What is Instagram & How do Instagram Ads Work?

  • Last update: 06/09/2021
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Here are the download links to install Instagram on your devices:

Read this blog to understand what is Instagram & how to use this social media platform from a user or business perspective.

What is Instagram?

Instagram (IG) is a free photo & video-sharing mobile network launched in 2010. Facebook acquired this social media platform in 2012. The creators named it “Instagram” as a blend of the words “Instant Camera” & “Telegram.”

how do instagram ads work
This is Instagram

The main purpose of Instagram is to upload photos & videos through mobile. There are many editing options available to customize those visual creatives. Thanks to captions, hashtags, geotags, and feeds, Instagram allows users to search profiles of interest in a convenient way.

As Instagram is smartphone-oriented, people can only post content via the mobile app. They cannot do it from the desktop version, which has limited features. Instagram emphasizes mobile use & visual sharing.

This is how Instagram differentiates from other social media channels. It focuses on visual creatives rather than text content. For those reasons, Instagram’s direct competitor is Snapchat.

People use Instagram because they can connect with brands, celebrities, friends, and family. This social platform is extremely popular among the teenage population.

In December 2010, Instagram reached 1 million monthly users. In 2020, this social media achieved the impressive milestone of getting 1 billion monthly users worldwide. This number keeps increasing today. Now, we estimate that over 500 million users are daily active.

How to Create an Instagram Account?

Opening a new account on Instagram is a free & straightforward process.

Once you install the app on your smartphone (download links in the first paragraph above), you need to input the following mandatory information:

  • Phone number or email address (there is a verification code).
  • Name & username.
  • Password.

Instagram recommends users to complete their profile with more information such as profile picture, gender, birthday, and bio.

You can also create an Instagram account by using Facebook. In this case, you only need to be logged in to your Facebook account. There will be a prompt to connect both.

Note that teenagers under 13 (depending on the country or jurisdiction) are not allowed to create accounts. In real life, the app is so popular that many kids have their own profiles.

To create an Instagram business account, you must create a personal profile first, then convert it into a business profile. Later in this article, we detail more about business accounts.

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Set up an Instagram Account

What are the Instagram Features?

Instagram keeps evolving with time. In 2010, the platform allowed photography sharing only. Today, there are more functions, like the carousel format added in 2017. Same as most social networks, people can like, comment, and send private messages to other Instagram followers.

Here is an updated list of the main features on Instagram:

  • Instagram Stories.
  • Instagram Live.
  • Instagram Direct (multimedia messenger to one or more people).
  • Instagram Questions.
  • Instagram Shopping.
  • Instagram Reels (short video clips).
  • IGTV (standalone video application).

Instagram users do love the filters feature. The platform provides a free digital editing tool including 40 different filter functions. They make the photos & videos unique.

Who are Instagram Users?

Instagram is the most preferred social media platform for most teenagers. At its early stages, users were predominantly female (around 2/3 versus 1/3 of male).

In 2021, the worldwide users of Instagram are more balanced. Here are some updated statistics:

  • 30% of users between 18-24 years old.
  • 33% of users between 25-34 years old.
  • 51% female & 49% male.
  • Mostly urban people.

Instagram users uploaded over 50 billion photos on the platform, up to date. Every second, at least 1,000 photos are published. They spend 30 minutes per day on Instagram on average.

As this social media focuses on visuals, the top #3 interests are:

  • Travel (45%).
  • Music (44%).
  • Food & Drinks (43%).

Knowing that 81% of people use Instagram to research products & services, there are over 200 million business accounts on the platform in 2021. Around 1/5 of Instagram users visit a business profile at least once a day.

To date, around 500,000 active influencers are on Instagram.

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How Many People Use Instagram? 95+ User Statistics (2021)

What are the Advantages of Instagram?

The primary purpose of Instagram is to connect people via engaging multimedia. If you want to share visual content with people, Instagram is the place to be. It illustrates the saying: “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Before we go into detail, here is a short sum-up of Instagram advantages:

  • Top creative social media platform.
  • Convenient to follow famous people & build communities.
  • Casual & mobile-optimized.
  • Privacy feature.
  • Active community & high engagement rate.

Instagram is a creative social media platform. The app encourages users to edit photos & videos before publishing. There are many filters available. This is a way of expression & a kind of art.

During the past 10 years, there was a coming-back of photography. Market experts do ensure that Instagram is one of the main reasons behind this trend. There is no need to hold a professional camera to take pictures. With Instagram, people snap photos with their phones, edit them, and publish quickly.

With this social platform, it is easy to follow celebrities and other Very Important People (VIP). Overall, Instagram allows everyone to catch up with digital influencers, businesses, relatives, or the latest news. It is simple to build a community.

The casual tone of Instagram also contributes to its success. It creates a human side for businesses, and followers feel closer to them. This is a great opportunity for companies to approach their customers on this platform.

The User Interface (UI) is more optimized for mobile than on any other social network. On Instagram, users only see photos & videos. There is no sidebar, links, or flood information affecting the visual experience.

Instagram Stories stay visible for 24 hours only. Apart from that, photos & videos uploaded on Instagram remain forever on the platform, until the user decides to remove them. Besides, it requires a single tap to share posts through Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook.

There is a privacy feature. In the app settings, users can only allow their followers to see their publications. Other people must request the account owner’s permission, meaning you can create private communities.

