Over the last year, Instagram has rolled out platform-wide improvements for targeting, video ads, and more. They also added the ability to run ads in Instagram Stories as of March.

With almost a billion people now on Instagram and 300 million people watching Instagram Stories this holiday season, you’d best be prepared to bring your A-game to your Instagram video ads.


All of our ad ops specialists would want me to start this with the caveat: whether or not you should spend more on Instagram ads depends on your brand, and it’s audience. However, for most e-commerce brands especially, advertising on Instagram is a smart idea.

The amount of Instagram users keeps exploding, and those same users are producing and watching videos at an ever-increasing rate.


The vast majority of all of this action takes place on mobile, and that’s exactly where you want to be focused come the holiday season. Facebook studied the habits of their users and found that “people buy more on mobile during traditional commute hours, once they sign off from work.”


Why should you care? Because over a third of those same shoppers surveyed said, they plan to use their mobile to get their shopping done during any extra time they have this holiday season.

Instagram’s team of engineers gets this and have spent the past few months rolling out helpful updates to the Facebook ad platform.

(A) Creating Custom Audiences From Instagram Video Views

In August, the Facebook Ad Platform added options to allow brands to specifically create a custom audience for those users who had watched an Instagram video. Before this, you could only create this same type of audience for those who had watched your video on Facebook, but not on Instagram.


You can also layer on engagement levels like those who have watched a specific percentage of your video.

By targeting those who have watched your videos, you’ll reach customers who have already engaged with you in some manner and have shown an interest in your brand or products.

Direct response success builds success by finding incremental and scalable wins and targeting users who have shown a higher level of intent is another way to do so.

(B) Creating Custom Audiences From Instagram Business Profile Interactions

Another recent update that can boost your Instagram ad campaigns is the ability to target users based on their interactions with your Instagram business profile.

Your options vary and can include people who have merely visited your profile, those who have saved one of your posts or ads, or those who have interacted with your brand via a post or ad (to name a few). Additionally, you can select a specific time frame for when that interaction occurred.

For example, as part of your upcoming holiday campaign, if you only wanted to go after those who interacted with your brand on Instagram so far in Q4, you could specify that date range.

For any ad campaign to be effective, it needs to get in front of high-intent users. The ability to customize your audiences in this way can get you that much closer to your ultimate campaign goals. It also means you can nurture less motivated users into potentially becoming customers based on their actions.

(C) The Launch and Growth of Instagram Stories

In what has arguably been one of the biggest changes and drivers of Instagram’s video consumption growth, ads in Instagram Stories have become a serious player on the live video stage.

(i) The Launch of Instagram Stories

Running ads within Instagram Stories launched in March, which means this is the first holiday season you can use them in your campaigns.

As 2017 has progressed, Instagram engineers have further refined the possibilities for what your brand can do in Instagram Stories ads.

(ii) Instagram Stories & Canvas Ads

A few weeks ago, they introduced the ability to integrate Instagram Stories with Facebook Canvas. Canvas originally gave advertisers the foundation to offer users an immersive, full-screen experience within an ad. By integrating Instagram Stories and Canvas, advertisers can now offer that same in-depth video experience on Instagram.

Canvas ads perform best for brands who are looking to provide more in-depth information or showcase a wider experience than a traditional video ad might offer. Carnival Cruise ran one of the first Canvas ads on Facebook to great success since it gave you the feeling of being transported to an ocean escape.

If you’re a company that wants to more fully explain your product’s features or share with the user how your services have helped people like them, Instagram Stories’ integration with Canvas now allows you more creative license to do so.

(iii) Repurposing Organic Content In Instagram Stories

Even more exciting for both you and your bottom line is the newly added feature that allows you to upload your own existing organic Instagram Stories as ads within Power Editor and Ads Manager.

Not only is repurposing organic content in an ad great because it saves you money, but it also feels more authentic to the viewer. The Bouqs, an eco-flower delivery service, did this recently for one of its sales.


With Instagram Stories, you want to avoid the dreaded swiping out when a user hits your ad. By utilizing organic content in your ads, it doesn’t interrupt the flow of their Stories viewing. It appears more seamless and keeps the user engaged, plus it gives you the chance to be a little more “unpolished.”

You may not feel comfortable totally letting down your hair, but creating ads from organic content allows you to show off the authenticity that attracts users.

(iv) Automatic Placement Now Includes Instagram Stories

Facebook allows any advertiser to use Automatic Placement, which means Facebook’s platform will optimize your campaign’s ad placement across Facebook, Instagram, and even the Facebook Audience Network (depending on which ones you select).

Included in their September rollout of improvements, Instagram added the ability to choose Instagram Stories as another placement option.

Though there can be pros and cons to running your campaigns this way, this does offer you the ability to spend your ad budget more efficiently across different placements.


All of these video ad changes and the addition of ads on Instagram Stories means that if you ignore Instagram as part of your holiday ad strategy, you do so to your detriment.

