I Spent $300 on an Instagram Ad and Here’s What Happened

This is another post for any of my fellow Instagram-ers and bloggers out there. I’m sure you’ve all noticed that since the latest shift in the Instagram algorithm, Instagram has been really pushing business account users to take advantage of advertisements.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m not willing to invest in my business on Instagram. I realize at this point, after putting $0 into advertising over the last two years that it’s probably time to take the leap. Rather than resort to alternative advertising/growth methods, my thought was to play by the rules and pay Instagram for more exposure considering that’s what they’re after.


The Process

So a week or two ago I did just that. I decided to roll the dice with a promoted post, and created an advertisement.

I took some time and rewrote my mission statement and bio, shared it in a caption of a new photo of Owen and I on my feed (this is required in order to create an ad).

I went through Instagram’s steps to promote the post which are super intuitive, waited about a half hour for the advertisement to be approved and kept a close eye on activity over the 24 hour window I had selected.

*The image above and to the left here notes my stats before the promotion began and the image to the right gives insight into pricing and estimated reach.


The Results

I gained 73 new followers, the post received 15,310 impressions, 53 clicks and 504 likes.

It’s important to note that your ad operates separately from your original post. It’s not a boost, it’s a separate ad.

Oddly enough, Instagram didn’t use my full $300. Had I created an ad for the amount of money they actually took, I still received less than half of the estimated exposure noted. The whole point of increasing the budget was to reach more people, which was clearly not achieved.

I gained less than my normal amount of followers and failed to see any sort of increase in activity on my account otherwise.

Now all of this being said, I realize this was a complete experiment. I promoted the post on a Saturday which can be a little spotty in general in terms of engagement, and outside of my personal audience and past clients I know very little about ad creation.


Since I committed to $300, I decided I would run the same promotion with the remaining money on a Tuesday (a day that is generally great for engagement). The results weren’t much better, but they were better.

Second Advertisement Results

I gained 49 new followers, the post received 23,769 impressions, 64 clicks and 756 likes.

My Take Aways

1. Switch back to a personal account. Until Instagram gets specific with businesses about what they need to do to utilize the business account, I have switched back to a personal account. I am willing to invest monthly, but I am not willing to throw money at their app with zero results.

2. Promote posts on strongest days for engagement. If and when that time comes and I choose to invest in ads I will only promote on my strongest days for engagement.

3. Don’t hate the player, hate the game. When you’re working hard at building a business organically it can be incredibly frustrating to see people taking shortcuts, but at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to create profitable businesses. Everyone has their own way of doing things. Stay true to you and your ethics!



  1. Ally
    June 26, 2017 / 11:43 am

    Interesting! Thanks for sharing your experience with this.

    • Hailey
      June 26, 2017 / 4:48 pm

      Absolutely! Thanks so much for reading Ally. 🙂

  2. June 26, 2017 / 11:49 am

    Super interesting! I’ve never had a business account, nor do I have a large following, but I love reading from those that do. I’ve heard so much in the past little bit of people switching back to personal accounts and seeing an increase of engagement. Good luck with it, and thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Hailey
      June 26, 2017 / 4:50 pm

      That’s so exciting to hear! I know very few people who aren’t active on Instagram (my grandparents even have accounts, haha) so we’re all part of the system in one way or another! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment. That’s great motivation about what you’ve heard with the personal switch. We shall see!

    • Hailey
      June 26, 2017 / 4:50 pm

      Absolutely! Thanks so much for reading Caroline!

  3. June 26, 2017 / 3:18 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing. Trying my best to keep optimistic , I was debating about giving advertisement a try, I am still struggling with how to promote myself.

    • Hailey
      June 26, 2017 / 4:51 pm

      Ah, it can be so tough! I totally understand where you’re at. It may do great for you, but that just wasn’t my personal experience! Have you tried partnering with other bloggers for follow fridays’? Those were always super helpful for me!

  4. June 26, 2017 / 8:25 pm

    Funny, I just switched back to personal account before reading this post. Thanks for sharing, it’s enlightening. I’ve been contemplating on putting ads for quite a while now. 🙂

    • Hailey
      June 27, 2017 / 8:09 am

      What funny timing! I’ve heard there can be a little bit of a drop off initially and then things should hopefully (fingers crossed) get better. Best of luck April!

  5. June 27, 2017 / 7:29 am

    This is very interesting, and even more so that you swapped back to a personal account. I’ve stayed at a personal account for now as I struggle enough with engagement and don’t want to yet invest. Thanks for sharing your insight.

    • Hailey
      June 27, 2017 / 8:09 am

      Absolutely! So happy to help. Lets hope the personal accounts get us back on track!

  6. Suzie
    June 27, 2017 / 12:31 pm

    Wow! I had no idea Instagram was so complex. Thanks for the scoop- that was a cool experiment!

    • Hailey
      June 27, 2017 / 6:54 pm

      It’s so complex and weird! Haha. Thanks for reading Suzie 🙂

  7. July 2, 2017 / 7:50 am

    I’ve been seeing a couple of bloggers doing this and I had wondered at the results. I remember doing this once on Facebook and wasn’t that impressed with the results. It seemed my ad was only reaching the people who were following along anyway. As always, thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • Hailey
      July 2, 2017 / 8:41 am

      Absolutely! Thanks for following along Danielle. 🙂

  8. Kristina
    July 12, 2017 / 3:46 pm

    Hailey! I don’t know how I missed this one! I love reading about your experience with Instagram. For Ellie & June, I create ads with Facebook’s back-end Power Editor (it’s far more robust for ad creation than Instagram’s mobile interface). For what it’s worth, here’s a few takeaways that I’ve learned that may be helpful!
    – Spread out your advertising dollars for a longer horizon, especially if you haven’t created a specific audience (based on website traffic to Household for example). The efficacy of the campaign increases after the first few days as the algorithm experiences with hit rates across demographics. If the advertisement didn’t use all of your dollars, that usually means it couldn’t optimize your campaign within the bounds of what it considers normal cost per engagement.
    – Facebook’s ad optimization is far more robust via Ads Manager or Power Editor (access from your Facebook Business Page). You can still constrain the optimization to place advertisements exclusively on Instagram if you’d like, but you can create custom audiences that will far surpass the capabilities of doing it on the mobile app.
    – Facebook keeps this as a dirty secret but Instagram is a platform for “liking” over converting (trafffic, buying, etc.), I won’t completely bore you to death with specifics, but this is something that their ad optimization gravitates to when there are no constraints on ad placements and a broader selection of audience.
    Definitely interesting stuff!! This is the part of Ellie & June that I love the most because it’s very similar to the quantitative work I do to trade equities! All my love to you all, and I can’t wait to see how it all goes! XOXO

    • Hailey
      July 16, 2017 / 3:52 am

      Oh my gosh! You’re incredible girl. Thank you for taking the time to share your insight. Maybe we should move this to email, but all in all you’ve had better success with facebook is what I’m gathering? I guess now that I’m not a business account it doesn’t matter too much for me personally, but I’m such a goober and just love this kind of stuff! Haha.

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