8 Instagram ads best practices to try

Published Jan 30 2024 7 minute read Last updated Feb 2 2024
instagram optimization
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  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect best practices as of January 30, 2024


In today's cloudy economic climate, it's essential to invest in effective advertising campaigns that produce strong results. One way to do that is through social media. In this blog post, we'll focus on Instagram advertising best practices and how you can tap into the platform's more than 2.4 billion monthly active users to find and connect with an engaged target audience.

8 best practices for Instagram ads

Are you looking for tips for Instagram ads to make the most of your ad budget? These are our best practices to get Instagram ads right.

1. Choose the right images in your Instagram ads

Instagram is a visual platform. That means if you're posting irrelevant photos, bad-quality photos, or photo ads that are downright boring, you'll get ignored quickly. On the other hand, if you use high-quality images and shopping ads that appealingly showcase your products, you'll grab the attention of potential customers and encourage them to make a purchase.

For sales, use high-quality images of your products. Did you know that photos of people holding your product can boost purchase intent by 70 percent on Instagram?

You want to show your products in the best light — literally. Make sure your photo ads showcase your product's unique features. You can also have fun with filters, editing tools, and other visual effects to make your products stand out and catch users' attention as they mindlessly scroll their feeds. In today's overly saturated world of social media, you need Instagram posts that will jump off the screen and say, "Hey, look at me!"

With 90 percent of the world's population being right-handed, one Instagram advertising strategy is to strategically position objects in your Instagram ads that seem easy to grab. Since such a large portion of the public uses their right hand as their dominant hand, it's a safe bet to ensure the objects appear easy to grab with your right hand. As crazy as it sounds, you can increase sales of any product by strategically placing objects that appear graspable in your Instagram shopping ads.

Selfies with your products can drive engagement. So if you have a Facebook business page you're looking to ramp up engagement, throw up some well-lit selfies of people of all different backgrounds with your products. This makes perfect sense when you think of the success and popularity of user-generated content and influencer marketing. Consumers feel better about making purchases when the products are backed by a friendly face — especially if it's an influencer they know and trust.

2. Use the META Conversions API for Facebook and Instagram

The META Conversions API can be found in the Facebook ads manager. It's a powerful tool that allows you to track the effectiveness of your Facebook and Instagram advertising campaigns. CAPI allows you to track conversions and other key metrics on your website beyond simple web tracking and therefore is particularly beneficial as traditional tracking becomes harder as a result of increasing privacy regulations.

With this more granular detail on the results of your campaigns, you can make necessary adjustments to your Instagram ad placements in the Instagram ads manager and can continually optimize your strategy.

Related reading: Marketing data tools you can't live without

3. Let the algorithm target Instagram users (broad targeting)

Instagram has a strong algorithm to target users for you based on data they've collected on groups of users. This is an Instagram ads best practice because when you target broadly, you let Instagram do the heavy lifting. You rely on them to find the best people to show your Instagram ad formats to.

This approach works best if you're not sure who you should be targeting yet, or if you want to try to expand your reach to new audiences. Explore ads broad targeting.

4. Consolidate Your account structure to maximize signals (data gathering) 

Consolidating your Instagram Ads account structure can help you maximize signals and data gathering. By consolidating your campaign structure Instagram ads campaigns, you allow the algorithms to get more data about the users and maximize its performance.

When you consolidate your Instagram ads, you'll also set your ad campaigns up for improved efficiency and performance.

For example, when women's accessories brand Lele Sadoughi simplified its ad sets, it experienced a 41 percent increase in conversion.

Here are some best practices for consolidating your Instagram account structure to reap the benefits of easier manageability and increased performance:

  1. Use a single account: Instead of creating multiple Instagram accounts for different purposes or business areas, use a single account to consolidate your followers and data in one place. This can help you more effectively manage your content, reach a wider audience, and gather more data about your followers.
  2. Use Instagram Insights: Instagram Insights is a powerful tool for tracking your account performance and gathering data about your audience. Use Insights to track metrics like reach, engagement, and follower demographics, and use the data to optimize your content and targeting strategies.
  3. Use automation tools: To further streamline your Instagram account structure, consider using automation tools that can help you manage your content more efficiently. For example, tools to help you schedule posts in advance or chatbots to automate customer support.

Related reading: Marketing data tools you can't live without

5. Your targeting is in your creative

Focus on making creative that appeals to your target audience while letting the algorithm go to work to find the audience for you.

Creating Instagram ad campaigns that deeply resonate with your audience will help you in several ways, including:

  • Increasing engagement
  • Driving conversions
  • Generating more leads

To create compelling creative that converts, consider starting by crafting a buyer persona for your target audience. A buyer persona is a detailed description of your ideal customer based on factors like age, gender, interests, and behaviors. When you have a clear picture of your target customer, you can create Instagram ads that speak directly to their needs and interests.

At the same time, it's important to leverage the power of Instagram's algorithm to explore ads reach the right audience. Instagram's targeting options allow you to home in on specific demographics, interests, behaviors, and more to ensure your ads are shown to the right people. You should strive to find a balance between using these targeting options and being broad enough for the algorithm to work.

