Your Ultimate Guide to Creating Instagram Ads That Generate Real ROI

How to Create Instagram Ads that Convert: 7 Cost-Effective Ways

With over two billion active users, Instagram is an effective social media platform for companies focused on reaching their target demographic in the most efficient way. Anyone with access to the internet can create an Instagram account for free, and people spend a huge chunk of their time on social media, so Instagram is easily one of the best platforms to reach your target audience. All you need to understand is how to create Instagram ads, and then the results will follow.

The Growing Potential of Instagram Ads

Instagram has evolved into a powerful social media network for product discovery and purchase. Data shows that Millennials and Gen Zs make up the majority of Instagram’s user base, notably audiences with increasing buying power.

On top of the obvious massive user base, Instagram provides brands with the necessary tools and insights to maximize the reach and potential of their ads.

distribution of instagram users worldwide as of January 2024, by age group

When Do Instagram Ads Make Sense for Brands?

While it is vital to build up your organic content before you start running Instagram ads on your page, Instagram ads make sense almost from the get-go. If you have an Instagram account, you know that the algorithm can work against newer profiles that don’t yet drive much engagement—this is where ads can come to the rescue.

Cut through the noise.

Given the platform’s popularity, it’s important to create content that stands out. Not only are you competing with other brands, but you’re also pitted against your target audience’s friends as well as content creators.

Effective Instagram ads fully utilize the platform’s visual nature, taking advantage of Reels, stickers, GIFs and other elements that can quickly capture a user’s attention. By focusing on the visuals, brands can easily entice customers to engage with their product or service.

Reach the right audience.

Instagram has an active user base. With over 70% of online buyers looking on Instagram for new products, you’ll want to be able to allocate your resources appropriately. This means that for every dollar you spend on ads, you want to make sure that your message surfaces for people who are most likely to identify with your brand and resonate with your audience demographics.

Thankfully, Meta has powerful targeting tools that allow you to focus on specific customer segments and provide you with the necessary data on how to best convince them to choose your brand.

Achieve your business goals.

No matter your campaign or business goals, Facebook has specific ad tools to help you effectively reach them.Without Instagram ads, it’s almost impossible to grow your brand online purely organically. Not only will your content be limited to your current following, but you’re not even guaranteed that they’ll see it. Ads are the only way to go.

1. Focus on One Ad Goal

Before investing in ads, brands should first identify what they want to achieve. The platform provides several metrics, such as awareness, reach, engagement, conversions, and even lead generation. Brands can then effectively set their ads to achieve their goals without wasting marketing budget and advertising spend.

Without clear goals, you’ll be boosting blind and throwing away your ad budget. Additionally, if you want to achieve too many goals with just one campaign, you’ll get unclear results and a confused audience.

Every successful Instagram ad should keep the user entertained to achieve the primary objectives. Engagement is one of the most important Instagram ads metrics. It ensures that your potential customer does not scroll away from your ad and result in smart targeting. What is more, it gives an opportunity to boost post and turn organic posts into ads that achieve results.

Given the shorter attention spans of users today, it comes as no surprise that short stories with high-quality visuals are the most effective posts on the platform. The visuals can come in the form of texts, photos, and videos.

While you may be tempted to go straight into driving sales and hope for buyer action, it’s important to build momentum first and therefore sell solutions, not the products. After all, if your audience doesn’t know about you, why should they spend money immediately after seeing your ad?

This is why it’s a good idea to begin with ads focused on the awareness objective and therefore increase awareness and reach—introduce your brand and products. Then, you can feed them more engagement-focused content or get them to sign up through a lead conversion ad, after which you can consider focusing on conversion by including the right action button.

2. Choose the Right Instagram Ad Format

Now that Instagram has become an advertising powerhouse for brands, it has quickly evolved from the strict square format rule, to introducing a ton of content formats that are excellent for achieving all your ad goals and stimulate action intent or achieve core objectives.

