4 Tips to Maximize Instagram Video Ads

Two employees of Hughes Media, an Atlanta digital marketing agency, record a client for an Instagram video ad.

With 400 million users sharing 80 million posts each day, Instagram provides a tremendous marketing opportunity for your business. As evidence, an Instagram study shows 60 percent of its users learn about products and services through its channels, and 75 percent took some form of action – visiting a site, researching products further, or sharing information learned – after viewing an ad on Instagram. However, as more and more companies join the Instagram platform, there lurks the risk of being lost in a growing sea of information. 

Now is the time to refine your video ad strategy. Of course, you’ll first want to confirm your target audience makes use of Instagram and what style of messaging will resonate with them. (We can help with that!) Once you do, how can you differentiate your Instagram video ads to stand out from the crowd? Here we provide four tips that will establish a strong presence and get your message in front of your intended audience.

4 Tips to maximize instagram ads

1. Optimize the Format

Because Instagram is used primarily on mobile devices, all aspects of your ad design should reflect a mobile-first philosophy. Above all, your video format needs to look its best on a smartphone (more details on this below). However, the mobile-first strategy goes beyond what is contained within your ad. All links, landing pages, and click-throughs must point toward mobile-friendly sites as well. This action is crucial as studies reveal that video ads generate a 1.8 percent clickthrough rate, the highest average of ad mediums. Accordingly, ensure all your links are optimized for mobile.

Experts agree that audiences will retreat from your site as soon as navigation becomes cumbersome. To maintain high levels of contact and attention, make sure that any path your user may take from your video ad is one they will find easy and enjoyable on a mobile device.

Additional details: Instagram recommends H.264 compression, square pixels, fixed frame rate, progressive scan, and stereo AAC audio compression at 128kbps+. For more information, view Facebook Apps and Service Video Requirements.

2. Distinguish Between Stories and Feed

To get the most out of your Instagram ad, you’ll want to tailor your video’s format depending on whether you place it in your Feed or your Stories. An elemental strategy for either type of post: be sure to imagine how your ad will appear on a mobile device.

Since being released in August 2016, Instagram Stories have grown tremendously in popularity.

Optimized Story videos fit right into the (9:16) aspect ratio, appealing instantly to Instagram users who generally don’t turn their phones to landscape format to watch videos. This preference gives you a natural connection with the (9:16) format when reaching your audience through Instagram Stories.

For videos in your Instagram Feed, however, studies show the optimal format is (1:1). This aspect ratio works better in the scrolling feed because the square format commands more of your user’s screen, reducing the distractions from other parts of their feed. Additionally, Buffer determined that square videos cost 33 percent less than landscape, a clear win for your marketing budget.

Additional details: Also, be sure you optimize your Instagram video settings for a favorable “high quality” rating (and with it more frequent displays). Facebook reports that strong Instagram ads should be as high resolution as possible without any pillar boxing on the screen. Preferred file types include MP4 and MOV, but most mainstream video varieties should perform well. Finally, the file size of your Instagram ad should not exceed 4 GB; but with a recommended length of fewer than 15 seconds, this cap should easily be achieved.

3. Know When to Use Sound

In keeping with a mobile-first strategy, remember that Instagram video ads auto-play with the sound disabled by default. Though each user may alter this setting, it is important to understand that sound may not be activated and design your ad accordingly.

First and foremost, your ad should be enjoyable and clearly understood with or without sound.

Make use of text overlays to communicate your primary ideas, and employ titles and/or captions as needed to make your video easy to follow. With a little help from Apple Clips or an

Android alternatives like Funimate or Magisto, you can really grab a user’s attention early and reinforce a key point you want them to remember.

Be cautious of using too much text, however. While quick, hard-hitting captions boost the power of your Instagram ad, an abundance of captions may make the ad too tedious for the viewer to follow or clutter your video unnecessarily. Sometimes a simple “Learn More” call-to-action button provides just the right temptation to transport your user to a carefully designed landing page (that is optimized for mobile, of course).

With the above said, don’t completely rule out the sound. Experience demonstrates that captivating videos will likely motivate users to switch on their audio. Plus, about 60 percent of Instagram Stories are shared with sound activated, so be careful that all audio elements reflect your high standards and match the quality of your video.

Additional details: Instagram users were 23 percent more likely to remember brands mentioned within the first three seconds of an ad, so be certain to get your brand in front of them early in your ad in both text and audio formats. Additionally, studies show that adding captions increases view times by 12 percent or more. So, go the extra mile and upload an SRT file to accompany your Instagram Feed video ad for increased results.

4. Let Creativity Flow Organically

One of the biggest keys to successful video ads on Instagram is to ensure your ads look natural in the user’s feed. Ads that appear too commercial will be instantly passed over.

To combat this undesired result, create thought-inspiring Instagram video ads that look organic to your audience. First, they should not appear to be paid advertising from the start. Artistic videos that capture attention through their beauty and visual interest will be well received.

Some brands boast feeds including such beautiful scenery that audiences gravitate to them simply because of their pleasing visual imagery. Particularly effective videos also add value of some kind to Instagram users. Be certain you generate ads that blend in with your audience’s feed so that by the time it’s recognized as an ad, they will be so absorbed in it they’ll want to watch it to the end anyway, ensuring your full message is received.

To counter a “paid advertisement” feel, balance those production and special effects that scream “commercial” with the value they add to your video. If they draw the audience in, then consider them safe. However, if they encourage the audience to move along, be cautious about their use.

How are Your Instagram Ads Performing? We Can Help!

Are your Instagram posts likes and comments soaring, or are you finding a need for some direction?

Our Hughes Media experts are standing by to help analyze your Instagram video ads and strengthen content for a new level of success. We can also help you design and build a video ad strategy from the ground up as you incorporate these effective tools into your digital marketing arsenal.

Regardless of your current position, we look forward to taking you to the next level of productivity and higher results. Contact us today to set up a consultation and forge new ground in your digital marketing strategy.


About the Author:

Deedra Hughes

Experienced President with a demonstrated history of working in the marketing and advertising industry. Skilled in Digital Strategy, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Integrated Marketing, Advertising, and Pay Per Click (PPC). Strong business development professional with a Bachelor’s Degree focused in Communications from Ohio University.

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