Turn Casual Social Media Scrollers into Paying Customers: Everything You Need to Know About Instagram Ads with Suggested Posts

Is your brand on Instagram yet? If not, it's time to reconsider! Facebook remains the biggest, most popular social network channel. But its sister platform, Instagram, is not very far behind. Instagram isn't just for posting pics of kids, pets, and food anymore. It's also a perfect platform for businesses looking to grow an audience, launch new products, or improve their online visibility. Instagram ads may be your ticket to connecting with your audience in a way that scales your brand fast.

But first, check out this short video giving a bit of Instagram advice to a member of our community

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One-Billion Strong… and Growing!

Instagram recently hit a huge milestone—over one-billion monthly active users, according to Statista. Yes, you read that right. ONE BILLION. And of those users, many of them are younger. Gen-Zers and Millennials make up the core base. In July 2020, those under the age of 34 represented over two-thirds of the total Instagram audience.

It's time to take advantage of the site's growing audience and run Instagram ads on the platform. Your ads now can reach more people than you could ever imagine—all across the world! And with the introduction of the Suggested Posts feature, you're sure to see a massive ROI for every ad you place.

Are Ads Allowed on Instagram?

Absolutely! Instagram ads not only benefit brands, but they also boost the platform's revenues. It only makes sense for Instagram to allow and ENCOURAGE companies to purchase ad space. 

All Instagram ads go through a review process before approval. Reviewers want to make sure your ad is fully functional, has a legitimate landing page, fits all design parameters, and doesn't violate the platform's advertising policies. 

Instagram ads cannot:

  • Violate community standards
  • Feature adult content
  • Contain shocking, sensational, or violent content
  • Make implications about personal attributes
  • Promote misinformation
  • Spotlight controversial content
  • Encourage deceitful practices
  • Use profanity or bad grammar
  • Contain spyware or malware
  • Try to circumvent the review process

While brands can advertise almost anything, there are a few limitations. Both Instagram and Facebook ads must adhere to specific content requirements. 

Advertisers cannot promote or sell any prohibited content, including:

  • Illegal products or services
  • Discriminatory practices
  • Tobacco or tobacco-related products
  • Drugs or drug paraphernalia
  • Unsafe supplements
  • Weapons, ammunition, and explosives
  • Payday loans or bail bonds
  • Penny auctions
  • Multi Level Marketing
  • Adult services or products
  • Human body parts (wow, okay)

As long as your Instagram ads don't break any of the rules, reviewers should approve and post it within 24 hours. Some types of restricted content, such as online dating or state lotteries, may require further authorization before approval.


What's the Deal with Suggested Posts on Instagram?

On August 20, 2020, Instagram unveiled its latest update—Suggested Posts. Unlike the Explore feature, where the user must toggle to another tab to view new content, Instagram places Suggested Posts in the main feed. But instead of sprinkling these posts in with regular content, users only see them when they reach the end of their feed.

Only a few years ago, Instagram began posting "You're All Caught Up" whenever you made it all the way through your feed. It was a way to curtail social media overuse. Well, it seems the growing platform doesn't want you to click out of the app any longer. Instead, you will now see an infinite list of Suggested Posts.

Instagram believes the Suggested Posts feature will improve the user experience. It's a way to introduce people to new content they wouldn't find otherwise. And it's also a way to connect with like-minded creators.

What will Instagram suggest to you? 

No two people will see the same Suggested Posts. Instead, Instagram will curate selections based on who you follow, the posts you like, and your browsing history. Let's say you're an avid Starbucks drinker. Your Suggested Posts may include secret menu drink recipes, creative latte art, or even just another person who also enjoys a Pink Drink every afternoon.

But, of course, you should also expect to see plenty of Instagram ads in your Suggested Posts. Before this release, businesses could only place ads sporadically in a person's main feed, Explore, or Stories. However, brands will now have the option to include their ads in Suggested Posts as well.

The benefit of advertising with Suggested Posts is the ability to reach an even broader audience. Those who make it to the end of their feed probably spend more time online than most. That makes them the prime target for selling e-commerce products.

Do Users Like Suggested Posts?

As with any update, not everyone welcomed Suggested Posts. People are creatures of habit, and whenever anything in their routine changes, it really grinds their gears. Remember how upset Instagram users became when feeds stopped showing in chronological order?

