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PPC Platform Series: Spotlight on Instagram

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If you want to draw potential customers to your website and quickly increase your conversions, then utilizing a PPC advertising strategy could be your best bet.

With the popularity of PPC advertising growing – and new platforms opening up – marketers can afford to be a little pickier when it comes to evaluating their advertising options and choosing which ad networks will benefit their business the most.

Take social media, for instance.

Instagram has proven to be one of the fastest growing social media networks in the last two years. With its PPC model, Instagram allows advertisers to skip the headaches that search engine keyword targeting can sometimes cause and, instead, target users based on the shared information they provide.

Instagram’s robust combination of photo sharing, localized popularity, and rapid growth provides businesses with infinite possibilities in brand marketing and profitability potential.

[tweetthis]Instagram has proven to be one of the fastest growing social media networks in the last two years.[/tweetthis]

First, let’s start with an in-depth analysis of Instagram and its early development.

A Beginner’s Guide to Instagram

What started out as a mobile photo sharing app with photo filters has quickly transformed into one of the largest social media networks used worldwide.

Instagram launched in October 2010 and the photo sharing service’s popularity has been rapidly growing ever since. By the end of 2015, Instagram’s number of active users per month totaled 400 million, surpassing Twitter’s monthly active users by more than 84 million.

Instagram ads

In 2012, less than two years after Instagram’s initial launch, Facebook made an offer worth approximately $1 billion to acquire Instagram, with Facebook’s key objective to maintain the photo sharing service as an independently managed company.

Since Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram, analysts have estimated that Instagram’s advertising revenue can grow to $1 billion in 2017 and close to $3.9 billion by 2020.

Who’s Using It?

With 400 million monthly active users and counting, Instagram’s popularity is growing at an unprecedented rate in the United States, but as much as 75 percent of its users live overseas. In fact, more than half of the new users who joined Instagram in the last year live in Europe and Asia.

But even though a large portion of Instagram’s users are non-U.S., due to its extreme popularity, that still leaves over 100 million active U.S. users that you can target.

Instagram ad usage
Source: KPCB 2015 Internet Trends Report

Instagram’s popularity has gained traction with the younger audience, which means the demographic skews a bit younger. More than 90 percent of Instagram users are under the age of 35 and 32 percent of American teenagers consider Instagram to be the most important social network on the market today.

Businesses with a youthful clientele have flocked to Instagram to advertise their goods, including Starbucks, The North Face, and Gilt. But businesses with young consumers aren’t the only ones who should take advantage.

Many apparel, entertainment, and media brands are attracted to Instagram’s ad platform because it reaches the 18-to-34-year-old demographic of Millennials that make up a hefty percentage of today’s typical buyer.

The promising benefits of advertising on Instagram have helped establish an effective marketing strategy for many businesses. So much so that 52 percent of marketers planned to increase their use of Instagram in 2015 – up from 42 percent in 2014.

[tweetthis]Instagram reaches demographic of Millennials that make up a hefty percentage of today’s buyer.[/tweetthis]

Instagram Ads

Instagram announced the much-anticipated release of their advertising application programming interface (API) in the summer of 2015.

Although a modest version of Instagram Ads had launched in 2013, very few businesses were taking advantage due to the complicated media buying process that required marketers to jump through hoops. For example, brands couldn’t just buy their way in, they were only able to advertise if they already had a successful, active Instagram following.

With the new release, fundamental improvements were made to further advance the complexities of audience targeting, making the prospect of advertising on Instagram much more attractive to advertisers who are looking to cater their ads to a specific demographic.

Enhancements in optimization were also made, allowing advertisers to map out, cross-promote, and monitor their ad activity across several different social networks, all while managing their campaigns through an independent third party platform.


Facebook has made great strides to integrate its comprehensive targeting capabilities into the new and improved Instagram Ads.

Prior to the upgrade, the targeting capabilities offered to advertisers were limiting. They were only able to target people based on their gender, age, and country.

Now, information provided from individual Facebook profile details can be assimilated into the targeting algorithm of Instagram Ads, making the ads much more relevant – and effective – to the intended audience.

According to Daniel Bennett, chief digital officer at McCann Erickson in New York,

This is a natural and expected progression for the content-sharing network since being purchased by Facebook in 2012. The simplicity and affordability of the ad network on Facebook has given brands the ability to create, target, and publish content at will and reach their consumers with extreme accuracy.


Along with the advancements in targeting, Instagram Ads now boasts improved systematic delivery and optimization tools.

Advertisers can now hone in on what is and isn’t working for their ad campaigns and optimize accordingly via Facebook’s Power Editor.

Optimization options include:

  • Pay Per Click – Advertisers pay for each click accrued.
  • Pay Per Impressions – Based on a scale of 1,000 impressions, Instagram will only deliver your ads to the people who are most likely to click on your link.
  • Daily Unique Reach – Your ads will be relegated to a restricted timetable and only be shown to an individual Instagram user up to once per day.
  • Impressions – Your ads will run whenever, wherever and be shown to as many users as possible, no matter what.

Types of Instagram Ads

As of now, Instagram Ads offers three different types of ads that companies can use to promote their products and services:

Photo Ads

DKNY Photo Ad Instagram

Video Ads

Blue Point Brewing Video Ad

Carousel Ads

Thomas Laine Jewelry Carousel Ads Instagram

Advantages of Using Instagram Ads

In the months since the upgraded platform rollout, a number of advantages have been established to entice businesses to give Instagram Ads a try.

  • Increased engagement, as compared to Facebook and Twitter.
  • Lower CPC’s (Cost Per Click), as compared to Google AdWords.
  • High conversion rates, especially for ads that are particularly visual or engaging.
  • Greater reach for custom audiences, thanks to the interest-based targeting.
  • A leg up on competitors for those early adopters.

