In a few short years, Instagram has gone from being a social platform primarily known for selfies and breathtaking images to a place where brands deliver powerful messages, tell stories that drive conversation and engage consumers and businesses.
More and more marketers are turning to Instagram for their digital advertising campaigns to reach their target audience on a real, human level.
And while some brands are finding huge success on the visual social network, others made huge Instagram ads mistakes that cost them ad dollars, brand reputation and lost revenue.
No, we’re not talking about your business.
Here are five common Instagram ads mistakes, how you can avoid making them and examples of brands that successfully steered clear of errors to maximize their ROI:
Done right, Instagram ads have the power to boost brand awareness, engage and inform users, and generate new traffic, leads and ultimately, sales.
But ads done wrong can cause errors that not only result in wasted resources but can actually sink your brand.
Instagram Ads Mistake #1: Having No Goal-Focused Strategy
Instagram provides brands with a way to use visual storytelling through images and videos, lending itself to creatively showcasing products and services of all kinds.
But creating show-stopping ads is meaningless if they aren’t aligned with your overall objectives.
In the above ad by Snapchat, they used a “Would You Rather?” game, asking users the question if they would prefer to “slap Rihanna” or “punch Chris Brown.”
The social app was called out for making light of domestic violence, and drew criticism from the singer, resulting in stock tumbling, costing the company $800 million in a week.
Advertising campaign goals are as diverse as the brands that run them. For some, ads are meant to raise brand awareness or grow Instagram followings, while others are focused on driving traffic to a website or landing page or downloading an app or starting a free trial.
As with any other form of digital marketing, it’s important to clearly define your Instagram advertising goals early on and create a cohesive strategy to help you reach them. Once you have clear aims for your ads, you can move on to determine how you will accomplish these objectives through your ad campaign.
Always consider content and context when formulating your goals.
Whether your reason for advertising on Instagram is to increase brand awareness, showcase a new product or service, or to humanize your brand, each of your ad campaigns on the social network should be geared toward helping you reach your goals.
How Not-To make this mistake
Ask yourself questions like:
- What do you want your ads to accomplish?
- Are you trying to attract new customers or do you want to encourage past customers to do business with you again?
- Are you trying to drive website traffic?
- If so, how much traffic are you aiming for and within what time span?
- The more specific the answers, the more focused your goals will be.
While identifying and setting specific goals will help you turn your vision into reality,vague goals that lack definition and detail leave you with no way of knowing if your ads are achieving them.
Who Nailed It: Vogue
Condé Nast, the publisher behind Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and other magazines, wanted to boost subscriptions of their fashion glossy, Vogue.
With that goal in mind, the publisher’s ad creative offered a sneak peek into the September 2018 issue, the most anticipated edition in the minds of many style-conscious readers because it kicks off the fall fashion season.
Their month-long, goal-driven Instagram Stories campaign featuring Beyoncé as the cover star resonated with fashionistas, netting 20% of total new subscriptions at a 40% higher conversion rate versus other ad placements.
Instagram Ads Mistake #2: Not Targeting the Right Audience
Instagram provides ample ways brands can reach their target audiences. But to do so, businesses must first understand who that audience is and what motivates and inspires them.
One of the biggest Instagram ads mistakes is not knowing who your ideal customer is.
Global fashion brand Benetton mistargeted the fashion-driven moms market with this ad “Girls not allowed!” Needless to say, the post didn’t go over too well with the target audience.
After receiving criticism that the ad encouraged gender stereotypes and excluded girls, resulting in negative publicity everywhere from Huffington Post to Cosmopolitan magazine, the company issued an apology.
To identify your audience, do the following:
Analyze your offerings.
Take a look at whatever you sell to get clues into who is most likely to be interested in and get value from your offerings. Ask yourself:
- What need does your product, service or content fill?
- Does it solve any problems or reduce pain points?
- Who would get the most out of what you sell?
Get to know the competition.
Research and analyze your competitors to see who they’re targeting. Take a look at their customer base and see if you can find an area of the market you could focus on that they might be missing.
Understand the demographics.
