Instagram is a visual platform – while copy plays a role, the focus is the aesthetic. This is a great opportunity to reach your audience in a way that resonates at gut-level with a fantastic picture. Imagery can communicate instantly and powerfully…when it’s done right. Ads that work well on Instagram are generally eye-catching: they’re beautiful, or they’re original. But it takes more than a great picture/video to make a successful Instagram ad.

The best ads work because they strongly convey a message visually. Whether you are using an Instagram ads types or working with social influencers, here are three essentials for building successful ads.

1. Establish and Maintain Your Brand Identity

Every ad you launch impacts brand awareness of your company in the marketplace. Marty Neumeier once said, “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what…[your customers] say it is.” When your company is new or relatively unknown, you have the perfect opportunity to introduce your brand to your audience the way you envision it – so be sure to make your ads consistent with your brand identity. Visually, this translates to having a theme that communicates your brand identity – for example, always showcasing your product, using a specific color palette or prop, or ensuring your logo is included. Defining and using a theme enables the audience to begin to recognize your brand when they see your ads, giving them a visual representation that they can start to interact with.

For example, influencer queencitysweat maintains her personal brand by ensuring all her sponsored images have a similar look by using specific filters, regardless of which product she’s endorsing:

Via queencitysweat

Sephora makes sure that their carousel ads promoting new products align with their corporate branding, which frequently uses black and white:

Via Sephora

Similar color usage on the Sephora website

2. Define the Goal

What’s the end goal you’d like to achieve with this ad? Whether it’s increasing awareness, selling a product, getting app installs, or generating lead signups, make sure that the ad supports the intent. It may sound obvious, but you want the ad creative to be relevant to the objective.

Fitness guru Kayla Itsines uses video ads of her demonstrating her workout routines to promote installing her mobile app:

Via kayla_itsines

Revolve employs carousel ads of popular items to promote Instagram users shopping for those products on their website:

Via revolve

Style salon academyramireztran composed an ad post with two goals, promoting both a L’Oréal product and their own salon services:

3. Think Like Your Audience

As a startup or SMB, you likely think your product is terrific and necessary, but communicating the value of your product effectively to your audience, in a way that motivates them to act, requires you to view your product from their eyes. To do this, try imagining you’re one of them.

Are you an older baby-boomer or a millennial student? Do you have an entry-level salary or are you financially stable? Are you a parent or a single 30-something? Once you’ve visualized your target, think about what their day is like – what do they see and hear? What are their everyday concerns and joys? What matters to them in terms of priorities and values? Use these insights to craft your message to be appealing to your audience. (Lastly, be sure to consider whether your target audience likely uses the platform you’re considering! Generally, majority usership on social platforms tends to skew to younger audience bases.)

Coach partnered with influencer joelle.raquel to target millennials and show how their purse could by styled:

Via joelle.raquel

Curel worked with influencer melissagorga to show an easily understandable use case for their Hydra Therapy product:

Via melissagorga

Lastly, Wag! knows that dog parents love feeling close to their pets when they’re away, so their video ad highlights the ability to see in real-time where your dog is being walked using GPS tracking:

Via wagwalking

Bonus: Test and Try Again!

Once you’ve designed your ad, make sure to make notes on how you launched in terms of targeting options, placement, budget, and bid type. Once the ad’s run is finished, evaluate the success of the ad compared to the overall goal, and use those insights to make changes for your next ad, and keep testing!

1 Comment

  1. UNUM April 21st, 2017

    Great article Charis! Thank you for sharing :) IF you have some time, we think the UNUM tool will help a lot with maintaining Brand identity! You can visually curate your feed ahead of time, dive into analytics to understand your follower and userbase, and schedule reminders to post at the most optimal time :) It’s free so brands of any size can enjoy it! Again, thank you so much for the helpful tips and tricks!!

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Charis Solomon
Charis joined 3Q Digital in October 2016 with a rich background in marketing for tech and mobile app startups in Silicon Valley. She loves analyzing data (really!) to understand the whys behind results. Charis graduated with an English degree from Anderson University; prior to marketing, she enjoyed working as a client partner both with a management consulting firm and as a classical Pilates instructor. When she’s not working, she can be found reading, enjoying spicy food, sweating out a run, or gaming.