Want to improve the ROI of your Instagram ads? Are you making costly targeting mistakes?
In this article, you’ll discover how to build effective Instagram ads audiences and funnels that attract, nurture, and convert people using Instagram.
#1: Think Broadly to Fill the Top of the Funnel With Instagram Ads
At the top of the funnel, you want to attract the largest and most general audience segment with your Instagram advertising. It’s important to think broadly. But that can mean a few different things—one of which can lead to wasted ad spend.
Why Broad Targeting Can Be a Costly Mistake
Meta often encourages advertisers to use broad targeting, which is the fastest and simplest type of targeting to set up. All you have to do is choose a few basic parameters like location or age range. Then you rely on Meta to deliver your ads to the most relevant target audience.
On the one hand, automating audience targeting can certainly simplify your campaign setup, especially if your offer has broad appeal. But if your offer appeals to a more niche audience, broad targeting can lead to wasted ad spend. Since broad targeting doesn’t provide you with much detailed data, you’ll never really get to know your audience.
How to Use Your Buyer Persona Instead
To fill the top of your Instagram ad funnel without relying on automated targeting, put your buyer persona to work. Use your ideal customer’s interests, pain points, and goals to create detailed targeting for your audience.
In some cases, you can also use your competitors’ audiences to target top-of-funnel (TOFU) prospects. In the past year, Meta has removed many smaller businesses and seldom-used interests from the detailed targeting list. But if your competitors have large audiences or if they’re frequently used in Instagram ads audiences, they may be valid targeting options.
How to Target Top-of-Funnel Interactions
Another TOFU targeting option is using your brand’s Meta assets to reach prospects. If you have a relatively large Instagram audience or Facebook following, for example, you can target people who’ve already shown interest in your business.
But keep in mind that targeting Instagram and Facebook followers means you’ll reach prospects at various stages in your sales funnel. To remove current customers from your TOFU targeting and avoid delivering ads to an irrelevant segment, exclude your customer list from the audience during ad set creation.
How to Find Promising Lookalike Audiences
The top of the funnel can also be an ideal place to target lookalike audiences. After all, lookalike audiences have similarities to your current custom audiences, but they probably won’t be familiar with your brand yet.
Even when targeting the top of the funnel, it’s important to create high-value lookalike audiences. When choosing a data source, use a value-based option (i.e., your Meta pixel) if possible. If not, use an audience that’s already performed well (i.e., generated a high ROI or conversion rate) in previous campaigns.
Why You Should Create Interactive TOFU Ads
To reach TOFU prospects, you’ll likely want to use a campaign objective like awareness or engagement. Both of these objectives tend to be relatively cost-effective, which is optimal for filling the top of your funnel. But if you stick with the default settings in Ads Manager, you might miss out on some added value.
For example, the brand awareness objective automatically optimizes for reach. Although you certainly want as many people as possible to see your ad, a passive impression doesn’t provide much value.
Instead, use a video asset and optimize for a goal like 2-second continuous video views or ThruPlay. When you optimize for views, you can encourage more active awareness of your brand and you can also build an audience for retargeting.
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Don’t plan to use a video creative for your TOFU ad? Give prospects other options to engage with your ad. For example, use carousel that encourage prospects to swipe through. You can also write compelling copy that prompts them to click See More to read the full ad.
If you use the engagement objective, make sure to choose the most relevant engagement type at the ad set level. Keep in mind that because ad-based conversions (i.e., video views and post engagement) happen within Meta apps, they can lead to better retargeting options further down the funnel.
In contrast, using TOFU objectives to drive traffic to your website can compromise your retargeting capabilities. Because of Meta’s third-party tracking limitations, website-based audiences often contribute to higher advertising costs and lower ROI.
#2: Lead Engaged Prospects to the Middle of the Funnel With Instagram Ads
Once you’ve connected with interested audience segments, it’s time to guide them to the middle of the funnel. Instagram offers several valuable options for re-engaging prospects using Meta’s data sources.
Why You Should Review Instagram Ad Campaign Breakdowns
No matter which type of targeting you used for your TOFU campaign, there’s a good chance that some audience segments responded better than others. You can use Ads Manager data to make sure your middle-of-funnel (MOFU) campaigns reach the prospects with the most potential so you can avoid wasting ad spend on prospects who are less likely to convert.
In Ads Manager, create a report that shows demographic breakdowns. Then add metrics to help you measure the value of each segment. For example, metrics like Post Engagement and Cost per Post Engagement can help you find the most engaged and most cost-effective segments.
If your TOFU ads used video assets, use the available video view metrics to break down your audience. You can chart video plays at 25%, 50%, and so on to find the segments that showed the most interest in your ad.
When you create custom audiences for your MOFU ads (see below), keep these breakdowns in mind. You can apply demographic settings to custom audiences to improve ROI and ensure you’re reaching your ideal audience.
How to Create a Video Engagement-Based Audience
If you used video creatives for your TOFU ads, then creating a video views–based audience is a great way to reconnect with interested prospects. When you set up a new custom audience, select Video from the list of Meta sources.
Then choose the engagement level you want to target. It’s tempting to want to focus on the segments that watched nearly all of your video (i.e., 95% or ThruPlay). But if those segments are relatively small, you’re likely to find that they’re difficult to reach efficiently or cost-effectively. In other words, they’re likely to be expensive.
Instead, consider targeting segments that have watched less of your video such as 50% or 10 seconds. You can use Ads Manager reports to chart the number of people in each segment, which can help you understand which combination is likely to be large enough to be cost-effective.
