How to Learn From Your Competitors on Instagram - header image

How to Learn From Your Competitors on Instagram

Learning from your competitors’ business practices is not a new idea. Therefore, finding your competitors’ Instagram ads can be a great way to make sure you’re on top of the social media trends in your field, and that you are delivering your message one step ahead of the rest. Because you might share a similar audience to your competitors’ making sure that your content is relevant can be a hassle.

It’s important to understand that there are several things to look for when you are looking for your competitors’ Instagram ads. First, take note of metrics such as the number of followers, and the average number of likes and comments from which you can then calculate the engagement rate of your competitors’ audience.

While these basic metrics are important, and while you should always aim to do better than your competitors, you should also take a more in-depth look at what they’re doing by analyzing their content marketing strategy.

First, you’ll want to look at their posts. Do they use pictures, user-generated content, graphic designs, infographics, videos? What about the copy? Is it long, short, entertaining, educational? Are they using hashtags? How many?

Comparing their content to yours is crucial, to make sure you stand out from the crowd and maintain uniqueness. You can also dig even deeper into the post content analysis and study the tone, the vocabulary they’re using, and if they use questions or not. The possibilities and discoveries are endless!

How to spy on your competitors instagram ads
Next, you’ll want to check out how your competitors’ accounts use stories. Unfortunately, you cannot collect metrics or stats on other Instagram accounts’ stories, so this is just for comparison purposes. Since you don’t know if people are watching or not, or if they react, respond, or engage, just gather ideas and keep in mind that what they’re doing might be successful, or it might not!

Finally, you’ll want to look at their advertising strategy. Did you know there is a way on Instagram to have access to the ads an account is running? There is! Continue reading!

Manually Search for Your Competitors

First things first, you might not want to hit that follow button on your competitors’ Instagram just yet. Not that that’s an actual rule you MUST follow. But, by following them, your competitors might be suggested accounts to follow for your audience and followers. While that suggestion might happen anyway, it is less likely to occur if you’re not following your competitors.

Check-in incognito (Chrome browser – Windows, Linux, or Chrome OS: Press Ctrl + Shift + n. Mac: Press ⌘ + Shift + n) to regularly search for your competitors and simply look at their content. However, make sure that you are not looking at their stories, or else they will know you are looking at their profile. To anonymously find your competitors’ stories, you can use tools such as Insta-Stories or Storiesig.storiesig exmaple - pizzahut


Create an Account and Follow Your Competitors

Another great option is to create a new Instagram account with a generic name and start following all your competitors. This way, you can see all your competitors’ content on your feed, and you can see how your content stacks up.

By following yourself and all your competitors, Instagram might also suggest new accounts to follow. These accounts can help you understand your audience better, or they can show you when a new competitor is emerging your market.

WIX new account and add relevant

The ‘About This Account’ Technique

Aside from posts and stories that are public and easily accessible whether you’re using a separate account or not, you might also be interested to know what ads your competitors are running.

This not-so-known technique will actually show you those ads. To do so, go on the profile of one of your competitors. Click the three dots in the top right corner. Select ‘About This Account’.

wix about this account

Here, you can access information such as the date they created their Instagram account, the country they’re operating their Instagram account from, all the former usernames that they’ve used (this feature can help spot fake accounts), and all their active ads.

wix active ads


On the Active Ads menu, you can see all the current, running ads from your competitors, whether they appear as Instagram posts or Instagram stories.

While you don’t have access to their target audience, you can still see the kind of content that they’re using and captions that they’re writing. This can either help you in terms of inspiration or help you get to know your audience and how they behave.

Examples of Wix Instagram ads

Most likely you have seen brands using the same image (or a very similar image) with a different caption. For example, the following pictures are screenshots from the About This Account menu on Wix. At first glance, the four posts seem to be the same. However, the images and the captions are slightly different. This method is usually referred to as A/B testing.

wix instagram ad version1 wix instagram ad version 3 wix instagram ad version 2

A brand will run similar ads with slight variations in content to see which one performs best. You can also run these tests using the same content but with a different target audience. You can even combine the 2: different content for different audiences. But, sticking to the basics: Wix is testing slight variations in their content to see which post will perform best.

After a few days of running the ads, one post will likely perform far better than the others. This ad will keep running while the other ads will be stopped.

Examples of Starbucks Instagram ads

If you look at the ads run by Starbucks, you probably notice similar things. Some pieces of content are the same, but the caption varies. Or, sometimes, posts are exactly the same which means that the target audience is being tested. On the examples below, you may notice that some posts look similar with similar captions.

These are ads that are run for branding and awareness. That way, people interested in Starbucks would see the same sort of content regularly without getting the exact same ad every time. This helps to reinforce your branding without upsetting your audience and customers.

Starbucks ads versions 3&4 Starbucks ads versions 1&2

Examples of Adidas Instagram ads

Another brand that does extensive A/B testing on its Instagram ads is Adidas. They will try the same ad, one version with a promotional text on it and one version without the promotional text. For example:

Or they will run the same picture with different captions. This way, they’re continually optimizing their ads according to their performance. And apparently, every detail DOES count. 

Adidas instagram ads a b text test

Examples of Dropbox Instagram ads

Dropbox, the file hosting service, promotes its business program by testing two almost identical ads, differing only in their color and a slightly different image (with another text size). The caption on both versions is the same. 

dropbox instagram video ads A/B testing

Examples of Nike Instagram ads

Nike’s approach to A/B testing is comparing the performance of the same ad, once with a showcase of the shoe in different colors, and once with just the picture and Nike’s logo. The size of the ad differs accordingly. 

Nike instagram ads ver 1&2

Examples of Tiffany & Co Instagram ads

The American luxury jewelry company, Tiffany & Co, promoted the same Instagram gallery, one version with four pictures and the second version with five pictures. As you can see below, both captions include the brand’s hashtag, but the captions are slightly different.

Tiffany Instagram ads A/B testing example

Examples of Magisto Instagram ads

Here, at Magisto, our marketing team lives, eats, and breaths for A/B testing. The ads usually consist of one of the two:

Same thumbnail, different video:

Magisto Instagram ads A/B testing - Same thumbnail different video

Or vice versa – same video, different thumbnail:

Magisto Instagram ads A/B testing - Same video different thumbnail

We try to change only one variant at a time, to keep our results clear and straightforward. 

Looking at an account while being aware of techniques, such as A/B testing, makes a difference and gives you solid data that can help you run better ads. You can monitor your competitors by paying attention to their similar content. If you come back a few days later and there is only one post left, it could mean that that post is performing best and there is no need for testing anymore.

Checking in on your competitors is an excellent way to start and understand your field, but it’s only the first step. You should always aim to understand your audience and their needs on your own, through thorough research and testing. Getting inspired by other ads is a part of the job, but if you won’t find your unique angle on things you’ll be just another face in the crowd of advertisers – and that’s the last thing you want.