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How does Instagram ads make money? - Demystifying Instagram Ads Revenue!

How does Instagram ads make money? – Demystifying Instagram Ads Revenue!

Sohail Ahmad
August 3, 2023
176 0

1. Introduction

With over a billion active users, Instagram has firmly established itself as one of the most popular and influential social media platforms in the world. What started as a photo-sharing app has evolved into a thriving ecosystem where users, brands, and influencers converge. At the heart of this thriving ecosystem lies Instagram’s powerful advertising platform, which plays a pivotal role in generating revenue for the company. In this blog post, we aim to demystify the mechanics behind Instagram’s ad revenue generation, shedding light on how Instagram ads make money.

As social media users, we are all familiar with those sponsored posts that seamlessly blend into our feeds. These are the infamous Instagram ads, carefully curated and strategically placed to catch our attention. But what goes on behind the scenes to bring these ads to our screens? How does Instagram ensure that the right ads reach the right users? To understand this, we will delve into the intricacies of Instagram’s advertising system, exploring the different ad formats and targeting options available to advertisers.

2. Understanding Instagram Ads

2. Understanding Instagram Ads

Instagram ads are a vital component of the platform’s revenue generation strategy, allowing businesses to reach their target audiences with engaging visual content. To gain a deeper understanding of Instagram ads, we must first define what they are and explore the various formats and options available to advertisers.

At its core, an Instagram ad is a sponsored post that appears seamlessly within users’ feeds and stories. Unlike regular organic content, these ads are strategically crafted to blend in with the overall user experience while promoting a brand, product, or service. Advertisers leverage the platform’s diverse ad formats to create compelling visuals and captivating stories that resonate with their target audience

Different Types of Instagram Ads

Instagram offers various ad formats, each tailored to suit specific marketing objectives. These formats include:

Photo Ads: The most straightforward type of ad, where advertisers can use a single image to convey their message.

Video Ads: These ads use short video clips to capture users’ attention and convey a more immersive brand experience.

Carousel Ads: With multiple images or videos within a single ad, carousel ads allow advertisers to showcase a series of products or tell a story in a swipeable format.

Stories Ads: Appearing in between users’ stories, these vertical, full-screen ads provide a more intimate and ephemeral advertising experience.

IGTV Ads: Advertisers can promote their brands by inserting short video ads in between IGTV content.

Targeting Options and Ad Formats

Instagram’s ad platform provides advertisers with a range of targeting options to reach their intended audience effectively. These options include:

Demographic Targeting: Advertisers can narrow down their audience based on factors such as age, gender, location, and language.

Interest-Based Targeting: Instagram uses user data and behavior to target users with specific interests, such as travel, fashion, or fitness.

Behavioral Targeting: Advertisers can target users based on their interactions with similar ads, brand content, or actions taken on the platform.

Custom Audiences: Businesses can upload customer lists or use pixel data to target existing customers or create lookalike audiences.

Automatic Targeting: Instagram’s algorithm helps advertisers optimize their targeting by delivering ads to users who are likely to engage with the content.

By providing advertisers with a diverse array of ad formats and sophisticated targeting options, Instagram ensures that brands can effectively reach their target audience with relevant and engaging content. This strategic approach not only enhances the user experience but also contributes significantly to the platform’s revenue generation, making Instagram ads a win-win for both businesses and users alike.

3. The Instagram Ads Auction System

The Instagram Ads Auction System

Instagram’s ad auction system is a dynamic and competitive mechanism that determines which ads will be displayed to users and in what order. Advertisers bid for ad placements, and the auction takes place in real-time for each ad opportunity. Let’s explore the key aspects of the Instagram Ads Auction System in detail:

Real-Time Bidding (RTB)The ad auction occurs in real-time whenever a user opens the app or refreshes their feed, creating an opportunity for advertisers to bid for ad placements.
Ad Relevance ScoreInstagram evaluates the relevance of each ad to its target audience. A higher relevance score can positively impact the ad’s chances of winning the auction.
Bid AmountAdvertisers set the maximum amount they are willing to pay for their ad to be shown to their target audience. The bid represents the cost-per-click (CPC) or cost-per-impression (CPM).
Ad Quality and Engagement MetricsInstagram considers the expected ad performance, including click-through rates (CTR), engagement metrics, and historical ad performance, to determine the ad’s quality.
Auction WinnerThe ad with the highest combination of bid amount, ad relevance score, and expected ad performance wins the auction and gets displayed to the target audience.
Ad PlacementThe winning ad is placed in various locations, such as users’ feeds, stories, explore page, and IGTV, based on the auction results and the ad format’s suitability.
Auction FrequencyInstagram’s ad auction takes place billions of times each day, ensuring advertisers have ample opportunities to reach their target audience in real-time.

The Instagram Ads Auction System operates in a highly competitive environment, where multiple advertisers are vying for limited ad spaces. The auction dynamically adjusts to changing market conditions, user behavior, and advertisers’ bidding strategies to optimize ad placements for both advertisers and users.

