Don’t Be Afraid of the High Cost of Instagram

You know your prospective students are on Instagram. You see them engage on the platform all the time. That’s why it seemed a no-brainer when Instagram rolled out ad options for businesses.

But how do you target the right audience? Should you use the same creative as you do on Facebook? How much creative will effectively support your campaigns? And why are the Instagram recommended Cost-Per-Click (CPC) bids over 10 TIMES Facebook’s!?!?

It’s ok. We’ve got this. Let’s tackle these concerns together –one by one.

Target the right audience: If you’ve run Facebook Lead Gen campaigns in the past, Instagram will be familiar. Instagram ads run in the same user interface so you can carry your targeting over! Start with your optimum-performing Facebook audiences/Ad Sets (highest Click Through Rate, solid lead volume, low Cost Per Lead), and implement for Instagram. When you begin to see results, optimize accordingly, and begin to introduce new targeting into the mix.

New to Facebook Lead Gen? Start with these audiences:

  • Remarketing
  • Custom Audiences
  • Lookalikes

Use the right creative:  Instagram ads follow the same ad guidelines as Facebook, so you might be tempted to replicate current Facebook ad creative for Instagram. But the Instagram audience is more visual, and is more engaged with “storytelling” images – unlike Facebook, where a harder sell creative often produces the best results. Keep photo quality a top priority, and ensure you swap out your ad images at least once every 2 weeks.

And don’t forget to implement those Call to Action buttons! They’re the only way your prospective student will know how to navigate to your website or landing page…and that’s your main objective, right?

Don’t be intimidated by those scary-high CPCs. It’s easy to suffer a bit of sticker-shock when you first look to advertise on Instagram. But once you’ve done the grunt work of building up your campaigns, don’t get cold feet just because the CPC seems expensive. The metric you really need to care about is your return on investment.

Check out this example from an actual Effective Student Marketing client campaign: Using the same 30 mile radius, Lookalike audience, the recommended CPCs were:

  • Facebook $ 1.44
  • Instagram $17.28 (12X Facebook)

Crazy, right? But remember, you’re interested in ROI so let’s dig more deeply. Ask yourself:

What’s your actual average CPC? (your bid sets the max you’re willing to pay, not what you will pay every time)

What’s your Click Conversion Rate? (the percentage of people who convert after clicking through to your landing page)

Here were the results from our ACTUAL client case study:


  • Average CPC: $0.74
  • Total Ad Clicks to Website: 21,165
  • Total Spend: $15,662.10
  • Click Conversion Rate: 0.66%
  • For 139 Leads, at a $112.68 CPL


  • Average CPC: $4.66
  • Total Ad Clicks to Website: 240
  • Total Spend: – $1,118.40
  • Click Conversion Rate: 4.2%
  • For 10 Leads, at a $111.84 CPL

Bottom line – while the recommended CPCs are significantly higher we saw less clicks to the landing pages (saving us $), and a higher Click Conversion Rate (protecting CPL!).

Instagram can be a great addition to your Lead Generation & Brand Awareness efforts. Please contact the Higher Ed Geeks at Effective Student Marketing for help ramping up your campaigns!

~ Melissa Eaton