In 2016, Instagram Stories (and thus Instagram Stories Ads) were added to the platform. It was a revolutionary feature. No one had ever done anything like it before.
In a move designed to take market share from the competition, Instagram (owned by Meta) shamelessly copied Snapchat’s most popular product feature, even giving it the same name.
The legal debate that ensued is an entirely different story, and one worth reading about if you don’t know the ins and outs. But essentially, all you need to know is the move paid off.
The latest figures show that over 500 million accounts use Instagram Stories every single day, with an 86% completion rate. This makes Stories responsible for over a quarter of Instagram’s ad revenue.
With all kinds of brands now using Instagram Stories ads – from large enterprises to B2B service businesses and SaaS providers, as well as eCom brands – now’s a great time for you to consider using it too.
In this article, we’ll give you 10 tips on optimising your ads to drive more conversions and sales.
1. Don’t Make It Look Like an Ad
Do you know anyone who enjoys watching ads? Me neither.
People go on Instagram for lots of reasons. To see what their friends are up to. What their favourite celebs are doing. Or to watch funny memes and videos.
They most certainly don’t go on it to look at ads. So ads that look like and sound like an advert guarantee a nonchalant swipe of the thumb on to the next story.
So one idea worth trying is to make your Instagram Stories ads look as close to an organic picture/video as you can. That means no fancy professional video editing or animation. No big logos (which is unnecessary as your logo and brand name in the top left anyway). And no prominent CTA, like “BUY NOW!” or “25% OFF!”
They’re all cues that cause people to subconsciously instantly recognise content as an ad and switch off.
Do the opposite of those things. Make authentic content. And be subtle in how you use it to promote your product or service. For example, the Instagram Stories ads below look exactly like organic user-generated content.
You might feel limited without the use of professional editing. If you really need it (and some products do) then use it sparingly and not past the point where it looks unnatural next to an organic post.
2. Grab Attention with Pattern Disruption
One second. That’s all you’ve got to grab attention before a user skips your ad.
So it needs to be good. It needs to stand out. It needs to hook viewers. How can you do that?
One way to do this is using something called pattern disruption.
We’re all guilty of mindlessly scrolling through an Instagram feed. Killing time flicking through a ton of bland, samey posts. Zoned out until BANG!!! WHAT WAS THAT OUTSIDE?! See, that woke you up, didn’t it?
That’s pattern disruption in action.
In social media terms, a post with an influencer waving at you is sure to grab your attention because it’s disrupting the typical pattern. It’s breaking the fourth wall and engaging with you directly in a way other posts aren’t. That could be enough to generate intrigue and encourage you to press the call to action.
So how could you introduce pattern disruption into your Instagram Stories ads? Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:
- Use a black and white colour palette (not very common on social media)
- Present your ad upside down first before quickly reverting back to the right way up
- Pull funny faces
- Dress up – wigs, face paint, costumes, etc
- Use odd camera angles
Have fun with it. But make sure it fits with your brand. By that I mean be conscious of what your product is and who it’s for and whether it’s appropriate to dress like a clown to sell it.
3. Check Out the Competition
It’s never a bad idea to see what your competitors are doing on their socials.
So take a look at their Instagram Stories ads on Meta’s Ad Library to see what they’re coming up with. What’s their message? Which pain points do they address? Do they have a sense of humour or are they more informative? And which design elements work well for them?
If you’ve got a little ‘inspiration’ folder on your phone, screenshot the ones you like and stick them in there for later. If you haven’t, make one – most content creators will tell you how important it is to have one on your device.
Take the examples and think about what you could do better. I’m not saying do what Instagram did and shamelessly copy something, but no content is really original so use it as a template or as the basis for some ideas.
4. Use More Video in Your Stories Ads
The data speaks for itself. Video gets way more engagement than images.
A report by social media analytics provider, Quintly, suggests Instagram videos generate 49% more interactions than images.
And the global in-app advertising platform, Smaato, found that the average click-through rate (CTR) of video ads is 7.5x higher than static ones.
Videos take more time to make. But these figures show it’s worth the extra effort. Instagram’s video tools are easy to navigate, simple to use and make the process much simpler than you might think.