Instagram programmers, however, expected some backlash. And users didn't disappoint. As Fast Company reported following the update, "Hell hath no fury as a user base scorned. Unfortunately for Instagram, that's something the company is finding out just a day after launching a new feature called Suggested Posts."


Angry users didn't stop there. In their article, "Instagram is Adding Suggested Posts to the Main Feed," Search Engine Journal elaborated why users don't want to see content from people they don't follow. One of the most commonly heard responses was, "It could lead to users spending more time on Instagram, which can negatively impact mental health."

Some people feel Suggested Posts negate Instagram's commitment to reduce scrolling and screen time. 

But was that really Instagram's objective?

The Verge reports the true intentions of Suggested Posts in an article called "Instagram rolls out suggested posts to keep you glued to your feed." Julian Gutman, head of product at Instagram Home, claims the site didn't launch this feature to keep people glued to their phones. "We just want to make it easy for people to see that [relevant content] when they get to the end of their feed. That's really the motivation here, make it easier for you to go deeper on your interest."

So, what's the real reason for the Suggested Posts feature? Only time will tell, but it does offer another avenue for running Instagram ads. And that alone is a win for marketers and brands.

The initial backlash to Suggested Posts was quick and harsh. But most people accepted the change without making any noise. Since Suggested Posts create a seemingly endless feed, many users don't even realize when they read them—and that's the goal.

How Can Brands Benefit from Suggested Posts?

Instagram doesn't want Suggested Posts to be random or bothersome. That's why the platform relies on complex algorithms to curate the posts for each user. That's terrific news for advertisers. Why?

Users only see posts based on their interests, follows, and likes. Since the user already shows an interest in similar brands or products, the odds of interacting with your Instagram ads are much higher. And the more people engage with your ads, the more conversions you should expect. 

Can Users Turn Suggested Posts Off?

Users demanded to know how to block the Suggested Posts feature hours after the release. However, it's not possible. According to the Instagram Help Center, "You won't be able to hide Suggested Posts."

While that's not the answer users wanted to hear, they can click "Not Interested" on posts they don't find useful or relevant. This will remove selected posts from their feed. The responses will also help determine which Instagram ads and account posts should appear in the user's feed instead.

Do I Need an Instagram Account to Run Instagram Ads?

It may come as a shock, but you don't need to be on Instagram to run ads on the platform. To create Instagram ads, however, you DO need a Facebook page and Facebook ad account. Having an Instagram business account is a wise idea if you want to build an audience organically.

Check out the advice Ryan gave at Flynn Con about building an audience on Instagram and elsewhere:

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How Do I Create an Ad on Instagram?

Creating Instagram ads is relatively easy, depending on the complexity of your campaign. While there are a few ways to create and upload your Instagram ads, most people go through Ads Manager. Follow these steps to get started:

1. Go to Ads Manager and click "Create."

2. Select an Instagram ad objective. Your choices are:

  • App installs 
  • Catalog sales
  • Brand awareness
  • Engagement
  • Messages
  • Reach
  • Store traffic
  • Lead generation
  • Traffic
  • Conversions
  • Video views

3. Fill in all the details for your Instagram ads. You'll need to name your campaign, choose where you want to drive traffic, and define your audience.

4. Set your budget, and select an Instagram ad delivery schedule.

5. Choose the creative you want to use, and upload any images and videos. Fill out any text, including copy, headline, and call-to-action buttons. (Here’s a quick guide to making ad creative that converts.)

6. Preview your ad, and push "Publish" once you finish editing everything. If you don't want to publish your ad right away, you can also save a draft. When you want to finish creating your ad, simply return to Ads Manager to view your Instagram ads list.

7. Sit back and watch the analytics of your Instagram ads.

How Do I Design Instagram Ads that Convert?

While creating Instagram ads is child's play, not every ad gets good results. Before you push the publish button on your next ad set, you need to develop an Instagram advertising strategy. Here are a few tips the most successful marketers use in their Instagram ads:

What's your goal? 

Before ad creative even crosses your mind, you need to define a goal. Perhaps you want the Instagram ads to bring awareness to your brand. Maybe you want to grow your audience and build an email list. Or you could just want to drive more sales. Whatever your goal, your ad needs to convey it clearly and concisely.

Who is your audience? 

Not all Instagram ads work for everyone. You need to identify your target audience and market to them directly. Study engagement rates to see which demographics are most interested in your products or services. Once you know your audience, you can make sure Instagram displays your ads to the right users.


