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Social Media Ninjitsu | Make Instagram Posts That Rock: Appeal To Both (left And Right) Brains
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Make Instagram Posts that Rock: Appeal to both (Left and Right) brains


Think of the elevator pitch. Imagine you’re making a cold sales call. If you can’t explain it in 30 seconds, you probably lost them for sure. With visual images, attention thresholds are even shorter. You have 15 seconds to woo a new viewer to click on and like your Instagram post while it is in their feed. If you can’t get your user to click or touch that image in that short time, you have already lost them. There are plenty of fish in the feed, make sure that it stands out in some way.

Here are a few ways to ensure that they do.

Photography DOs and DON’Ts

DO use:

Naturally lit Photos

– Don’t use flash, pics that use anything other than natural lighting don’t perform as well. Aim for natural lighting. Flash adds an artificial quality that detracts from the quality of the image, and may also lower image resolution due to pixelation. Avoid flash, use natural lighting whenever possible, and if you can’t wait until you have natural lighting available. The wait will be worth it.

Colors with a distinctive hue

– you’re walking in the desert with a red jacket, and the red distinctly stands much the same way a jet black shadow sillouhette of a cactus in the blazing light of day is likely to do. Now compare that to wearing that same blazing red sweater walking down the streets of NYC. Which would you find more interesting? The blazing red sweater on a desert on a sunny day, or the same person lost in a crowd in a large city full of other people wearing colorful outfits?

Photos with a clear line of action

– there is a coherence, a unity to the whole of the image: people are happy, people are sad, people are laughing, or this is funny. Get the idea?

Pictures with a photojournalistic quality

– this is variation of the item described above – a clear line of action. Imagine that you are a photojournalist, and you are writing an article for a specific audience, and you need to pair it with an appropriate image. How would that affect your selection of photos to use?

Use faces for Instagram:

– According to a study conducted by Georgia Institute of Technology, Instagram posts with faces get 38% more Likes than those without them.

DON’T use

Dark photos or photos with flash

– use naturally lit photos instead.

Photos with a lot of collages

– photos that look too busy can be overwhelming to the eye, and tend to perform poorly. Imagine browsing a website with a menu that has 100 menu options, and compare it to one that has 5. Which one would you prefer?

Photos with too much writing

– same as above, too much busy can also apply to writing on the photo. Short and sweet is always best when it comes to words on photos.

Too much variance of color

– And while we’re at it, photos or images with blue hues tend to get the best engagement, and red tends to do poorly. White is always a safe color. Interestingly on Pinterest, the opposite is true: Red does better and blue does poorly.

Too many selfies

– I mentioned earlier about how photos with faces get more likes. At the same time, care should be taken to avoid making your Instagram selfie-heavy, else you run the risk of looking like a vanity profile, devoid of any relevant content outside of your immediate circle of friends or family. Only celebrities or key influencers with high numbers of followers (think Ellen DeGeneres) can get away with it without turning away followers. If that’s not you – at least not yet, use selfies in moderation and only with clear purpose.

Excessive use of filters

– Some of you may disagree with me on this because truth be told there are really good filters on Instagram that can add extra spice to your images. I imagine that there are many cases where they indeed enhance images. I tend to avoid filters completely as a matter of personal preference. As a general rule, any filter will cosmetically alter the image, and this can lower image quality, although it may not. Never assume because you’re using this filter or that filter the image is going to perform better once it’s posted. That may be; DO also consider if it affects the image quality.

I have no doubt there are users of filters that brought out great results. There are as many exceptions to my rule as there are Instagrammers out there, and it is a large universe. As of this year, Instagram has exceeded 500 million regular users. There is no universal best rule for filters. It must be seen case by case.

Here are additional references from noted social media bloggers on the issue of :

Filter or no filter?


Which filters are the best rated? The Most “Liked” Instagram Filters To Get Your Post The Attention It Deserves, According To Science

Huffington Post US: Every Instagram Filter, Definitively Ranked

Huffington Post UK: Best Instagram Filter For Selfies According To Actual Science

Mashable: How to Choose the Best Instagram Filter for Your Photo

Tailwind Blog: How to Get More Instagram Likes – The Dos and Don’ts

Tips for Getting More Instagram Engagement in Likes and Comments

“At the end of the day, Instagram is all about the visuals. The quality of your photos will be the differentiating factor when it comes to gaining Instagram followers, getting them interested in your brand and what it’s about, and showing off the human side of your business. But the hard work doesn’t end once you’ve taken that beautiful photo and edited it to perfection. The caption of your post is where you can give a voice to that visual content.”

