The Four Most Effective Types Of Instagram Ads

The digital landscape is changing, and we as marketers have to change with it. Customers want information right at their fingertips, quickly!

With 500+ million active users and 80% of that audience following a business on Instagram, you should be leveraging Instagram within your digital marketing strategy.

“Instagram is a place where visual expression from business inspires visible action from people around the world. From sparking inspiration to driving action, get the business results and customers you care about.”

Types of Instagram Ads

Photo Ads

Tell your brand's story using a simple creative canvas.

  • Requirements

    • These can be square or landscape.
    • The recommended image size for Instagram ads depends on which format you use:
      • Square
        • Minimum resolution (600 x 600 pixels) Maximum resolution (1936 x 1936 pixels)
      • Landscape
        • Minimum resolution (600 x 315 pixels)
        • Maximum resolution (1936 x 1936 pixels)
      • Vertical
        • Minimum resolution (600 x 750 pixels)
        • Maximum resolution (1936 x 1936 pixels)
  • When To Use

    • This is the most standard ad format on Instagram. If your brand is already creating quality visual content, this ad type would be the easiest to get up and running quickly.
    • Supported objectives: Reach, traffic, conversions, app installs, lead generation, brand awareness, post engagement, product catalog sales, and store Visits
  • Best Practices

    • Make your image appear like it is meant to organically show up in the feed. You can do this by making it look more organic, understanding who your audience is, and delivering images they would be interested in.
    • Minimize image overlays (Instagram only allows 20% of the image to have text). But if you are going to use overlays, make sure it’s branded or value-based.

Video Ads

Use sight, sound, and motion to portray your brand’s message on Instagram.

  • Requirements

    • Can be landscape or square format and up to 60 seconds.
    • Video size: Your video's file size can be up to 4GB max.
  • When To Use

    • We all know that video is so hot right now!  If you have time to put into creating video content, you should 100% be testing video ads on Instagram. Video ads are a great way to show your brand's story or demonstrate how a product or service works.
    • Supported objectives: Reach, traffic, conversions, lead generation, brand awareness, post engagement, and store visits
  • Best Practices

    • Make sure the brand is present at the beginning of the video!
    • Focus on a single goal.
    • Add a clear call to action.

Carousel Ads

Add multiple media to your ad and allow users to swipe to view content in a single ad.

  • Requirements

    • Minimum number of cards: 2
    • Maximum number of cards: 10
    • Image file type: .JPG or .PNG
    • Video file type: Supported file formats
    • Video maximum file size: 4GB
    • Video length: Up to 60 seconds
    • Image maximum file size: 30MB
    • Recommended resolution: At least 1080 x 1080px
    • Carousel ratio: 1:1
  • When To Use

    • If you want to show the versatility of your brand, carousel ads are the best option! With this ad format, you are able to show users multiple images of products or services your brand offers.  
    • Supported objectives: Reach, traffic, conversions, brand awareness, lead generation and product catalog sales
  • Best Practices

    • Use images that are cohesive and engaging.
    • Think about the user, use product or service imagery when targeting people who have visited specific pages on your site, and use lifestyle imagery when reaching prospective customers.
    • If product or service based, express different value-adds through imagery and copy throughout the carousel.

Slideshows Ads

Combine multiple images or videos, text, and sound to tell a story.

  • Requirements

    • Recommended number of images: 3-10
    • Image file type: .JPG or .PNG
    • Video file type: .MOV or .MP
    • Recommended image ratio of 16:9, 1:1 or 2:3
  • When To Use

    • If you want to create a more visually engaging video instead of a carousel ad or single image ad
    • Supported objectives: Reach, traffic, conversions, brand awareness, lead generation and product catalog sales
  • Best Practices

    • Use images that are cohesive and engaging.
    • Think about the user, use product or service imagery when targeting people who have visited specific pages on your site, and use lifestyle imagery when reaching prospective customers.
    • If product or service based, express different value-adds through imagery and copy throughout the carousel.

Collection Ads

Discover, browse and purchase products and services from mobile devices in a more visual and immersive way.

