With the population’s growing addiction to their mobile devices these days, you want to make sure you reach your audience where they’re hanging out. And with a community of over 500 million, Instagram is one of the world’s largest mobile ad platforms and a perfect place to reach your ideal customer.
Small businesses are especially ideal candidates for Instagram advertising, as it allows users to dip into Facebook’s enormous data and target specific audiences, as well as nurture audience engagement. So as long as you know your target audience and how to reach them – when done right – Instagram ads have almost unparalleled potential to increase brand awareness and conversion rates for your business.
Morgan Sutton loves helping small businesses meet their business goals by assisting them with their operations logistics, including educating them on social media automation systems and how to effectively advertise on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
Rich: Morgan Sutton is the Director of Operations at Susan B. Zimmerman Enterprise. With a Masters in Engineering Management, she directs all business operations logistics and online automation systems for social media education for Sue B. Zimmerman, who’s a frequent guest on this show. Since the company’s start, she has been a core driver of the development of Sue B’s popular brand and online education courses. As a certified Ontraport consultant, she has helped small business owners bridge the gap between their business goals, website management, and automation systems. Morgan, welcome to the show.
Morgan: Thanks so much for having me, Rich.
Rich: So as I was chatting with Sue the other day after we finished our interview, we were talking about different people that I might interview and I said I really want to talk to someone about Instagram ads, it’s not something I’ve talked about and I asked if she had anybody and she said of course I have to talk to Morgan. So here you are.
Morgan: I am here, I’m ready to roll. I’m excited to talk about Instagram ads, there aren’t a lot of people out there chatting about it in our industry.
Rich: Alright, cool. So I guess the first question is, it seems like a lot of social media platforms are turning to advertising as a way for businesses to reach their audience. Facebook seems to be leading the way, obviously, Facebook owns Instagram. Why should I advertise on Instagram?
Morgan: Well I think it’s about Instagram as a platform and the people that are on there. So Instagram has grown significantly over the past couple of years, when we jumped on it was just a little baby social platform, and now they have 500 million active users. People are addicted to using their phones, so social platforms focusing on mobile apps is major. And people specifically who are super interested about Instagram are addicted to that scroll. So you have people that are very engaged and are excited to see the high quality content that exists on Instagram. So when ads done right are put on Instagram, you have a real advantage to capture your audience – the right audience – and see a conversion. So I just think that Instagram ads is such a huge opportunity, especially for small business owners, and especially since it focuses on from Facebook’s amazing ad platform built the same way so it has the same strengths as Facebook ads.
Rich: Ok, so one of the things you mentioned as reasons to advertise would be the platform, the audience, and also we are addicted to our mobile phones. You also said something interesting, you said the “right type of ads”. So what makes an ad the right type of ad versus the wrong type of ad, in your opinion?
Morgan: In my opinion I think it just has to do with being native to the platform and serving up content that you would serve up normally on your account that your target audience loves, and turning that into an ad that’s specific about some business goal, but keeping it native to the platform.
Rich: So for those of us that don’t know what that means – I mean, I’ve certainly heard that phrase, “being native” – but how do you define “being native” to someone who maybe isn’t native themselves?
Morgan: I think that it focuses most on the image. Rachel, on our team, is the Director of content management, and she is in charge of our image online – where I’m in charge of the more technical piece – and she always tells clients you have to make them stop in the scroll. I think that that’s a message for your free content that you’re posting on your Instagram and for your ads. And stopping in your scroll normally has to do with having a dynamic image. Sue always talks about something being “Instagrammable”, having the proper light, being a little bit more of an interesting composition, just making sure that that image is very high quality.
Rich: Alright, so I’m hearing that for our ads to be successful on Instagram they need to be native, meaning that they would look like the kind of content that we’d publish even if we weren’t looking to do this, to get somebody to click or engage or whatever. Make sure that the visuals are top notch, and there’s one more thing that I wrote down but my handwriting is terrible right now, I’m sure it will come back to me.
So one of the things I’m wondering is, people do like to scroll, they will click for the “likes”. I do know that ads are the one place – with the exception of our bio – where we can make a clickable link. So is that our goal, should we be trying to get people off Instagram and to our mobile friendly website or opt in page, what do you say to that?
