How I Used Instagram Ads to Acquire 100,000 Followers

Introducing Our Revolutionary Growth-Hack


Let’s face it, few things fascinate me as much as how to grow on Instagram. Ever since I started my sandbox experiment of becoming a travel influencer in 2016, I’ve been obsessed with how to accrue a bigger and bigger audience. During my journey to 100,000 on Instagram, I’ve tried every strategy under the sun. While there are a number of great growth hacks out there for organic growth, these require a hefty time investment. Seeing as I’ve always been busy crushing it for clients while working at a digital marketing agency in Tokyo, I’ve found that paid ads work best for me.


Instagram Ads Using Promote Button

Now, as we’ve outlined in our article "How to Quickly Achieve Instagram Growth" on the Promote button, there’s no campaign offering in Ad Manager that optimizes for followers. The best that you can do is use a traffic campaign and put the link for your Instagram profile URL.


Alas, not only does this not really align well with the selectable CTAs, it also opens up the page in Instagram’s native browser. Since many people won’t be logged in, this deal breaker leads to high bounce rates and ineffective ad budget spend. I’ve even tried using an offering like URL Genius for deep links but this is regrettably against Facebook’s ad policy.


Luckily, there is a way to send traffic directly from the feed to your profile. You see, when you hit that blue “Promote” button on Instagram, it actually creates a traffic campaign that uses a concealed ad set option that does optimize for getting more followers. What’s more, the CTA gets rendered as “Visit Instagram Profile” which makes a lot more sense than something like “Learn More.” Despite what some shady people might say on YouTube, we’ve found that nothing out performs using the “Promote” button due to these two key factors.


But It's Not The Complete Solution

The only downside to using the “Promote” button is that it can only be applied to something that has already been natively posted on Instagram. This means that you can’t actually use it in conjunction with dark posts that have messaging specifically crafted for non-followers. Basically, your current audience will also see it so the content needs to work for both parties. Additionally, using the “Promote” button also comes with another annoying headache. Unlike with normal Ad Manager work, you cannot aggregate tons of ads into one massive CBO campaign and let Facebook’s machine learning figure it out.


Or can you...


Best Instagram Ads Growth-Hack for Followers

For the longest time, I had been running “Promote” button ads and tracking the number of followers per yen spent in an online spreadsheet. For someone who is basically a full time content creator on top of being the Head of Digital Marketing at AdVertize, a digital marketing agency in Tokyo, this was one additional headache that I just didn’t need in my life. Frustrated, I kept looking for solutions but I couldn’t find anything that didn’t give rise to the aforementioned browser issue noted above.


One day recently though, I finally cracked the code of how to combine all of the benefits of the “Promote” button with Facebook’s machine learning. Honestly, it’s a bit of an ugly solution that is reminiscent of something that Angus MacGyver might concoct but I’ve never seen results like I am getting now. If you’re keen on replicating what I am doing now to grow on the Gram, just follow the below steps to a T and you too will be seeing the followers roll in.


Step One: Create a traffic campaign shell in Ad Manager and make sure that CBO is turned on. This will be the campaign from which you’ll run all your growth ads.


Step Two: Hit the “Promote” button on any post on Instagram that you think will perform well for a cold audience. This will make a special ad set in Ad Manager that’s actually optimized for Instagram Profile Visits. Like I noted above, this usually isn’t selectable...


Step Three: Duplicate this ad set in to the shell campaign, remove the end date and change the audience to a 1% lookalike of anyone who has engaged with your Instagram profile in the past 365 days. Finally, be sure to turn off story placements if the original post was a feed post.


Step Four: Repeat this process a number of times until you have a handful of ad sets published. Then, sit back and let the machine learning figure out which of the ad sets to spend on for you.


Step Five: Watch the followers roll in!


Note that since the minimum Facebook spend is pegged at USD 1, you can only have as many ad sets as your daily budget allows. Basically, the only downside of this growth strategy is that you can’t consolidate all of the ads into one ad set. I tried and it messes up carrying over the optimization since we are essentially exploiting a duplication bug with these campaigns.

Additionally, you can’t actually see how many followers the campaign is getting as this metric only shows Instagram-created ads using promote. That said, you can track growth with Social Blade while also putting your faith in CBO’s machine to deliver. It’s such a messed up process but this is the only way that I can find to get CBO + campaigns that are optimized for sending people directly to the profile.


Now, this may sound pretty difficult, and it's completely understandable. We at AdVertize, a digital marketing agency in Tokyo, is always here to help you reach your social media and business goals, so feel free to contact us from the form below if you'd like some professional help in your marketing endeavors!

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