Ads in Instagram Stories: Reaching Your Customers at Just the Right Time

Less than a year after launching Stories, Instagram is opening its doors for you to run immersive, full-screen ads between users’ Stories. While it may sound like a blatant copy of Snap Ads, Instagram seems to have plenty of data to back its decision to monetize Stories. According to Instagram, over 200 million users use Stories every day, and 70% of Instagram users follow a business. What’s more, one-third of Stories viewed are from businesses, and one in five Stories receive a direct message. It’s likely the decision for Instagram to introduce ads in Stories wasn’t a difficult one. The decision for you shouldn’t be difficult either.

With these engagement metrics in mind, it’s no surprise brands like Airbnb and Mulberry have already tested the new ad type. Eric Toda, Global Head of Social Marketing and Content at Airbnb said, “Immersive storytelling through Instagram Stories engages and invites our community to be part of an adventure.” For Mulberry, complementing an existing campaign with ads in Stories led to 5X more clicks to its site when compared to the average it has seen across other social channels.

Ads in Instagram StoriesFor you, the good news is that ads in Stories weren’t designed to cater to just a handful of verticals. In fact, they can play a role in any vertical.

  • Entertainment: Tease fans with previews TV premieres and other key moments for the entertainment industry. The same goes for winter and summer movie launches as they both rely on one-day heavy ups to get the most people tuned in.
  • Retail: Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the other holiday “sales days” all come with massive one-day budgets. Blending in ads for Stories highlighting product promotions and limited-time sales will give you more inventory and the perfect real-time context.
  • CPG: What do the Super Bowl, March Madness, and the World Cup all have in common? They all have passionate followings who dedicate their attention to specific events at specific times. Take advantage of this and promote relevant sales or limited-edition products.

While these types of opportunities are promising and may be tempting to dive right in, take a step back. Like any new ad type, experimenting and reiterating your strategy is key to developing an effective one. This fundamental knowledge will serve as the foundation and carry you forward as ads in Stories gain more traction in the social landscape.

The Nitty Gritty You Should Know About Ads In Instagram Stories

1. Ads in Stories are Available via Select Objectives: 

Ads in Stories are only available via a select number of Facebook’s objective: Reach, Video Views, Traffic, Conversions, and App Installs. While this may seem limiting, these objective maximize your visibility within your target audience. If you follow the industry-specific examples above, this is ideal because your ads will be shown a large number of people in your target audience. They also give you the flexibility to target specific geographical radiuses and frequencies.

Pro Tip: While you’re given the liberty to optimize for either Reach or Impressions at the Ad Set level, Brand Networks recommends sticking with Reach. Although optimizing for impressions will show your ads to as many people as possible, optimizing for Reach will help to ensure the right people see them.

2. Robust Audience Targeting Is Available:

The audience targeting capabilities you’re accustomed to across Facebook-owned properties are available when setting up ads in Stories. From basic demographics like gender, targeting options extend to Custom Audiences, too. That said, Brand Networks recommends a broad approach first and gradually adding more specifications, like interests, as you learn more about your target audience.

Pro Tip: For most campaigns, we recommend starting with broad targeting. As you gain a better understanding of your target audience, don’t be afraid to layer granular targeting like custom audiences. For example, you could target your ads in Stories to Facebook users who interacted with your Facebook Page. Likewise, you could retarget those who watched one of your Facebook video ads to completion. Both maximize the value of your ads and ensure only people with a vested interest see them.

3. Be Careful with Your Frequency Cap

Be cognizant of how often your target audience sees your ad. Of course, this depends on the type of campaign, but as a general rule, err on the side of caution. If you’re blending ads in Stories into an always-on campaign, Brand Networks recommends setting a frequency cap around 7 (a minimum of 7 days will pass before a user sees your ad again). If you’re running a one-day heavy-up, don’t get carried away—set your frequency cap at one.

Pro Tip: If you’re concerned about people seeing your ad too often, experiment with different creative. We recommend 2-3 pieces of creative for a two-week campaign. This will allow you to keep your frequency cap lower without suffocating your target audience with the same message and creative.


Although ads in Stories are still new, some of the world’s leading brands have already started testing. With a few of the ad type’s nuances understood, and some insight from Brand Networks’ Media Services team, we’re confident you can find success, too.

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