Defining success on Instagram, both via organic content and paid ads, is definitely tricky. Everyone seems to have their own opinion or their own secret sauce.

Some advertisers have grown their audiences organically, without paid promotion, using hashtags and by having a real, candid conversation with their prospective and returning customers. Other marketers have built their e-commerce businesses using Facebook ads and now they’re transitioning and adapting to integrate more Instagram ads into their marketing mix.

Like everything with digital marketing, it’s an ever-evolving landscape, so staying on top of new products and trends is critical to success.

Even if you’ve yet to see success with Instagram ads, or if you’ve been continuously confused and overwhelmed with new platform roll-outs and changes, just know that’s totally normal.

  This article focuses specifically on paid Instagram advertising techniques and recommendations .

As a platform overall, Instagram has undergone a rapid rise in both user growth and ROI for advertisers, thanks primarily to the platform’s improved ad targeting, increased variety of ad products/types, and additional ad placement options.

Not that long ago, the Instagram feed was the only placement advertisers could use, but now we also have the option of mixing in ads via Instagram Stories and Instagram Explore. Perhaps most notably, while many advertisers have spent 2019 pulling their hair out due to ongoing Facebook ad reliability issues and hiccups, Instagram’s platform stability and ad options have only improved — leading to greater, more sustainable scaling with Instagram ads.

Navigating Ongoing Complexities

As you move forward and test new Instagram advertising strategies, it’s imperative that you understand the platform’s ongoing complexities and intricacies.

Let’s be clear: Instagram shows no signs of stopping — its reach and impact will only continue to grow and deepen.

As such, we must not only know what types of Instagram ads work well and where they see the best results but also how to make the most of those ads with various Instagram audiences.

To get a clearer sense of what folks are doing in terms of audience targeting, this article was based on the analysis of 50+ Facebook advertising accounts over the past month and interviewing two dozen different advertisers to get their honest take.

One overarching theme became clear:  Combining all “Instagram” audience types and time windows (i.e. engager custom audiences within the last 365 days, or video views of Instagram Story ads within the last 180 days) is the most popular strategy currently in use.  In short, lumping everything together is currently the way to go.

That said, a complex platform requires complex thinking. While account simplification can and oftentimes does work well, having other tools in the toolbox is definitely wise.

For example, do you feel like you confidently know and understand all the different options when it comes to Engagement Custom Audience targeting? If not, then keep reading!

Options for Instagram Audience Targeting


Nowadays you can separate out not just Instagram account “Engagers” but also those who have visited your Instagram profile, messaged you, or saved a post or an ad.

You don’t necessarily have to split these out all the time, but wouldn’t it be interesting to test?

Also, you don’t have to leave the time window set to the widest possible option, which is the past 365 days. It could be just the last seven or fourteen days you’d want to test, just as you would with remarketing.

In reality, if someone engages with you in any form, on any platform in the last 365 days, are they truly the same as someone who engaged with you just a week ago? If someone watched a video almost a year ago, are they the same as someone who sent a private message 7 days ago? Probably not.

Favorite Tests to Try Out

There are loads of options to separate time windows for Instagram engagement custom audiences. The first thing to consider is how active your Instagram audience is. If you’re posting new content multiple times per week, adding to Stories multiple times per day, etc, then separating out the time windows can be effective.

Here are some of the most promising audience tests:

  • 7 day Instagram Engager (all types lumped)
  • 20 day Instagram Engager (all types lumped)
  • 90 day Instagram Engager (all types lumped)
  • 30 Day Instagram Profile Visits, non customers
  • 7 Day Instagram Story Video Views to 95%

Don’t Forget Video Views!

Keep in mind you can also create audiences of people who have viewed a certain percentage of your Instagram videos. This tactic can be helpful because many people don’t actually “swipe up” on your Instagram Story ad, but they definitely watch it.

  Gathering audiences this way is yet another option to diversify your audience sources and types for future remarketing. You can also create lookalikes from these audiences, bringing in more fodder for your prospecting .

Step one: Create a video view custom audience.


Step two: Select the percentage you want viewed. Preferably, select people who have watched 75% of your Instagram Story video ad to add some increased relevancy.


Step three: Hit the drop down where it says “Select by” and choose “Instagram business profile.”


Step four: Select the video you want, name it, and save it!



These are just a few tips that can immediately improve your Instagram advertising effectiveness.

Taking advantage of the new features in all the advertising platforms, as soon as they come out, is one of the best ways to capture the ROI of early adoption, when the new features and placements are promoted by the platform, the prices are discounted for higher adoption and the competition is still minimal.

Hot Tips to Improve Your Instagram Ads

PS. Always try out new things. On Instagram too 😎