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How to use Instagram paid promotion (boosted posts)

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Are you struggling to get your Instagram account noticed? The Instagram algorithm can be tough!

Hopefully you haven't been tempted to buy followers. Or follow people and then unfollow them again once you've got their attention. These practices do more harm than good for your account, either stunting its growth or even having it banned by instagram!

You're hopefully gaining new followers organically by creating great content, getting it onto the Explore section, and increasing the number of shares.

But it's likely taking you time and experimentation to get right. Sometimes you may not want to wait. Or maybe you have found success with some organic content, and you want it to be seen by a bigger audience to boost its effect.

This is where Instagram paid promotion, otherwise known as boosted posts, comes in.

The good news is that with a little investment, you can put your content in front of a bigger audience and gain profile visits. When done well, this can attract the right kind of followers to your account.

Let's explore how we can use paid promotion to grow your following on Instagram.

Why should I use Instagram paid promotion to increase my followers?

The paid promotion feature on Instagram can be a great way to increase your follower count.

It also comes with some other benefits. Listed below are five reasons why you should consider using it.

1. By paying to promote your content, you can extend its reach far beyond your current followers and the organic reach you're currently achieving. This means that more people will have the opportunity to discover your account and potentially become new followers.

2. You have the ability to define your target audience based on factors such as age, location, interests, and behavior. This allows you to reach people who are more likely to be interested in your content and engage with your brand.

3. You can ensure that your content appears in places such as the Explore page and on the feeds of users who may not have come across your account organically. This increased visibility on such a popular social network can help boost your brand awareness and attract new followers in the future.

4. Instagram provides valuable insights into the performance of your promoted content, allowing you to track key metrics. This data can help you understand what kind of content resonates with your audience and optimize future organic content and paid promotions for even better results and return on investment (ROI).

5. The growth of your account can be accelerated compared to relying on organic methods of promotion only. The advantages we listed above for paid promotion on Instagram means you can achieve your marketing aims on Instagram more quickly than when you rely on organic methods only.

Do not use Instagram paid promotion as a shortcut!

After reading the above, it may be tempting to jump straight into paid promotion of your Instagram content.

But it's best to consider it as part of a broader Instagram promotion strategy for your business or brand.

While it can certainly help to increase your follower count, it's equally important to focus on creating high-quality content, engaging with your audience, and building authentic relationships.

Paid promotion should not be seen as a shortcut to gaining followers, but rather as a tool to amplify your existing efforts.

By combining paid promotion with organic growth strategies, you can maximize your chances of attracting followers who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer.

The steps required to use Instagram paid promotion successfully

It's easy to set up an Instagram promotion when you're ready. But there are some best practices you can take to increase the chances of the promotion achieving your goals.

After all, there's no point handing over your money unless you are planning to benefit from the promotion!

A quick note before we get started that you must have a professional account (creator or business profile) to use this feature.

If you still have a personal account but are looking at paid promotion, you should switch to one of these account types. You'll gain additional features in addition to being able to run promotions!

Understand who you're targeting

You want to make sure that your promotion is going to be seen by the right people.

There's no point in paying for your content to be seen by anyone on Instagram. You need it to be shown to people who will be interested in your content and obtain some kind of reward from it.

When boosting posts on Instagram, you'll be asked to select your audience. You can let Instagram seek out your audience based on your existing followers. If you already have a decent amount of followers and are happy with them, you might be OK with this option.

But for most people it's better to create your own audience. To do this effectively, you'll need to understand who you're targeting for your Instagram account.

If you're running a business, you should already have a clear idea of who you're selling your products and services to. If you're a content creator, you might need to spend some time thinking about who exactly you're trying to attract as followers to your account.

To set up a new audience for your ad, you'll need to confirm their age, gender, locations and interests. I strongly recommend that you experiment by setting up multiple audiences so you can see what works best.

Decide which post to promote

You can choose to boost any of your content. Whether it's a single image, Reel, or carousel post, it can be boosted!

There are three different approaches you can take when trying to choose which content to promote.

The first one is to evaluate which posts have already done well for you on Instagram. What's received the most likes, comments, shares and saves? If you already have enough followers that match your target audience, you can assume that this content will attract similar people and receive engagement when promoted. Use the Insights tool in the Instagram app to gauge which of your posts received the most engagement and use these metrics to help you define which ones are worth promoting.

The second way is to take a post that performed well at least a month ago, and then rework it slightly for the purpose of being promoted. This might include adding something new that has happened since the original post to add extra value that shows off your expertise. Or you can take the opportunity to add a clearer call-to-action (CTA) to follow your account and make it attractive to your target audience.

The third option is to create a new post based on insights you've gained from your previous posts. This could be the best choice when you feel like a clean slate is best so you can craft some fresh content specifically for the promotion you're planning. You can even post it on other social media you have a presence on such as Facebook or LinkedIn, and wait a day or two to confirm it's performing well with your existing followers before boosting it.

Define the aim of the promoted content

Before proceeding with Intagram paid promotion, it's best to define why you're doing this. We've been focusing on increasing your followers in this article, but how many followers would make it worth it for you? Is there a target cost per follower you're aiming for? Are there particular kinds of followers that you're hoping to gain from the promotion?

What about secondary aims? Are you trying to raise your brand awareness in a certain location or with a specific demographic? Do you want to receive feedback to questions in the post?

Being clear on what you're hoping to achieve will make it easier to track the paid promotion and assess its effectiveness later.

Optimize your profile

If everything goes well with your paid promotion, you'll receive a stream of potential followers to your account.

