July 20, 2018 Last updated on August 19th, 2020
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Fun fact: Instagram ads are booming on the platform right now. Did you know that Instagram now has over 2 million advertisers? 😮 Yeah, you read right — TWO MILLION. No biggie.

With so many advertisers already in situ, you’re probably wondering how you can create Instagram ads that stand out, and get your business noticed amongst the masses — since clearly, Instagram has truly become a place to do business.

If you’re just starting out, have no fear! Being new to Instagram advertising doesn’t mean you can’t create amazing, effective Instagram ads.

This article is a 7-step tutorial on how to launch Instagram ads from scratch. So, if you’re ready to start, read on!

Instagram Ads: Your Easy 7-Step Tutorial

Before we begin, in order for your ads to appear on Instagram, you must first and foremost connect your Instagram Business profile to Ads Manager. Don’t worry, it’s simple:

  1. Go to your Facebook Page.
  2. Click Settings in the top-right of your Page.
  3. Click Instagram Ads.
  4. To add an existing Instagram account to your Page, click Add an Account.
  5. Enter your Instagram account’s username and password, and click Confirm.

1. Introduction to Ads Manager

This first step is very important. You need to have a handle on Facebook Ads Manager, otherwise you won’t be able to create and optimize your Instagram ads correctly — let alone track their performance. You may be aware that you can boost your existing Instagram posts from within the app itself, but for a more comprehensive and targeted campaign, I would definitely recommend using Facebook Ads Manager.

If you’re not already familiar with Ads Manager, here’s a quick run-through.

When you have a Page on Facebook, you’re automatically granted the right to create and display ads to the Facebook/Instagram community. You do all of your creating, managing and tracking via Ads Manager.

Ad policies

Before your ads are sent out to the world, they have to be reviewed and approved (or not!) by Facebook. To get your ads approved, you have to comply with Facebook’s Advertising Policies. These are pretty hefty, so if you haven’t read them don’t worry: everything in this guide complies with the rules.

So. The first steps for creating your first ad with Ads Manager are:

  1. Select ‘Create Campaign’
  2. Choose your marketing objective

Never heard of an objective and don’t know what to do? This next part will focus on the objective part of your Instagram ad.

2. Choosing Instagram ad objectives

A major priority is to determine what you want your ad to do for you.

Is your goal to increase traffic to your website? Get more engagement on your Insta posts? Generate leads? The campaign objective is an essential step to getting the job done.

There are 11 objective options to choose from under 3 categories:


  • Brand awareness
  • Reach


  • Traffic
  • Engagement
  • App Installs
  • Video Views
  • Lead Generation
  • Messages


  • Conversions
  • Catalogue Sales
  • Store Visits

Not sure what objective to choose? This might make it simpler for you: the choice of objective should match your overall business goals. What is your number one pain point at this present moment which could be remedied by advertising? That is your objective.

If you’re still unsure, a good test objective is always the “traffic” option, as it’s easily trackable and quantifiable.

Instagram ads objectives

Once you’ve selected the right ad objective for you, you need to give a name to your campaign and define your ad set. The best way to do this (to help you keep track of your ad campaigns) is to name the item or page being promoted and then specify its objective, e.g. “Spring Sale Post Engagement”.

instagram ads campaign

You’ll then be given the option to create an ad set for this particular campaign. An ad set is a group of ads that share the same budget, schedule and targeting data. This is where you can dabble in a bit of A/B testing by trying out different combinations of copy and imagery for your ads. You can name your ad set depending on the targeting, e.g. “Men & Women, 21-60, US”, to make it easier for you to identify it. Later, you’ll be able to can track which of your ads are getting the best response within the ad set, and deactivate those which aren’t doing as well.

Now, select the Facebook Page your ads are to be associated with.

Next, (exciting part!) you’ll get to define your audience.

3. Selecting targeting & placement for Instagram ads

You probably already know who your target audience is — and if you don’t, you’re getting waaay ahead of yourself. If you’re unsure who you should be trying to reach with your ads, first take the time to figure out who your ideal customer is.

Detailed targeting

There are two ways to define the target audience for your Instagram ads.

The first is through Facebook’s demographics reporting.

