Why Do Marketers Advertise on Instagram?

There are so many social media platforms available today, each with its own unique functions and targeting capabilities – so it’s important for advertisers to understand the differences amongst these platforms and identify which one works best for their campaign goals. Many advertisers choose Instagram because it not only helps with brand awareness goals, but also delivers some of the highest conversion rates.

Instagram is arguably the second most popular of the social media networks, just behind its parent company, Facebook. The platform was created in 2010 by tech entrepreneurs Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, and was originally only available for iOS operating systems before expanding to Android in 2012. Once just a photo sharing platform, the social network has expanded to also include video content. The site is visual in nature and was created to be used specifically on mobile devices, unlike Facebook which can be used seamlessly across mobile, tablet, and computers. 

Instagram has around a billion users worldwide, half of which are active everyday. In the midst of the pandemic, we’ve seen users become even more active on social media platforms, including Instagram.

The COVID-19 Pandemic’s Impact on Instagram Usage

The growth in time spent on social media presents a golden opportunity for advertisers to take advantage of this behavioral shift and reach their target audiences while they are increasingly more engaged.

The chart below shows a breakdown of how behavior has changed, based on age. While some users have spent less time on social media and others are spending the same amount, the general consensus is that daily usage of each platform overall has increased. 

Gen Z’ers have been on Instagram 63% more time, while Millennials are using it 49% more time. On average, Instagram users across all ages are spending 34% more time with the platform. 

67% of all people in the US aged 18-29 have an instagram account and these users spend an average of 53 minutes a day on the platform. 

Instagram User Demographics

Instagram’s audience skews slightly younger than Facebook’s with an overwhelming majority of users falling into the 18-24 age bracket, as shown below:

  • Ages 18–24: 75%
  • Ages 25–29: 57%
  • Ages 30–49: 47%
  • Ages 50–64: 23%
  • Ages 65+: 8%

Source: Hootsuite

According to Piper Jaffray’s 2019 Taking Stock with Teens Survey, Instagram is the preferred social media platform amongst teenagers with 85% using it over any other network.

Influencers and Advertising 

With the rise of social media, so too has come the rise of bloggers and influencers. These people are users with a large following on social media platforms and have proven to influence their followers’ decisions and purchases. Many of them have gained a following through their content, covering various subjects – from travel to fashion and cooking – and they’ve established themselves as credible sources within that given subject matter. The trust that consumers have in the influencers they follow is the reason why brands choose to work with them.

Instagram is a large part of the influencer ecosystem. Brands approach them to post about their products – and in exchange for these social posts, influencers are paid by the brand. Pricing is based on a variety of factors including the influencer’s number of followers, the number of posts, etc. This, along with additional advertising on Instagram and other platforms helps to push consumers down the funnel. Traditional brand ads build brand awareness, while influencers help the brand to build credibility amongst new customers. 


Instagram was acquired by Facebook in 2012, merging the two social networks’ advertising platforms into one. This means that most of the ad formats and  targeting capabilities that Facebook has are also available through instagram. 

Like Facebook, Instagram has a diverse and large user base that opens up many advertising opportunities for brands. Information such as age, gender, location, and interests can be added to each individual user’s profile, allowing Instagram to target them with specific ads that appear to be tailored to them. 

Targeting options include the following:

  • Gender 
  • Age 
  • Interests 
  • Employers 
  • Schools 
  • Job Titles 
  • Fields of Study 
  • Behaviors 
  • Language 
  • Lookalike Modeling 
  • CRM / Custom Audiences 
  • Retargeting 
  • Fans 
  • Friends of Fans

Ad Formats

Although Instagram has many of the same ad formats, they appear slightly differently in order to match the format of the platform: heavier visuals and minimal text. With fewer text fields, advertisers need to rely more on their creative to reach their audience on Instagram. 

The available ad formats include: 

Stories Ads 

Photo Ads 

Video Ads

Carousel Ads

Collection Ads

Ads in Explore

How much does it cost to advertise on Instagram?

Similar to Facebook, Instagram allows a variety of bidding models, including  cost-per-click (CPC), cost-per-like (CPL), cost-per-acquisition (CPA), or cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM). While  exact costs will vary by campaign, knowing the average for each of these bidding models helps these brands to understand what kind of conversion rates they need to set in order to reach tangible goals. 

Costs on Instagram are higher than some of the other social networks, but usually show higher click-through, engagement, and conversion rates – making them well worth their costs. According to WebFX, Instagram’s average costs are as follows: 

  • CPC: $0.20-$2.00
  • CPM: $6.70

These averages can vary based on a variety of factors, including length of the flight, the audience, ad placement, ad quality, etc. Using the ad manager, advertisers have the ability to adjust how much they’d like to spend per day and which actions they are paying for, such as clicks, likes, or downloads. 

Learn More from our Instagram Experts

Whatever the goal of your paid social media campaign is, Instagram’s advertising platform offers many ways to reach it, with robust targeting capabilities and several ad formats to choose from.

Just getting started on your first Instagram advertising campaign, or want to learn more about how you can improve the performance of your future campaigns? Contact us to connect with one of our paid social media experts who will help you design and create strategic Instagram campaigns that deliver results.