A Guide to Getting Started with Instagram Sponsored Posts

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If you are a business owner or marketer, you know that social media is one of the top ways to interact with potential customers and get your brand out into the public eye. You have probably used Facebook to interact with existing and potential customers, and likely have heard of Instagram as an advertising and interaction platform.

Did you know that there are 1 billion active users monthly on Instagram? Of those 1 billion, at least half are engaging with not only friends, but with brands, too. Instagram users actually engage with brands 10 times more than they do on Facebook.

Using Instagram properly can make a huge difference in the engagement levels your business sees each month. One way to increase your brand awareness is through Instagram sponsored posts.

What Are Instagram Sponsored Posts?

Instagram sponsored posts are organic posts made by you on the Instagram platform that you can then use as an advertisement for your brand, so long as you put money behind it. Unlike traditional advertisements, you will use an existing organic post and all of its engagement to reach more Instagram users.

These will look like any regular Instagram post, but will say “Sponsored” next to your company’s name. Like this:

If you want to be able to target a specific audience, you should make use of true promoted posts. These posts will only appear on the Instagram platform. But, you can target them to a specific audience based on age, location and interests. You can add your website URL and even an action button to help drive potential customers to your website.

If you want to run engagement-oriented sponsored posts, you can choose a past Instagram post from your profile and use the targeting options that are available for typical Facebook and Instagram ads. The benefit of this type of sponsored post is that all engagement on and off platform will be transferred to the original post while the sponsored post is running. This increases your user-generated content (USG) and helps to spread the word of your brand.

How Are Sponsored Posts Different than Other Types of Instagram Ads?

Promoted and sponsored posts both focus on promoting existing posts as they currently are. This includes all user-generated content. Other types of Instagram ads focus on brand awareness, lead generation, conversions and traffic.

These ads will create new posts even if you are using the same image and caption as an existing post; they will not carry over comments left by users in the past on similar/identical posts. By creating a blank slate, you can’t capitalize on the engagement that exists on the original post.

When you initially create your sponsored post, you will be asked what the objective is for that post. You can choose from the following options:

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

The option you choose will determine who sees your ad. Both Instagram and Facebook will only show your ad to people their algorithms identify as most likely to take your desired actions. This means you may have a hard time getting more engagement while also getting new leads by creating just one sponsored post.

Creating Instagram Sponsored Posts in Ads Manager on Facebook

Because Facebook owns Instagram, you can create sponsored posts that can populate both platforms. The Ads Manager is extremely easy to use when creating a sponsored post.

Narrow or Broad Target Audience?

First, you will go to Facebook’s Create Ad page and choose “engagement” as your objective. Once you have chosen your objective, you will then begin choosing your targeting:

  • You may choose to create a narrow target audience if your brand will appeal to only a certain type of person.
  • Or you may choose to keep your targeted audience as broad and general as you can.

This choice depends on your brand and to whom the sponsored post would be most relevant.

While having a broad and general audience may allow you to reach a higher number of individuals with your sponsored post, having a more narrowed target audience may just get you more engagement on the post coming from individuals who are truly interested in your brand and what you have to offer them.

What to Post, Where to Post

Once you have chosen your target audience, you will need to choose your placement and determine how much you want to invest in this sponsored post. Choosing the correct platforms will affect whether people will be able to view likes, comments and shares. This can affect the overall engagement the sponsored post generates.

Once you have handled all the logistics of the post, it is time for the fun part: choosing your creative. This is the step where you review all of your previous Instagram posts and determine which organic post you would like to use as a sponsored post. In many cases, you will have a similar post on both Facebook and Instagram, so make sure you select the Instagram version of the post.

The final step is to review your ad and submit it. During this process, you will want to check that you have chosen the correct post, the correct target audience and the correct objective for this sponsored post.

When Should You Create Sponsored Posts on Instagram?

Instagram sponsored posts are not ideal for every situation; whether you should use sponsored posts or the traditional ad system will depend on your ultimate objective for this campaign. Are you looking to simply get more attention to your brand, convert engagement into profit, or increase local store traffic? Then a traditional ad may be a better option.

However, there are four cases when a sponsored post can reap benefits for your brand and business:

  • Shoppable Posts: Instagram allows business owners to tag a product in their images and create a link for users to purchase a product they like immediately. These posts only work on mobile and the Instagram platform, so you will want to use sponsored posts with Instagram-only placements.
  • More Brand Awareness and Visibility: Even brick-and-mortar companies can benefit from sponsored posts on Instagram. These posts can raise the awareness of your brand while allowing you to engage with current and potential customers. This engagement level can lead new customers to your store.
  • Accumulating More User-Generated Content: Again, using an organic post with plenty of user-generated content will gain you more UGC on a sponsored post. When people see posts that already have a ton of UGC, they are more likely to take notice of the content of your post.
  • Leverage Your Existing UGC: Chances are you have at least one post that is doing really well in the engagement department. If this is the case, you should consider using this post in a sponsored campaign, as it will likely do well with a larger audience. As a bonus, the user-generated content it has already earned will carry over into the sponsored post.

Sponsored Posts and Traditional Ads Can Go Hand in Hand

Instagram sponsored posts in conjunction with traditional Instagram Ads can help you reach a diverse set of goals for your business. Traditional ads serve to drive specific actions, while sponsored posts are available to boost the momentum of your existing organic posts. When getting started, you should test out both and see which works best for your individual business needs. You will likely see differences in the way your audience responds to each type.

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