The Executive’s Guide to Paid Instagram Marketing for Ecommerce (Executives & Owners)

If you’re an ecommerce business owner or executive who feels as if it’s impossible to keep up with the “best” way to drive sales using Facebook and Instagram, you are not alone. These ad platforms are constantly changing, and it’s easy to feel out of the loop.

In fact, the digital marketing landscape is evolving faster than ever. Even if it’s your full-time job (which, if you’re an owner or exec, it’s not), it’s extremely hard to adapt and continue to get consistent results.

As a side note, our team runs the paid marketing for several ecommerce brands which accounts for a few million in spend per month. We have dedicated resources devoted to staying up-to-date on the latest trends and tactics plus a direct line to Facebook. We’re also constantly testing new techniques within our own stores. Even then – it’s not easy.

Let’s couple the above with the fact that you’re likely seeing news everywhere that Facebook is dead. You’re probably also seeing diminishing returns compared to 2 years ago.

The Good News About Facebook & Instagram Advertising

Well, let me tell you this: yes, the landscape has changed. It’s continuing to change quickly, and always will. However, there is still a ton of opportunity on Instagram and Facebook for your brand. You just have to know how to find it.

If you’re an established or growing brand, hopefully, you have a trustworthy team (internal or external) managing this channel. Whether or not you’re the one running the ads, you still need to know the truth about the available opportunity. And, if you do have an internal team, it’s important to support them with outside input on what they’re doing day-to-day (our ads coaching services may be able to help).

So, where do you begin when you don’t have a clue how to use the platform? You may not even use these social networks for yourself. It can certainly be daunting, but don’t let your lack of social media know-how deter you from leveraging it for advertising.

Our 2-Part Strategy for Success (No Matter What the Ad Platform)

Part 1: Your brand message

No matter what platform you use, your job is to create effective ad messaging that moves people to buy your product or interact with your brand. To do this, you must understand your brand well and know what audience you are speaking to. If you’re looking for a few key resources to get you on the right path for your ad messaging, check out these guides

Part 2: Mastery of the platform

Having a great message is key, but in order to win, you also need technical innovation and a strong understanding of the platform itself. This requires staying up-to-date on the latest trends and changes and knowing how to use them to your advantage. Most people learn but never take action, so actually implementing learned strategies on Facebook and Instagram is key to this step.

It will take time for you to master Instagram and Facebook, but we’re here today to help you get started. Read on to start learning the key elements you need to understand before advertising on these channels!

Your Quick Executive’s Guide to Instagram & Facebook Advertising

1. Understand the Basics

You can look at Instagram from an organic or paid perspective.

Organic refers to the posts on your Instagram profile or Facebook page, which requires a different type of strategy from paid ads. Organic growth is a long-term play with a slower reward. You’ll need a content strategy for your followers to engage with and to help acquire more followers.

Meanwhile, paid ads are more controlled, with a clearer, faster return. Both are important, but for new brands, we start with paid ads and then gradually invest in organic.

Additionally, note the difference between boosted posts and paid ads. You have the option to post on Instagram organically and then boost it, which means paying to send it out to an audience. This is quite different than paid advertising in the business ad account. Boosted posts are not as effective because they are not scalable or predictable. With true paid ads, you have a variety of tools to work with.

2. How to Set Up

Note that Instagram is owned by Facebook. This means that ads are managed and deployed through Facebook Business Manager— the same place as Facebook ads. You get to advertise for two networks from the same place!

To get started with ads, be sure you have the following:

It’s very important to make sure your pixel is set up correctly. This is what Facebook uses to track events and behaviors on your site in order to report on the results of your ads.

Once this is set up and you are looking at Facebook Ads Manager, you can create campaigns that run on Facebook and Instagram simultaneously, or just on Instagram. You can control which channels your ads appear in on the ad set level, under Placements. For Instagram only, select Edit Placements and then choose Instagram Feed and/or Instagram Stories.

3. What is ROAS?

ROAS stands for return on ad spend and is a ratio of how much you paid to how much you earn. For example, if you spent $500 on a campaign that generated $1500 in revenue, your ROAS is a 3x return on ad spend. This is different from ROI, which is the return you see after expenses. In this example, your ROI would be $1000 (although for true ROI, you’ll want to subtract your internal costs of making the ads in addition to the ad spend).

A ROAS of 1x is breaking even. For your business, think about the cost of making the ads in addition to what you’re paying Facebook in order to determine what ROAS you need to target to be seeing a return.

