What two million Instagram ad impressions reveal about copywriting

Instagram in-feed advertising placements are notorious for garnering low click-through rates (CTR) and high costs-per-click (CPC). Industry benchmarks show Facebook CTRs are more than double those reported on Instagram.

To break through the flurry of #TBTs and #OOTDs and to get users to interact with Globe Content Studio ads, we analyzed every variation the team has posted on Instagram over the past four months to determine the most effective ad copy. While ad copy isn’t the only thing that matters, it’s a good starting point.

What follows are the results of an analysis of nearly two million Instagram ad impressions across several industries, including finance, travel, food and education. The campaign objection of each ad was to drive traffic to an off-platform webpage.

Super short isn’t always sweet

Instagram gives you 2,200 characters to share your message. Our recommendation is not to try to use every single character, but that doesn’t mean you should scrimp either. The top 15 ads on the list had character counts ranging from 38 (pictured left) to 155 (pictured right). Both performed well, with the longer text option resulting in a CTR almost double that of the ad on the left.

Instagram copywriting

 

Advice: Include the most important part of your message in the first line of text, before the viewer has to click “…more” to see the rest. Average Instagram users are scrolling through their feeds quickly, spending little time unpacking the meaning of each post. Don’t use the entire character count, but don’t be afraid to include more than a single punchy line. Give the reader enough reason to click-through while keeping it brief.

✋ Emojis are not the be-all, end-all

If you Google “emoji” and “CTR” together, the top-ranked results will read something like this: “Using Emojis in Ad Text Boost CTR!” or “How emojis improved our ads by 2000%.” The use of emojis in ad copy can boost results with a specific demographic, but they are not a universal trend. Only one of our top-performing ads used an emoji.

Advice: Don’t force an emoji into your ad copy. However, if an emoji will solidify your message, make sure the meaning is clear and that your target demographic is emoji-savvy. Not everyone knows that “👉” indicates “click next” or that “🔥” is a pseudonym for “awesome.”

Keep brand mentions to a minimum

When we create social ads, we use branded and unbranded options. Branded mention our content partners (such as Tourism New Brunswick or @destinationNB) or their hashtags (#ExploreNB). Unbranded do not include any mentions. In 99.99 per cent of cases, adding in a brand name hurts ad performance.

Advice: Keep your copy as organic as possible and avoid brand mentions when you can. Keep the selling to a minimum and use the space you have available to inspire and share unique pieces of information.

Personalize the message

Social media ads work best when they are targeted and specific. Analysis makes it clear that when ads mention a place or an action that’s relevant to the target audience, they perform better than generic copy. For example, ads making specific reference to “Toronto” or “Ontario” when targeting an audience in those areas experience higher CTRs than ads with no location reference.

The Instagram ads that read “I found my new favourite gin and it’s made right here in Ontario” outperformed the generic “I found my new favourite gin.”

Advice: Break up your target groups based on location or interest and make reference to a topic that’s relevant to each group in your ad copy. Try not to run the same ad across a single, broad audience. Speak to each audience in a unique way.