The Ad Relevance Score plays a crucial role in the auction process. Instagram assesses the ad’s relevance to its intended audience based on factors such as ad targeting accuracy, engagement history, and user feedback. Ads that resonate well with users and align with their interests are more likely to win the auction, even if their bid amount is relatively lower.

Advertisers have the flexibility to set their bid amounts based on their budget and marketing objectives. The bid amount directly influences the ad’s competitiveness in the auction; higher bids increase the likelihood of winning ad placements but may also increase the overall advertising cost for the advertiser.

4. Instagram Ads Revenue Streams

Instagram’s advertising platform serves as a significant source of revenue for the company, contributing to its overall financial success. Let’s explore the various revenue streams that Instagram generates through its ads:

Ad Spend from Businesses

The primary revenue stream for Instagram is the ad spend from businesses and advertisers. As businesses seek to leverage the platform’s massive user base and engagement, they allocate budgets to run sponsored ad campaigns. Advertisers bid for ad placements using the auction system, and Instagram earns revenue every time an ad is displayed or clicked by users. The more advertisers participate in the platform, the higher the demand for ad placements, resulting in increased revenue for Instagram.

Revenue Sharing Model

Instagram operates under the umbrella of Facebook, and both platforms share a revenue-sharing model with advertisers. Businesses can run ads across both platforms simultaneously, reaching a broader audience and maximizing their ad reach. Instagram and Facebook split the advertising revenue generated from these shared campaigns, further adding to Instagram’s revenue stream.

Sponsored Influencer Content

Influencer marketing is an integral part of Instagram’s ecosystem. Brands collaborate with popular influencers to promote their products and services through sponsored content. Influencers with large and engaged followings have a significant impact on their audiences, providing brands with an effective means of reaching potential customers. Instagram, as the platform facilitating these collaborations, often earns a commission or fee for facilitating these partnerships, adding to its revenue stream.

Shopping Features and E-commerce Integration

Instagram has gradually integrated e-commerce features into its platform, allowing businesses to tag and sell products directly within posts and stories. These shoppable posts enable users to make purchases seamlessly within the app. Instagram often charges businesses a fee or commission for facilitating these transactions, generating additional revenue from e-commerce activities on the platform.

Explore Page and IGTV Ads

The Explore page on Instagram offers users personalized content recommendations and serves as an additional space for ad placements. Similarly, IGTV (Instagram TV) allows users to watch longer video content, and ads are inserted between the videos. These placements provide Instagram with additional revenue opportunities by offering advertisers more ad real estate.

Premium Ad Features and Custom Solutions

Instagram offers premium ad features and custom advertising solutions to brands with specific marketing objectives. These tailored solutions cater to businesses looking for specialized ad formats or campaigns. Instagram charges premium prices for such bespoke advertising services, contributing to its revenue streams.

As Instagram’s user base continues to grow and user engagement remains high, the platform’s ad revenue streams are expected to keep expanding. Instagram’s innovative approach to advertising, seamless integration of shopping features, and strategic partnerships with influencers make it a powerful platform for businesses seeking to connect with their target audiences effectively. This, in turn, ensures a steady and sustainable revenue stream for Instagram, securing its position as a leading social media platform in the digital landscape.

The tweet is tweeted by landon ledford on instagram revenue stream.

5. Influencer Marketing and Ad Sponsorships

Influencer marketing has become a game-changer in the world of advertising, and Instagram is at the forefront of this transformative trend. With its vast community of content creators, celebrities, and influencers, the platform offers a fertile ground for businesses to connect with their target audiences in a more authentic and relatable manner. Let’s delve into the dynamics of influencer marketing on Instagram and how ad sponsorships play a pivotal role in driving brand awareness and revenue.

The Power of Influencers on Instagram

Influencers are individuals who have amassed a significant following on Instagram due to their expertise, personality, or creativity. These influencers have built loyal communities who trust their opinions and recommendations. Brands recognize the potential of leveraging this influence to promote their products and services to a highly engaged audience.

Collaborative Partnerships

Brands collaborate with influencers to create sponsored content that aligns with the influencer’s niche and audience. The sponsored posts are typically labeled as such to ensure transparency. These partnerships can take various forms, including product reviews, unboxing videos, tutorials, lifestyle shots, and more. The seamless integration of the brand’s message into the influencer’s content creates an organic and non-intrusive advertising experience.

Targeted Reach and Engagement

Influencers have the advantage of connecting with specific niche audiences, allowing brands to target their ideal customers more precisely. This targeted approach often leads to higher engagement rates compared to traditional advertising methods. As a result, brands can achieve greater brand awareness and reach through influencer marketing.

Influencer Tiers and Reach

Influencers can be categorized based on the size of their following. Macro-influencers have hundreds of thousands to millions of followers, while micro-influencers have a more modest but highly engaged following. Brands can choose the influencer tier that best aligns with their marketing objectives and budget.