One of the reasons that Instagram advertising is having a moment is because vertical videos are battling with square-shaped videos to be king of the hill and both formats reside on Instagram.

As Instagram Stories (for businesses and ads at least) can only work on mobile (for now), vertical video is their perfect match. By taking up the user’s entire phone screen, vertical video ads see completion rates 9x higher than horizontal ads.

Amongst our clients, we’ve seen an equally positive effect from showing vertical videos to mobile audiences. Vertical video ads for one client increased their CTR by 33% and decreased their costs per lead by 15%.

But square video isn’t ready to relinquish its hold at the top just yet. Not only are square video ads great because they can translate easily across both Facebook and Instagram platforms (outside of Stories), but they also perform better on desktop than other forms of video.

No matter which format you use though, both of them have their popularity to thank mainly due to Instagram. With vertical video powering Instagram Stories ads and square video powering Instagram newsfeed ads, Instagram is clearly the place to be for video.


Here are the top four ways to put into practice what we’ve been discussing.

(1) Reformat Content to Run on Instagram

You can take creative assets you already have and reformat them to run them as video ads on Instagram’s newsfeed and in Instagram Stories.

It doesn’t need to be an overly elaborate video, especially for Instagram Stories where more organic feeling creative tends to perform better. One of the easiest things to do is to take images you have of different products and turn them into a gif or slideshow.

Not to mention, testing with less expensive and resource-intensive video ad creative could increase sales to such a degree that you’ll have the budget to create more elaborate videos in the future.

(2) Elevator Pitch Time

Facebook itself is recommending that advertisers “design for one-minute, one-hand shopping” this holiday season.

It’s crucial that you make the process from ad to checkout as seamless and smooth as possible because people will not have the patience to wait or dig through links.

Using shortcuts such as express or mobile optimized checkout, minimalist landing page design, or going directly to a category section from your ad helps to keep these customers in the funnel all the way through to purchase.

Almost a third of shoppers have said they plan on using their mobile for part of their holiday shopping because it’s much easier than fighting the crazy holiday crowds. Make sure you’re in place to tap into this cohort of potential customers.

(3) Creative and Copy Best Practices For Each Video Format

If you’re planning on running video ads in Instagram’s Newsfeed, here are some ideas to keep in mind for your creative

  • Hashtag it up!
    • This is one of the few times that using hashtags in your copy is a smart idea! #blessed
    • Since Instagram users are much more likely to search for things using hashtags, having them with your video ads allows you to reach more potential customers.
  • Short and Sweet
    • Keep your copy super short.
    • Since this space is smaller, you’ll want to say more with less.
  • The Headline Is: There Is No Headline
    • Unlike a Facebook Newsfeed video ad, there are no areas for headline text on an Instagram Newsfeed video ad.
    • If you have an offer for your customers or urgency messaging to try, you want to make sure to put that copy in the body section, so people see it or use it as an overlay in the video itself.
  • Get Your Emojis On
    • If you <3 emojis, then you’re in luck.
    • Using one or two well-placed emojis in your Instagram Newsfeed video ad body text can help drive up your conversions.

If you’re planning on running your video ads on Instagram Stories, here’s what you need to know to make the most of them.

  • Let’s Get Vertical
    • Vertical video is the only type of video that’s usable in Stories.
    • Be sure you take that into consideration when creating your ads.
  • No CTAs or Headlines
    • Unlike with the Newsfeed ads, there are no headlines or CTAs for your Instagram Stories video ads.
    • This means, if you have something you want to say via text, you need to have it as part of the video.
    • Having a text overlay with your CTA can be the way to go.
  • Make It Flashy
    • With Instagram Stories video ads, you want your viewer to keep watching instead of swiping out of it and on to the next thing.
    • You can do this a variety of ways, including using color or dynamic action that will catch someone’s eye.

(4) Take Advantage Of The Tools That Instagram Offers

Instagram is always updating how you can run your ads so that they are equally as successful for you as they are interesting for the users.

Interactive features such as using the pause ability on Instagram Stories ads allows for people to have fun engaging with your brand.

Another great feature, especially considering the “one-minute, one-hand” shopping that users will be doing is using the swipe up ability for Instagram Stories. This allows you to include a link within your ad that users can click on and be directed straight to a product page, landing page, or more.


Paying attention and staying up-to-date on all of Instagram’s ad improvements will help you to be better positioned to maximize this channel as the holiday rush begins.


Nearly a billion people are now on Instagram and 300 million people watch Instagram Stories every single day.

Those numbers will only continue to grow, so if you’re not spending much or even really thinking about your ads on Instagram, you need to rethink your strategy.

These tips and tools are meant to give you a heads up on the biggest changes and improvements that Instagram has brought to their video ads. With everyone competing for customers during the upcoming holiday season, you can use this information to amplify your results and reach your marketing goals.