Morgan: I say that it depends on your business goal, but in my experience and most of the time, yes. So depending on your goal, you could be serving up Instagram ads just for brand awareness getting your product and the look and feel of your brand out in front of more people that matter to you. And on an Instagram ad you’re able to have your profile hyperlinked as long as you have your Instagram profile, and someone could click that and just become a follower, and that could be a success to you.
Often what my goal is with Instagram ads is just to have a website conversion. So regularly what I’m looking for is getting someone to sign up for our email list, to register for a webinar, or maybe even to buy a low priced product. In that case my goal is for them to get enticed by that image, stop in the scroll, read the description and want to know more, and click that button whether or not it’s “learn more”, “shop now”, “download”. You have button options on your Instagram ads that continue to pull in people through different call to actions.
Rich: Ok. I know that we can run our Instagram ads through Facebook ads, what are the differences though between Instagram and Facebook? Because in the little time that I’ve spent doing Facebook ads – the the ability to do Instagram ads – it doesn’t seem like there’s a lot of variance, it almost seems like they want to kind of bundle everything. So how should I think differently about advertising on Instagram, what are some of the details I should keep in mind if I am going to spend that money on Instagram ads?
Morgan: First off I think that it’s a positive that Facebook and Instagram ads have a similar platform, that if anyone has experience on Facebook they shouldn’t be scared of Instagram. I watch a lot of trainings from Facebook about Instagram directly, and one thing that they’ve said is whether or not you have a square image that‘s super Instagrammy, or a landscape image which is super Facebook ad, they haven’t noticed a major issue or difference with the click through rate between putting a square or landscape image on an Instagram ad. So, if you’re brand new to Instagram but not to Facebook ads, don’t be scared to just try serving those Facebook ads up to Instagram just to see how it works.
The major difference between Instagram and Facebook ads to me would be making sure that the visual feels native to the platform. Whenever I’m serving up Facebook ads – because I’m a little more advanced – I make sure that there’s a different image that’s even more Instagram friendly, but like I said most images – and Facebook has tested tons and tons – didn’t test different in even the size.
A main difference between the Instagram and Facebook ads is the description. On an Instagram ad they aren’t letting you get away with those much longer text descriptions, you have to have 300 characters that will appear before you get a “read more…”. So when you’re serving up an Instagram ad or when you’re formatting those ads in both platforms, making sure that the main message that you want someone to see is in those first 300 characters is very important and a major difference between the two platforms.
Rich: So what I’m hearing is Facebook tells us that the landscape ads and images and the square images basically get a similar click through rate. But I’m also hearing that you, as an advanced user, are basically running two different campaigns for the same thing. So you’re spending extra time.
Morgan: And money.
Rich: Wait, why would it be extra money, isn’t it the same?
Morgan: You can serve it in the same group, but I can decide to put the equal amount of money behind a Facebook ad and an equal amount of money behind a Instagram ad, so I end up spending more money on it to get more reach on both platforms.
Rich: Ok, that makes sense. But one could do it so you basically spend the same amount between the two.
Morgan: You split the budget between the two, right.
Rich: So another question that I have around the same thing is Facebook knows who is also on Instagram. I’m assuming that you’ve connected those two accounts, which most of us have. Do I still get the same level of granular targeting with Instagram ads that I do with Facebook ads?
Morgan: So right now because Facebook owns Instagram and they collect information based on how you interact on Facebook, how you interact on Instagram, the interest you put on your Facebook ad, that targeting is set up the same exact way that Facebook’s is. So actually I set it up in the same platform and it looks no different to me. All I’m choosing is I’m serving up the ad to Instagram versus only to Facebook, so you’re getting just as much targeted focus to your audience if you decided to serve it up to Instagram.
Rich: And does the Facebook retargeting pixel work the same way on Instagram as well? Is it all the same universe?
Morgan: Yes, exactly.
Rich: Ok, so I’m always trying to think of how I can use it, so of course right now Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference is on the brain. So I’m just thinking about could I – in theory at least – target people who like Sue B. Zimmerman or Chris Brogan and get in front of them on Instagram, and maybe target geographically as well? So like, if you live in Northern New England and you like Sue B. Zimmerman and I’m going to show a Sue B. Zimmerman speaking at Agents of Change thing to try and get you to visit our website, and from there we could do some additional retargeting as well.
