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February 11, 2019

Instagram Ad Targeting in Real Life

Author: Kristen Bachmeier

We’re a small team, so every day we have lunch, we gather in the conference room. Our lunchtime gathering often consists of YouTube videos, gameplay, or just catching up.

One day, we were talking about all the sophisticated targeting options through Facebook and Instagram. It got us to thinking: what ads do we see in our own feeds? So, we each pulled up our phones and looked.

We find it interesting to see how we are targeted as consumers, or as I call it “Targeting in Real Life.” Three of us (Valerie, Kristen, and I) decided to screenshot the ads that came up in our feed and analyze the “profile” that was created of us through the advertisements we saw.

Instagram Ads: Set 1

Our first team member (Valerie) had a variety of ads served to her. As a Disney lover, the first ad for a Disney themed emoji app made sense. The remaining ads for a meal planning service, a non-toxic deodorant, and a hair care product. From these, we can gather that Valerie loves Disney (which, is absolutely 100% true), cares about the environment/natural products, and perhaps appreciates the convenience of meal planning services.

Instagram Ads: Set 2

The second ad set you see above is what appears on Kristen’s Instagram feed. It’s pretty clear that these advertisements are targeted to someone who is interested in health/fitness or takes it very seriously.

One interesting note, though, is that Kristen is already a subscriber to Aaptiv (the sponsored ad from Popsugar you see), so they could adjust their targeting options to exclude those who are already subscribed to the app. Facebook and Instagram do offer the capability to do so via their “custom audience” tool.

Instagram Ads: Set 3

Lulus (an online boutique), OpenTable (a restaurant reservation service), and Trader Joe’s (a grocery store) are all brands that I’ve previously used. This shows they have my information in their database and were able to use that information to serve ads to me (also known as retargeting). Also, as someone who frequently browses for skincare and makeup products online, the Curology ad makes sense as well.

How Does Instagram Targeting Work?

By analyzing the ads we were served, and comparing them with what we know about ourselves, we can see that advertisers are able to get a pretty good profile of what we’re interested in. But how? It’s important to note that Instagram is owned by Facebook, so Instagram uses Facebook’s demographic data to serve up ads to the appropriate parties.

This information allows you to target specific demographics including:

  • Gender
  • Age range
  • Location
  • Interest
  • Behaviors

You can create your audiences simply based on this demographic data. For example, a new trendy taco restaurant might target millennials within a 25-mile range of their location, who are interested in eating out and Mexican cuisine. Then, Facebook & Instagram will serve ads to those that fit those parameters as they scroll through their feed.

Another option Facebook gives advertisers is to create custom audiences (mentioned above). You could import an email list you’ve collected, and if users have the same email on their Facebook or Instagram account, you can target them directly. You can also create a lookalike audience, which analyzes the demographics of those in your list and target those who have similar profiles. There are is also the option for remarketing, which tracks those who visit your website and don’t convert and serves them ads.

Facebook has gone through a lot of changes in the past year with their advertising capabilities, which we’ve talked about in previous blog posts. You may have complained before about seeing targeted ads or heard someone complain about it. You can review Instagram’s privacy policy to see exactly what information they collect, how they collect it and what they do with it, and adjust your privacy settings to what you are more comfortable with. As consumers, we believe we would rather have our information used to serve us ads that are relevant to our interests; and as marketers, we want to be able to create campaigns that are going to reach the right people in our target market.

To learn more about how your business can utilize social media marketing and digital advertising to reach customers and grow your business online, contact an expert at Atilus today.

Kristen Bachmeier

Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations. Kristen also has a background in digital marketing, and has been working in the digital marketing space since 2012.

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