How to Create an Attention-Grabbing Instagram Stories Ad

With over 400 million daily active users of Instagram Stories in 2018, it is no surprise that many businesses are turning their focus to the power of Instagram Stories advertising:

social media stories usage

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With 1 billion active monthly users, Instagram is one of the most popular photo- and video-sharing apps. Take a look at these Instagram stats: 

  • 65% of top-performing brand posts include products more than lifestyle content (43%) or influencer/celebrity images (29%)
  • 59% of 18-29 year olds are on Instagram
  • 70% of the hashtags are branded
  • 71% of U.S. businesses use this social platform
  • 80% of users follow a business on Instagram
  • posts with a location get 79% more engagement

So to stand out from all the other brands advertising on this social platform, you’ll need to do something a little differently. That’s why Instagram Stories ads is a great option.

But although this new medium presents an exciting opportunity for businesses to experiment with their paid advertising budgets, it does make us wonder: What is the best way to approach this new era of paid advertising?

In today’s article we’re going to answer all of your burning questions about getting started with Instagram Stories Advertising including things like placement, targeting, and the benefits of using Stories placement over other paid ad avenues (it’s not what you think).

Free Bonus Download: Get your FREE checklist on turning your video into a high-converting YouTube ad – without spending too much money. Click here to download it for free right now!

What Is an Instagram Stories Advertisement?

Before we get into the specifics of Instagram Stories advertising, let’s cover the essentials first.

An Instagram Story ad is a series of photos or videos that display in between the organic Instagram Stories already being watched by the audience that you are targeting. You have a total of 45 seconds (a maximum of three 15-second creatives in the same ad) to capture the attention of your ideal customers, like this example from Shein, a women’s fashion brand:

Shein Instagram Stories ad example

And if you choose to only use one singular video or image? That means you have a whopping 15 seconds to encourage a viewer to click through to your website, app, or landing page. That isn’t a lot of time at all, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

Here are some other important details – the design specs you need to know for attention-grabbing Instagram Stories ads:

  • Recommended resolution is 1080 x 1920
  • Minimum resolution is 600 x 1067
  • Aspect ratio is 9:16
  • Max file size is 4GB
  • Recommended video formats are .MP4 and .MOV
  • Video length max is 15 seconds

If you want to get the best results from your Instagram Story ad, it is important to follow the design specs and use photos and videos that take up the whole screen.

While you can use horizontal photos and videos that are smaller and have a cropped appearance, this type of creative can come across as a bit lazy and you won’t get the full benefit of 100% screen coverage that you will get if you follow the design specifications.

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The Major Benefit of Instagram Stories Ads

When compared to other forms of social media advertising, it is plain to see that Stories ads offer a very different experience to the viewer.

Instagram Story ads have one major benefit that make them incredibly powerful for advertisers wanting to capture the attention of social media users: these ads take up the entire phone screen which means zero distractions. Click To Tweet

This is a vastly different way to advertise when you compare it to Facebook’s right-hand sidebar advertisements that compete with newsfeed content and a constant stream of notifications and messenger pop-ups.

Instagram Ad Types 1

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Even when you compare the layout of Instagram Stories ads to other advertising options offered on Instagram, it is clear to see that full-screen coverage is essential for creating attention-grabbing advertisements.

Mobile Marketer recently completed a study comparing banner ads with full-screen mobile ad campaigns, and found that full-screen ads generate a conversion rate 5x higher than small banner ads. Additionally, full-screen ads do not generate unintended clicks (the same research shows that 47% of small banner clicks are accidental!).

Getting Started with Stories Ads: Targeting

Before you can get started on audience targeting, you’ll need to decide on your ad objective. Currently, your Instagram Story ad objective can be one of these options:

  • Conversions
  • App installs
  • Lead generation
  • Traffic
  • Reach
  • Video views

Because the watch time for Instagram Stories is so short (maximum of 45 seconds), you’ll need to be sure that the people you are targeting are going to be somewhat aware of your brand and at a place where they are interested enough to click on your call-to-action.

To get a defined audience to use in your Instagram Stories advertising, you can use tools like a Facebook Pixel from your website or a Lookalike Audience that you create of your current Facebook and/or Instagram audience.

Facebook Pixels

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This is the best way to get started with Instagram Story ads and get great results right away.

Just like with Facebook ads, you can target audiences by location, interests, gender and age groups among other options. It is well worth experimenting with different audience targeting to find out which variation gets you the lowest cost per result.

Free Bonus Download: Get your FREE checklist on turning your video into a high-converting YouTube ad – without spending too much money. Click here to download it for free right now!

Getting Started with Stories Ads: Call to Action

To strengthen your call-to-action within your Instagram Story ad, it can help to add a voice over or have a video or graphic element at the end of your ad that encourages the viewer to take action. If your Instagram Story ad creative is very colorful or cluttered, it can be difficult to see the CTA at the bottom of the screen, so adding these additional creative touches to your ad can really help.

Choose a CTA that best encourages users to swipe up and engage with you:

Instagram Ad Call to Action

Learn More: How To Create CTAs that Actually Cause Action

Getting Started with Stories Ads: Creative

Whether you decide to create Instagram Stories advertisements with photos, videos or a blend of the two, it is important that your first piece of creative is truly captivating.

In those first two, precious seconds, you’ll need to get the attention of people who are aimlessly tapping through Instagram Stories so that they’ll actually watch the rest of your Instagram ad and click through to your website.