  • Requirements

    • Recommended image ratio of 16:9 to 1:1
  • When To Use

    • If you are selling a product or service and want to create a more interactive ad experience
    • Supported objectives: conversions, traffic, product catalog sales, store visits
  • Best Practices

    • Use images that are cohesive and engaging.
    • Try to create a unique experience that integrates the initial video/image with the products being associated
    • Your headline is not visible in these ads so make sure your imagery does the talking
    • Include a great CTA at the bottom of your collection ad!


Use stories to complement your brand’s feed presence!

  • Requirements

    • All feed photo and video dimensions are now supported (from 1:91 to 4:5)
      • File type
        • .MP4 or .MOV (Video)
        • .JPG or .PNG (Photo)
      • Maximum file size
        • 4GB (Video)
        • 30MB (Photo)
      • Video Length
        • Maximum: 15 seconds
        • Images show for five seconds by default
      • Dimensions
        • Recommended resolution: 1080 x 1920
        • Minimum: 600 x 1067
      • Supported Codecs
        • Video: H.264, VP8
        • Audio: AAC, Vorbis
  • When To Use

    • If you’re trying to tell a brand story in video format or have a special promotion.
    • Supported objectives: Reach, traffic, conversions, app installs and lead generation
  • Best Practices

    • Make the first half of the story visually appealing, and make sure the brand is present within the first few seconds.
    • Add music to your story!
    • These videos should be short (preferably 15 seconds or less) and should engage the users within the first three seconds.

Choosing Instagram Ad Types


If your goal is more impression based, promoting your brand through awareness could be a great option for your campaign.

  • Reach
    • This means maximizing the number of people who will see your ads on Instagram.
    • Image ads are the most common type used for this goal because you can get a message to consumers quickly and easily.
  • Reach and Frequency
    • This option will allow you to still maximize the number of people who’ll see your ads, while also controlling the number of times that the audience sees them.
    • Image ads are still a common ad type here as well, for the same reasons mentioned above.
  • Brand Awareness
    • The idea here is to specifically advertise to people who are most likely to remember seeing your ads and recall the brand.
    • Video ads and carousel ads have proven successful for this initiative. Because they’re more engaging, they help foster a connection between your brand and your audience.
  • Local Awareness
    • If you’re trying to promote your brand or business locally, this targeting type will enable your ads to show up on users’ feeds while they’re out and about near your promoted location. Considering that Instagram ads are mobile-only, this offers a huge advantage since people are more likely to visit physical locations while they’re on their phones rather than on a desktop. This means you can advertise to them while they’re already traveling around your area!
    • Image or carousel ads are typically the most successful for this goal since it’s easy to portray your message to users who are on the go and may be scrolling through Instagram quickly.


When choosing your Instagram ad’s objective, the second option is the consideration category. Here you will find a list of objectives geared toward educating your potential customer on your product or service. Here are three options to consider:

  • Traffic
    • Ensure your ads are reaching users who are most likely to click through to your landing page, website, event page or signup form. This objective provides you with a critical opportunity to showcase what your brand has to offer and encourage further interaction. This works for all ad types.
  • Engagement
    • Are you looking to spark up an active conversation with your audience or gauge their interest in a new product, idea, or service? Instagram aims to position your ads in front of people who are most likely to interact with your ad by giving it a like, comment or share. This is a great way to gauge the effectiveness of how a specific ad is resonating with your audience, and then re-promote using one of the conversion objectives. This objective is only available for ads shown on the main feed.
  • Video Views
    • Have you invested time and money into creating a long-form video for other channels? Well, here is a great opportunity to repurpose those assets into Instagram video ads. Instagram allows for up to a 60-second video on the main feed or a 15-second story ad. Those ads, when paired with this objective type, will be shown to as many likely viewers as possible. Instagram counts a view as any watch time of three seconds or longer. Better yet, you can still include a CTA button, or a swipe-up feature for stories to get them onto your site.


Looking to drive some sales, leads, or signups? Conversion goal should be your go-to! But remember, set up your Facebook pixel before launch so you can measure the effectiveness of your campaigns. Below are some options to consider when running a conversion-based campaign.