Note that your return will be different at various places of your sales funnel. Cold traffic is less likely to convert, so it’s okay if it only shows 1x return or even less. However an audience that has added to cart in the last 3 days is more likely to purchase, so you could see a 5x return there. Looking at an account holistically, we typically shoot for an average ROAS of 2 to 4x.

Hint: If you’re looking to boost your ROAS, you may need to dive into Conversion Rate Optimization— essentially, maximizing the percentage of site traffic that makes a purchase on your site.

4. Budget

It’s always best to start with a small budget and scale but start with something significant. If your spend is too small to get results, you won’t have any data to use to optimize.

We recommend shooting for a 30% ad spend to revenue ratio. For example, if you spend $3,000 on campaigns, that should bring in no less than $9,000 in revenue. Where to begin depends on the size of your business, but a good minimum ad spend would be $5,000/month with the goal of scaling to $15,000/month as the next milestone. As long as ROAS is in the right place, you should then continue to scale.

5. Funnels

Similar to any other marketing strategy, using ad funnels is the most efficient way to see results. This involves segmenting your audience based on their place in the customer journey. Creating a funnel allows you to speak to your cold (brand new) audience differently than those who are about to make a purchase. This makes ads more relevant and effective.

In this example of a basic funnel, you would set up separate Facebook or Instagram campaigns with different targeting for each step:

  1. Cold Traffic | Campaign 1: Use interest or demographic-based targeting, or a lookalike audience, to acquire new traffic who have never visited your site.
  2. Warm Traffic | Campaign 2: Reach the new traffic you just acquired by retargeting site visitors, those who have engaged with your brand on Facebook and Instagram, or even users who have watched a video ad from Campaign 1.
  3. Hot Traffic | Campaign 3: Retarget people who have viewed a product or added a product to cart but have not completed checkout.

Hint: Be sure to exclude recent purchasers in each of these steps. If someone purchases in Campaign 2, you don’t want to waste money by continuing to advertise to them with Campaign 3.

Wondering what types of ads to use for each step? Check out our guide How to Make the Most of Your Facebook Marketing through Funnels.

6. Audience

Facebook advertising is very intelligent in its ability to reach new audiences. At the ad set level, you can create audiences based on a wide variety of interests, demographics, and more. This typically requires research on your part and you will need to test several different ad sets.

When you’re building out the different audiences, don’t get so highly targeted that the audience is too small, or you’ll show the same ads to the same people repeatedly. This hurts your performance. We recommend keeping each ad set at 2 million people or more.

Tip: When you’re looking for interests to target, step into the world of your ideal customer. For example, if you’re selling athletic apparel, don’t just select “athletic wear” from Facebook’s list of interests and call it a day. You’ll see much better results if you target your competitors’ brand names (Lululemon, Nike, Adidas), the names of gyms (Anytime Fitness, YMCA), health programs (Atkins Diet, Dr. Axe, Keto, etc), and the like.

7. Start a Conversation

Engagement is the key to success on Instagram or Facebook! Don’t think of your ads as a one-time blast, but rather an ongoing conversation. With changes to the platform this year, Facebook prioritizes ads that have likes and comments. Therefore you’ll likely see a direct correlation between ads with a lot of engagement and ads with high conversions. Even if the comments are people asking questions about your product, that’s great. Just be sure to respond to them to help establish a relationship with your customers.

8. Review

Once you have history in your ad account, it’s a good practice to look back at your ad account and identify the ads with the best engagement and highest conversions. You can take these top-performers and recycle them in new campaigns with different targeting.

This simply means going into your business manager account, or having someone on your team export all the ads you’ve run, and then sort them by certain metrics. This could be purchases or other engagement metrics.

Tip: To reuse an ad and maintain its existing engagement, note the ad’s post ID. When you get to the ad creation page, instead of creating a new ad, select “Use Existing Post” and click “Enter Post ID”. Your existing ad should populate and be ready to publish in the new ad set.

Feeling Overwhelmed?

You may not be a master of the Instagram ad platform, and that’s probably a good thing. But as the owner or executive of your ecommerce business, you need to be in the know about what a healthy paid channel looks like. The algorithms for Facebook and Instagram are always changing. Remember that you’re only responsible for being the master of your brand’s message and audience. You can find specialists who are the masters of these channels to ensure you’re getting the best results for your spend.

We manage the paid channels of several influential ecommerce brands. If we can help your business, be sure to reach out!

For more on social media and advertising, check out these great resources:


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