Instagram Opens Up Sponsored Posts to Advertisers


Instagram boasts over 400 million active monthly users, who post 80 million photos and like 3.5 billion of them every day. It’s a fast-growing social media platform that enables you to efficiently and quickly capture an audience through enticing image ads, video ads or carousel ads.

Recently, Instagram rolled out its advertising platform to select API partners and on Facebook’s self-serve platform, Power Editor. A case study posted on the Instagram website is claiming sponsored posts (AKA ads) resulted in 2.8x higher ad recall than other online advertising. I can vouch for the engagement on Instagram vs. Facebook (and I’m not even paying for a sponsored post yet).

Instagram vs. Facebook Engagement

I posted the below image on both Facebook and Instagram. Only 15 likes on Facebook – a public cover photo. 0 comments. (Due to Facebook’s organic reach problem, most of my followers probably didn’t even see it.)

Instagram sponsored posts Facebook post 

The same photo got 384 likes and 8 comments on Instagram:

Instagram sponsored posts instagram post 

Again, on Facebook, 33 Likes:

Instagram sponsored posts Facebook post 2 

On Instagram, 242 likes:

Instagram sponsored posts Instagram post 2 

These numbers should convince you that Instagram has powerful potential as a marketing platform.

Don’t Want to Pay to Play? Use Geo-tagging

Here’s a secret for advertisers looking to utilize Instagram’s influence outside of sponsored posts – interestingly enough, a photo you post on Instagram has the opportunity to show up in the Explore section based on a random algorithm (I have my bets on what it’s looking at), where users that don’t currently follow you can easily discover you by location, hashtag and more.

This photo I posted above is a TOP POST for the summit of Mount Washington because I geo-tagged it to the summit location for Mount Washington. This instantly grabs the attention of anyone searching for photos of the summit of Mount Washington. This presents a perfect opportunity for companies like, REI, Eastern Mountain Sports and more to reach additional audiences outside of sponsored posts on Instagram and grow their follower base too.

Instagram sponsored posts top posts 

Remember that Fenway photo? I took a different photo there that ended up in the Top Posts on the Explore page for Fenway Park, right up there with celebrities and baseball players. This drove a ton of organic traffic to my blog (linked in the bio on my Instagram profile) as well as organic followers on Instagram that I can later market to directly in their feeds.

Instagram sponsored posts top posts  

That’s me in the middle!

I have so many tips and tricks to grow your Instagram follower base (I grew my Instagram follower base from 1k to ~11k in 3 months), but for this post, let’s get back to Instagram ads. The best Instagram ads do not seem like ads at a first glance. Like most photos on Instagram, tailoring the photo for the ad to seem like a candid shot with sharp, short text will work best. There shouldn’t be any aggressive calls to action as it will come across as too sales-y. A subtle download link with a mention of your app or website will result in better conversion rates.

Currently, Instagram ads are managed through Facebook’s self-serve platform, Power Editor, on a select basis. Or, you can try contacting your API partner to begin. We have yet to gain access, but will be sure to post details as soon as we do! In the meantime, check out Margot’s excellent tips for marketing your business on Instagram, and if you're in a creative field like craft marketing, it's vital that you get started on Instagram right away!

Let us know your plans for advertising on Instagram. We’d love to hear them!

About the author

Liz Dean is the Tech Support Engineer at WordStream. While she combats bugs and issues during the day, she is passionate about Instagram and ultimately hopes to become an expert in PPC on Instagram as they work on rolling out their new advertising platform (and internally for WordStream as we adopt the ad platform down the line). You can follow Liz on Instagram.


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Gurpreet Dhillon
Sep 26, 2015

That is great to hear that Instagram is now open for advertising.I will sure give it a try if i can,Lets see how it works.

Thanks for sharing useful information about Instagram Sponsored posts.

Liz Oeltjen
Sep 27, 2015

Hey Liz,

I enjoyed the article, and I just wanted to say that I would also enjoy reading about your journey from 1k to 11k Insta followers in three months. I'll be on the lookout.

- Ryan

Sep 29, 2015

Me too! That is an incredible amount of growth. I think I would have to post about 6 times a day at my current pace of followers-per-post. But then it seems like the rate of return slows down a lot when you post too frequently. Clearly there is a lot we can learn from Liz!

Dec 02, 2015

One of the best ways to improve viral online video marketing strategy is usually to be simultaneous.

Clearissa Coward
Oct 06, 2016

This was a very helpful article. I wish I could have pinned it for later. Thank you for sharing.

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