Instagram Marketing: Organic and Paid Ads Explained

Instagram launched in 2010 and after a measly 2 months had generated 1 million users. Less than a year later this had multiplied by 10 and it was clear that Instagram was set for big things. In 2012 the platform was bought by Facebook and in the same year they hit 80 million users. Fast forward to today and the social platform boasts over 400 million monthly users. So, with such a huge number of active users, are you utilising Instagram to generate affiliate sales?

It’s no secret that social media is a fantastic source for driving traffic and Instagram is no different. Since 2012 the percentage of adults Facebook marketers were able to reach organically has decreased by 60%. During this time, the same measure has increased by 200% for marketers on Instagram. Instagram contributes a whopping 80 million photos and over 3.5 billion likes per day. It’s proved itself to be a highly engaging platform. However, whilst 93% of marketers are promoting their brand on Facebook, only 36% are utilising Instagram.

Instagram can be used to drive both organic and paid traffic. The potential reach is huge and you can target specific users relevant to your niche. Interestingly, Instagram already has a higher average order value ($65) compared to its sister company Facebook ($55). In terms of engagement, 68% will regularly engage with a brand on Instagram in comparison to 32% of Facebook users.

Organic Growth

In order to grow your organic reach and following on Instagram you should follow these few simple rules:

Post Consistently and Strategically

Stick to one post per day, but make it engaging, original and show some personality. Post a good balance of branded images and generic content to ensure you aren’t constantly pushing a product. Think about who your audience is and what else might interest them aside from the main product or brand. How can you connect with your users on another level?

Use Hashtags Wisely

Hashtags allow you to reach a much wider audience who may never have come across your post. You should put some thought into the most relevant hashtags to each specific post. You can use a branded hashtag but as a smaller/less known brand it is beneficial to use more generic hashtags to allow people to easily find your content. Stick to no more than three hashtags per post and remember, you can also add them in the comments section rather than the caption.


As mentioned, Instagram is a highly engaged platform of users who will like, comment and actively search for hashtags. To make the most of this you should engage back with your audience, encourage comments, reply to those who do comment on your posts and when appropriate, tag relevant users or repost other users’ posts if they contain your product for example.

Host Contests and Giveaways

Although this is much more relevant for ecommerce brands as opposed to an affiliate business, it is still worth bearing in mind that if you do create a large following on this platform, running a competition is a great way of keeping your users engaged and giving something back to them.

Work With Influencers

If you come across an opportunity to collaborate with industry influencers then this is a great chance to reach a new audience, especially if that person already has a large following of their own. It may be a sports man/woman, a semi famous chef who specialises in healthy food or a successful blogger within the industry. If you can connect with someone who has a strong and valuable opinion in your niche, it’s a great opportunity to collaborate.

There’s currently limited tracking for organic growth on Instagram. When it comes to paid ads you can find out much more information about your audience and how well a campaign worked. However, that’s not to say you can’t go beyond number of followers, growth statistics etc. and Bitly.com actually have the answer. When using bitly to shorten your links you will then be able to track more in depth stats about who clicked your links, demographics and so on. You can find out more about bitly tracking here.

Paid Ads

Paid ads on Instagram look almost identical to a standard post. Brands get 100% voice share with native advertising and you will also be able to link your images directly to your landing page as well as place a call to action button below your post.

Paid ads will include a disclosure message so that users are aware it’s a sponsored post. The great thing with these ads is that on mobile, users can only see one post at a time as they scroll down. This means they get to see your full ad on their screen before continuing to look at other posts in their feed. This gives you a fantastic opportunity to entice that user with a well thought out caption, engaging image and clear call to action.

Instagram has the same targeting capabilities as its sister platform Facebook, giving you access to location, age, actions etc. Once you have set up your Instagram account you can then link it to your Facebook ads manager.

Best Practises for Instagram ads

Ensure You Have a Mobile Friendly Destination Page

As the majority of users will be clicking through from a mobile device the last thing you want is a low conversion rate due to a non mobile friendly site.

Easy Navigation

When a user lands on your mobile site you want them to be able to easily navigate to the product they clicked through to. Ideally, they should be shown the exact product in the image they clicked through from. Keep the design stripped back so your user is not faced with several other products when they reach your page.

Use CTA’s

When you use paid ads on Instagram you have an option of 6 CTA’s such as ‘buy now’, ‘learn more’, ‘download’, ‘shop now’, ‘book now’, ‘install now’ and ‘sign up’. Make sure you use these CTA’s and choose the most relevant option to the specific post, caption and image in your ad.

Align Your Campaigns

When promoting across multiple platforms it is important that you keep your message and promotions consistent across each platform. Don’t try to promote from four different angles across four social media sites. Keep everything in line and build continuity for your brand.

Carousel Ads

Instagram also allows you to promote carousel ads. This is a great opportunity to promote more than one image, allowing you to share a narrative or showcase multiple benefits of a product. You should encourage users to swipe through. For example, tease them with one panel of a larger image and more images available when they swipe across.

You should also bear in mind creative best practises when putting together paid ads:

  • Align creative with your goals
  • Keep ads branded – eg. use brand colours within your images to keep everything inline
  • Focus on craft
  • A/B test each ad to determine what works best for your audience
  • Refresh creative every couple of weeks and don’t overuse old images
  • Capture them with a caption, use carefully chosen hashtags and captions

There are many benefits to using Instagram ads. On top of the huge potential reach and number of engaged users, marketers can do native advertising across multiple devices whilst driving traffic direct from the feed. Facebook targeting, carousel ad units and call to action buttons also help to optimise the paid side of Instagram.

With such a wide audience and highly engaged users willing to get involved with branded ads in their feed, Instagram presents a fantastic opportunity for all types of marketers to utilise its platform. As an affiliate marketer there’s certainly a place for you and if you haven’t already, why not start promoting your content across Instagram and see what it can do for you!

For more advice and guidance on how to create a successful Instagram campaign, get in touch with one of the affiliate management team. You’ll also find the following article on how to use Instagram with affiliate marketing useful in getting started.

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