Finally, the engagement rate on Instagram is high. Publishers & followers are extremely active on this social platform. Celebrities can expect their fans to quickly boost their awareness. Businesses achieve good Return On Investment (ROI) with Instagram ads, as we are going to see below.

How do Instagram Ads Work?

Once you create a business account (see the steps above), you get access to page analytics including hashtag, engagement & impression metrics. Besides, a new “Contact” button appears on your profile (not available on personal accounts).

By default, people cannot add links to their organic posts. Once businesses reach 10,000 followers, the feature becomes available & companies can embed links to their Stories. The only other way to redirect followers to a website is to add the link on the profile.

Of course, all business accounts can run ads on Instagram. If the business is already on Facebook, it can also configure ads directly from the Facebook ad manager.

There are 2 main ways to get started with Instagram ads. The first one, similar to Facebook, is to simply promote organic posts without going through the whole ad manager tool’s process. For the second method, here is a step-by-step guideline.

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How do Instagram Ads Work?

Businesses willing to run ads on Instagram (or any other media channels) must have a clear goal. Same as Facebook, they can choose one of the following objectives:

  • Brand awareness.
  • Reach.
  • Traffic.
  • App installs.
  • Engagement.
  • Lead generation.
  • Video views.
  • Conversions.

The second step is to configure the target audience.

Lots of data analytics are available on Instagram. Depending on the product or service you offer, you need to know where the demand is. Understand the demographics & make sure you keep an eye on the competition. After all, if you are running Instagram ads, your rivals also certainly are.

Instagram ads targeting options are:

  • Location.
  • Demographics.
  • Interests.
  • Behavior.
  • Lookalike.

Once you define the audience, the next step is to choose the ad placements. If you want to run them only on Instagram (and not on Facebook), make sure to select “edit placements” instead of “automatic placements”.

After that, you will inform the tool about your media budget & ad schedule. During this step, the ad manager will inform you if your audience is too broad or too small compared with your expected investment.

The final step is to upload the creative. We will detail this part in the next section. Just remember there is no ad copy on Instagram. Businesses can only promote photos & videos.

What are Instagram Ads Formats?

Instagram is all about the quality & creativeness of the visuals. Poor quality doesn’t work, either for organic posts or paid ads. Too much editing (ex: overdoing the filters) does also kill the creatives. You need to find the right balance.

Here is a shortlist of the main ad formats available on Instagram:

  • Feeds (image & video).
  • Stories (image & video).
  • Explore (grants exposure on the Explore tab).
  • Shopping (products showcase or catalog collection).

Depending on the country, Instagram advertisers may also access extra options such as Canvas (360 VR), IGTV, or Reels ads.

Businesses should always consider visual editing & carousels when running ads on Instagram. Everything is good to grab the attention of the users.

Ads are published like organic posts, except that they have the text “Sponsored” next to the business icon. Overall, Instagram ads are perfectly integrated into the platform. They look “native.”

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Instagram Ad Sizes for All Post Formats in 2021

Pro-Tips to Run Efficient Instagram Ads

Prodima Vietnam ran hundreds of Instagram ads campaigns in the past. Our team of experts is glad to share valuable insights & best practices to help you get started.

From experience, we noticed the top industries getting the best results with Instagram ads are:

  • Travel.
  • Food & Drinks.
  • Beauty.
  • Fashion.
  • Health.

Remember that Instagram followers’ activity is higher than the average social media channel (0.96% post engagement rate). 90% of people on Instagram follow brands. They expect to see posts that are fun (55%), real (53%), and creative (53%).

To maximize your ROI with Instagram ads, consider the following:

  • Design mobile-first ads (full screen vertical).
  • Publish videos rather than pictures.
  • Promote your e-commerce store (if any).
  • Tag products (so followers can shop them).
  • Use specific & relevant hashtags.
  • Consider face visuals (whenever possible).
  • Include Call To Action (CTA) button.
  • Use large & short text.
  • Keep ads simple & authentic.
  • Run free contests.
  • Use lookalike audiences.
  • Focus on visual storytelling.

As you can see, e-commerce businesses have a huge interest in advertising on Instagram. This is not surprising, knowing that Instagram partnered with Shopify to provide the best shopping experience for customers.

Once you launch your ads, do not forget to follow up & optimize the campaign. Here are the metrics to measure when running Instagram ads:

  • Followers’ growth rate.
  • Reach.
  • Engagement rate.
  • Conversion rate.
  • Referral traffic.
  • Closed deals.

Keep an eye on those Key Performance Indicators (KPI) if you want to improve your campaign.

To go deeper, check this guideline to run Instagram ads.

Are You Ready to Go on Instagram?

Instagram is one of the fastest-growing social media platforms. It became most popular with the 18-34 years old community. On their side, teenagers feel that Instagram is more suitable for them than Facebook. There are plenty of opportunities for influencers or businesses to get visibility.

Creative communities are the core of Instagram’s audience. Fun, jokes, and personality are also a pillar. To understand this, have a look at the most liked picture on the platform so far. This Instagram photo of an egg got over 55,000,000 likes.

Let’s conclude with an interesting fact.

There is no way to run Instagram ads without having a Facebook page. On the contrary, businesses can launch Instagram ads without having an Instagram business account. In this case, companies must use their Facebook page to run their ads on Instagram.

Most companies can reach their customers on this social media platform. Prodima Vietnam is happy to support. If you need to get started with Instagram ads, contact us so our team can prepare a digital plan for you!