When you’re setting up an ad, Facebook offers you to define your audience by various demographics stats, such as age, gender, language, location, and interests. Interests is a particularly intuitive one: once you start entering in general interests(e.g. floral design”) Facebook will start to make suggestions based on your previous entries. Super useful! 👌

Instagram ads targeting

You can also exclude a group from your targeting, which is particularly useful if you don’t want to show your ads to people who have already visited your blog or benefitted from your offer. The best part is,, you can save this audience to use in other campaigns later on down the line.

As I said, though, demographics is not the only way to target your audience. Another method is creating a custom audience from your customer email list.

Custom audiences

To create a custom audience, first you need to compile your customer data into a spreadsheet. The file should be a .csv or .txt format. Alternatively, you can export the data from Mailchimp directly into Ads Manager by providing your log-in details.

Creating custom audiences for Instagram ads with Mailchimp email import

Then, go to ‘Audiences’ in your Ads Manager and select ‘Create New Audience’. Select ‘Create Custom Audience’ and then simply upload your file. Facebook will then guide you through the next steps.

Once you’ve uploaded this info, you can create a lookalike audience based on your email list. To do this, just select ‘Lookalike Audience’ instead of ‘Create New’ and you’ll be prompted to select your previously uploaded audience file from the dropdown.


Earlier, I mentioned you have to connect your Instagram Business Profile to your Facebook Page in order to place ads — I hope you did it! Once you have, you can return to Ads Manager and select your placements for your campaign.

What’s important to keep in mind here is the recent Facebook rule, according to which you must select at least 2 (and no more than 6) placements for your ads across Facebook and/or Instagram. This means that in order to be allowed to place ads in the Instagram feed, you must also place them on another ad platform. For instance, Instagram Stories, which have so much potential for impressions — just be aware that they’re skippable. (But more on Stories ads later.)

advertise on instagram

4. Instagram ads budget

Choose your daily budget and enter a start and end date. The amount you’ll spend in total will be calculated below. Alternatively, you can select ‘Lifetime Budget’ and enter the start and end dates. This will automatically calculate your daily budget, and it might also be a safer option if you’re worried about getting the date wrong and overspending (it happens!). To work out what your budget should be, think about it this way:

What will it cost me to get the ad performance needed in order to generate X in revenue?

If you take the time to establish a revenue goal for your campaign, you will be able to better plan out your ads and thereby more accurately report the return on ad spend.

5. Your ads’ format (+ad size dimensions)

You can now begin designing your Instagram ad. Yay! 🍾

The format of your ad will partly depend on the objective you settled on (because different format options are available for different objectives). You can choose between a carousel, single image, single video or slideshow post for most ad objectives. If you’re not using the traffic objective, you can also select the collection format, which will give your audience a full screen ad experience on mobile.

ad formats

Once you’ve chosen the right format, next thing you MUST make sure of is that your creative is on point.

Will your Instagram ads stand out and really draw attention?

Or will the viewers just scroll on past them?

There are different ads creation tools for different formats. Keep reading to learn more!

Still images

If you opt for a still image for your Instagram ad, take look at free stock and paid images from sites like Unsplash and Pexels, which are are perfect for creating Instagram ads when you don’t have in in-house photographer.

Then, you can spruce things up by adding text overlays and additional visual elements with Canva. Canva is a lifesaver when it comes to designing ads — you seriously can’t go wrong with this tool! You don’t have to worry about dimensions and suchlike: just choose a template and you’re good to go! Always make sure you stick to specific graphic design rules when creating an ad (just saying…!).

Canva min

High-quality visuals are essential to a successful Instagram ad. If you’re selecting a single image format, your image really needs to speak volumes and make it clear what the ad is about. People SHOULD know that it’s an ad, for it to be effective and for people to stop scrolling their feeds.

For that purpose, a carousel ad is a great way to attract more eyeballs and showcase many quality images in just one ad.

Image from iOS

Want to create an ad with still images? Here are the design recommendations:

  1. Image size: 1080×1080 px OR 1200×628 px
  2. Your image should included little or no overlaid text
  3. Caption: up to 125 characters (text only)
  4. Image ratio: 1.9:1 landscape


Video ads have a HUGE potential on Instagram. Research found that millennials are more easily attracted by videos than still images. However, creating one might be tricky.

