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Instagram Advertising: 5 Steps to a Successful Launch

The word is out. The digital marketing community has heard about the opportunity awaiting brands on Instagram, and this week, eMarketer has new projections estimating that the number of companies using Instagram will nearly double next year.  

So you’re ready to start advertising on Instagram? Great. Where do you start?

This is new territory for everyone, including display advertising veterans. Here’s a strategy to get your brand into the water and swimming in this new, highly nuanced and aesthetically discerning environment.

STEP 1) Seed your Instagram following & segment your audience. Your first step as an advertiser is to transition your Facebook loyalists over to Instagram. If your first campaigns focus is on your Facebook Fans, you’ll be able to build a core audience quickly while also learning the ropes.

Your ultimate goal is to reach, engage and drive action among the broader Instagram community, so you should view these first Facebook Fan campaigns as a safe sandbox to experiment in.

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Segment your fans into three unique test audiences by layering on additional interest and behavior targeting. Maybe your brand is popular among football fans, indie music aficionados and car buffs? Segment your Facebook Fans accordingly and experiment with ad creative designed to speak naturally to each of them individually. This will set you up to surface insights.

STEP 2) Stay true to your business objectives & roll out your tests. When selecting your objective-based bid type, align your campaign with the actions you care most about from the very beginning. This will help you generate results you can actually build on.

You might not think that Instagrammers are likely to click ads to make purchases or submit their contact information, since organic Instagram posts don’t support clickable links. But Instagram ads with a “Learn More” button are actually a great driver of traffic.  

If site visits or conversions are your goal, install a conversion pixel on your mobile-friendly landing page and choose CPA bidding with a website click objective rather than simply bidding on link clicks for the best performance. Once you've completed your campaign setup, it's time to roll your first tests.

STEP 3) Optimize your bids & prepare to scale your creative. To test safely, begin with a small budget and a short flight—a couple thousand dollars spent over a week or so should do. Don’t be surprised if you aren’t reaching millions of users. Expect to see about 1/2 the estimated reach when targeting ads on Instagram as you'd see on Facebook.

Pay attention to the ad creative that's resonating with each audience. If you put multiple Ads in the same Ad Set, Facebook will automatically shift your budget toward the best performing Ad, so you might want to limit each Ad Set to one Ad to see how your ad creative resonates over time.

STEP 4) Go big, listen carefully & be ready to react fast. In your subsequent campaigns, you'll want to leave the safety of your Facebook Fan targeting sand-box, and go big in pursuit of others on Instagram.
Boost your budget so you can get the impressions you'll need to really understand large-scale performance, and use the same bid types you've already created benchmarks for.

After you kick off your first big Instagram advertising campaign, pay attention to the reaction. Watch for mounting negative comments and accusations of spam. In this case, pause the Ad or Ad Set immediately.

STEP 5) Expand on your success & invest in insights that boost relevance. After you find some targeting territory that delivers good ROI, stick with what’s working and fine-tune your performance with small changes. At the same time, dedicate 10%-20% of your monthly budget to continued experimentation. This will help you insulate your brand in an environment that’s sure to change rapidly.

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