~ Lindsay Kolowich | @lkolow

In this let’s think of the whole picture (forgive the pun). It is often said that Instagram differs from some other social media such as Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook, that it’s a much more visual medium. Nowadays people gravitate towards pics and video, that much is true. Image quality matters a great deal on Instagram, even more so than it does on Facebook or Twitter. No matter how great the image, low resolution or excessive pixelation on the image may turn viewers away.

Now with that being said: ask any SEO expert, and they will tell you that great pictures count, and videos are preferred over text. They will also tell you that in the end, what keeps people coming back is great content, and you find it in great copy, or videos, and video and copy on a site or profile that is also regularly updated with fresh content

freshness (updated regularly)


new content.

Although Instagram is a truly “visual” medium, it also allows up to 2200 characters of text. That is a lot, and comparable to Facebook, Tumblr. Enough characters to make a blog. There is a left-brained component, however visual it might get, because your have 20 characters from your caption that people browsing their Instagram feed will see. Hook them with a great image. That’s one way to go. You can also hook them with 20 characters that have their attention riveted. Both together is strongest. All humans are both left-brained and right-brained creatures. We prefer visual, and we also enjoy a good story, and a great, “appetizing” tagline right underneath your image may just do the trick.

One of the social media campaigns I run is towards funding a nonprofit agency providing mental health services to get off the ground. I’ll use some of these examples, mistakes, and good decisions I encountered along the way. There are two important components of every great Instagram post, and that is the picture and the copy in the caption. Master both, and you are way ahead of the curve.

I’ve written more in depth in another article called


Tell a story with your picture or simply use pictures that tell a story.

Try this image below. What do you suppose is going on here? My guess is that it’s a metaphor for letting go of stress, by literally exhaling stressful thoughts and letting it float way like bubbles in the wind. You may come up with something more descriptive. The point is that with minimal words, a story is nonetheless being conveyed.

Or how about this one? A self-contained story on a picture background works too!

Allow them to project themselves into the image

Try this one right below. Now does it make you wanna give someone a “high five” on that? Would it be nice if it were you in the picture?

Equal. And worthy of it all. Words etched across my heart space in sharpie by my dear mother's handwriting. ⠀ Today, I march for you. I march for me. For my mother. My sister. My grandmother + my collective. ⠀ I march for my ancestors before me that speak from my very cells within, and for those that have yet to breathe life into this world + will keep this conversation alive + well when I am gone. ⠀ I march for the Danielle that was raped by 3 different men, alone + scared. ⠀ And for the young Danielle that thought the only way to receive love was through abuse and emotional neglect. ⠀ Today, I march for every person who has ever felt as if they don't belong here. ⠀ Today, I march for every human who has believed they are not worthy of being loved for who they are. ⠀ Today, I march the ability to love. Freely. And often. Because love, is love, is love is love. ⠀ Today, I march for every voice that couldn't find their words or believed that they didn't matter. Because they do. And they always will. ⠀ For her. With her. Because I am her. And so are you. #iamhertribe #womensmarch

A post shared by danielle doby (@iamhertribe) on

Try another one. Would it be nice if you were wearing this outfit (women only – of course LOL 🙂

Were you run into the person wearing this on the street, would you wanna stop to compliment her on the dress?

Get the idea?

Enlist a celebrity when creating picture quotes (when appropriate)

Celebrities grabs eyeballs in many ways that a simple picture quote can’t. Faces draw more viewers than those Instagram posts without one. Familiarity also goes a long way, that is simply human nature. So choose the appropriate celebrity when quoting a message, and the appropriate celebrity will make a huge difference. When referring to appropriate, I’m asking to consider context. How does that particular celebrity, public figure, or simply person at this point in time affect the actual message that is received?.

Recently, we posted the next day this on Instagram, to draw attention to the dangers of stigma  surrounding depression and the importance for encouraging speaking out. 2 years later, people are still shocked how happy a person can be on the outside, while literally “dying” within. 

