If you’re a marketer, you’ve probably heard that Instagram is opening up advertising opportunities to more businesses in the upcoming months. Instagram has long been used for posting beautiful pictures and sharing personal stories through images, but it hasn’t always been a platform optimized for business and marketing. That’s all about to change with the expansion of Instagram advertising. Learn everything you need to know about Instagram ads, so you’re prepped and ready when Instagram opens up the floodgates to brands and advertisers everywhere.

Why Is Instagram Advertising Important To Your Brand?

Instagram touts “Our focus with every product we build is to make Instagram a place where people come to connect and be inspired. Building Instagram as a business will help us better serve the global—and ever growing—Instagram community, while maintaining the simplicity you know and love.”

As a result, Instagram is loved by over 300 million monthly active users that collectively share 70 million photos and click “Like” 2.5 billion times daily. Instagram is arguably a top platform to influence millennials to engage with brands, so leveraging the platform for advertising will undoubtedly yield positive results. It might be too early to tell, but some are saying that Instagram could be better for your brand’s advertising than Facebook.

Who Can Run Instagram Advertisements?

Instagram began to test the waters with advertising by opening up their platform a year and a half ago to a few trusted marketing partners. Instagram did not immediately roll out their advertising services to everyone to keep their number one priority intact — the sharing of high quality, creative, engaging images.

Over the past few months, Instagram has slowly let other brands in on the action. Brands who were excelling with Facebook Advertising were hand-selected to place ads on Instagram. These brands proved to the Instagram community that they would deliver advertising that doesn’t distract from Instagram’s mission. Before the end of the year, Instagram advertising will be available to brands and companies of all sizes with a strong focus on building momentum in 3 key areas:

  • Action-oriented ad formats
  • Increasing targeting capabilities
  • Enabling easier advertising on the Instagram platform for large and small business

What Are Some Examples Of Great Instagram Advertisements?

You may have already seen a few ads sprinkled throughout your Instagram feed. But for those of you still wondering what these ads will look like you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see Instagram has kept their advertising format true to their native look and feel. The ads look very similar to a regular post, but will have the “Sponsored” label where the time stamp is normally placed.

How Do I Ensure my Instagram Ads Will Engage My Audience?

There are plenty of ways to engage your audience. For starters, here is a list of some best practices that win:

1. Stay Relevant To Your Target Audience

When your brand is given the opportunity to display ads, it’s important to stay focused on what Instagram is all about, visually appealing images. Similar to Facebook, Instagram ads will display more often if it is receiving frequent engagement because that’s a direct reflection of relevance. Instagram users will be paying close attention and giving their feedback on ads they feel are unrelated and visually miss the mark. There’s a feature for users to actually click and hide an ad from their feed. Don’t become one of them. So be sure to create a thoughtful strategy when creating your ads. Be creative and smart about what images you’re choosing to post as ads.

In this example, Ben & Jerry’s did a nice job of keeping their ad simple, but attractive. It doesn’t feel intrusive of overbearing. They’re communicating a friendly and relaxing vibe to their users. If you’re not sure where to begin, then check out some of Instagram’s resources and tools to get started.

2. Use Authentic User Generated Content (UGC) In Your Instagram Ads

What is user generated content (UGC)? For starters, according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust authentic content from peers more than traditional looking ads from marketers. So grab some authentic photos from your brand ambassadors on Instagram, content that is real – content that is genuine – and use it in your ads. It will mesh and integrate seamlessly with the Instagram experience. UGC is more trusted and drives more engagement because it feels authentic and organic. So get granola and crunchy. Another benefit is that UGC is already proven because you can see what has already engaged people. To tap into the power of UGC, gain rights to the content and see larger returns in Instagram advertising, check out these tools.

3. Create Different Ad Visuals And A/B Test

Instagram provides brands with numerous ways to attract users with visuals. Advertisers can use one powerful image or can display up to 4 for each advertisement. The Carousel Ad format allows brands to increase their odds of resonating with users by serving up multiple images.

In addition to being able to post photo ads, brands will also be able to share video ads. This is a great opportunity to get your creative team involved and producing engaging videos. Again, you can also find authentic videos from your fans, and leverage this UGC in your ads to deliver a more authentic and engaging ad. Video ads can act similar to a short online commercial for your brand.

4. Create Ads With A Specific Call-To-Action To Reach Your Goals

Instagram is providing new features to easily inspire action by enabling direct response buttons such as “Buy,” “Install Now” and “Learn More.” The days of un-clickable links in the photo caption are over. Do you want to get more newsletter sign-ups, send users to a specific product page, get users to participate in a contest or grow your audience? Now you can with tailored messaging, imagery and CTA buttons to entice and inspire audiences.

How Do I Target Audiences With Instagram Advertisements?

When creating your strategy for reaching your audience you should keep a couple of things in mind:

  • Today, Instagram ads are only shown on mobile devices, so optimize your ads and CTA’s for mobile.
  • Your Instagram audience probably consists of people with different demographics than your Facebook audience, so get to know your audience before serving ads.
  • Timing is crucial. Make sure to A/B test the timing of your ads to find the peak times for engagement.

With a little help from Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, brands will better target their audience on Instagram making the experience more enjoyable for users and more profitable for brands. In the beginning, marketers could only target audiences by age, gender and location. Now, Facebook and Instagram index user information and settings from both platforms to serve up the most relevant ads based on people they follow, things they like on Instagram, information and interests on Facebook, and websites and apps they visit.

Instagram will also benefit from Facebook’s Custom Audiences tool. The Custom Audiences tool will enable advertisers to upload their own lists of consumer information to reach their current audience effectively.

How Will I Be Able To Measure The Success Of My Instagram Ads?

With Instagram Advertising brands will be able to track impressions, clicks, and conversions. The real benefit of Instagram Advertising is marketers can accurately measure ROI from their campaigns. The direct-response buttons allow marketers to track who is clicking and converting.

What’s The Difference Between Instagram Ads And A Shoppable Instagram?

A shoppable Instagram provides an opportunity for users to select an Instagram post and directly purchase the products displayed in that post. The question “where can I buy that” is no longer in existence. Shoppable Instagrams are highly valuable for consumer brands and provide a low barrier to entry from a cost and management perspective. The content can also be scheduled so that content never becomes stale. Instagram Ads are PPC based and provide opportunities to segment and target specific demographics in great detail. Instagram Ads are a more traditional and larger investment from a cost and time management perspective. Both are highly effectively and both should be deployed by brands looking to target the Instagram audience.

Now’s the time to educate yourself and your company about Instagram advertising options and best practices. Start developing goals and strategies so you’re prepared when the ads feature becomes available to your brand. Opportunity is coming your way, so start getting those creative juices flowing!