Promoting Your Instagram Posts: Is It Worth It?

Mike Speer

So, you created your Instagram profile. You’re posting good content consistently. You’re doing everything right…But you just aren’t seeing an uptick in engagement.

It happens. As with any social platform, building a following takes time. You may be wondering, however, if there’s a way to speed things up a little.

Enter: Instagram promoted posts.

Promoted posts are those that you create organically (just like any other post) then pay to have shown to a targeted audience. You promote your post directly from the app by tapping “Promote” under your chosen post. The process is basically a simplified version of IG ads, which offer more options to customize the look and distribution of your content. Both ads and promoted posts feature a “Sponsored” tag to alert IG users that the creator has paid to show them this content.

The prospect of shelling out some of your hard-earned cash, though, you may leave you wondering, “Is it worth it?” That’s the question we’re tackling in today’s article.

First Off, How Do I Promote My Post?

If you have an Instagram business account, promoting a post through the Instagram app is as easy as tapping a few icons:

  1. Log into the Instagram app, and go to your business profile.
  2. Tap “Promotions.” Then tap “Create Promotions.”
  3. Find the post you want to promote, and tap “Promote” right under the post’s image.
  4. Fill in the details. Here, IG will allow you to select a target audience, budget, and duration for your promotion.
  5. Tap “Create Promotion.” Instagram will review your post, and if it meets their ad policy guidelines, they’ll run your promotion.

What’s in It for Me?

So, now that we’ve nailed the “how,” let’s talk about the “why.” Why should I pay money when I could just keep posting for free? Well, there are a few reasons:

Reach New People

If you’re struggling to find and grow your Instagram audience, promoting a post is a great way to introduce yourself to some new people. Just getting your foot in the door and reaching the right people is a struggle, especially when you’re just starting out. Promoting a post will allow you spread brand awareness and get your content in front of people who may never have stumbled upon it organically.

When you’re filling in the details for your promoted post, you’ll have the option either customize your audience or allow Instagram to automatically create an audience based on people who might be interested in your business. This “Lookalike” audience is generated based on your existing IG followers, which, provided that your existing follower list is reflective of the type of people you want to reach, can yield some pretty good results. It also requires less time, research, and effort than creating your own audience profile through the Ads Manager.

Capitalize on Momentum from High-Performing Posts

If you have a post that’s already performing well with your existing followers, promoting it can give you a nice boost in your follower and engagement metrics.

While an organic post may burn out quickly after a few of your followers have had a chance to see and engage with it, promoting your post will give it new life and keep it relevant on the platform for longer. So, if you have a piece of content that you’re particularly proud of, and you want to get it out to more people, promoting it may be the way to go.

Create a Call to Action that Brings in More Customers Online and IRL

Traditional IG posts do not allow you to link to your website or other relevant sources. However, with a promoted post, you gain the option to add a Call-to-Action button to your post. Adding a CTA button to posts with high engagement can help you to direct traffic to where you want it to go, effectively converting those IG likes and comments into action.

Calls to Action to Match Your Marketing Goals

During the setup stage, you’re given a few choices for your CTA: visit your website, visit your profile, call your business, or get directions to your business. You’ll want to choose the CTA that best fits your marketing goals, whether that’s building a larger online following, getting more website clicks, or driving more customers into your real-world location. Whatever your goal, the CTA is a valuable addition that can make your post into a more effective marketing tool.

But, What’s the Catch?

I won’t lie. It’s not all good news when it comes to promoting your posts on IG, especially when you compare it to more sophisticated options like Ads Manager. So, before you fork over the money to buy those impressions, let’s take a look at some of the drawbacks:

Instagram’s Audience Targeting is Not as Sophisticated as Other Options

So, we’ve talked about Instagram’s Lookalike feature, which to be fair, can be pretty darn effective. However, on the flip side, you have limited control over the users to whom IG decides to show your content.