What is your brand message? 

The way your brand presents itself needs to be consistent across the board. The tone and voice should align with your target audience's values. Make sure your brand message speaks to your customers' needs.

What is your hashtag? 

Hashtags are an essential part of Instagram ads. While many users place fun hashtags in their posts, brands also use them to catalog their content. You'll want to choose a unique hashtag (the shorter, the better), and use it on every ad to help others discover your brand. As other people begin interacting with your hashtag, your brand will become more visible on the platform.

What is your Instagram ads placement? 

Where you place the ads is just as important as what they say. After all, you want people to see your Instagram ads. Run your ad on Feeds, Stories, Suggested Posts, and Explore. If you are unsure which placements will convert the best, you can always let Instagram automatically place your ads.

What is your budget? 

Of course, if you want to place professional Instagram ads, you need to have a budget. How much can you spend per click? You can select either a daily or lifetime budget, and you should also choose your bid amount concurrently.

What is your preferred format? 

Instagram ads are visual. There are several types of ads on Instagram. Single image ads are very popular, and with compelling copy, they can convert well. However, video Instagram ads have higher engagement rates, but they can be trickier to create.

What is your call-to-action? 

Your Instagram ads should include an easy-to-find CTA button. Direct your audience what to do next, whether it's clicking the "Shop Now" button or "Apply Now." Your CTA should reflect your goal.

Instagram ads can drive traffic and boost brand visibility. But poorly designed creative just gets lost in the background. Take your next ad on a test-run, monitor the progress, and make changes as needed to ensure you get the results you desire.

How Much Does It Cost to Run an Ad on Instagram?

Now that you know how easy it is to create Instagram ads, you probably want to crunch the numbers. Unfortunately, determining the cost isn't quite as straightforward. A lot of factors come into play, including your industry and audience. But here are the four core things you should consider before you purchase Instagram ads:

1. Bid Amount 

How much can you afford to spend on clicks or impressions? Your bid amount affects how many people can engage with your Instagram ads. And since the platform has a reputation for hefty bids, you'll need to consider this.

If your budget is $1,000, and you have a bid amount of $2, only 500 people will be able to click on your Instagram ads before you run out of funds. However, if your bid amount is only $1, the same $1,000 budget will get 1000 clicks. The lower your bid amount, the more people can interact with your ads—it's that easy. And if you have a high bid amount, you'll probably want to find a way to pad your budget.

2. Ad Relevance Score

Instagram doesn't want to bombard users with ads they don't want to see. That's why the site uses an ad relevance score to rank all Instagram ads. The ad relevance score reflects how people respond to your Instagram ads. Do they click on the posts or scroll past them? The more interactions you get, the better your score.

How can you improve your ad relevance score? Make sure your Instagram ads are fascinating, intriguing, and provide meaningful content. Instagram wants to see your audience interacting and engaging with your ads. And the platform also rewards advertisers for having a high ad relevance score. As your CTR increases, your CPC will decrease. Essentially, the higher your ad relevance score, the more you'll be able to stretch your budget.

3. Estimated Action Rate

Before your Instagram ads go live, the platform already has an idea of how they will perform. Every ad gets assigned an action rate. This rate forecasts how much attention the advertisement will garner from the public. How do they do that? No one knows for sure—except the tight-lipped programmers who use a complicated algorithm to compare your Instagram ads against similar ones. 

Action rates don't always seem fair. After all, how can someone assume the performance of your Instagram ads beforehand? But, they can also work in your favor. If Instagram believes your ad will have a positive influence, you can expect priority placements and lower bid amounts.

4. Competitors

Unless you serve the nicheiest of micro-niches, you should expect some competition. And your competitors will affect your Instagram ads rates. The goal of your ads is to connect with your target audience. But if another company also wants to engage with the same demographic, how does the platform decide whose Instagram ads to display?

Show Instagram the money! It's very common for competing brands to start an Instagram ad bidding war. And, as with any bidding war, the highest offer always wins. But at what cost? Well, the more your bid amount increases, the more your cost per engagement. So yes, if you work in a saturated industry, you may end up paying a premium just so your Instagram ads reach your target audience.

Determining the cost for your Instagram ads is quite complicated, and very much kept hush-hush. But you should expect to pay at least $0.20-2.00 per click for your Instagram ads campaign.