But there's one more step they have to take before they actually become followers. The boosted post can direct them to your account, but it can't make them become your followers automatically.

They will still have to click on the follow button to become your followers.

To increase the odds of this happening, it's important that your profile page looks attractive to your potential followers. There are some basic actions that you should take to achieve this.

First, make sure the photo you've uploaded is attractive and makes sense for the account. For a company, this is most likely going to be your logo or mascot. Just make sure it looks good! For a content creator, it should be a clear photo where you're looking at the camera with a blurred or single colour background.

Second, review your bio and make sure it reflects who you are, what you do, who your target audience is, and how you can help. When done well, your target audience will feel compelled to hit that follow button when they see your bio.

Third, use the highlights section from your stories wisely. You can add videos of your products, user-generated content (including testimonials or reviews), some behind-the-scenes videos, information about who you are, etc. Anything that will add social proof and make the account more personable!

Fourth, make sure your feed aligns with your brand and represents the content your target audience wants to see. Think about the colour palette being used, the tone of your writing, and the last 12 posts that are shown when someone first arrives on your page.

Set up your Instagram paid promotion

Once you've completed the above steps, it's time to set up your Instagram ad as outlined below!

Note these steps have been done on the Instagram app on the mobile phone. To do this on your desktop, you'll have to log into Meta Business Suite or Business Manager first.

1. From your feed, click on the post that you'd like to promote. Then click on the blue Boost post button.

2. Select the goal of the ad you're creating: more profile visits, more website visits, or more messages (via WhatsApp Business). If the goal is to build the number of followers you have, select more profile visits.

If you've selected website visits or messages, you can edit the website link and WhatsApp Business number when needed.

3. If your content comes under one of the special categories, click on the drop-down menu and select the appropriate category.

Define the audience that will be targeted by your promotion. The default option is automatic, which is based on your existing followers. Alternatively, click on the 'create your own' option or select one you've created previously. It's also possible to update a previously created one from here too.

Reminder that we recommend you do not use the automatic option in most cases!

A screenshot of the 'boost post' button under a post on Instagram, selecting a goal, and defining an audience including any confirming any special category

Choose the desired locations, interests, age and gender to create a new audience. Note if your goal is to receive messages, you can't select any interests for your audience.

As you type in each desired interest, it will give you the option to add more recommended interests.

As you add each choice, you'll see an estimated audience size. It will indicate when it's too small or too large, so you can make changes to get it into the sweet spot. Making changes to the age is probably the quickest way to make big reductions to the audience size.

Give your new audience an appropriate name that will be easy to recognize and use easily next time.

If your goal is more website visits, you will also be asked if you'd like your post to be displayed on Facebook too. Note the default selection is yes.

A screenshot showing the steps required to select locations, interests, age, and gender to set up a new audience

4. Choose your budget and the duration of your promotion. Use the sliders to select your daily budget and number of days it will run for.

You will see the total amount that will be spent over the selected days and an estimated reach based on your selections at the top of the screen.

If you prefer, you can elect to run the ad until you pause it. We'd highly recommend setting up a calendar reminder if you choose this option so you don't exceed your budget for the ad!

5. The final step is to review everything that you have set up for the ad.

Once you're happy with everything, click on the Boost post button to start the review process.

A screen shot showing how to set the ad budget and final review screen before boosting the post

Await the review

The ad is reviewed to ensure it complies with Instagram's advertising guidelines, which is usually done within an hour.

Once it's been activated, you'll receive a notification and the post will now display a Currently Boosted button.

If you need to make any changes to your selections, pause or cancel the ad early, click on the View Insights link under the post and then on the Edit Ad option at the bottom.

Track the performance

Clicking on the View Insights link also gives you the opportunity to see how your ad has been performing. It shows you the number of impressions, reach, engagement, profile visits, and the number of actions per the selected goal (website visits, profile visits, or messages).

Be careful to separate the initial performance of the post from what has been achieved with the paid promotion. Instagram gives some guidance here with percentages on impressions and reach, but you'll have to manually work out the rest.

Although you don't have to let the ad run for however long you've selected, it's a good idea to give it at least three days for it to have a chance to find your selected audience.

Consider using third-party tools like Buffer or Hootsuite

If you are using these third-party platforms, the great news is that you can use Buffer analytics or Hootsuite dashboard to see advanced data on how your paid promotion is performing.

These tools can help you better optimize both your organic and paid content efforts and lead to a better overall strategy for your Instagram account.

How much does it cost to use Instagram paid promotion?

It's completely up to you! You can spend just a few dollars every day, or hundreds of dollars. The best strategy is to have a set monthly budget. Then depending on your goals, you can run several different ads and assess their performance before running new ones the next month.

When shouldn't I use Instagram paid promotion?

There may be better options available in your situation for promoting your content and growing your following on Instagram.

You can use Meta Business Suite to set up ads with more advanced options, such as the type of audience you want to target across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. You can also create ads from scratch, opening up the creative possibilities.

Because of the added complexity, you may want to tackle this option after having some experience with boosting posts on Instagram first.

Another option to consider is approaching other content creators or complementary businesses on Instagram if you identify they already have an audience that's similar to what you're targeting. They may be willing to enter into either a free or paid collaboration with you.

There are also third-party platforms where you can approach influencers to work with you on a campaign. This tends to work best when you have some kind of product or service you want them to promote so their cost can be covered by the revenue from sales.

How to get help with your Instagram paid promotion

Managing an Instagram marketing strategy is far from simple. If you need help with creating high-quality content, engaging with your audience, and using Instagram paid promotion, let's chat to see how we can help.