When you combine audience targeting with appealing creative, you'll create a powerful Instagram ad campaign that delivers results for your business.

6. Test to see what works 

Testing is a critically important part of any good ad campaign, and Instagram advertising is no exception. Test the ad format by following variables until you find the ad format that works best for you.

  • Try different hooks: If you're creating Instagram video ads, you need to grab people's attention within the first three seconds of the video. This is known as the hook. To make sure your hook is the strongest, test different options and see which one produces the best results.
  • A/B test different offers: We've already established that your Instagram ad needs to be appealing to your audience and show them how you can solve their problem. To take your product offering a step further, use discounts and sales — who doesn't love a discount? Studies show that deals and promotions affect every part of the shopping experience, as consumers constantly seek retailers that offer the best value through the entire purchasing process, from the initial search to the final checkout. But to some consumers, cost savings aren't enough. They want to save on their most precious resource: time. Test out different ad formats and offers that let consumers save money or save time to find out what your custom audience is looking for. Have you tried carousel ads?
  • Consider different video lengths: Although snackable, TikTok-style videos are all the rage right now, it doesn't mean that there's not still an audience for long-form videos. If your product fulfills a particularly emotional or special need, your audience may be more compelled to engage with a long-form Instagram video ad that pulls on their heartstrings. If you're selling something flashier, cooler, or that fits broader needs, a quick, punchy, to-the-point video ad may be what your audience is looking for. But you'll never know what length of Instagram video ads will resonate deepest with your audience until you test different lengths.
  • Experiment with varied video types: There are more options than ever for types of video ads. It's important to experiment with different types of video ads so you can determine what works best with your brand and target audience.

Some types of video ads to try out include:

  • Animation video ad: Animated videos are a fun way to showcase your brand's personality while capturing attention. This style of video ad is particularly effective when you need to explain complex products or services in an engaging way.
  • User-generated content (UGC): UGC is a powerful way to build social proof and trust. It gives you an excellent opportunity to show how real customers use and benefit from your products and services.
  • Professional videos: When you're trying to create a high-quality, polished look for your brand, there's no better choice of video ad than one that's professionally done. You can hire a professional videographer or work with a creative agency to create videos that stand out from the crowd.
  • Live videos: Live videos allow you to connect with your audience in real-time while showcasing the human side of your brand. You can host live Q&A sessions to answer questions about your brand and products to allow your audience to get to know you on a deeper level. You can also give behind-the-scene tours of your office, factory, design process, and more, to help build a strong community around your brand.
  • Lo-fi videos: It may seem strange, but in our experience, the best ads are those that blend with the feed, and "don't feel like ads." So try testing video ads that are shot with your iPhone, and see if they work as well (or better) than videos shot by expensive creative agencies.

7. Create video ads that can be consumed without audio

Did you know that around 85 percent of consumers watch videos with the sound off? Whether on their phones on the train to work, at their kid's baseball game, while feeding a baby, or any other time when sound is inopportune, it's critically important to give consumers a way to still consume your content and brand message through Instagram video ads, even with the sound off.

Follow these tips to do so:

  • Add closed captions:Whether you're creating Instagram ads or any other type of video ad, you should always add closed captioning for accessibility. 
    • It's important to keep in mind that some of the people who are trying to watch your ad may be hard of hearing or deaf or may have sensory processing issues where being able to read along with a video is required for them to fully understand it. Plus, Facebook data shows that captioned video ads were watched an average of 12 percent longer than those without captions.
  • Don't rely on music to add meaning: Like the well-placed, staccato violin in the shower scene from Psycho, music certainly has a creative purpose. 
    • But there's a time and place for music, and you shouldn't depend on music when creating ads. Music, with or without vocals, shouldn't tell the story. Your ad should be able to stand on its own.
  • Focus on showing, not telling:Audiences tend to respond better to ads that show them things rather than tell them things through scenes with strong visuals that convey information rather than straight up telling them what's going on. 
    • The same rule applies to your IGTV ads, stories ads, in-feed ads, carousel ads, and other ad formats on Instagram and beyond. Try to challenge yourself to create Instagram ad copy that conveys a message completely through images, with no sound or captions needed. What's more, research shows that humans can remember images more effectively than words.

8. Don't forget about the Instagram ad safe zones

To make sure your Instagram ad formats are displayed as you intend — whether they're still-image ads, carousel ads, stories ads (Instagram story ads), or Instagram feed ads — virtually all types of Instagram ads — it's important to be mindful of Instagram safe zones. 

These are designated areas within photos and videos that Instagram's ads manager will avoid when displaying your ads to users. The purpose of these safe zones is to ensure content doesn't contain sensitive information or any elements that could get cropped out or cut off when they're displayed on different devices or screens.

Follow these tips to optimize your Instagram ad creative campaign strategy, lower your Instagram ads cost, and ensure your budget is working smarter, not harder, so your Instagram ads campaign is worth celebrating.

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