Instagram Stories Ads: How to build an audience and grow your business using Instagram’s popular ad unit

Akvile DeFazio
September 21st, 2020
Akvile DeFazio

Instagram first launched Stories Ads in March 2017. The ad unit was a quick hit, with advertisers seeing a significant uplift in ad recall right out of the gate. Last year, ad tech platform Kenshoo reported that Stories Ads accounted for nearly 20% of ad spend on the platform during the second quarter of 2019, with the share of spend on Stories Ads doubling year-over-year.

“The hypervisual format grew 186% in spending compared to the same quarter last year,” wrote Kenshoo in its Q2 2019 Quarterly Trends Report.

It’s no surprise the ad unit’s popularity keeps growing. Conviva, a social analytics platform, found that branded Instagram Stories saw an average completion rate of 86% this year, up from 69% in 2018.

Instagram Stories Ads give users what they want to see

Why are Instagram users so drawn to the ad format? Stories Ads give brands an opportunity to deliver quick, ephemeral content that easily connects with the target audience. Not only are the ads visually appealing, advertisers can use them to create easily digestible content that inspires their target audience to take action. This ad from Rothy’s is a perfect example of how the ad format builds anticipation, motivating users to tap through the ad to see what’s in the box:

Rothy’s uses Instagram Stories Ads to build excitement around unboxing a pair of their popular Pointed-Toe Flats.

Instagram Stories Ads also level the playing field for advertisers – you don’t have to have a dedicated, in-house creative team or partner with a design studio to produce professionally polished videos. Some of the most effective Instagram Stories Ads are created spontaneously, filmed with a smartphone and edited using free or low-cost video-editing tools.

AKvertise clients have routinely gained an increase in reach, awareness and traffic using Instagram Stories Ads. More importantly, Instagram Stories Ad campaigns have been a critical factor for building audiences on the platform.

Tips for setting up an Instagram Stories Ad Campaign

Advertisers can create an Instagram Stories Ad campaign using the Facebook Ads Manager. After selecting the campaign objective, expand the Instagram placement options to select Instagram Stories. When building out the creative, advertisers should use a video instead of static images for their Stories Ad content. Viewers are already expecting a video experience – offering up static images keeps the brand from living up to the user’s expectations. Not only does video allow a brand to better manage the user experience, videos are a more effective way to demonstrate a product or service in action, immediately elevating the ad’s relevancy.

For video overlays, it is important to keep the ad copy short and direct. You want a succinct call-to-action like “Shop Now” or “Learn More” that motivates the user to engage with the ad without spending too much time on the messaging. It is also important to conduct a quality assurance on your creative before going live: Does your design fit the proper specs? Or is it cut off by the enforced ad margins, your Instagram handle or the CTA button? Make sure the ad creative is clean and your messaging is error-free.

How to use Instagram Stories Ad stickers to drive engagement

One of the best things about Stories Ads is the number of creative stickers available for advertisers to drive engagement, including the product launch stickers that were made available in 2019 which allow users to set reminders for product launch dates.

One of AKvertise’s favorite stickers are the Instagram Stories Ad polls, an interactive feature that motivates users to take an immediate action by voting on one of two options presented in the ad. Advertisers can use the polls to find out what resonates most with their target audience, gathering intelligence on everything from an audience’s preferences to their pain points. Brands can quickly leverage what they learn from a poll across other channels, including their website copy, email messaging and organic social content.

For example, an AKvertise client that provides solution-based products for homes recently used an Instagram Stories ad poll campaign to learn which topics had the biggest impact on home-ownership. The poll results informed how the brand structured its landing page copy going forward – focusing on the issue that respondents claimed mattered most to them.

Putting Instagram Stories Ad Polls to work

Instagram Stories Ad polls are also a cost-effective way to get users to engage with an ad that can then be used in a retargeting campaign. By creating a custom audience made up of Instagram users who engaged with the ad during a limited number of days, brands can run a retargeting campaign to quickly fill the top of their sales funnel with new and relevant users – showing them fresh messaging based on their poll responses.

For brands looking to grow their reach on Instagram, creating a lookalike audience based on the people who engaged with their Instagram Stories Ad Poll is an easy and effective tactic for broadening their prospect base across the platform.

One thing to remember about Instagram Stories Ad Polls: You must select Instagram Stories Ads placement in the ad set level for the poll option to appear. If you add any other ad placements in your ad set, the poll option will not be available. Also, advertisers cannot run an Engagement Campaign Objective using Instagram Stories Ad Polls, at least not yet.

One in five branded Stories gets a direct message

It would be great to have the Engagement Campaign Objective as an option for Stories Ads using polls, along with more Stories Ads placements overall on the platform, but that just leaves more room for Instagram to grow the ad unit and expand its functionality. With more than half of Instagram’s user base – 500 million people – using Instagram Stories daily, it is likely more ad placements will eventually be a reality.

In the three years since Instagram first began offering Stories Ads, the ad format has become an integral component of any comprehensive social media strategy. According to the platform, of the 500 million accounts using Instagram Stories, a third of the most viewed stories come from businesses, and one-in-five Stories gets a direct message from its viewers. That is a considerable amount of engagement for any business, underscoring just how relevant Instagram Stories Ads are.

Regardless of your business size, Instagram Stories Ads are definitely worth your time, effort and ad spend.

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