Instagram Ads Case Study #1: Levi’s

Levi’s was one of the first brands to establish themselves with an ad campaign on Instagram.

Their early advertising efforts were rewarded even before the launch of the upgraded Instagram Ads platform, which makes the positive results yielded from their ad campaign that much more impressive.

Granted, Levi’s is a renowned American retailer, but when the first edition of Instagram Ads came out back in 2013, only big name brands with hefty budgets were able to take advantage.

Levi’s aim was to build brand awareness around the lifestyle it inspires by featuring ads that showed people wearing their clothing in shared outdoor moments with family and friends. The retailer posted the ads over a nine-day period leading up to the holidays.

Levi’s cashed in on Instagram’s target audience by tailoring their ads to the 18-34 age bracket. Their optimization tactic was to present each individual ad in users’ feeds only once, with their overall marketing campaign being viewed twice per person on average.

Levi's (1) Instagram
Source: Social Media Week
Levi's (2) Instagram ads
Source: Hashtag Media

Levi’s ad campaign results were overwhelmingly positive, reaching 7.4 million people in the U.S. with 24 percent of the people able to recall the ad, which was nearly three times more than the control group.

For a brand whose goal was to reach and engage Millennials with their branded ads, the results were extremely encouraging.

Julie Channing, the director of digital at Levi’s said

Not only were we able to reach a large audience with our ads on Instagram, but the metrics clearly show we engaged with them in a memorable and authentic way. We’re pleased with the results.

Instagram Ads Case Study #2: Bloom & Wild

An example of a successful Instagram Ads campaign post-relaunch can be found with London-based startup, Bloom & Wild.

The letterbox flower delivery service was founded in 2013 and immediately started upping their digital game. The company has greatly invested in their iOS and Android apps, as well as their online marketing initiatives.


Now that running ads on Instagram is more user-friendly for smaller B2C companies, startups like Bloom & Wild have been able to benefit from the ad platform just as much as the corporate giants.

Bloom & Wild’s strategy was to exploit Facebook’s Power Editor to create and distribute their ads for Instagram. By tapping into the campaign management tool’s lookalike audience feature, Bloom & Wild was able to upload their existing email list and generate a whole new audience for Instagram.

Then, they tested out a few different ad images by posting the photos to the business’s Instagram account like they normally would. After comparing the results, they chose the photo that garnered the most attention via likes and comments. That was the one they moved forward with using for their ad campaign.

Bloom & Wild Instagram ads
Source: Social Media Week

With an effective call to action and additional video ads that resulted in high conversion rates, Bloom & Wild proved, once and for all, that small businesses could run successful ad campaigns on Instagram.

The company was able to maximize their ROI with an increase of 62 percent in their bouquet orders and boost the number of newly acquired customers who interact with their content and buy from their online shop.

The bottom line was that their campaign may have been small, but it was engaging.

Instagram Ads and Custom Landing Pages

If the advertisement is the bait then your landing page is the reward and, ultimately, your potential customer’s final destination.

The incentive for businesses to grab a piece of the digital advertising pie is to drive users to their website and convert visitors into customers.

So after all the time and money spent on advertising and marketing efforts, the last thing you want to do is tout a link on Instagram that drives users to a poorly assembled website, or worse, a broken landing page.

Taking it one step further, the creation of custom landing pages that closely mirror the theme of your unique ad campaign can result in higher conversion rates and lower CPC’s.

Case Study: Eight O’Clock Coffee

Take Eight O’Clock Coffee for example. Their newest ad campaign is based around the playful concept of “the big secrets” that coffee houses don’t want the average coffee lovers to know. The key secret being that they don’t need to pay an arm and a leg to enjoy the perfect cup of coffee.

Ads across several social media networks, including Instagram, have been targeting users with links that send them to Eight O’Clock’s customized landing page. The landing page unveils “the big secrets” with a video titled, “Revealed: Secrets Coffee Houses Don’t Want You to Know.”

Eight O'Clock Coffee Instagram Ad

Eight O’Clock Coffee, which is owned by Tata Global Beverages, underwent a major brand refresh in 2013 with their marketing campaign, which resulted in increased sales across the board. Their current marketing strategy is the brand’s latest attempt to establish itself as number one in the packaged coffee category.

Utilizing Pagewiz

Not everyone has the time or the know how to build custom landing pages to pair with their Instagram advertising initiatives. Luckily, Pagewiz makes it easy for marketers to create high converting landing pages in minutes with their professional templates and customizable text and images.

A landing page’s quality score is directly related to the overall user experience, and a poor experience could lower your score and jeopardize your business’ success.

As you begin to roll out successful campaigns to other PPC platforms, you’ll often need to consider the quality of your landing page. Pagewiz offers easy-to-use and reliable landing page software that is fully optimized to follow Google’s landing page requirements for your ads.

Closing Thoughts

Advertising on Instagram isn’t for every brand, but it’s an ad platform that will only increase in popularity in the coming months.

While Instagram Ads started out as a platform predominantly geared toward big name corporations, recent updates to its algorithms have made it easier for smaller businesses to utilize the social media network to promote themselves and their brand.

The trend of businesses allocating parts of their advertising budget to Instagram Ads is catching on quickly and shouldn’t be overlooked as an effective marketing tool.

The better the results for the early adopting advertisers, the more likely the CPC rates will skyrocket, so if you’re thinking of giving Instagram Ads a try, there’s no time better than the present.

Over to you – are you convinced Instagram is worth the investment for you next PPC campaign?

Landing Pages Designer

Also published on Medium.

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