If you’re a professional, you can use Adobe Premiere or daVinci Resolve to create a short video for an ad.

If you need easier tools, check out Boomerang or Hyperlapse that offer a funky alternative to standard video.

In any case, however, bear in mind that, if you choose a video ad, your content must be understood even if the sound if off, or viewers will quickly lose interest.

Image from iOS 2

Above all, the image or video you choose should properly represent the offer you’re promoting. If you’re selling software, don’t use a picture of a cute kitten just to get clicks — this will backfire and you and your company will end up looking dishonest.

Fancy trying out a video ad? Here are the design recommendations for this format:

  • File type: MP4
  • Minimum resolution: 600×315 px (landscape) or 600×600 px (square)
  • Minimum length: 2.5 seconds
  • Maximum length: 60 seconds
  • Your image should include little or no overlaid text

6. Track and analyze your ad’s performance

You’re all set, your ad is up and running on Instagram!

Now what?

Well, now you need to track your ad’s performance. If you’re new to Instagram ads, this glossary will help you get the hang of the lingo before we dive deeper into the metrics.

Ad Lingo Glossary:

  • Number of Clicks: The number of clicks your ad has received
  • Post Likes: The number of likes your ad has received
  • CPC: (Cost Per Click) the overall cost of each click on your ad
  • CPV: (Cost Per View) the overall cost per impression of your ad
  • CTR: (Click Through Rate) the percentage of click through to your landing page as a result of your ad, in relation to the number of impressions
  • CPL: The overall cost of gaining a lead as a result of your ad
  • Lead to Customer Conversion: The number of leads who became your customers as a result of your Instagram ad

6. BONUS: Instagram Stories Ads

So, that’s it?

Hold up.

Remember when I said that Stories ads have the potential for TONS of impressions but are skippable? That’s like saying they’ve invented a chocolate sandwich that is AMAZING but really bad for you. Well not exactly, but you know what I mean. Basically, skippable ads means they’re avoidable, and you don’t want people to skip past your ads, because then they’d be pointless.

Instagram has granted all users with Business Profiles the option of putting ads in users’ Stories.

The option to create these great ads is available in a self-service format — something which is impossible on other platforms such as Snapchat as of yet. Therefore, this advertising option is kind of essential for businesses using Instagram for marketing purposes, simply because you can’t get that visibility elsewhere.

These ads are, in fact, skippable. This means they’re almost completely nonintrusive for Instagram Stories users, and at the same time, unavoidable. In essence: impressions on these ads will be through the roof, while annoyance will be kept to a bare minimum. An ad will appear between two separate Stories (when watching from the main feed) and users will simply be able to skip it if they’re not interested, by tapping the screen. They can also flip back and watch an interesting ad again! This is where you come in 😁

So, how do you create an ad for Instagram Stories?

This is the best bit: it’s easy! Create an advertising campaign in Ads Manager, like we saw earlier, but this time, put “Reach” as your marketing objective. Then, fill in your audience as you wish. When you get to the “Placements” section, choose to edit your placements and select “Instagram” then “Stories“, plus one other ad platform.

Then, select a format (as shown earlier on).

Bear in mind that your image(s) or video needs to meet the image spec recommended by Facebook, ie: 1080x1920px. Also try to choose visuals which don’t contain any text (or very little) to ensure approval. You can (and should!) use a design tool to help you create a masterpiece for your Instagram Stories ad. Once you’ve added your creative and copy, preview your ad and confirm it.

Capture dE28099eCC81cran 2017 03 14 aCC80 15.13.13

And that’s it!


Starting with Instagram ads might be tricky at first. But the more you practice, the easier it becomes!

Hope this post has helped you get an idea of where to start with your first Instagram ad.

Want to start tracking your Instagram analytics? Try out Iconosquare 2 weeks for FREE, to get insights, schedule your posts, benchmark against your competitors, research hashtags, and much more!

Article originally published on September 23, 2015.

About the author
Emily Marsh

Emily Marsh

Emily is an Inbound Marketer for Iconosquare, based in the Limoges office. She loves all things social and revels in keeping on top of the social media marketing game by writing for the blog. She’s also a bit obsessed with sushi and Netflix.

More posts by Emily Marsh

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