  • Website Conversions
  • Dynamic Ads on Instagram
    • This format is perfect for the e-commerce client, focused solely on driving sales. It will allow you to advertise relevant products to shoppers who have seen specific items on your site. By uploading your product catalog into Business Manager, Instagram will show the right products at the right time to the right audience.
  • Mobile App Installs
    • Advertising on Instagram for your mobile app is key because Instagram is a mobile-first platform. The user can view, download and use your app using that one device.
  • Mobile App Engagement
    • Already got the conversion from the mobile app installs campaign type? Great! But now, how do you keep them engaged? You run a mobile app engagement campaign! Did you release a new version of your app recently? Let’s get that user back into using your app by creating custom audiences based on app activity. You will have to have the Facebook SDK implemented in your app for iOS or Android, they will have to specify events. More information to get you started here.

Using Instagram Ad Targeting

Instagram has a robust set of targeting capabilities, making it easier for marketers to reach who they want when they want. Whether it’s a new customer, prospect or even a potential job application, Instagram can help get your message to the right person at the right time.

Before determining your targeting or even uploading your campaign, make sure you have a solid understanding of who you want to reach on Instagram.


  • Using Instagram’s location targeting, you are able to reach people in various geographic areas such as global regions, countries, states, cities, postal codes, and even specific addresses. The engine has an extremely inclusive targeting ability, allowing you to target people as broadly or precisely as you wish!



  • Reach people based on their interests! Interests can include apps they use, accounts they follow and ads they click. The interest categories listed below contain even more granular levels of targeting you can leverage.
    • Business & industry
    • Entertainment
    • Family & relationships
    • Fitness & wellness
    • Food & drink
    • Hobbies & activities
    • Shopping & fashion
    • Sports & outdoors
    • Technology


Custom Audiences

  • The Facebook Audience Manager states, “Reach people who have a relationship with your business, whether they are existing customers or people who have interacted with your business on Facebook or other platforms.” Create the custom audience through the following methods:
    • Customer File
      • Reach customers by uploading a list of their email addresses or phone numbers.
    • WebsiteTraffic
      • Using the Facebook Pixel, you can create an audience for individuals who have visited your website or took specific actions on your website.
    • App Activity
      • Define an audience based on individuals who have opened your app or took specific actions within the app.
    • Offline Activity
      • As stated in Facebook Audience Manager, you can “create a list of people who interacted with your business in-store, by phone or through other offline channels.”
    • Engagement
      • Reach people who are engaged with your business’ Facebook or Instagram page.

Automated Targeting

  • Reach people who may be interested in your business by creating an audience based on different signals, including demographics, interests, and location.



  • Reach people based on different behaviors or activities, gathered on and off Facebook and Instagram. Target based on the following behavior options, including:
    • Mobile device user
    • Anniversary
    • Consumer classification
    • Digital activities
    • Expats
    • Mobile device user/device use time
    • More categories
    • Multicultural affinity
    • Purchase behavior
    • Soccer
    • Travel

Lookalike Audiences

    • Target a group of people that are similar to individuals in your custom audience. This allows you to reach new prospects who may not be familiar with your brand yet! As stated in Facebook Ads Manager, Facebook gives you the opportunity to “create audience size ranges from 1% to 10% of the total population in the countries you choose, with 1% being those who most closely match your source.”
      • For example, you can reach people who are similar to those who visited your website when you create a lookalike audience to the custom audience for website visitors.

[TIP] To get started, you will need to create a custom audience on Facebook before building a lookalike audience. Seer recommends creating any custom or lookalike audiences in the Facebook Audience Manager.

In a world where the attention span is slowly shrinking generation after generation, Instagram Ads may be one of the best forms of marketing for your brand if done correctly. Instagram has grown from an image-sharing platform to a leading social advertising channel where ads are more natural, intimate, and memorable.

The variety of tools offered within its back-end platform along with the refined audience capabilities can educate businesses on their consumers while targeting those that have similar interests. The next time you are questioning where to invest your money, just remember that a picture is worth a thousand words.

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