An easy 3-step process to grow on Instagram with ads

Building an audience on Instagram is an integral step for any artist- or creative-driven business.

There are lots of options downstream of winning on the ‘gram.

I’ve personally tested many different ads to grow Instagram, and we’ve put the winning combo to work for a slew of artists over at DuPree X.

Whether you’re trying to succeed as an artist on Spotify, sell products, or simply become a full-time content creator, I want to help you take the first step.

So here is the exact advertising method we use to generate results on Instagram.

I hope it helps.

Start with awareness and engagement

The first step toward succeeding on Instagram is to get eyeballs on our content.

For most of us, the cheapest way to do this is to post a lot of reels organically.

But for others, time is at a premium.

Simply put, if your average hourly rate is high enough, then creating content may not be the most cost-effective use of your time.

Now, we can certainly delegate our content creation using something like Fiverr, but for many of us, ads might make the most sense.

Because we’re after eyeballs (read: impressions) we can potentially use one ad to get the same results it might take us 10 or even 100 organic posts to achieve.

And we can do this in one of several ways:

First, we can optimize for reach, showing our ads to the most people possible.

Second, we can pursue ad recall lift, showing our content to those most likely to remember it.

Or, third (and my personal favorite), we can seek to generate video views, gaining valuable metrics for our profile in the form of plays on our reels.

Regardless of the campaign type and optimization metric, the ideal way to do this is to use an existing reel (posted organically) as the ad creative so the engagement maps to publicly available content on our profile.

100,000 views on a video thumbnail can aid that video in accumulating more organic traffic than a video hidden inside the ads manager ever could.

Success often begets success, and if someone sees successful metrics on a thumbnail, they’re often more likely to click it out of curiosity.

For those of us strapped for time, one ad-boosted 100,000-view video might make more sense than 100 organically-driven 1,000-view videos.

Earning new followers

Now that we’re generating awareness and engagement, it’s time to start earning followers.

In 2023, Meta rolled out the ability to select our Instagram profile as the destination for our ads within the ads manager (previously, we could only do this when boosting posts within the Instagram app).

With this update, we can now run targeted ads that send users directly to our profile with the hope they will choose to follow us.

This makes the aforementioned organic content and “vanity” metrics even more important because the destination is what sells the user on the follow, not the ad.

Put another way, it is the ad’s job to sell the user on the click, not the follow—that’s what your profile and content are for.

Think of your profile as the landing page for this type of ad.

If you have a profile (landing page) with no content and no activity, you’re probably not going to get a lot of followers out of your ad campaign, no matter how good your ad might be.

Because why would they follow you?

Why would someone take action on an unengaging landing page?

Short answer: they wouldn’t.

So you have to start with step one: generating awareness and engagement.

Once we’re doing that, it’s time to build out this second campaign.

When building out a new campaign at this step, I like to use cold targeting to send traffic to my Instagram profile.

But only for a time.

Once the wheels have been greased for a few hundred bucks’ worth of ad spend, it’s time to move to the third piece of the puzzle: retargeting.

Retargeting strategy

Now that we’re generating awareness and engagement and sending traffic to our Instagram profile, it’s time to take this system and refine it.

Showing our profile-destination ads to a cold audience works, no doubt, but retargeting a warm audience is just so much more effective, especially in terms of follower quality.

At this level, there are multiple audiences we can make, and I recommend creating more than one.

My two favorites are anyone who has engaged with my Instagram account within a set time frame (shorter for more defined audiences, longer for broader audiences) and anyone who has engaged with a specific video or videos (in this case, all of our awareness and engagement ad videos work great).

We can create both of these audiences, drop them into a new ad set in our follower campaign, and show the same ad from our cold-targeted ad set to this group of users who have previously experienced our content.

This will create a tighter feedback loop and, hopefully, lead to a higher rate of follower growth as the process moves forward.

And if we really want to dial it in, we can create a third audience comprised of those who already follow us on Instagram and exclude them from every ad set across this set of campaigns, ensuring we’re only spending our time (and our money) on earning a new audience, not accidentally spamming those who have already taken the action we wanted them to take.

P.S. I'll be going more in-depth on this topic in this week's YouTube video, so be sure to tap in over there if you haven't yet so you don't miss it.

Whenever you're ready, there are four ways I can help you:

  1. Read the Newsletter: Read previous issues of The One Thing to learn at your own pace and upgrade your marketing knowledge for free.
  2. Book a Consultation: Schedule a one-on-one call with me to improve your marketing across paid advertising, social media, and more.
  3. The Spotify Traffic Accelerator: Join the hundreds of artists who have successfully learned to automate their growth on Spotify using paid ads on Instagram.
  4. Become a DuPree X Artist: Hire our team to manage your marketing across streaming platforms and social media so you can focus on what matters most—making music.

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