How to use paid promotion on Instagram to grow online sales

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Learn how you can use paid promotion on Instagram to grow online sales and make the most of native content for your adverts

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In this interview, we catch up with Nick Edwards from Feed to learn how you can use paid promotion on Instagram to grow online sales.

Feed makes it effortless to run Facebook and Instagram ads that grow your audience & business online. Wave goodbye to hours wasted in Ads Manager.

​Their algorithm has a unique focus on promoting organic content, figuring out which posts work best and amplifying your natural, authentic voice to get the best results on social media.

As organic reach on Instagram has been decreasing consistently recently, why should we invest time and money on the platform? Nick shares all the trade secrets as an ex marketer and expert in digital advertising.

Organic reach on Instagram has been decreasing consistently, why should we invest on the platform?

It’s true that organic reach is declining. This will make Instagram less appealing to some people, no doubt about that.

However, there are still billions of people using Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp etc (all part of Meta). And the Facebook ad network is one of the most powerful ad tools out there. 

It’s a great way of reaching high-value audiences, and finding potential new customers or fans.

We’re biased, it’s true. But as ex-digital marketers, there was a reason Facebook was the first ad network we integrated into Feed.

If you can harness the power of paid promotion, the reach and impact on your business can be massive. This usually means either:

  1. Using Ads Manager yourself (lots of time / upskilling) or
  2. hire someone to do it (expensive). 

We wanted to offer a third way with Feed.

How has Instagram helped brands grow online sales?

A brand called Nearly New Cashmere recently signed up to Feed to boost sales at the end of the cashmere season (spring). 

Despite this they were still able to generate a 5x return on ad spend using Feed and are on track to grow by many thousands of followers in the year (+77%!)

We’re looking forward to seeing what they can do in autumn this year!

One of the other insane success stories we’ve seen recently is a vocal group called VOCES8 selling a huge number of tickets with online promotion – a 17x ROAS!

How important is A/B testing when it comes to Instagram advertising?

This sounds like a leading question, so I’m sure you know how important A/B testing is!

It doesn’t matter whether your ads are performing really well or terribly – A/B testing is the key to improving your results. 

Why? Because the more things you test, the more likely it is that you find something that performs well. Repeated A/B testing lets you iterate and repeat the simple test → learn → improve formula.

So even if ad performance sucks you still get insight into the content people like, which audiences work for you, the demographics of people who are responding etc.

Which elements of our campaign should we test?

A study that looked at the impact of different factors on ad performance was pretty conclusive: creative is king.

Creative / content made up almost 50% of the difference in ad performance. By way of comparison, targeting contributed 9%. 

That’s why we recommend starting by testing out content – even if that means starting simple and A/B testing your everyday posts. That’s essentially what we built Feed to do.

Why is native content the way forward in social advertising?

It’s a great question, and something we noticed as digital marketers a few years back. We built Feed on the premise that natural-feeling, organic content outperforms bespoke ad content most of the time.

And now our data backs this up: 

On average, organic or “native” content performs 2x as well as more ‘salesy’, bespoke ad content.

We can’t say with certainty why this is. Our assumption is that when you go for the hard sell on social media, it often looks jarring among posts from your friends and meme-ish content.

The days of picture perfect, curated feeds are gone. People want ‘authenticity’ – a vague term but basically means content that feels natural and in your own voice.

What are the 3 main reasons that stop brands to invest on ads on social media?

I think ‘invest’ is such a key word here.

  • Reason #1 follows on from that: you have to be willing to commit for the longer term (months not days or weeks) and be consistent in your approach. You don’t need a huge budget, but you need to be ready to invest a small amount of budget each day consistently.
  • Reason #2: lack of expertise or budget. Digital ads are hard, and time-consuming. You might not have the budget to outsource the work to an agency or freelancer. I think this puts a lot of people off, hence why we’re building Feed.
  • Reason #3: you haven’t figured out your product or content yet. This is actually a good reason not to invest in paid advertising… yet. If you’re not getting good engagement or any sort of growth organically, then more fundamental work is needed first. 

We like to think of paid promotion as a multiplier of organic performance. If you’re not growing, it might not be the answer (yet). Zero multiplied by ten is still zero. If things are going in the right direction – even slowly – then paid advertising can boost your growth.

Is organic reach dead?

We wrote a short blog post about this – but yep, organic reach ain’t what it used to be. Most profiles see about 1–3% of their following engaging organically on average.

The good news: you can easily augment organic reach with even a modest budget for paid promotion. We regularly see people get 10–20x their organic reach by allocating a small budget per day to promotion. The key factor is consistency.

In Feed, we benchmark how your organic reach and engagement stack up versus similar profiles:

The top three misconceptions about advertising on social media

You need to create a lot of new, expensive content

This can be true, but people are often surprised by how well their more natural / lo-fi / organic content works. The key lies in A/B testing and experimenting.

You might spend thousands producing a promotional video, only to have it outperformed by a random Instagram story you made last week in 5 minutes.

You need to spend a lot

Digital advertising is fairly straightforward: when you double your spend, you roughly double the number of people you reach. But even a small budget – consistently applied – can go a long way.

It will definitely boost growth and sales

The truth: social media advertising doesn’t work for everyone. But with the right approach, and assuming your product (whatever that is) and content resonates with enough people, it can help to grow your business.

When someone is just starting with ads on Instagram, what should they keep in mind?

If I can only say one thing, it would be to think about your audience journey (aka the marketing funnel). 

It’s important to reach people, but then retarget them in some way (ideally with multiple bits of content) to build a relationship and familiarity with you and your business.

The mistake people often make is to boost a few posts to new audiences… and then not retarget the ones who engage. You need to keep reaching them and move them along your audience journey, towards whatever outcome is important for your business!

If you want 3 quick tips for beginners, head to our blog 😉

Whether you’re after more Instagram followers, trying to grow a mailing list or selling products on your online store – Feed will use the best of your organic content to get you there.

Simply connect Feed to Facebook and Instagram, set an objective and budget and Feed takes care of the rest.

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