And how to advertise it to the right people

Amelia Castellanos
Jun 10 · 7 min read
Photo by Luke van Zyl on Unsplash

With over an eighth of the world’s population scrolling through their Instagram feeds daily, it is currently the sixth largest social platform in the world with just over one million monthly active users (MAUs).

It is also still growing at a rapid pace.

In fact, according to Business Insider, Instagram is growing at an average rate of 300 million users per month while its owner, Facebook (2.23 million MAUs), is only growing at a rate of 228 million users per month.

For you, the online merchant, this continued growth will impact your online business from all angles, but let’s focus on just one: social video, which launched six long years ago on Instagram. To compete in today’s digital landscape, all brands need original content, but content marketing only works if it is optimized. But what is optimized content you ask?

Optimizing Your Video Content

In its simplest form, optimizing your content means executing a strategic approach to both your messaging and your medium. So to be successful in your digital strategy, you need to know where your customers are and what they want to see/hear from you. And, in 2019, your digital media strategy MUST include video.

I know what you may be thinking: “Video content is expensive, and it’s time-consuming to produce; do I really need it?”

The answer is yes, and the numbers speak for themselves.

According to Google, six out of 10 people would rather watch online videos than television.

Mobile video consumption rises by 100 percent every year. By 2022, online videos will make up 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic. Viewers maintain 95 percent of a message when they watch it in a video compared to 10 percent when reading it in text. Still on the fence? You can see more video statistics in this article about video marketing.

Now that you’re convinced video is the future of digital marketing, let’s get down to business. The business of vertical video, that is. With the launch of Stories in 2016 and IGTV in 2018, Instagram indirectly started a movement that brands can no longer ignore. At the center of that movement, you’ll find the 9:16 video.

Video Content Produced by Flash Monkey Studios

In January of this year, Instagram released an internal data report that showed more than 500 million users interact with stories every single day. It’s funny to think that not too long ago marketers and brands alike joked about how much they despised vertical video. Many of my colleagues and media makers used to refer to it as something likely to become extinct, yet here we are — it’s 2019, and a portrait video revolution is on the rise.

Just how much more engagement does vertical video garner than square video? Animoto, an online video editing tool, recently ran a study to test this for themselves. The findings? Vertical video received 13 percent more three-second video views and 157 percent more 50 percent total watch time views. This study is one of many showing that the vertical video trend is just getting started.

Video Content Produced by Flash Monkey Studios

Yes, consumers are the trendsetters here. It is their reaction and engagement to vertical video that is driving the demand.

So what are the best practices for creating a 1920 X 1080 video that will grab viewers’ attention and increase the likelihood of them clicking through to your website? Our creative studio creates vertical video content all day everyday for clients, and I strongly recommend taking a page from their book.

Here are a few helpful tips for creating portrait video from Pedro Fernandez.

1. Make sure you’re shooting in 4k. The higher resolution allows for better quality in zooming, cropping, and stabilizing the clip in post.

2. Understanding the mobile aspect ratio. 1080 X 1920 vertical is the key. Set your editing timeline so it is a vertical video. This is great for stories on Instagram and Facebook.

3. Lighting is important. Make sure your subject or product is properly lit so the audience can clearly see the focus of the video.

4. Shoot multiple angles. For a video to look impressive, it’s important to edit your project with as many angles as possible to better improve the video’s story.

5. Color correcting. Allow time at the end of each project to make sure the full video has a clear, vivid color ratio. Make sure it’s not too dark or bright and the color balance is accurate to the scene.


Story Advertising Basics

Now that you have the tools you need to shoot and edit portrait video to promote your brand, the next step is running an optimized story ad. This will expand your reach and drive qualified traffic to your website outside of your existing following. Even a small budget will help to increase the reach and impressions on your story content.

With an average CPC between $0.70 and $1, Instagram story ads can be significantly more affordable than search ads. Instagram story campaigns result in a much higher AOV (average order value) than other PPC channels. According to a recent marketing report released by Shopify, Instagram users average $65 purchase value, compared to $55 on Facebook and $47 on YouTube.

So where do you start? The first step to a successful IG story campaign is your audience. Great creative and a big ad budget won’t generate the results you want if your audience isn’t optimized. Before you get started, it is important to understand the three primary audience types on Facebook. You will use these to build your Instagram ad audience: saved audiences, custom audiences, and lookalike audiences.

Saved Audiences

Saved audiences are the audiences that you can define by choosing a combination of people’s interests, locations, ages, genders, used devices, income levels, and more.

Pro tip: Launching a new brand and not sure who your target customer is? Pick five to 10 like-minded brands your target customer might shop and use those brands under Interests to reach potential customers who have previously engaged with or expressed interest in those brand names in the past.

Have a newly opened boutique and want to spread the word about your opening to people living in the area? This is where location-based targeting can really move the needle. Currently, Facebook lets you target people in specific locations including country, state/region, counties, city, postal code, and more.

Custom Audiences

Custom audiences (when done right) have the potential to be your highest-value target audiences as they allow you to retarget past website visitors and people who have engaged with your social content or mobile app. There are three main ways to build a custom audience: customer files, website traffic, and social engagement.

Already have a brand but looking to expand your customer base? If so, using a customer file is a great way to use your existing customer data to build on and target similar uses with your Instagram ads. For example, we have seen great engagement and conversion on our client’s story ads by uploading their email marketing list and targeting their newsletter subscribers in their Instagram feeds. If you’re feeling adventurous, I recommend creating different segments within your email list such as frequent buyers, casual buyers, etc., and testing your custom audiences with different creative to see what resonates best with your existing customers in social.

Another strong custom audience is to use your existing website traffic as a form of retargeting. Have a new arrivals in your store that you want to promote? Create a story ad featuring the top items in your new collection and target those users who have visited your site in the last 90 days to grab their attention and bring them back to your store.

Lookalike Audiences

My favorite type of Facebook audience, the lookalike audience, lets you reach people who are similar and like-minded to your existing customers, making them much more likely to convert. In order to use a lookalike audience for your Instagram ad, you must first create a custom audience. Let’s use your email newsletter file previously mentioned as an example here. Once you select “lookalike audience,” you will need to select a county and then a percentage (from 1 percent to 10 percent). Selecting 1 percent means those are the people most like your custom audience. As you increase the percentage, you increase the size of the audience. But the larger the audience, the less “alike” the users become to your original customer data.


With your audiences ready to go, the next step is to determine your campaign objective. Ask yourself, what is my goal for this campaign? If you want to get the word out there and introduce your brand/products to potential customers then a brand awareness campaign is a great place to start. Brand awareness ads let you reach more people for your budget, and their increased frequency means users will see your add multiple times. These repeat impressions are critical to generating customer leads, as studies have shown customers often need to see or engage with content five to seven times before it resonates with them.

Once you’ve run a brand awareness ad, the next step is to take your campaign to the next level and go after site conversions. Driving traffic to your shopping cart can result in a much higher CPC, but this campaign objective allows you to maximize your spend and focus on converting newer site traffic into new customers.


Now, armed with an optimized portrait video and a target audience built for maximum results, it’s time to put your Instagram content to work. Just remember: Rome wasn’t built in a day, so results can take time. I recommend running an Instagram story campaign for five to seven days minimum to gather enough data for evaluation and reflection.

Better Marketing

Advice & case studies

Amelia Castellanos

Written by

Vice President of Digital Media + Marketing for Grass Monkey. 🖥 Renown e-Commerce innovation expert with 10+ years experience helping online retailers.

Better Marketing

Advice & case studies

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