Morgan: Exactly. So it’s all in what you select when you’re setting up your ad set. Technically speaking, in the Facebook/Instagram ads universe, you’re dealing with an ad which to them is the creative aspect image in the text, and you’re dealing with your ads set which is your budget and your targeting and all of those gender location information that you’re putting in. So similarly, you’re just deciding to serve it to Instagram instead of serve it to Facebook, but it’s the same thing where you’re able to say I want to serve it to both males and females that are in the Boston area who have expressed interest in Sue B. Zimmerman’s Facebook page or a custom audience of people that have already visited your website. Things like that all can be used and all you have to do is just make sure that you’re selecting to serve it on Instagram instead of Facebook – or send it to both – and you see the predicted reach based on your budget.
So say in the audience size you have on Facebook is a little different than Instagram because it’s just if people have either platform. But when you decide to serve the ad to both places it will say this is going to reach 800 people on Facebook a day and 450 on Instagram. Or if you only do Instagram it will just do Instagram’s range. And that just comes from the amount of money you want to put into each day.
Rich: So you’ve mentioned how much money a few times, so budget always comes into play here. Do you have a measuring stick for how much I should spend on my Instagram ads? Or how do you determine it yourself?
Morgan: I believe that it’s definitely based on your industry and based on what you’re selling. Because most of my ads are for website conversion, I’m looking at how much money I’m comfortable spending for a specific lead. And a lead for me is having their email address. So where I’m sitting in the information product world, I will spend about $5/day per ad. So understanding that I’m probably testing 10 audiences at one time or two images against each other at one time, so that $5 can duplicate pretty far. But out of that $5 I’m hoping to get about five leads, and I’m comfortable there at about $1/lead. Less than $1/lead, I’m ecstatic. For me, I can let it go up to about $3/lead and after than I feel it’s a little uncomfortable for me.
Now everything is in the testing game, it works differently for every audience, but that’s what I found in our information product world. If you have a different type of business, paying for one lead you could be more comfortable spending more money for it. So it just depends on your industry.
Rich: It sounds like you’re pretty on top of this. How long do you let an ad run? I’ve sometimes heard on Facebook that ads are only effective for so long and then you need to shut them of because all of your intended recipients have seen it 7-10 times. Have you found something similar on Instagram where ads seem to have a lifespan?
Morgan: Yeah, so I pay attention to two different things. One is, after 48 hours that an ad has been served, if I’m not at the conversion that I want – which is about $1 a lead – I generally ditch it and try something new. So like I said, all a testing game,split testing is a huge part of this especially with the myriad of the different audiences that you can work with. Something that’s served up to Sue B’s audience might do differently than something sent to Amy Porterfield’s. So I give it about 48 hours and if that ad budget has continued to spend and reach and hasn’t gotten me the cost that I want, I ditch that audience.
Rich: Let me ask, are you doing all this measurement within the Power Editor in Facebook, is it giving you all the information you need?
Morgan: Yes, so what I was going to say was the metric that you were talking about is frequency which is a metric that isn’t necessarily shown to you in the simple metrics that you’re viewing in your ad, normally it’s cost per click, cost per conversion, how much have I spent, how much have I spent today, those are the things that are on the basic metrics page when you’re looking at how your ad set is running. A metric that I sort for looking in a customized column frequently is frequency. So what you were saying and knowing something has been sent to someone 7 or 10 times, and the spend is getting more per lead, than that audience is probably tired.
An audience that I’m really comfortable with being served something 10 times is a retargeting audience. So normally I keep frequency pretty low, like at 2-3 times. If you’ve been shown a webinar 2-3 times and you’re still not interested, I’m personally ready to move on, because I could spend that money somewhere else. But I run a small business, so I have a very healthy budget at this point. Big, big brands have thousands of dollars to spend. I’m not there wasting that, I want to shift over to a new community.
But if I am retargeting a group that has already been to the webinar, that has already been told about Ready, Set, Gram, and is very active and I want to continue to remind them that this offer is going to expire in 3 days and I don’t want them to miss out, I will let them see that ad 10-15 times because that audience is a little more warm to what I’m offering.