Here are the updated Instagram ad formats as of 2024:

  • In-feed photo ads – These are your regular single-image ads that appear as users scroll through visual content on their feeds. They can either be square or vertical.
  • In-feed video ads – While all videos are now considered “Reels,” in-feed video ads appear in the main feed while scrolling the platform. Video ads can go up to 60 minutes long, but it’s best to stick to a maximum of 15 seconds, as advised by Facebook.
  • Carousel ads – This format most commonly appears in-feed, but it could also appear in your audience’s Stories. It’s a collection of up to 10 photos or videos that allow you to take advantage of advertising and show off your product details with one ad.
  • Instagram Story ads – These ads blend perfectly with your audience’ Stories feed, with advertisers having the option to include interactive stickers and other engaging tools such as polls, links, and the swipe up feature. This format also supports 15-second videos in a vertical format.
  • Reels ads – The popular full-screen short video format that typically appears in the Reels feed or as in-feed recommended content as serve as assets for explore ads.
  • Instagram shopping ads – Clickable ads linked to your store catalog or the right product category that show users product tags and lead users to your website so they can complete a purchase.

Your ad format of choice will greatly depend on your campaign goals. However, it’s strongly recommended to focus your ad efforts on video ads or Reels, whether placed in Stories or as a feed post. This is because your potential customers are more likely to respond to video content. According to a report by Social Media Today, video accounts for 85% of the platform’s traffic.

lipamaster on instagram

Iipamaster, an online service for pilates instructors, experimented with Reels ads to help engage more customers and boost its conversion rates. Adding Reels to its usual combination of ads resulted in an 87% higher click-through rate and a 27% increase in conversions compared to the usual placements.

3. Lay a Bet on Eye-grabbing Visuals

Instagram has evolved considerably over the years, introducing dozens of new features and content formats to the mix. One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is its focus on the visuals.

You don’t need data to convince you that people are more likely to engage with visually pleasing content—it’s human nature, after all. But it’s not enough to post a photograph with a pretty filter, because you’re competing with over 2 million monthly advertisers on Instagram. Instagram ads bombard users from all the sides, so your ad needs to have an eye-grabbing visual to convert.

One of the best ways to do it is to hire a designer and create professional product images, like in the example below:

nespresso turkey on instagram

But if you want to bring your ad campaign to the next level, consider creating video ads as dynamic video content is more eye-catching and engaging. Moreover, you can find an Instagram video ad maker that suits your needs to make videos that result in more video views. Sephora is a great example of this strategy in action:

sephora france on instagram

You can also make the most out of carousel ads or collection ads to show off your products from different sides and therefore affect the purchase intent.

Further Reading: 12 Instagram Video Ads Tips for 2024

4. Team up With Relevant Instagram Influencers

Partnering with relevant influencers is an excellent way to capture an engaged audience you otherwise might have no access to. Instagram Influencers are our modern-day celebrities, whose recommendations may even have more weight than your high-profile traditional endorser. Plus, they always add a personal touch which makes your ad more native.

A strategic influencer partnership can expose your brand to larger audience and help you earn the trust of your customers. But when it comes to Instagram ad campaigns, you can turn to Instagram influencers and create branded content ads to reach a wider audience of potential viewers while building trust. This way, you increase awareness and reach in a trusted way among lookalike audience or even reduce the advertising cost as influencer endorsements get more engagement.

And if you need to get more influencer endorsements to use as partnership ads, you can always turn to relevant creators whose audience resonates with your brand and include your ideal target audience. However, never forget to track ad performance as it’s a must for any advertising strategy that brings results.

Further Reading: Instagram Influencer Marketing: The Complete Guide

5. Make your Instagram Account Interactive

Humans are said to have shorter attention spans than goldfish, so aside from attractive visuals and videos, your content has to work harder to not just stop them from scrolling but also encourage them to engage with your brand on Instagram and therefore increase the engagement rate.