You may choose to target your promoted post based on age, location, and interests. However, your choices are more limited than if you go through the process of creating an IG ad through the Ads Manager tool. So, while these options are fine for businesses with broad appeal, those that appeal to a smaller niche may want to steer clear.

You Can Only Reach One Audience at a Time

As I mentioned in the last section, when you promote a post, you are able to create your audience based on a few key demographic options. What you cannot do, however, is duplicate your post and promote it to different audiences.

This is a huge issue if you’re at all interested (and you should be) in A/B testing your post. You may, for example, want to find out if your post garners more engagement from men vs. women or users in their 20s vs. those in their 30s. In this case, Ads Manager is a much better resource for creating multiple audience personas and customizing your content to capitalize on your audiences’ different interests and desires.

You Have a Limited Number of Goals to Choose From

What do you want to get out of promoting your post? Are you just looking for more likes or are you interested in making more sales through your product catalog? Unfortunately, only one of those options is available as a goal in IG post promotion.

When you promote a post, it will ask you to define your goal for the campaign. Your options will include “More Profile Visits,” “More Website Traffic,” or “More Promotion Views,” and depending on your choice, Instagram’s algorithm will target certain audience groups to meet your objective. Now, these limited choices may be fine if all you want to do is boost your vanity metrics, but what if you’re more interested in conversions than likes?

A List of Ads Manager’s Marketing Objectives Options

Again, the Ads Manager tool offers much more sophisticated options when compared to promoted posts. In addition to engagement, reach, and web traffic, you’ll also see goal-related options for conversions, purchases, in-store visits, and more. That’s why if you want to get more out of your advertising budget than a simple spike in brand awareness, promoted posts may not be for you.

Your Results May Vary

Just like any post you create on Instagram, there’s no guarantee that the results from your promoted post will live up to expectations. Much of your success will depend on your ability to create a post that resonates with people and encourages them to follow-up on your call to action. Basically, just because you put some money behind your post doesn’t mean it will perform as well as you’d like.

High-performing branded posts tend to focus on lifestyle, rather than product. Your posts should tell a story. Allow your customers to visualize how your products would fit into their lives by using props, models, and backgrounds inspired by real-life scenarios. Show a busy mom grabbing a coffee at your bakery or a college student heading to their first day of class with one of your stylish totes in hand.

While a simple product photo can look nice, it also screams, “I’m an ad!” which can be a turn-off for your audience. Lifestyle photos look more natural and are more likely to give you the most bang for your buck.

To Promote or Not to Promote?

Should I Do It?

So, we’ve come to our core question, “Is it worthwhile to promote a post on Instagram?”

My honest answer, in 99.9% of cases is no.

Besides the ability to conveniently create a sponsored post from the IG app, there’s nothing a promoted post can do that an ad cannot. In fact, your options are severely limited when you choose to create a promoted post over an ad.

Sure, a promoted post is definitely a step up from a non-promoted one. It can increase your brand awareness, boost vanity metrics (thus providing some good social proof), and help you to direct traffic where you want it to go. However, if you’re going to spend money to advertise on Instagram, you’re better off using Ads Manager. Not only do you have more ad targeting options but it’s also more cost-effective in the long-run.

At the end of the day, however, the best way to figure out if you should make promoted posts a regular part of your content strategy is to test it out for yourself. It’s pretty inexpensive to run a promotion for a couple days, and it should give you some good data to work with.

To give yourself the best chance at success, showcase the best you have to offer with an engaging image and caption. If you’re not sure which post you want to use, take a look at the type of content that’s been successful for you in the past.

Then, limit your budget to an amount that you’re comfortable spending on your test drive, and set a reasonable goal. You can decide from there whether or not the money you spent was worth the results you achieved.

Thanks for reading! I love chatting with everyone that takes the time to read my content, so shoot me a message and let me know your thoughts on this article. Reach out to me on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn if you’re interested in talking more about social media, business, marketing, or life in general. Thanks for reading!

Mike Speer

Written by

An Entrepreneur since before the average person knew what that even meant. Let’s discuss how I can help with your organization’s biggest challenges.

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