Here are a few things to think about when creating them:
- Keep them short – attention is limited, as we mentioned earlier. Although you’ve got 15 seconds to play with, try to keep them under 10 or even 5 seconds.
- Use subtitles – the default audio setting for stories is set to mute. This is why lots of Instagram Stories ads don’t use speech at all and let the captions do all the talking.
- Add thumbnails – users browsing on mobile data can turn off autoplay. When this happens, Instagram shows them a thumbnail instead. So make sure you add a thumbnail to all your video Stories ads.
- As well as Instagram’s video tools, you can also use a simple mobile video editor like YouCut to create videos.
- Remember – you want an authentic feel. So don’t go crazy on the editing!
5. Position Text Carefully
Each story ad has your profile image and company name in its top left corner and a Swipe Up “Learn More” or “Shop Now” CTA at the bottom. Like this:
That means the important assets, such as the text, illustrations, and branding need to be kept away from these areas and placed in the centre of the ad.
6. Keep It Simple
The purpose of your ad is not to swamp people with every possible detail about your product or service. It’s to capture attention. Then send them to a landing page that contains the extra details needed to close the sale.
That means less is often more. It’s why shorter videos and simple imagery tend to perform better. One last thing to mention here – only focus on one CTA at a time or you’ll end up confusing your viewers.
7. Use Instagram Stories Ads Carousel Format For Longer Messages
Sometimes, it’s impossible to get all everything across in one image or in 15 seconds or less. This is where the carousel format comes in handy.
The carousel can be made up of three images or three 15-second videos. It’s ideal for telling a sequenced story over several parts, which aligns with the ‘storytelling’ trend in modern advertising.
Users can interact with the carousel at any stage – tapping through, swiping back and forth, or pausing the content. But whilst you might have more images, videos, and time to play with, the challenge is making it engaging from the start AND throughout. Done well, it can lead to some fantastic results. Such as the ones GAP experienced when they used the carousel format and saw a 73% higher CTR than their previous campaign.
8. Test, Test, Test
Advertising is all about testing and refining. So don’t worry if your first attempt isn’t great. Just keep tweaking it.
Make a few different versions of the ad, interchange the assets, and see what works. A good way to do this is by creating 5 static image ads and 5 video ads, then split-testing them with an evenly spread budget to find out which works best.
Once you understand which ads seem to be hitting the mark, you can allocate more budget to them. But the work doesn’t stop there. You should still look for ways to fine-tune these ads for even better returns.
Speaking of returns, it’s important that you track KPIs such as return on ad spend (ROAS) and cost per acquisition. Clicks and impressions are important but secondary to the ones that impact your bottom line.
9. Make Sure Your Sales Funnel is Mobile-Optimised
So we’ve highlighted a few things to help you create a great ad. But all this work will be in vain if you don’t make sure your landing page is displaying properly on mobile.
It might sound like an obvious point to make but it still happens.
Common issues include:
- Using a ‘one size fits all’ approach – Instagram Stories ads only appear on the app, not desktop. Users do not want to have to pinch and zoom their way through a desktop version of a mobile page.
- Images that take an eternity to load
- Having your CTA below the fold and out of sight of the buyer
- Including too many words
The same principles apply not just on your landing pages but on your checkout page and thank you page too.
10. Protect Your Stories Ads Against Fake Clicks
But one final thing to mention is the sheer volume of fake users and bots on social media. You can spot them a mile off in the comments section of most celebrities’ posts.
These bots attempt to avoid detection by mimicking human behaviour by following accounts, commenting, viewing stories, and clicking on ads.
Because these clicks and impressions never convert, they drain your ad spend. In fact, it’s estimated that between 10 and 20% of ad spend on social platforms is routinely lost to fake clicks and traffic.
So what can you do to prevent it?
Lunio’s advanced click-fraud software prevents clicks from bots and fake users, not just on Instagram, but across all of your social media ads including Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, and more.
Eliminating invalid activity from your campaigns will make your marketing budget go further and allow you to reinvest saved funds back into your best performing ads.
That means your ads are seen by more ‘real’ people, increasing impressions, clicks and potential conversions with the same ad spend. Give Lunio a try today and see how much you can save.