A Beginner’s Guide to Instagram Ads

Ads, ads, and more ads!

For us social media marketing nerds, Instagram’s extensive range of ad options is a dream come true. For more casual users, however, navigating the different options and deciding which one is right for you may just be a nightmare.

That’s why we’ve created this handy little guide to walk you through all the options for advertising on Instagram. There are 5 basic ad types, and they each have advantages and drawbacks to use. With every ad type, you have the ability to include calls-to-action that will direct Instagram users to your website within the app.


Photo Ads

A classic photo ad integrates seamlessly into the user’s main feed.

First up, we have the classic photo ad. It’s just what it sounds like—a still-motion image of your product.

You can create up to 6 separate image ads at once by uploading multiple images. Each individual ad will include one image, a caption, and a call-to-action. Both the caption and call-to-action will be the same for all 6 of your ads, but the image will vary.

Your caption can be up to 300 characters long, but only the first three lines will be initially visible. If your caption is longer, users will need to click the ellipsis (…) to display the rest of the caption. Ideally, you’ll want to keep your caption below 125 characters to avoid having your caption truncated. If you absolutely must stretch the character limit, make sure to include your most important information in the first three lines.

Photo ads are simple, yet effective. They’re the easiest ad to create, and, with the right attention-grabbing image and punchy caption, they can work wonders.

If you, however, want to add a few more features to your standard ad type, read on to learn about some of the more advanced ad types that Instagram has to offer.


A video ad allows you to feature your product or service in motion.

Video Ads

Like with photo ads, the premise of video ads is pretty straightforward. Video ads are like photo ads, except they move! You can also add sound to video ads, and they can be up to 1 minute long.

After you upload your video, you can choose a thumbnail image from the list provided or upload your own. To add closed captioning to your video, you have the option to upload an SRT file.

The same caption 300-character limit applies for video ads, so follow the same procedure as you would for photo ads.


Carousal Ads

With Carousal ads, users can swipe to the side and see more pictures or videos. This gives you the chance to showcase a variety of products within a single ad. You can include to 10 “carousel cards” each with their own link that users can swipe through in a single carousel ad.

Carousal ads are especially useful for storytelling because you can create a narrative that unravels as the viewer swipes through your ad. Try using a carousel ad for a step-by-step tutorial using your products or a series of photos from a recent event, and create a compelling reason why viewers should swipe through your ad by using dynamic imagery and interesting headlines/captions.


Story Ads

Instagram Stories are simply short videos featured at the top of the home feed. They can be up to 15 seconds long.

Story ads come in a few different forms, but they’re pretty similar to the types we’ve already discussed. You can create either an IG Story with a single image or video or you can create a carousel story ad with multiple images or videos within a single ad.

Creating a Story Ad is pretty straightforward, especially if you choose a single image or video format. Simply upload your image or video, and if you’re uploading a video, select a thumbnail.

Then you’re good to go!

By default, images are displayed for 5 seconds, and videos can be up 15 seconds long.
If you want to include more than one image or video in your Story ad, you can choose to create it in the carousal format. This way, the images/videos will play one after the other, like a slideshow. You can include up to 3 carousal cards in one Story Ad.

Story ads look like any other IG Story except that there’s a small “Sponsored” tag under the username at the top.

After you reach the 10,000-follower milestone, you’ll unlock an additional option for Story ads known as “Swipe Up.” With this feature enabled, you can add a link to your Story ad. When a viewer Swipes Up on your ad, they will be redirected to that link within the IG app.

With over 400 million people watching every day, IG Stories are wildly popular. Taking advantage of this ad format gives you access to this immense audience.


Showcase the best of what your brand has to offer with a collection ad.

Collection Ads

Collection ads are the most complicated ad on this list to produce. It’s basically a shopping-enabled ad that combines promotional videos and images with shoppable product catalogs to allow IG users to browse products and make a purchase without ever leaving the app.

Collections feature a prominent hero image accompanied by 3 smaller product images. Like Carousal ads, they let you feature more of your product images. However, Collection ads, when clicked, take the user to a full screen “Instant Storefront” that offers a more immersive experience by displaying a larger digital product catalog within the app. You will need a Facebook product catalog in order to create a collection ad.

Despite the extra steps involved in creating a collection ad, the benefits are clear. Through this type of ad, you can create an immersive shopping experience that IG users can experience without leaving the app.


As you can see, creating an Instagram Business account opens the door to a whole host of new ways to promote your business and boost your sales with dynamic and creative ad options. Stretch your creative muscles to produce fun, engaging ads with Instagram, or, if you’d like a little help navigating your options or even building a campaign from scratch, hit up the social-media gurus here at Michaels Wilder.

Mike Speer Administrator
Director of Digital Experience, Michaels WIlder

Head of Digital Experience at Michaels Wilder and an entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant, Mike has helped countless businesses build effective sales and marketing strategies. His philosophy is, “If you’re not thinking 10 years ahead, you’re already behind.” Mike’s content has appeared in Forbes Magazine, Inc. and Apple News. He has also been featured numerous times as a “Top 10 Writer” worldwide on the Q&A content site, Quora.

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Mike Speer Administrator
Director of Digital Experience, Michaels WIlder

Head of Digital Experience at Michaels Wilder and an entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant, Mike has helped countless businesses build effective sales and marketing strategies. His philosophy is, “If you’re not thinking 10 years ahead, you’re already behind.” Mike’s content has appeared in Forbes Magazine, Inc. and Apple News. He has also been featured numerous times as a “Top 10 Writer” worldwide on the Q&A content site, Quora.

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