Instagram Ads | The Pros and Cons of Paid Promotion

Admin Utilizing Social Media

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My personal Instagram account, as of June 28th, has just shy of 36,400 followers with an estimated 5% engagement rate. Compared to a super account such as Justin Bieber, he has over 89 million followers with around a 3% engagement rate. The number of followers does not influence your ER by all that much. What does affect your ER is the quality of content that you post on your account and your active involvement inside the Instagram community.

Here is a snapshot of my personal account.

As you can tell I follow back pretty much as many of my followers as the 7,500 following threshold allows me to. I am constantly liking random photos on my newsfeed and dropping a comment where I see appropriate. Not only that, but I am answering direct messages from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep. The reason I do all this is because of one thing. You guessed it. Engagement rate.

Engagement rate for Instagram is the number of the total engagement received by an Instagram account over a time period as a percentage of followers. The equation is Engagement = Engagement / Followers. Engagement is anytime a user likes or comments one of your posts. | Crowdbabble

Being that my account is a business account I have the option to promote my posts, which is exactly what I did. To boost my engagement rate I decided to test out the new Instagram post advertising service located within my account. Here is how the process was broken down.

1. Objective

For the goal of this advertisement, I had the option of choosing between two objectives: getting more profile and website visits or reaching people near an address. For this promotion, I was more geared towards increasing my follower count which includes more likes and comments as a result. So I decided to go with option number one.

2. Destination

You are given two options for where you want the action button on your advertisement to direct your visitors. I was not at all concerned with getting more website views at the time so I chose my Instagram account @rftm.

3. Action Button

I was told to select the word choice that would appear on the promotion button below my post. My choices were the following:

  • Learn More
  • Watch More
  • Shop Now
  • Book Now
  • Sign Up
  • Contact Us

I went with Learn More as to entice viewers to click on my profile and view my account.

4. Audience

This option was to pick who and where I wanted my promotion to display. Instagram has a function where it automatically creates an audience based on people who might be interested in your business. The second option was to create my own audience which is strikingly similar to the Facebook Ad Creation format. I let Instagram automatically decide where was best to advertise my promotion.

5. Budget and Duration

The budget and duration helps determine how many Instagram accounts see your post. You control how much you spend and the length of your promotion. A few preset budgeting option with reach estimates were:

  • Total Budget

    • $3 | Est. Reach 852 – 2.2K
    • $10 | Est. Reach 2.5K – 6.6K
    • $20 | Est. Reach 5K – 13K
    • $75 | Est. Reach 17K – 45K
    • $300 | Est. Reach 67K – 179K
    • Set Your Own
  • Duration

    • 1 Day
    • 3 Days
    • Set Your Own

For testing purposes I punched in a budget of $10 spent over the period of the next three days. This concluded the promotional settings and I placed my order for an Instagram advertisement. Here was the final product.

When you run an Instagram ad, it shows you the post before, during and after the promotion. When the duration comes to an end, you can then view the statistics of the advertisement both before and after the promotion. To put the effects of this promotion in perspective, here are the statistics I took from my phone in the before and after sections of the post settings.

  • Before Promotion

    • Impressions | 4,398 Times
    • Reach | 3,532 Accounts
    • Engagement | 2,300
    • Likes | 2,120
    • Comments | 173
    • Saved | 7
  • After Promotion

    • Impressions | 1,693 Times
    • Reach | 1,689 Accounts
    • Engagement | 152
    • Likes | 92
    • Comments | 0
    • Saved | 2

The Pros

The advertisement was incredibly simple to setup and took less than five minutes from start to finish to have it up and running without complication. Instagram updated me with every impression made throughout the promotional process which I found quite beneficial to what times of the day people interacted with my photo. Having an advertising service on my most used social media platform can be extremely beneficial to me.

The Cons

That being said, while the promotion did manage to squeeze out about one hundred unique likes to my picture, it did not influence my follower count whatsoever. Not only that, but the engagement of the promoted photo does add up to in relation to the original. The formula should be likes + comments + saved = engagement which for the original was 2,120 + 173 + 7 = 2,300 (which is correct). The advertised photo would have the equation of 92 + 0 + 2 = 94 (which is incorrect). I did not see any increase in followers from this promotion so I do not understand where the 152 was pulled from.

Aside from the inaccurate information, there was also the problem of little to no difference to my Instagram account as a whole. Granted that I was not promoting a product or business which may have been the cause of low engagement, but my caption did an excellent job at creating a call to action by enlisting my followers (and potential followers) to like and/or comment on my photo to be considered an active user on my profile.

I did a better job with my own followers and zero advertising and promotional methods. In fact, that photo without promotion was the highest rated, most successful photo of my entire Instagram account. The advertisement should have been able to play off that but instead I paid $10 for less than 100 likes and faulty statistics.


As a first experience I was left unimpressed in every sense of the word. The Instagram advertising service is relatively new and clearly plays off the strategic advertising service success of their parent company Facebook. Personally, I believe that the two applications should not be treated as similar platforms and therefore there users not advertised in the same way. People go on Facebook to posts statuses and people go on Instagram to post pictures. I will be giving the advertising service another shot within the next few weeks and fine-tuning my preferences and increasing my budget to better reach my target audience, as well as post a picture more engaging to my followers. If something like that does not work, I will be forced to conclude that the Instagram advertising service is useful to none but the big boy companies looking to make a buck.