Brook Preloader

What's the trick to story ads that work?

What's the trick to story ads that work?

Text or Cool Gifs in?! Today we're going to find out what tricks are easy to use to make Story Ads work.

It's been more than two years since Instagram first introduced Story Ads, and next month marks the anniversary of Facebook launching its own version of Story Ads. The ad format has been a big win for the company and advertisers. In April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said more than three million advertisers were running Story Ads across Instagram, Facebook and Messenger; and a recent report from Kenshoo found that Instagram Story Ads accounted for nearly 20% of ad spend on the platform in the second quarter of this year.

It's no surprise that Stories ads are doing well - Instagram reports that 500 million accounts use Stories on its platform, with a third of the most viewed Stories coming from businesses and one in five Stories generating a direct message from viewers. Just last month, Instagram confirmed that it was experimenting with increasing the ad load in Stories, which wasn't surprising given the amount of activity Stories generate.

For marketers who haven't used story ads, now may be the time to add them as content interaction continues to grow across Instagram and Facebook. In the latest installment of Marketing Land's series on the future of social, we asked advertisers with experience with story ad campaigns what works for them.

Test, test, and test again is the name of the game with story ads.

Jose Sánchez, head of creative at, said his company recommends spending at least 10% of an advertiser's total spend on experimentation and testing.

"If you're constantly testing, you'll learn how to best communicate and engage with your audience," Sánchez said, "We've found that small changes, like logo placement or copy color, can yield big wins."

He believes that brands need to be persistent and take a test and learn approach that builds an iterative process to test variations of things like total video duration, fast versus slow pace, content localization, color schemes, and user-generated content.

Akvile DeFazio, president of social media agency AKvertise, relies on testing to decide which ads are best for audiences of different ages.

"I typically recommend that before you make assumptions, especially if you're not in the target audience yourself, you test story ads for B2B and B2C to know for sure how they work for your business and specific audiences," DeFazio said, "It's worth testing to know if and how it works for you. If you know if a story ad isn't working well, rule it out for the future."

The creatives who deliver results.

DeFazio said her agency always recommends story ads for its e-commerce clients, with carousel video story ads performing exceptionally well because they prompt users to discover more products.

"With these ads, we're able to showcase more and use the most ad real estate because you can use up to ten carousel cards," DeFazio says, "Our sweet spot is usually three to five cards because we suspect users don't want to see too many options."

Andrew Foxwell, co-founder of social media consultancy Foxwell Digital, said user-generated content that looks native to the platform is best for the campaigns he runs: "For example, boomerangs and still images that are quickly and easily captured on a phone and generally look like something you'd see posted by a friend, as opposed to a more stylized image shared by a brand."

Foxwell's agency is also seeing a lot of success with Instagram Story Ads that include polls.

"In one case, we inserted a discount code directly into a survey where one option was "Do you love it?" and the other option was "Get 15% off with code IG15″ and this particular story ad helped us scale a brand from 500 $ to 15,000 $ per day."

According to Sánchez, brands need to continually test their creative with different attribution models to determine what works best for them.

"I recommend analyzing creative mix performance by using different attribution models and comparing creative mixes," Sánchez said, "The conflict in results based on different attribution models makes it difficult to evaluate results. Incrementality is ultimately what matters most, which is why I would recommend understanding the optimal creative mix."

Instagram versus Facebook

In terms of adoption - both by users and advertisers - Instagram Story Ads had a significant head start over Facebook Story Ads because they launched more than a year before Facebook's ad unit. Foxwell said his agency doesn't even recommend Facebook Story Ads for clients because they haven't yet proven to be a reliable source of direct-response conversions.

"Compared to when you're in the Facebook News Feed, users just aren't turning to Facebook Stories as much," Foxwell says, "You also can't add a poll to Facebook Story Ads, which has proven helpful for Instagram Story Ads."

DeFazio's agency tests story ad campaigns on both platforms for e-commerce clients with audiences that include younger and older demographics, but finds the same results as Foxwell.

"The impression share is non-existent on Facebook and the click-through rates (CTR) are much lower," says DeFazio, "For one of our water bottle clients, the CTR on Instagram Story Ads was double that of Facebook."

Take advantage of Facebook's advertising tools.

For story ad campaigns, Foxwell recommends advertisers take advantage of the Asset Placement Customization tool in Facebook Ads Manager, which allows users to customize ad assets by placing them within the same ad set.

"For example, with this tool, you can target a 2% audience of your best customers with an image that is appropriate for both a video link post (4:5 aspect ratio) and an Instagram Story asset (16:9). This tactic keeps insights on par with the ad setting, which can help advertisers get through the learning phase faster," Foxwell says.

He also recommends building funnels that are entirely dependent on Instagram Stories, via Facebook's campaign budget optimization.

"We're going to build a Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO) campaign together and have multiple audiences within the same CBO that only run Instagram Stories," Foxwell said, "We've seen this strategy be effective for incremental results, especially at the bottom of the sales funnel."

Building on the audience

For Foxwell's clients, most of which are B2C-focused, he's found that Instagram Story Ads perform particularly well if the client is already actively posting organic Stories on the platform - even more so if the client's target audience is 45 or younger.

DeFazio doesn't count story ads when it comes to creating campaigns for older audiences - instead, her agency uses creativity to get the results she wants to see.

"In accounts where we're targeting older demographics, we've found that introducing older audiences to ephemeral content works well to educate them by adding overlay text to "Swipe Up," with an arrow pointing to the call-to-action button to click from a story ad to the site."

Stories content is likely to attract the attention of more people, regardless of their age. In 2017, when Instagram first launched Story Ads, the company reported that 150 million users had engaged with Stories. Two years later, that number is now up to 500 million. As more users turn to Stories, both to post and to consume, Story Ad performance will grow along with content adoption.

As Sánchez points out, "a large part of the newsfeed audience has moved to Stories, and therefore brands must always be ready to adapt to new consumer behavior."

Thanks to the source: