Advertising brand on Instagram.

A Crash Course in Instagram Audiences for Your Social Media Ads

With a global following of over one billion active monthly accounts (as of June 2018), it’s no wonder Instagram (IG) advertising is such a popular way for brands to build awareness. But where does one even begin on this beast of a platform?

Like with any platform, finding your ideal audiences will be a good start, and segmentation is a very effective way to do this (and it can be easily done on Instagram!). Once you’ve narrowed these down, you can start to test and segment your audiences to determine the very best ways to target them with social ads. Finally, you’ll want to keep them engaged over the long term so that your brand can continue to thrive, grow, and prosper.

In this post, we’ll talk you through ways to build Instagram audiences for social media ads, plus share ideas of how you can put these audiences to the best use.

How can I narrow down my Instagram audiences for ads?

Most likely you’ve already defined your brand, but if you haven’t already, it’s the first thing you’ll want to do. A solid understanding of your brand or brands will give you key insights into who your demographic is so that you can start narrowing down your Instagram audiences. It’s not rocket science, but you do want to be strategic. Doing so will save you so much time when crafting your content.

By the way, your Instagram audiences ARE your target consumers. On Instagram. That being said, not all of your target consumers are on Instagram, and not all Instagram users are your target audience, so a little IG research is going to go a long way.

Assuming you know the who, the what, and the why behind your product or service, you can start searching Instagram for the brands most similar to yours. For example, if your company makes simple graphic design tools for users, then maybe you’ll want to search for brands like Canva, PicMonkey, and Crella, for example. Dig deep here and figure out how their followers are engaging with them.

During your research, see if you can gauge which users are actual customers of your competitors. It’s really easy for people to like, follow, and even comment on Instagram, but if you can determine which ones spend (or intend to spend) money based on how they’re engaging, this will be really useful data.

Speaking of Canva, here’s an IG post for a current campaign of theirs where they’re donating all proceeds from paid images to Australia emergency bushfire relief and recovery programs.

Instagram ad example.

Check out the user comment on the top right and compare her comment with the user’s comment at the bottom with the clapping emojis. While there’s nothing wrong with claps because they still signify engagement, the user at the top is indicating more interest. Of course, there’s no concrete proof that she’s a Canva user, but it appears she has an affinity for the app. The more intel you can gather on users like her, the better. Take note, as these will be the types of followers you’ll want to go after (in your respective niche, of course).

What are some ways that I can test my audiences on Instagram?

Once you’ve narrowed down your market and gotten that part out of the way, the most daunting part of building up a following is done. The fire is lit, so what’s next?

For starters, you’ll want to determine how your followers are engaging with your Instagram content, and analytics tools are great for this. There are quite a few effective IG analytics tools that are totally free and there are some great ones that you can pay for as well. It really just depends on the types of features you want. There’s nothing wrong with reinvesting a little cold hard cash back into your brand, but it’s also nice to save those dollars from time to time. Try mixing it up.

IG analytics tools can give you actionable insights about your followers’ behavior –– information like when they’re online, what they want to see in their feeds, and what types of products they’re buying. This is going to help you to really target your audience which, in turn, will help you allocate your marketing budget more effectively.

Here are three of our favorite free and paid Instagram analytics tools:

  • Sprout Social: Sprout Social’s data-driven IG analytics tools is one of the most powerful analytics tools out there. It lets you do things like identify top posts during specific times, schedule and streamline your posts, and monitor hashtags. Plus, the reports themselves are very clean and easy to read.
  • Instagram Insights: IG Insights is, of course, a freebie and you definitely don’t want to underestimate its robustness. After all, it’s got the insider’s inside scoop on what’s happening with your audience, and it’s a very user-friendly tool as well. You can analyze your followers and access your precise demographics as well. Like Sprout, the reports are also easy to read, and the metrics it provides are super valuable.
  • Union Metrics: Union Metrics offers a full suite of tools for a fee, but they also have a free Instagram Account Checkup Tool. With the checkup tool, you’ll have access to detailed reports that analyze your most dedicated followers, average post engagement, and show you what your top hashtags are. It allows you to easily understand your metrics so that you can generate more effective campaigns.