One of the best and easiest ways to get your audience to interact with you is through Instagram’s built-in clickable stickers on Stories. These clickable stories can even be used to boost your ad engagement.

Check out how beloved brand Dunkin’ did it:

dunkin donuts on instagram

To promote its new “donut fries” product, Dunkin’ utilized Instagram’s interactive poll stickers. These stickers not only helped raise awareness about the product but also encouraged users to view the ad longer than usual. The interactive ad also decreased ad spend by 20%.

Aside from giving you better results, these interactive ads also help you gain more insight about your audience which you can use for future campaigns.

Another way to make your ads more interactive is by adding Instagram product tags. So instead of having to look at your website just to get more pricing information about your products, they just need to tap on your ad. If Instagram shopping is available in your country, users won’t even have to leave Instagram to complete the purchase.

Check out how makeup brand Bobbi Brown leveraged the platform’s product tags:

Bobbi Brown on Instagram

The brand posted a series of shoppable posts on the first day of the ad campaign, which allowed customers to tap on the content, quickly add the products to their cart, and check out without having to leave the platform. This resulted in seven times more sell-through-rates compared to other Bobbi Brown launches.

This little action creates a seamless user experience, as it makes it easier for your audience to shop and make purchase decisions, while at the same time, they’re encouraged to engage with your content.

Further Reading: Instagram Shopping Features: A Step-by-Step Guide to Starting and Growing Your Online Store on Instagram

6. Include a Clear Call to Action

Your audience is bombarded by all kinds of content the moment they start scrolling through Instagram. Without a clear call to action (CTA), you can’t deliver the key message of your campaign and therefore expect your audience to know what to do after seeing your ads.

To drive the point forward, include a CTA as a button, in the caption, and as an in-image text if possible. Popular CTAs include Shop Now, Sign Up, and Swipe Up, which can be specified when you set up your campaign.

instagram ad cta call-to-action

Here are additional tips to ensure a powerful CTA:

  • Keep it simple yet powerful – Your CTAs need to provide a clear directive on what action users need to take, so it should include powerful words
  • A/B test your calls to action – This will allow you to discover which CTA resonates with your audience best and measure the campaign performance.
  • Complement with emojis – Emojis can help call attention to your in-caption CTAs and add personality to your brand.

Further Reading: 13 Effective AI Instagram Caption Generators

7. Add a Time-Limited Offer or Discount

People are more likely to follow through on an action with a limited-time offer because it creates a sense of urgency. This also encourages leads to take action faster than usual because of the fear of missing out (FOMO). You can use Instagram Stories’ countdown sticker to increase the hype and remind your audience that the offer is about to end soon.

Limited-time offers can include a flash sale for your Instagram Shop, a free gift upon purchase, buy-one-get-one promotions, cashbacks, and more. The offer doesn’t even have to be grand; any sort of “exclusive” promo or gift can trigger a sense of FOMO, which otherwise doesn’t happen with regular sale ads.

It’s also a good idea to provide social proof like reviews from your satisfied customers along with the offer to encourage viewers to take action fast.

You can also create a recurring limited-time offer like the example below:

instagram story limited offer countdown example

Further Reading: How to Sell on Instagram: A Beginner’s Guide


Today, Instagram is a powerful advertising platform for business of all sizes and niches. Thanks to platforms like Instagram, growing your brand and reaching a global audience to your business profile is now easier than ever before. Use these tips to help you create Instagram ads that don’t just convert but also build you a loyal audience.

Hero photo by Georgia de Lotz on Unsplash

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Val Razo
Val Razo

Val Razo is an expert on Instagram Marketing. Val is a freelance Social Media Marketing consultant with 5+ years of experience helping small and medium-sized businesses. Val claims that Instagram has great sales potential, so she recommends both big and small brands to use this platform for business growth. Follow her on Twitter to stay tuned for more.

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