Why Instagram Advertising Matters to Small Businesses

Instagram co-founder and CEO Kevin Systrom recently described how Instagram will soon offer more advertising options for small businesses. Until recently, only big brands such as Michael Kors and Macy’s (who were already posting valuable content) were allowed to advertise. Interestingly, the ads are meant to get people familiar with the company’s values, as opposed to generate immediate conversions and sales. Instagram’s advertisers seem to bank on the premise that, “if you build relationships (goodwill, brand awareness), the result (conversions and sales) will come.”

A powerful feature of Instagram advertising is that it uses Facebook’s thorough demographic data to create their targeted ads. Facebook lets Instagram use its incredibly detailed user data to target ads, and that is out of respect for the targeted audience. A 55 year old man is not usually interested in the latest video game trend. Thus, video games companies know not to target him. How would they know that (other than his age) if they did not know his interests? Facebook gives the interests of their users to Instagram advertisers.

One strategy for Instagram, and many social networks, except perhaps Facebook, is to make the text that accompanies a post or image short and compelling. Twitter is strict with its 140 character limit, which I think is an excellent challenge for its users. Creativity thrives under constraints, and Twitter rewards those who can engage their followers with a catchy, short post.

Returning to Instagram, when you post your caption with your image, make it short and sweet. SweetGreen, an organic restaurant demonstrated its goodwill by partnering with a non-profit related to their industry, FoodCorps. The partnership helps them promote healthy eating to students. Here is their post:


They used two sentences, with the “+”  symbol to represent the word “and”. As far as post size, it is a good model, especially if you partner with an organization that helps others and is related to your industry. However, if you can make it shorter and just as compelling, do that.