Instagram is one the best networks to run ads on as it has over a billion users, and people spend 53 minutes a day, on average, on the site. 

You can also get very creative with your Instagram ads as you can try an array of ad types such as videos, carousels, images, and stories. 

But to get the best results, simply creating an ad and generating cold traffic won’t do. 

Businesses and media buyers that achieve the highest conversion rates have a secret. This is the warm-up. 

What is the warm-up?

When running an ad, you have two options. One is to serve a brand new audience that has never heard of you and drive cold traffic or to serve people who’ve heard about you and drive warm traffic. 

The benefit of the latter is that the conversion rate is higher. As people who have heard of your brand and trust you will be more likely to buy from you. This is why retargeting ads convert better. 

If you have a list or a website that is getting a lot of traffic organically, you already have a warm audience to promote to. But if you don’t have that audience (or want to scale results), you can nurture them with free content. 

This process is known as warming up. It is also known as the top of the funnel content. If you get this right, the ROI of your advertising will be higher than just running cold ads. 

How to warm up your Instagram audience?

You can use both organic and paid methods to warm up your audiences. I have discussed how to do that below.

Audience research:

One of the keys to warming up your audience is to serve them content they want to see. This is why you should start with the research. Get a good Instagram analytics tool and analyze your account to see which of your past organic posts performed best. You want to see which content got the most likes, comments, and impressions. If you publish video content, you should take views into account too. 

After you research your account, you should research your competitors’ content to see which of their posts drive the highest engagement. 

You should use the data from your account, your competitors’, and your customer persona to create content that will engage users. 

Create native video content:

There are two types of content you can use to warm up the audience. This includes native content such as photos and videos published on Instagram and content that takes people to another website. 

It is best to create more video content, as Instagram allows you to create custom audiences consisting of your video viewers who you can retarget with ads. Here are some top tips for creating and publishing native video content…

Keep them short

You can create Instagram in-feed videos that are up to 60 seconds long. That’s already short. But to get the most interactions, you should keep them shorter as the ideal length is 26 seconds. 

Use thumbnails

Instagram users have the option to turn off autoplay while on data. To get more people to watch your video while on the go, you should add thumbnails as they will see a thumbnail instead of the video playing. 

While designing the thumbnail, keep two things in mind. These are that it should attract attention and get people to press play. If you get these two right, you will drive more views. Most of the time, curiosity generating overlay text will do the job. But you can experiment with adding colors and other overlay elements. 

Optimize for mobile

Most people use Instagram on mobile devices as you can’t do everything on Instagram’s website. Before you publish the video, watch it on your phone and tablet to confirm that it is easy to view. 

Publish at the best time:

Timing is an essential part of Instagram marketing. If you publish when more people are online and want to engage with your post, you will naturally get more views. 

The best time to post on Instagram is 6 AM UTC (1 AM EST), as shown in the above graph. Try to around during this time. 

Accompany with a good caption:

Write a good caption with a call to action and hashtags to ensure your post generates engagement and gives people something to do after watching the video. 

Boost best performing posts:

Use the above techniques and create a lot of videos. Different videos should reach your audience from a different angle. When you find that some of the videos are doing better than the rest, you should boost them to reach more people. 

If the video generates above-average views and other types of engagement organically, others will likely like it too. So, put some money behind it and generate even more views. 

Instagram will reward you with more views for this ad as it won’t take people away from the network.

Run live videos:

Another tactic you can try is live video. You can run it just like a webinar where you share a lot of free useful content. According to Facebook, people spend 3X more time watching a live video. Therefore, this will generate more engagement. 

Run lead generation campaigns:

Along with native content, you should use gated content to get people to sign up for your email list. This is where you create a lead magnet like a white paper or an ebook and place it behind a landing page. 

Then send traffic with Instagram ads to generate leads, nurture them, and promote products. The lead magnet and the early emails form the warm-up part of the campaign. 

You don’t have to always use landing pages for the warm-up. You can also send them to a blog post like Leadpages in the below ad. 

If the post is well optimized with opt-in forms, you will generate leads to nurture. And if they don’t sign up, you can retarget them with another ad that promotes the product or service. 

Another thing you can try is promoting someone else’s content if you don’t want to create a lead magnet or blog post. You can use a tool like Buzzsumo to find popular articles on topics related to your product. Then use a technique called link retargeting. This is where you create a shortened version of the URL and attach your Instagram pixel to it. 

When people click on the URL, the pixel will tag them. Even though they won’t visit your website, you will build an audience to retarget, and the article will warm them up. 

Create a custom audience:

For the warm-up to work, you should create a custom audience to retarget. For the native content, you can create a custom audience consisting of video views for regular and live videos. You can retarget the audience with behavioral ads. For best results, use video ads as they watched a video. They will likely prefer watching another relevant video. 

Also, create a custom audience consisting of your subscribers, as you can retarget them with ads too. Most email service providers these days offer integrations to do this automatically. 


You can get great results by just sending cold traffic with Instagram ads. A lot of people use this technique successfully. But if you want to generate a better ROAS, especially when promoting products that cost more than $100, you need to have a warm-up in place. 

The warm-up will help you stand out from the competition, build a relationship with your audience, and generate more sales immediately and in the long term.