"You're only given a little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it." ~#RobinWilliams #comedy #inspiration #WednesdayWisdom Even years after his passing, Robin Williams continues to inspire people across the globe, and shows us that in suffering there is redemption, #creativity, #compassion, and a catalyst for change. Painted Brain would like to give a tribute to all the great public figures along with Martin Luther King and Carrie Fisher, who have been champions for greater tolerance, compassion, and open-mindedness in an age that needs it most. #mentalhealth #mentalillness #preventsuicide #depression #bipolardisorder #endthestigma #stigmafree #fightstigma #breakthestigma #eachmindmatters #mentalhealthmatters #mentalhealthawareness

A photo posted by The Painted Brain (@thepaintedbrain) on

This post evoked many emotional responses. It drove the point home. The use of the wrong celebrity can detract or distract attention way from the message you are trying to convey with the quote. The appropriate one can strengthen the message in the quote.

Stand for something or let your image symbolize a stance for a cause or a principle


Spend Time Refining and Perfecting Your Copy

Here’s an excerpt from Hubspot on writing good Instagram copy:

Every social network has a different tone that works best. While serious, jargon-heavy copy may work well on LinkedIn, for example, that same copy won’t work as well on Instagram. The best Instagram posts tend to have a lighthearted, fun tone, showing off the more authentic, human, and personable side of brands.

When in doubt, be punny. Cleverness tends to perform quite well on social media, especially Instagram. People love when brands crack a joke or include a play on words.”

Engage with people who comment on your posts

Meri Geraldine, owner of the Gardens of the Sun Instagram account, lays it out best here:

“The main thing I’ve been seeing is that increased engagement leads to more engagement. Instagram will show your most liked and commented on posts to more of your Instagram followers, and they may even bump you to the explore page of your followers’ friends or of people who follow similar pages to yours. In the end, more engagement will also lead to new followers. You want the engagement in the first hour or so of posting for it to keep boosting.”

Include a call to action: Ask the viewer to do something specific.

It can be in the image, like the one below.

Basically, make a request, ask your viewer to do something. It can also be in the caption. Ideally, a call to action is in both. NAMI does it cleverly here, by making a call to action right in the photograph (check). It also stands for a clear principle (check).  It then tops it off with a caption that is promoting a product at the same time. (check)

  • Ask a question.
  • Pose a question to your community and ask for comments or feedback.
  • Ask them to like your page or share your post.
  • Ask them to tag their friends on your post
  • Urge them to support ____
  • please click to and donate
  • Click to subscribe to a newsletter

Try this one (shown below). What more ingenious a way is there to multiply your followers by asking your followers to evangelize your brand? Tagging is easy on Instagram, especially when you’re tagging your friends on a post that speaks to you.

Here are other examples of sentences you could include in your caption or a comment on any of your Instagram posts:

  • Would you want this to be you? 😍 What an amazing moment! 💗 Double tap if you like this and follow
  • Need more wedding dress inspiration? Tap link in bio! | 📷:
  • This work was contributed by members at our LA-based community center. We also accept contributions by email. Send art, #poetry, or editorial pieces to:
  • Share your pic with #ThePaintedBrain and tag @thepaintedbrain to spread the 💗 💗 💗 💗 💗
  • Download ourFREE e-book on how to use Instagram for marketing now. Tap link in bio! | 📷:

The important thing is:  say something that is meant to move them to some kind of action. Fail to take advantage of this, and you lose a big opportunity in social media to generate actual ROI.

Offer A Contest and Pair it with a call to action

If there was truly a time-tested formula for Instagram wins it is to offer a contest for a prize. Find a prize that might appeal to a lot of people. For example, if you are a retailer offer a discount on a popular item you carry. If you are a magazine publisher, offer to feature user-contributed content by inviting contributions far and wide. If you are a local restaurant, offer discount packages for special menu items or for happy hour.

Just make sure to ask each contestant to follow your profile, like this post, tag or @ mention at least one person, and/or post it with a certain hashtag.

That being said: Do take care to moderate the amount of self-promotion in your posts. Generally keep self-promotional posts 1 of at least 3 or 4 total posts. One school of thought (The Rule of Thirds) says 1 in 3 maximum.

On a final note:

As you test out different types of posts on Instagram, keep track of how different post types work — including your captions. Instagram doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of analytics, so you’ll have to do this manually. Try listing each post on a spreadsheet and keeping track of its URL, the time it was posted, how many Likes and comments it got, and the types of feedback you’re getting from your followers.

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1 Comment

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  1. April 23, 2019, 10:23 pm

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