Measuring Campaign Effectiveness

Brands can track the performance of influencer marketing campaigns using metrics such as likes, comments, shares, click-through rates (CTR), and conversions. These insights provide valuable data to assess the campaign’s success and ROI.

Long-Term Brand Ambassadorships

Some brands establish long-term partnerships with influencers, transforming them into brand ambassadors. These brand ambassadors consistently promote the brand over an extended period, fostering a deeper connection with their audience and providing sustained exposure for the brand.

Regulatory Compliance

As influencer marketing has grown, regulatory bodies have introduced guidelines to ensure transparency. Influencers are required to disclose their partnerships with brands to maintain authenticity and build trust with their followers.

In this informative video, titled “How Instagram Sponsorships & Ads Work For Influencers (AND WHY THEY TAKE THEM ON)”, join renowned influencer Lucie Fink as she sheds light on the inner workings of Instagram sponsorships and ads. Lucie provides invaluable insights into the dynamics of influencer partnerships and explains why influencers opt for these collaborations.

6. Future Trends in Instagram Ads

As technology and user preferences continue to evolve, the landscape of Instagram advertising is expected to undergo transformative changes. To stay ahead of the curve and maintain its position as a leading advertising platform, Instagram is likely to embrace various trends and innovations. Let’s explore some of the future trends in Instagram ads:

Augmented Reality (AR) Integration

Augmented Reality is poised to revolutionize the way users interact with content and products. Instagram is likely to incorporate AR features into its ad platform, allowing brands to offer immersive experiences to users. AR-powered try-on filters, virtual showrooms, and interactive product demos are expected to become more prevalent, enhancing engagement and purchase intent.

Enhanced Shopping Experience

Instagram’s focus on e-commerce is likely to intensify, with the platform continuously enhancing its shopping features. Seamless integration with e-commerce platforms, expanded product catalogs, and personalized product recommendations are some of the improvements that can be expected. The aim is to make shopping on Instagram a frictionless and enjoyable experience for users.

Video and Story Ads Dominance

Video content has proven to be highly engaging, and Instagram will likely see a surge in video and story ad formats. Short-form videos and stories offer brands an opportunity to deliver impactful messages in a concise and attention-grabbing manner. Instagram’s emphasis on vertical video formats and full-screen ads is expected to continue, catering to the mobile-first behavior of users.

Social Commerce and In-App Purchases

Instagram is likely to explore deeper integrations with payment gateways, enabling in-app purchases and social commerce functionalities. Users may be able to complete transactions directly within the app, eliminating the need to navigate to external websites. This streamlined process is expected to drive higher conversion rates for businesses.

Personalization and AI-driven Targeting

Instagram’s ad targeting capabilities are likely to become even more sophisticated with the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Advanced algorithms will analyze user behavior and preferences to deliver highly personalized ads to individual users. This personalized approach is expected to improve ad relevance and boost engagement.

Brand Safety and Transparency

With an increased focus on user privacy and data protection, Instagram is likely to implement more stringent measures to ensure brand safety and ad transparency. Advertisers may have enhanced control over ad placements, and users may receive clearer disclosures about sponsored content.


1: How does Instagram’s ad auction system work?

Instagram’s ad auction system is a real-time bidding process where advertisers bid for ad placements. The winning ad is determined based on factors such as bid amount, ad relevance score, and expected ad performance.

2: Does Instagram share ad revenue with advertisers?

Yes, Instagram operates under a revenue-sharing model with advertisers. Brands can run ads across both Instagram and Facebook, and the revenue generated from these shared campaigns is split between the two platforms.

3: How does influencer marketing work on Instagram?

Influencer marketing on Instagram involves brands collaborating with content creators, celebrities, and influencers to promote their products or services to their engaged audience. Brands pay influencers for creating sponsored content that aligns with the influencer’s niche.

4: What are some future trends in Instagram ads?

Some future trends in Instagram ads include augmented reality integration, enhanced shopping experiences, increased dominance of video and story ads, amplification of user-generated content, and the use of AI-driven targeting for more personalized ads.

5: How does Instagram ensure transparency in influencer marketing?

Instagram requires influencers to disclose their partnerships with brands in their sponsored content. This transparency ensures that users are aware of the promotional nature of the content they are viewing.


In conclusion, Instagram’s advertising platform plays a crucial role in the platform’s revenue generation and success. As one of the most popular and influential social media platforms globally, Instagram has created a powerful ecosystem for businesses to reach their target audiences effectively. By offering various ad formats, sophisticated targeting options, and a real-time ad auction system, Instagram ensures a seamless and engaging advertising experience for both advertisers and users.

The future of Instagram ads is poised to embrace innovative trends, such as augmented reality integration, enhanced shopping experiences, and the dominance of video and story ads. As influencer marketing continues to be a driving force, brands will collaborate with content creators to deliver authentic and relatable content to their audiences.


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