Instagram has more than 400 million users that share 80 million posts daily, making it a pretty compelling platform for advertisers – particularly as other platforms struggle with concerns over data and privacy.
Instagram itself boasts a highly engaged audience and says its ads help drive awareness. The platform offers multiple options, including photo ads and carousel ads, as well as video ads and ads on Instagram Stories—with the latter two offering sight, sound and motion to further connect with users. And we all know video is hot right now.
Connor Voss, social media strategist at Veterans United Home Loans, said brands considering Instagram Stories should start by spending time interacting with them to better understand interactive capabilities, trends, and content expectations.
“When viewers are engaging with Stories, they’re expecting to see video and, often, to interact—so placing a video ad [within] Instagram Stories can reach users who are more open to watching videos and to swiping up to see more products or read the rest of an article,” she said. “In the feed, users are accustomed to scrolling and glancing—not necessarily stopping, interacting or clicking through to another web page.”
In addition, Vivien Conway, cofounder of Instagram-focused agency Ace the Gram, said users don’t curate Stories as much as they do their feeds, and that makes it easier for advertisers to stand out.
No matter which video ad format you choose, here are ten tips to maximize their effectiveness.
1. Make the first seconds count.
Instagram users quickly scroll through their feeds, so brands need to make video ads that compel users to stop.
Per Natasha Courtenay-Smith, CEO of digital marketing firm Bolt Digital, this means incorporating movement in the first three seconds.
“You have no time at all to capture anyone’s attention,” she said. “Don’t be arty with slow openers…you want something that is bright, moves and catches attention.”
And Voss said to make sure consumers can immediately tell your ad is a video.
“Make sure that the first second of your video has enough movement that, with the sound off, viewers know immediately that it’s a video and not a still image,” she said. “If the first few seconds are so subtle that it appears to be an image, they’ll scroll right by without realizing they missed anything.”
2. Add text.
Because Instagram audio is muted by default, Jonathan Jacobs, partner of digital agency Digital Natives Group, said brands must lead with visuals and/or text.
“You can grab their attention—or just get your message across—by providing more than just captions,” said Chuck Cotterman, social media marketing specialist at business software and services review firm G2 Crowd. “Create dynamic text effects using apps like Apple Clips to highlight main points that you wouldn’t want any viewer to miss.”
Ehud Basis, senior online acquisition manager at discovery platform Outbrain, agreed this kind of text can help reinforce the most important messages a brand wants to deliver.
However, Veronica Romney, president of digital marketing agency LoSoMo, cautioned against using too much text.
“A few short captions in the video will help pique your audience’s interest so that they watch the entire video and even end up playing the sound later on,” she said. “Too much text, however, can be overwhelming for the viewer and make the video seem cluttered.”
Conway noted that a quick and easy way to generate video captions is to use services like Rev.
That being said, Vincit-Lee Lloyd, CEO of digital agency Lloyd Media Solutions, said to nevertheless ensure audio is high quality.
3. Solve a problem.
Instagram video ads should identify a problem and show how a particular product or service solves it.
“By identifying a problem your potential customers have, you’re creating an emotional bond with them, so they’re already intrigued with what you have to offer,” said Tom Caulton, digital growth specialist at digital agency Dijitul. “Once you’ve got them hooked, show them how your product or service solves that problem.”
4. Focus on a single goal.
Natalie Athanasiadis, head of digital at marketing agency Digital Visibility Group, said to focus on a central theme, topic and goal for each ad.
“This could be brand awareness, product education or ‘buy now’ options,” she said. “Just don’t try to incorporate all of this into the one ad because you will bombard your audience and they will just scroll past your ad.”
John Surdakowski, founder of digital agency Avex Designs, agreed to focus on one thing at a time.
“If your video ad contains too many products or selling points, it will seem like a pitch,” he said. “Target your customer base and create video content tailored for them.”
5. Look less like an ad.
Video ads should blend naturally into Instagram feeds for the best reception and not be overly self-promotional, Athanasiadis said.
Surdakowski agreed advertisers should make sure video ads blend into feeds organically.
“When users scroll through their feeds, you want to capture their attention,” he said. “Posting video content that brings value to the user is more likely to have engagement.”
Lloyd also recommended using drones to capture content that really wows audiences.
6. Shoot in the right dimensions.
Unlike on Facebook, in-feed videos can’t be enlarged to take up the whole phone screen on Instagram, so Voss said to recognize viewers will consume a video ad within an Instagram post. In Stories, however, the video will fill the entire screen but should be designed and filmed vertically.
“The best ads are ones that fill the entire space,” said Olumide Gbenro, founder of media marketing agency Globo Media Marketing. “Scrap the horizontal videos and have an editor format to 600×600. This has an entirely different look and should catch the viewers attention even more.”
Basis, however, recommended using a 1:1 aspect ratio of 1080×1080 and 1080×1920 for Stories.
7. Think about thumbnails early on.
Elizabeth Venanzi, online marketing manager at marketing agency Sparq Designs, noted another difference with platforms like Facebook or YouTube, where advertisers can customize thumbnails. With Instagram ads, brands have to use thumbnails from videos.
“This needs to be in your mind while you are shooting or preparing a video, as the thumbnail is the most important part of your Instagram video ad,” she said. “The thumbnail will define whether or not someone turns on the volume to watch your ad, click on your post in the search section and ultimately end up on your profile. So save yourself the time and incorporate your desired thumbnail into your video.”
8. Optimize your landing page for mobile.
If the call to action on a video ad leads to a landing page, the brand has to make sure these pages are optimized for mobile, Surdakowski said. Instagram is accessed overwhelmingly from mobile devices.
“There’s nothing worse than tapping on ‘Learn More,’ and the page you’re directed to is not optimized for the device you’re on,” he added.
Reuben Field, creative director of video production company Lights Camera Business, agreed advertisers will want consumers to easily be able to take the desired action from their mobile devices.
“You lose your user as soon as you make this difficult in any way for them,” he added.
9. Use visual consistency.
In addition, Jacobs said brands should keep the momentum going with supporting content that is aligned with the ad.
Romney said the same is true for the ad as a whole.
“This includes the colors, the style of video and the music involved in the video ad,” she said. “Each small component makes a significant impact on the video as a whole. If the message of the video does not line up with your brand identity, it will come off as inauthentic and users will scroll right past it.”
10. Add a clear call to action.
Venanzi discouraged advertisers from using Instagram video ads as teasers as users are looking for content that can be quickly consumed, and tracking down a link in a bio requires a lot of effort.
“You should always simplify your call-to-action as much as possible,” she said. “Instead of sending them from your video to your profile to a landing page, try incorporating the ‘learn more’ on your video advertisement and complete your entire message within the video advert. This will encourage interested viewers to learn more on your website, rather than have to go searching for your call-to-action.”
According to Field, advertisers should create multiple versions of their Instagram video ads and A/B test them to see which work best with their audiences.
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Nate Masterson, marketing manager for personal care company Maple Holistics, agreed advertisers should take advantage of Instagram tools to enhance results.
And, beyond Instagram itself, Marcus Harjani, cofounder of data-centric web destination FameMoose, said to also track the user’s path from ad to conversion.
“What is the experience like? Make sure it is a good experience and a user is headed toward conversion,” he added.
12. Wait until users are connected to WiFi.
Lesya Lui, social media strategist at news site The Social Media Current, said to show the ads only to consumers connected to WiFi to avoid a subpar experience where videos slow to a crawl.
“People are very impatient and have so many distractions on social platforms, they won’t wait for your video ad to buffer and start playing,” she said.
13. Make loopable videos.
Warren Jolly, CEO of digital marketing agency adQuadrant, said to create a video ad with loopability in mind, with fade-out video and music at the intro and outro.
The longer your prospect spends with your video ad, the more likely the ad and your brand are to make an impression.