If you’ve used multiple video assets in related campaigns, you also have the option to combine the segments into a single video engagement audience. After choosing an engagement level, select as many videos as you like from the list of campaign or Instagram business profile content.
Note that you can mix and match paid and organic data sources to build a video engagement audience. But it only makes sense to do so if all of the segments are likely to be at the same stage of the funnel.
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How to Create an Engagement-Based Audience
You also have the option to retarget prospects who engaged with your ads in other ways. When you create a new custom audience, select Instagram Account from the list of Meta sources.
Then select People Who Engaged With Any Post or Ad to target prospects who swiped through a carousel, liked an ad, or left a comment. Alternatively, you can choose Everyone Who Engaged With This Professional Account to target prospects who interacted with your content or your Instagram profile.
Note that creating an Instagram engagement audience gives you much less control than you get with video engagement audiences. With Instagram-based custom audiences, you can’t target people who engaged with specific ads or organic Instagram posts.
To make your engagement audiences more relevant, consider incorporating findings from your TOFU ad breakdowns. For example, you can apply demographic settings to any custom audience to improve targeting and increase ROI.
Why You Should Use Native Instagram Tools to Spark Consideration
Depending on your offer, you’ll probably want to use Ads Manager’s engagement or leads objective to reach MOFU customers. With these objectives, you always have the option to lead prospects off Instagram and over to your website.
But once again, you’re likely to achieve the most cost-effective conversions and build the most accurate retargeting audiences if you optimize for conversions on Instagram. For example, you can use the engagement objective to start conversations with prospects via Instagram DMs.
At the ad level, you can create a message template that engages prospects and drives consideration. Your message template can also qualify prospects so you can spend resources on nurturing people who are a good fit for your offer.
If you opt for Ads Manager’s leads objective, you can choose from two in-app conversion locations. You can either generate leads via DMs or you can add a native lead form to your ad, which gives you another retargeting opportunity at the bottom of the funnel.
#3: Retarget Prospects With Intent at the Bottom of the Funnel With Instagram Ads
After guiding engaged prospects from the awareness to the conversion stages of your ad funnel, it’s time to retarget prospects with intent. Fine-tune and split-test your custom audiences to maximize ROI.
How to Retarget Instagram Audiences With Intent
To target bottom-of-funnel (BOFU) prospects effectively, focus on finding segments with purchase intent. If you ran video ads to MOFU prospects, use them to build new video engagement audiences for your conversion campaigns. Target people who viewed all or nearly all of your videos to ensure you’re spending your ad budget on truly engaged prospects.
If you used DMs or native lead forms to connect with MOFU prospects, you can repurpose these segments in your conversion campaigns, too. To retarget people who direct-messaged you, choose Instagram Account from the list of Meta sources and then pick People Who Sent a Message to This Professional Account.
With lead forms, you can get more specific. Choose Lead Form from the list of Meta sources. Then pick a lead form from the list. By default, the segment includes anyone who opened the form. But when you want to reach qualified leads with intent, choose People Who Opened and Submitted Form.
Ideally, your team already followed up with leads who submitted the form via email or phone. By the time prospects see your BOFU ad, they should be closer to making a decision and more prepared to convert.
How to Split-Test Instagram Ad Audiences
The bigger your advertising audiences are, the lower your costs are likely to be. In some cases, it makes sense to increase audience size by targeting more broadly or combining segments.
But BOFU audiences will naturally be smaller, and increasing them can compromise your results. If you’re not sure which audience will perform best, use Ads Manager’s A/B Testing tool.
Select the ad set you want to check and select the Experiment tool. Choose a second ad set to compare it with or duplicate the ad set for testing purposes. Then choose which variable to test such as audience.
Choose the metric you want to use to determine the winner and make sure it’s relevant to the campaign. If you’re testing a sales campaign, for example, use a metric like cost per purchase. Opt to include upper-funnel metrics in the report so you can get the full picture of the ad set’s performance.
When the test ends, you’ll know which ad set to invest in at the bottom of the funnel. But you can also use the results to improve your campaigns throughout the funnel. After all, if you know which segment is best primed to convert, you can determine which MOFU and TOFU campaigns ultimately drove the most value.
How to Use Automated Rules to Optimize Your Instagram Ad Funnel
Setting up Instagram ads can be resource-intensive. But once your ads are running, you shouldn’t have to spend tons of time monitoring ad campaigns. Instead, set up automated rules in Ads Manager to notify you or take action when ads under- or over-perform.
To apply an automated rule to a specific campaign, select it in Ads Manager before opening the Automated Rules tool. Then set up a custom rule to notify you when performance goes below a certain level.
For example, you may want to know when cost per lead or cost per purchase exceeds a certain amount. You can opt to get a notification so you know to review performance manually. Or you can have the ad set turn off automatically to prevent wasted ad spend.
If you plan to scale your campaigns, you can also use these rules to automate growth. Choose a favorable key performance indicator (KPI) such as when cost per lead or cost per purchase dips below a certain level.
Then set the daily budget to increase by 20% once a week. Note scaling campaign budgets by more than 20% per week can cause ad sets to re-enter the learning phase, which deoptimizes ad sets and can compromise results.
If you’re targeting cold audiences with sales campaigns, you’ll likely waste your ad budget on subpar results. With advanced Instagram ads funnel targeting, you can build an airtight funnel that increases your ROI and drives more of the results you want.
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