagram Ads Strategy?

Did you know, 70% of online shoppers use Instagram for product discovery? Imagine even 10% of them coming across your brand! Great, isn’t it? Having a solid marketing strategy on Instagram can help you do that along with tons of other benefits like an increase in engagement, boost in followers, and so much more!

Here are our top 5 tips to building your very own Instagram Ads strategy today.

Tip #1: Look at your competitors

Ever wondered what your competitors are doing right on Instagram? Get your research hats on and get started because knowing what your competitors are doing might just help you plan your content strategy! 

For example, if you see your competitors posting more user-generated content, it could mean their engagement rate is high. Spend some time researching your competitors’ Instagram and facebook account and you will know how to up your Instagram Ads game.

Tip #2: Set eyes on the end goal

Would you like to increase your reach? Or is your goal to generate more leads? Whatever your goal is, writing it down and building your strategy around it is the first step to building an Instagram Ads strategy that actually works and the next step will come naturally. Some of the most common goals include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Traffic to website
  • Brand awareness
  • Form fills (Lead Generation)
  • Downloads
  • Messages

Setting your goals also helps you understand your KPIs which you can then align with your strategy. KPIs or Key Performance Indicators are statistical numbers used to measure the activities and performances of a campaign to see whether there is progress with your ads and other marketing strategies.

If you’re wondering what are the major KPIs you should be tracking, you must understand that they can only be decided based on your goals. However, here’s a list of KPI’s to help you get started:

  • Reach and impressions – If your goal is to reach more people and build brand awareness, this is the KPI you should be tracking. While ‘Impressions’ shows how many times your ad was shown as a whole on Instagram, ‘Reach’ tracks the unique users it was shown to. You can track the same in the ‘Insights’ tab on Instagram.
  • Engagement (Likes, comments, shares, saves) – While this can vary with time, tracking your engagement rate will make you understand if you’re going in the right way. It lets you analyze the kind of content you present on Instagram, and see if you need to make changes in your content strategy. To calculate Instagram engagement rate, divide your total number of likes and comments on a post by your total number of followers.
  • Traffic to website – If your ultimate aim is to increase sales through Instagram Ads, tracking this KPI helps you understand how successful you’ve been. It is basically tracking how many people convert from scrolling to clicking through to your website. To make tracking this easier, have the link to your website in your Instagram Bio so you can track how many people have clicked it in the ’Insights’ tab.
  • Conversion rate – The conversion rate indicates just how big a percentage of the ad viewers convert into traffic. It is calculated by dividing the number of ad impressions with the number of conversions. You can also track the Cost Per Conversion, or CPC, and see if you should increase your spend or decrease it based on the ad’s performance.

Remember, having clear goals and KPIs ensures you are on the right path. So, make sure you have KPIs that are quantitative rather than qualitative. For example, “Increase follower count by 10% in 3 months” is a better KPI than “Have a better follower count this quarter”.

Tip #3: Leverage Targeting and demographics

If you don’t get your audience right, there is no point in you spending those hard earned bills on Instagram advertising. The key step to building a working strategy is to understand who your audience are. With Instagram ads, you can choose the exact audience you want the ads to reach with targeting options like age, gender, geography, interests, and more. 

Depending on who you want to target, Instagram allows you to create 

  • Custom audiences, where you target the people who have already interacted with your brand like have visited your website
  • Lookalike audiences where you target Instagram users similar to your existing customers
  • Retargeting ads target old users who have clicked on your ads but have not purchased. 

Tip #4: Create content that attracts

It goes without saying that Instagram is all about the content. You need to capture your audience’s attention with that, just like your competitors. If you want to stand out, you need to create content that stands out.

For example, colorful images always tend to grab a viewer’s attention. Use images that are bold yet minimalistic while sticking to your brand’s visual aesthetics. You can also leverage the color theory and the color wheel to your advantage here; use colors from the opposite side of the wheel to create visually attractive images. If you’re promoting a video, keep it short so the viewer doesn’t lose interest. Use simple animations that grab your users’ attention instead of going for extravagant elements.

Stay tuned to our series to read our next blog post on designing Instagram ads that actually work.

Tip #5: Optimization is key

Like any other marketing campaign, tracking how your ads are performing and optimizing them to improve performance is a must. You can experiment and increase your Instagram ad performance by testing different images, ad copies and CTAs to see what works best for you.

Apart from ad campaign optimizations, also optimize your Instagram account. Edit your bio to include keywords that align with your brand and business. Don’t forget to add your website link for people to click on. You can also provide a single link that leads to multiple links, link Linktree, with individual links to your best selling products. You can also add your logo as the profile picture for people to discover your profile easily.

Final Thoughts!

Since Instagram and Facebook became integrated, Instagram advertising campaign has been a piece of cake and a brilliant support for the advertisers. If you’re yet to take advantage of the wondrous opportunities Instagram ads provide, you are missing out and also letting your competitors have the upper hand.

Are you ready to create your own Instagram ad strategy in the easiest way possible? Stay tuned for our next blog post on Instagram ads, where we cover important topics like tips to design effective Instagram ads, best Instagram ads by Indian D2C brands, and more! What else would you like us to cover? Let us in the comments below.

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Recommended Reads:

  1. Velocity’s Ultimate Guide To Instagram Marketing For Your D2C Business
  2. Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Stories for Your Business
  3. 10 Indian D2C Brands With Best Instagram Ads (Update for 2022)
  4. A Quick Guide To Designing Instagram Ads (+ With Examples)

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