Target markets can be segmented by several variables. The most common factors used to segment a target market include age, gender, income, location, behavior, lifestyle, interests, and values. So you should be able to answer the following questions about your ideal customer:
- How old are they?
- Are they male or female?
- Where do they live?
- Do they have a college education?
- How much do they earn?
- Do they have any children?
- What are their interests and hobbies?
- What inspires and motivates them?
With the social web buzzing 24/7 with chatter, you can learn a lot about your target audience by listening in on conversations relevant to your industry or business.
How Not-To make this mistake
Keep your ear to the ground with tools like Hootsuite Insights to hear conversations happening around your brand in real-time.
This will allow you to gain an understanding of precisely what people are talking about as well as current and upcoming trends that may interest your potential customers.
Knowing your audience is the key to making smart advertising choices, but not having an understanding of who you’re targeting is a recipe for disaster.
Who Nailed It: Adidas Russia
To connect with their target audience of young creators in their native environment, Adidas Originals sportswear brand sought to engage users interested in being original and living life on their own terms.
Their video campaign, aimed at engaging young creators in Russia with a conversation about the importance of originality and creation, featured a unique version of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” and several visionaries from the worlds of music, sports, skateboarding. and art.
The creative increased ad recall by 27 points among targeted 18- to 24-year-olds, with a 10-point increase in positive brand perception.
Instagram Ads Mistake #3: Missing the Mark with Ad Content
While understanding and effectively targeting your audience is important, when it comes to Instagram mistakes, misfiring on ad content can blow an otherwise well-planned strategy.
Underscoring how important content is to connect with audiences, luxury fashion house Dolce & Gabbana made a huge miscue with ads aimed at publicizing its Shanghai fashion show in 2018.
Featuring a Chinese model clumsily attempting to eat traditional Italian foods with chopsticks, the campaign received immediate outrage from Chinese consumers, prompting the designer label to cancel its Shanghai fashion show.
The fallout was swift.
There were calls for a boycott. Chinese pop idol Karry Wang and actress Dilireba, Dolce & Gabbana brand ambassadors, terminated their contracts. Chinese retailers and major Chinese ecommerce sites including Alibaba’s Tmall and JD.com stopped selling the brand’s merchandise.
And users in China started posting photos and videos destroying D&C products.
How Not-To make this mistake
To create ads that connect with your potential customers, you must ensure that they:
- Accurately reflect your brand positioning, products, and services
- Aren’t too sales-y and self-promotional; instead, provide inspiration and value
While we’re on the subject of ad content, it’s essential not to overlook the importance of captions in helping your message hit home.
The above caption is a prime example of how caption copy can drawn in readers.
To craft great captions, ask yourself:
- Does your caption messaging back up your ad’s imagery?
- Are you using the best possible hashtags?
- Did you add any relevant emojis?
- Have you included a compelling call to action (CTA)?
Not identifying and creating the type of content that performs best for your brand and target audience will make it next to impossible to achieve your advertising goals.
Who Nailed It: Samsung Australia
To promote their latest high-end TV, Samsung Australia put a spotlight on its unique features that appealed to audiences interested in interior design, architecture, and home improvement projects.
Drawing in consumers with a design and art focus, Samsung used quality ad content that simply but beautifully showed how the new TV could do double duty as a photo, print or piece of artwork when turned off.
The eye-catching creative resulted in a 10-point lift in ad awareness, an 8.5-point increase in brand awareness and a 4-point rise in purchase intent.
Instagram Ads Mistake #4: Only Thinking Short-Term
Although creating ads with content that people will remember long after your campaign ends is great, it’s just a start.
European Outdoors, an e-commerce shop specializing in water sports equipment, had used Instagram for less than a year – and had a small following. The company mounted a one-time, 3-month campaign to boost website and traffic and conversions. Their Instagram Stories posts resulted in only 5 sales and the brand decided to stop advertising and discontinue using Instagram as a marketing channel, missing out on an opportunity to build long-term relationships with users.
As many Instagram advertisers find out, in a world driven by instant gratification and short-term results, brand building, and audience engagement should be ongoing strategies.
Brands often have the best intentions but hamper their own growth by falling into the trap of making short-sighted advertising decisions at the expense of longer-term success.