Now, not everyone has an endless budget. Do you know how to advertise on Instagram for free? As long as you have a business profile, you can engage with your audience for free. It doesn't cost any money to promote your brand using regular posts. And if you toss in some extra incentive, like a giveaway or promo code, you may be able to gain more followers and grow your audience by leaps and bounds.

Are Instagram Ads Worth It?

Don't let the price of running an ad campaign on Instagram scare you away. Yes, the CPC rate on the platform tends to be higher than on other social medial sites. And overall, Instagram ads tend to cost more than Facebook ads, but it's money well spent. Why? Engagement.

Instagram users are a loyal bunch. An estimated 63% of Americans use Instagram at least once per day, with most spending an average of 28 minutes viewing posts. No wonder screen-time usage is so high!

Not only do users check out their feeds daily, but they're also likely to click on Instagram ads. HootSuite reported that 75% of users take action on Instagram ads. And 1 in 10 purchases after viewing Instagram ads. Business accounts also get a lot of organic traffic—80% of users follow at least one brand. In 2019, a Facebook, Inc. survey discovered 62% of Instagram users became interested in a brand after seeing it in stories.

Those numbers should be music to any entrepreneur's ears. It's rare to see such high engagement on any social media platform. Even Facebook can't top Instagram when it comes to audience interaction. And as a business owner, taking the plunge with Instagram ads may be just what you need to launch your brand to the next level.

What Are Instagram Reels?

2020 is the year of new features for Instagram. In addition to Suggested Posts, the social media site also introduced Reels. This feature is Instagram's response to the success of TikTok. Reels lets users create and upload 15-second videos. Users can choose to post Reels in Stories, Explore, or their Feed.

However, the timing of Reels was very suspect. In an article titled, "Instagram Reels Makes Its Official U.S. Debut: Here's What You Need to Know," AdWeek raised an eyebrow over the launch date. Right before the release, President Trump threatened to ban TikTok. "It hardly seems to be a coincidence that Instagram is making its push with Reels at the same time that the video-creation platform it drew inspiration from, TikTok, is under extreme heat in the U.S."

In response, Vishal Shah, Instagram Vice President of Product, called the timing coincidental. He claimed Reels was always part of Instagram's business plan. And regardless of Instagram's true intentions, Reels became an instant hit. 

Can I Run Instagram Ads with Reels?

The success of Reels has caught the interest of many marketers. Can you create Instagram ads with Reels? Yes and no. Currently, there are no ad formats available in Reels. According to Shah, "We're really just focused on getting the product to work first before we think about monetization options."

As of now, Instagram doesn't let influencers or brands earn money through Reels. However, it is possible to take advantage of this video feature to introduce new products or promotions to your audience. Reels reach your followers first. Still, they may also end up on the Explore page. And as more people see and share your Reels, you may see a boost in conversions without spending a dime. 

Planning to work with an Instagram influencer to build your brand? Listen in on this conversation for advice on how to approach influencers.

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Are Instagram Ads Compatible with Other Platforms?

Even though many people weren't too happy whenever Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, it does benefit advertisers. Brands must create Instagram ads with their Facebook Ads Manager account. But this also means companies can run the same campaign on their Facebook profile at the same time.

However, before merging Instagram ads into a Facebook account, it's crucial to make sure the size and design specs are compatible. There's nothing worse than viewing an incorrectly formatted advertisement in the sidebar. It won't get any clicks. You may need to make a few tweaks to your original design to ensure your Instagram ads appear on Facebook without any problems.

In addition to running your Instagram ads on Facebook, you can also display them in Audience Network or Messenger. Simply select the platforms you want to target in the "Placements" tab of Facebook Ads Manager.

The Future Is Bright for Instagram Marketers

The popularity of Instagram doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. With over a billion users and millions of posts each day, why wouldn't you want your brand on the platform? The introduction of Suggested Posts made it possible for Instagram ads to reach even more people this year. As the platform releases new features, cracks down on bots, and improved video experiences, advertising growth is sure to follow. 

Ready to grow your audience, increase visibility, and launch new products? Instagram ads may be your winning bet.

But before you start working on your Instagram Ad campaign, make sure you’re ready. There are some crucial decisions to make about your business - and making them early will help you become profitable sooner. We put together a quick video guide that will help you, right here. It’s absolutely free, because we’re rooting for you to succeed! In fact, maybe the business you build will be the next one we invest in!