Instagram Advertising Basics: Get Started in B, A, and C

The BACs of Instagram Advertising

Advertising in Instagram can be tough, especially when competing with regular Instagram posts and the so-called marketing noise. Make your posts stand out through three basic points: let your company’s identity shine on your Instagram profile, create visually appealing content, and focus on the image or video while keeping a short yet interesting caption. Learn how to do these here.

Not long after camera phones were introduced, image-sharing sites, such as Flicker and Photobucket, came into the picture. (Heh.) Social media sites started to become popular in the following years, so the merging of the two was unavoidable. In 2010, founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger launched Instagram, and after almost six years, the site has grown into a community of more than half a billion “Instagrammers” with more than 300 million active daily users.

For any company, reaching out to millions of users every day is a potential gold mine. Advertising on Instagram is old news, but marketing noise has been around for a long time, too. The task is to make sure that an ad won’t be annoying for an Instagrammer. Otherwise, it’ll just be scrolled past.

Here are three basic things to make an ad clever, interesting, and, most importantly, effective.

The ABC of Instagram Advertising


What a company posts creates an impression of what its nature is. A food giant will post more of the edible stuff, while a clothing line will want to showcase their garments more than any burger or steak. Post appropriate pictures that can and will be associated with your company, be it a brand or a service — or even the occasional “sneak peek” of a workforce.

Express through posts. Show the bigger picture: What is your company? What direction should it take? What’s in it for them? Creating an identity makes it easy for Instagrammers to remember you first and your competitors last.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to mix things up. Interaction contributes to how Instagrammers remember a company. Giving rewards or holding contests may put your organization on top in terms of socializing with consumers. Keeping yourself relevant is always an objective; how you do so will be just as memorable.


Who would have thought that “Audience” isn’t the A part of this post?

“Appeal” is an umbrella term, which is why many things pop in mind when it comes to how appealing an image is: color, background, main object, etc.

First, decide on what kind of ad it will be: a standard image, a sixty-second video, or a carousel ad.

For the first, colors play an important part in catching the attention. Use bold and vivid colors. Red, blue, and pink work for most marketing ventures. With the background done, work on the foreground next. Should the image be upfront on the advertisement? That runs the risk of being noise. Is a subliminal message better? The target may miss it entirely. Strike the balance between telling a message outright and making a target customer think about what that message is.

It gets trickier for videos. The task for sixty seconds is to make sure an Instagrammer watches the whole thing. Lighting is an important mood-setter. Lively, light-hearted videos use bright lighting compared to heavy and dark videos with little light and little to see. Camera angles influence a viewer’s point of view, and the same psychological effects happen. A low angle places the viewer in a low position, influencing the need to look upwards. This tends to make a viewer feel intimidated, so shoot from a high position. Lastly, properly pace the story the video wants to convey.

Carousel ads work differently. Remember the adage, “A picture paints a thousand words?” How about a series of pictures telling a whole story? Instead of just one, carousel ads include a series of pictures or videos about a certain campaign or message. A popular form of this is a scrolling marquee, where one post is just a part of a bigger picture, with the next ones showing more of the whole. Think different parts of a jigsaw puzzle, assembled and waiting to be put in their places, resulting to show a full picture. From the pointers above, make the first picture or video attention-grabbing so that an Instagrammer can’t help but swipe to the next visual in the series.

Lastly, for the three types, it is best not to make it look like an advertisement. Make it more “natural.” The more it looks like a normal post, the less chances of it being ignored.

Conciseness of Caption

Instagram is about sharing pictures. Whatever caption that comes after the image is secondary. A short caption with a call to action is enough. Pair it with a good photo and a great combination is born.

Keeping captions short means there’s no wall of text to read, which make Instagrammers look at the visual longer. Put your whole message into the image or video, but make sure not to oversaturate the thing. Too much information will only turn off a potential customer. In the same way, a very long caption that doesn’t say much may not even be read—worse, it can make an Instagrammer skip the entire post.

Another important point to emphasize is the number of hashtags a post can have. A normal post can accommodate a maximum of thirty hashtags, but really, who needs that many? A good post only needs four to five. However, some websites and social media savvy people say that more than five but less than ten is still acceptable. Other than choosing the relevant ones, make hashtags work by keeping to the point. No one wants a random hashtag created out of a whim. In this case, quality will always beat quantity.

Above are the ABCs of Instagram advertising in BAC. Make your posts reflect the identity of your brand. Use the basics of art and color psychology to grab people’s attention. And lastly, focus on the visual and pair it with a short yet interesting caption. Like many professionals, master the basics. Sway the audience and make them remember you.
 Rick Enrico is the CEO and Founder of SlideGenius, Inc. He regularly publishes expert presentation tips on the SlideGenius blog. You can connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.
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