Rich: Makes sense. We talked about money budget, but how much time every day would you say that you’re spending in Instagram ads and is that typical, and if it’s not typical, how much do you think that average small business owner needs to dedicate each day or each week to running a successful Instagram ad campaign?
Morgan: First of all I’d say that if you’re a small business owner, solopreneur or small team and you’re getting ready to spend money on ads, I’d say first of all you ad the business owner need to make sure that you understand what the process is and understand what you’re comfortable with spending on budget and spending per lead. Before I jumped into being responsible for this facet of our business – because I’m already responsible for a lot of operations and automation – we hired out probably 2 or 3 times people that were experts, but all we had to do was give them a password and they did everything and you hoped that it was successful. And I’ve got to tell you, it wasn’t. So if you decide to work with someone or decide to learn it yourself, make sure that you’re engaged in the process at least just in the beginning so you understand that the way that you’re money is being spent is the way that you want it to be spent. I think that’s really, really important.
Then in terms of the day to day commitment,it depends on what’s going on in our business. So we run our business on a launch build, so we do one really big launch every quarter where I’m probably spending three hours a day on Instagram ads and Facebook, because that’s my commitment to the launch and that’s where I know I’ll be making most of my leads and spending most of my money. I don’t use paid advertising anywhere else except for Instagram and Facebook. So during a launch, that’s a major commitment of my day.
During times where we’re off a campaign, I will only be running a couple of ads, little retargeting ads or something for list building with a strategy guide, and then I’ll just be checking once a day for about 30 minutes checking how things are going, adding in a different audience here or there, It just depends on what’s going on in the business. I suggest that people check in on their ads twice a day when they’re running them because I think a lot of people can just get distracted and end up wasting money not turning off a campaign when you really would have when you checked in.
Rich: Alright, and that kind of brings me to one of my last questions. Maybe you’ve already answered this in the reverse, but obviously small business owners always should be watching their budget and they just want to make sure they’re spending money wisely. What mistakes are you seeing that people are making when it comes to Instagram ads?
Morgan: I would say that the major mistake in not making sure that your targeting is set up how it should be and not spending enough time and allocating enough budget to testing those targets before letting them run. So the way that we focus on our Instagram ads targeting is by isolating an audience that already has our demographic focus – females 35 to 55 in english speaking countries – and I have each audience focused on just one interest. So I would focus only on one magazine. So for an interior design business having it be your demographic and HGTV Magazine and understanding how HGTV Magazine’s audience responds to you. Because if they don’t respond well, you can turn it off and are able to isolate that that audience isn’t going to do well for you.
A misconception about Facebook ads – at least in my experience, and Instagram ads consequently – is that people pile on a ton of different interests and say they have an audience of 10 million different people that like Photoshop and Creative Live and Adobe and Macbooks and Instagram and whatever. They put all these different interests of all the things that they think that their audience would like, and the truth is that that audience could do well but it’s very possible that it does not do well, and then you can’t isolate the problem with the group that it’s reaching that is actually not worth your time and energy.
Rich: Because you’ve watered down that audience to such a degree.
Morgan: Right. Exactly.
Rich: Makes sense.
Morgan: So make sure that you are testing those audiences isolated, and make sure that you pay enough attention to turn it off or get it off your list for the next time. Because you’re going to end up wasting a lot of money serving ads to people that aren’t right for you.
Rich: Makes a lot of sense. Morgan, this has been great. Where can we find you online?
Morgan: You can find me on Instagram at SBZteam. That is our account around what we do on the backend of Sue B. Zimmerman Enterprise. You can also connect with me over at suebzimmerman.com. And if you’re interested in getting started on Instagram, you’re not ready for ads yet or you want to get started but you haven’t even done the Instagram part yet, head over to suebzimmerman.com/guide, because you can get our free Instrgram strategy guide there. Just get your Instagram journey started.
Rich: Thank you so much, Morgan, for your time today.
Morgan: Thank you for having me, Rich.
- Head on over to Instagram to see what Morgan and the rest of the Sue B. Zimmerman crew are up to.
- Want to learn more about starting an Instagram account and using Instagram ads? Then check out the website for a free “how to” Strategy Guide.
- Hurry up and grab your tickets to the Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference! If you’re serious about helping your business reach the next level, you won’t want to miss a chance to hear some of the smartest industry experts speak on the topics of search, social and mobile marketing.