How Not-To make this mistake
Achieving business growth on Instagram requires a forward-thinking mindset with a holistic approach that views consistently advertising as an investment in the ongoing viability of your brand.
Focusing on ads that start conversations and build relationships over time can lead to increased sales, new customers, long-term brand growth opportunities and lasting success.
On the flip side, lacking the patience or resources to wean yourself off of instant gratification will make sustained success hard to find.
Who Nailed It: Zexy
Zexy, the largest wedding-planning app in Japan, knew Instagram was the ideal place to reach their target audience of millennial women who fuel the fashion and beauty markets.
Viewing Instagram ads as an ongoing strategy, the brand committed to using the platform over the long haul.
Zexy used the social network to build a strong following and customer base over a five-year period. Then the brand planned and executed a several-months-long campaings over a two-year period leading up to the most popular times for weddings in Japan. Finally, it created a series of Stories ads aimed at reaching a larger audience.
Ultimately, the brand saw three times more app installs and twice the number of in-app actions at a 37% lower cost and a 400% increase in the click-through rate over prior ad campaigns.
Mistake #5: Overlooking Image and Video Quality
Just as important as having a long-term strategy, your Stories’visual content quality can mean the difference between a memorable campaign or a totally forgettable one.
Most advertisers understand that Instagram, being a visual platform, has users who expect ads to have eye-catching imagery. Some, however, routinely post Stories with low-quality photos and videos that disappoint.
Take the above Vibes and Horizons Story. Its low-quality image with bad product photo proportions and irrelevant distractions make sure this one had negative impact. Would you have been temped to engage with it?
The importance of visuals is all rooted in the way Instagram works.
Users typically scroll through a single row of stories (or column of images), quickly swiping and glancing at content. They only slow down and stop when something catches their eyes.
That means the more you concentrate on producing high-quality images and videos for Instagram, the more likely users will engage with your ads.
Since first impressions matter, follow these tips for good photo and videos:
- Use quality tools for quality results. Using the best camera you can afford will ensure you never have lackluster photos and videos, especially if you get the lighting right. When photographing people or objects, natural light is the best option. Otherwise, use the Adobe Lightroom app to brighten your pictures.
- Change things up a bit. When shooting, never use only a single perspective, whether a straight-on shot or flat lay. Depending on what you aim to accomplish, try close-ups, wide-angle shots and various filters for variety to engage your target audience.
- Think about the background and periphery. As in the Vibes and Horizons example, a shot can be ruined b out-of-proportion framing, background clutter or items around your subject that act as a distraction.
If you lack confidence in your photography or videography abilities, hire a professional.
How Not-To make this mistake
what type of message are you sending when a user first sees your Instagram Stories ad?
If the takeaway is “the pictures and videos I take on my smartphone look better than this,” it’s time to rethink your visual content strategy.
Although Instagrammers don’t necessarily like over-produced imagery, low-quality visuals hurt your brand reputation, come across as unprofessional and leave people thinking that your brand doesn’t take its image (or business) seriously.
Who Nailed It: Health Coach Institute
Health Coach Institute successfully captured Instagram users’ attention with quality imagery and vibrant colors.
Luring people in with attractive, relevant imagery and a clear call-to-action (CTA), the health coach school’s Instagram Stories ad campaign realized a 70% lower cost per lead from its others Stories ads, a 2.2X lower cost per lead compared with results on other digital channels, a three times the number of leads and a 30% higher return on ad spend.
Well, there they are: five common Instagram mistakes you could be making to sabotage your ad campaigns.
These are just some of the common advertising errors that pop up in Instagram campaigns time and time again.
By avoiding these five potentially costly Instagram mistakes, you can put yourself in a position to reach your advertising goals.
Even the most experienced advertisers and marketers trying to tap into Instagram’s highly engaged user base — by targeting them with relevant ads — inevitably make a few missteps along the way, sometimes mounting campaigns that don’t get the desired results.
The keys to success are putting a winning advertising strategy in place, zeroing in on the right target audience, creating compelling ad content, setting yourself up for long-term success and regularly testing and refining your campaigns.
Also read: 5 Important KPIs for Your PPC Campaign