Programmatic Media Buying 101:  Advertising With Instagram

Programmatic Media Buying 101: Advertising With Instagram

Over the last decade, social media usage has risen and has helped to create a broader, more accessible path for brands to communicate with their consumers. From Facebook to Twitter, Tumblr to Pinterest, there’s now a variety of messaging channels companies can use to engage with their audience.

programmatic social media buying


Instagram as a Social Tool

In September 2016, Instagram alone had over 500 Million active monthly users. While this isn’t the 1.79 Billion monthly active users that its parent company Facebook can brag about, it still stands as one of the top social tools brands can use. Instagram’s overall usage is so apparent that nearly half of U.S. companies are already using it for their marketing. By the end of 2017, this number is expected to grow to roughly three quarters of companies.


Instagram Advertising PostsBrands are pleased with what Instagram is offering. With a user base that skews on the younger side, over half of which are women, brands can build relationships with a wide audience. Additionally, 75% of the younger users are likely to use the platform
daily, offering companies frequent exposure which helps them to stay top of mind.


Instagram Stories

Instagram has taken the time to get to know its audience and their behavior.  As part of their thoughtful growth strategy, in August 2016 they launched Instagram Stories which allows for users to share their experiences by adding and editing multiple photos and videos into one post. The ephemeral stories disappear after 24 hours, increasing a sense of urgency to share and view them.  The product has been very well-received – two-thirds of users had viewed Stories within a month of the products’ release.


Instagram advertising

Brand Takeovers

Brands are using stories to take their audiences behind the scenes and connect on a more 1-to-1 level. Also popular are brand takeovers in which guests will take over a brand’s Instagram account for a short period of time to share new content. Takeovers open up all sorts of collaborative possibilities between brands and social media influences — it really helps to shake things up and capture the attention of current and new audiences.


Facebook Tool Compatibility

Owned by Facebook, Instagram gets to harness some great benefits of this relationship. Much of the same targeting that’s available for Facebook ads is also compatible with Instagram , this includes: geographic area, age, gender and even related interests. Instagram also supports Facebook’s Custom and Lookalike audience features that help brands find new audiencs for prospection.


Instagram Stories AdvertisingAdvertising on Instagram

But programmatic marketers use Instagram differently than Facebook or Twitter. Unlike other social tools, it’s a largely visual platform where more natural photos are typically seen rather than text boxes or image based ads used to display advertising on other sites. On Instagram, it’s a best practice to create ads that blend well with organic posts. If well-done ads, only the “sponsored” link or hashtag and call to action button should differentiate them from natural posts. Like Snapchat, Instagram is an easy choice for brands looking to reach teenagers and millennials.

On the downside, it’s also important to note that these desirable audiences may not even be noticing your business’s ads. Nearly a third of teen and millennial users surveyed reported that they hardly even notice ads on the app. Even so, on the upside over a third of these younger users also reported a somewhat positive attitude towards ads on the site in general.



  • Instagram is quickly following its parent company, Facebook, drawing in users and digital marketers alike.
  • Marketers who want to reach a younger audience, can find highly engaged teens and millennials with whom they can connect.
  • Instagram gives brands the opportunity to make visual impact, particularly with the options presented by Instagram Stories and targeting that is similar to Facebook.
  • Marketers should keep in mind that being on a social platform alone isn’t enough; they have to get their audience to take notice through the use of great visuals and stories.
  • Even with those odds, Instagram offers brands a more visual and streamlined way of connecting with its audiences.

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