Here are a few creative ideas for designing attention-grabbing Instagram Story ads:

  • Use photos to create a stop-motion animation of your products
  • If you sell clothing, have the models dancing or walking around a beautiful outdoor area rather than standing in front of a basic photoshoot backdrop
  • Film a video from the perspective of your client or customer (have the camera ‘be’ the person at your restaurant, day spa, or hotel) to give a taste of the experience you offer

Instagram Story Ad Example – Stronger Activewear

This Instagram Story ad for Stronger Activewear engages the viewer quickly and transitions between different scenes seamlessly. This creates a flowing narrative which is a great way to encourage visits to a website.

Another element to keep in mind when creating attention-grabbing creatives for your Instagram Stories ads is your branding. Why does branding matter in this situation? Well, due to the short time that you have to convince your ad viewer to click your call to action, at the very least that person should be able to walk away (even if they didn’t click through) with an idea of what your brand is and what you offer.

Who knows, they may remember your ad a few hours or days later and search for you online. To ensure that your Instagram Stories ads help you increase brand awareness, make sure to have your logo in your ad creative.

Here are a few tips to make your logo stand out (in a nice way) in your ads:

  • Use a simple font and minimal text throughout your ad
  • Overlay your logo in the first ‘slide’ of your ad to capture attention
  • Showcase your products in a fun way (like stop-motion animation)

Over on Instagram’s official website they share that the best way to incorporate your branding into Story ads is to ‘bookend’ your branding: “Land your product, brand or message at the beginning of your story and then use the end card to reinforce before viewers move on.”

Instagram Story Ad Example – Airbrush

This Instagram Story ad is very basic in the way it has been filmed, and the call to action at the end is very clutter-free.

Keeping your ad simple, to-the-point, and showcasing the benefit or the entertainment value on an app is a great way to increase downloads using Instagram Story ads.

Learn More:

Advanced Instagram Stories Ads: Influencers

A fantastic way to upgrade your Instagram Story ads and a way to truly capture the attention of your target audience is by incorporating influencers into your creative.

Whether it’s a photo- or video-based advertisement, if you choose to work with a highly recognizable influencer (to your community or niche), you will likely see an uptake in click throughs as well as a lower cost per click based on your results.

Here are a few different approaches to using an influencer in your Instagram Story ad creative:

  • Multiple photos of influencers using your products
  • Video of one influencer talking about how much they love your product
  • Create a lookbook (collection of photos) from one influencer with a voice over from them

Essentially, the goal with using an influencer in your Instagram Story ads is to make your creative seem less like advertising and more like content from that influencer. If you can involve your chosen influencer in the creative direction (like choosing locations and props), you are more likely to see success from the campaign.

It is important that if you work with an influencer on paid ad creative that you pay them for their services and also that you have clear terms for your agreement in using their likeness to promote your products and services. Influencer marketing contracts are important, so don’t skimp on these!

Getting Started with Stories Ads: Experimenting

Once you are ready to set up your first Instagram Story ad, you will need to open up Facebook on your desktop and go to the Ads Manager (creating an Instagram Stories Ad is pretty much like creating any other Facebook ad).

From here, you’ll be able to choose your campaign objective – Conversions, App Installs, Lead Generation, Traffic, Reach, Video Views – and begin organizing your campaign. This also includes inputting the placement of your creative which will be to Instagram Stories only.

If you want to test your Instagram Story creative to get the best overall results, it is important to set up a few ads at the same time with minor differences. For example:

  • Same ad creative, but different call-to-action buttons
  • Same call-to-action, but slightly different creative
  • Photo ad creative versus video ad creative

These experiments will help you determine which creative elements get your brand the best results on Instagram Stories so you can better optimize future Instagram ads.

Another part of your Instagram Story ads that you can experiment with is audience targeting. However, as we recommended earlier, using a Lookalike Audience is a great place to start.

Here is a quick walk-through in Facebook Ads Manager to set up Instagram Stories ads:

Getting Started with Stories Ads: Reporting

After your Instagram Story ads have been running for a few days, it is important to check in to see how your experiments are performing. Which ad creative combination is getting you the lowest cost per result? Note these results and check again after your campaign has been running for one week, and then start turning off the ads that are costing you the most.

This is a great way to make sure that you spend your advertising budget wisely and it will also ensure that you are learning from the experiments you are running.

When you have noticed that one or two Instagram Story ad creatives are getting you very low-cost results, it’s time to double down and put the remainder of your budget towards that ad creative. Increase your daily spend and watch as your ad continues to bring in low-cost results. Make sure to note exactly which creative differences your winning ad has against its variations so that you know which combinations get you the best results on Instagram Story ads.

Free Bonus Download: Get your FREE checklist on turning your video into a high-converting YouTube ad – without spending too much money. Click here to download it for free right now!

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In Summary

Overall, Instagram Story ads present an exciting opportunity for all types of businesses and they are definitely worth giving a try.

With their offer of full-screen, distraction-free advertising and the appeal of being able to reach over 400 million daily active users of Instagram Stories, it is no wonder that 96% of U.S. marketers plan to continue using Stories ads in the next six months.

Use Instagram Story ads wisely and focus on creating high-quality, attention-grabbing creative assets and experiment to discover the targeting combinations that work best for your brand.

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