Companies like Socialbakers, Iconosquare, and Squarelovin also make great analytics tools. The best way to test your audience is to switch up your ad content as often as possible and to try as many different tools as you can.

Another fantastic way to collect valuable data on your audiences is by taking advantage of the Instagram stories and polls feature to learn more about their likes and interests. The more data you’re gathering in different ways, the more you’ll be able to spot trends with accuracy so that you can really finetune your targeting tactics.

How should I segment my Instagram audiences?

Once you’ve uncovered some key trends within your audience, you can then start showing relevant ads to different segments of your IG followers. The reason why marketing segmentation is so important, in general, is that you can maximize your marketing budget and resources by targeting them more effectively. So, let’s get to segmenting on Instagram, specifically, and show you how to do this effectively.

First, if you’re using IG’s hyperlinked hashtags feature, this can be a great place to start. Presumably, by now, you’ve been doing your homework and testing your audiences, so you know who’s clicking on what. Your hyperlinked hashtags can give you some of the most valuable information you’ll collect on your followers because it tells you precisely which products they’re browsing. It’s also something that brings them one touchpoint closer to a purchase. If certain audience members are clicking repeatedly on specific hashtags, you now have some valuable information you can use to segment.

Generally, segmentation can be broken down into four main categories:

Instagram audience segmentation.

  • Geographic: Geographic segmentation lets you target your customers based on where they live. It’s effective because audience interests, values, trends, and preferences are going to vary in different cities, states, countries, and regions.
  • Behavioral: Through behavioral segmentation, you’re targeting your audience based on things like their purchasing habits, how they go through their decision-making process, and their attitude toward the brand.
  • Demographic: Demographic segmentation is the most popular segmenting strategy among marketers. It involves the process of dividing your followers up based on variables like age, gender, family size, and income, among other things.
  • Psychographic: Psychographic segmentation can be a little more challenging because it’s highly subjective, but it’s also very effective because of this. You’re targeting based on intrinsic traits that have to do with your respective audiences’ values, personalities, interests and opinions, motivators, and lifestyle choices.

If you’ve been in business for a while, but you’re simply trying to get more Instagram engagement (or you’re new to the platform altogether) the good news is that you probably know most of this stuff. Once you’ve figured out how to navigate Instagram and do the things we’ve already covered, like narrow your market and test your audience, you can segment based on what you already know about market segmentation.

After you’ve narrowed down your segments, Instagram lets you easily create custom audiences for your business by going to the “Audience” tab on your insights dashboard.

Custom audiences on Instagram.

Once you select “Audience”, you’ll be given the option to “Create a Custom Audience” from the dropdown menu. Follow the prompts from here to start creating your segments. Once you’ve done this, you can start using your marketing prowess to create ads that appeal to your different segments. Easy-peasy.

When is it time for me to test new audiences?

Finally, if your I.G. marketing strategy just isn’t working anymore, then it might be time to test out new audiences. Something to keep in mind is that demographics are always changing. New trends are constantly emerging, audiences get older, and populations become more racially and ethnically diverse. Remaining nimble and ahead of the curve will be a better tactic than simply waiting until your engagement is dropping, but if it does get to that point, try to act fast. Stay on top of what your followers are doing as well. All of this will help you to regroup and re-segment if and when necessary.

Other good times to test new audiences are in situations where you’re introducing a new product or service, or if you’re going through a company rebrand. If you’re already in the habit of constantly retooling your marketing message and adapting your product or service to suit a wide array of demographics, then an adaptation marketing strategy can also be very effective. When you have a business that experiences steady growth, then it’s a near guarantee that your audience is going to evolve and change, so just be prepared.
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Understanding your Instagram audience is the best way to create growth strategies that work. The platform has the highest average engagement rate of all social media platforms, so it really is one powerful tool. Use these tips and tricks to make the most out of it so that you can start segmenting effectively and continue watching your brand soar to new heights.

Got more questions about finding your perfect audience using segmentation? We have answers. Give us a shout at hello@tuffgrowth.com or schedule a 30-minute strategy call with our team here. We’re looking forward to chatting with you and helping you plot your growth.