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How to Create a Successful Instagram Video Ad for Your Organization

How to create a successful Instagram video ad for your organization

Here on the Libris blog, we are always sharing stats about visual communication, tips for organizations using photos and videos to tell their stories, and great examples of organizations that are doing it right.

Now, we are taking you behind-the-scenes of our own visual content production!

79% of marketers say the importance of video will increase in the future, and PhotoShelter’s Director of Marketing, Amy Fitzgibbons, is no exception.

“Video gives us an opportunity to tell a larger story about what we can offer to potential customers, and it lets us showcase our value prop and overall brand in a more in-depth way as well,” said Amy. “Both are important as part of our holistic marketing strategy as more competitors enter the marketplace, and we need to find new ways to grab the attention of our audience. Also, because PhotoShelter offers a whole suite of features (over 100!), video lets us dive into aspects of our product that aren’t necessarily communicated well with words or still images. Posting them across social media means that they are more likely to be seen and shared — and, because video is something other companies in our industry have yet to really leverage with regularity, our videos stand out amongst the other advertising out there.”

For any organization, expressing your brand’s story visually is challenging, but increasingly vital. Your fans are demanding more and more visual content, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the process.

That’s why we’re lifting the curtain on our own experience and sharing it with you, step by step. As you read about our brainstorm, production, and delivery process, we hope you’ll get ideas for your own video content.

First, I’ll show you the finished product: a video ad about an easier photographer workflow produced for social media. Then, we’ll go into the details of how this :30 second spot came together.

Now, let’s go behind-the-scenes!

The Idea

It all started when Joy, PhotoShelter’s Senior Marketing Manager responsible for acquisition marketing, decided it was time to add video to PhotoShelter’s social media strategy.

“We are always looking for new ways to reach and engage with our target market of photographers,” said Joy. “For photographers, marketing themselves is critical to growing their business and we know that social media is a critical channel to drive promotion. With many photographers regularly using social media to both interact with their clients and get inspiration from each other, we knew it was a great place for us to reach them and drive awareness of the PhotoShelter brand. Within these channels, we wanted to leverage video to bring the PhotoShelter platform and tools to life.”

Let’s break down the reasons why adding video to our social media strategy was a fit for the PhotoShelter brand:

  1. Visual content is key (especially for a brand that serves people communicating visually!).
  2. Video’s importance is on the rise.
  3. Great brand videos have unmatched potential to capture your audience’s attention.
  4. Video is shareable. 92% of people who watch videos on mobile devices share them with others.
  5. PhotoShelter’s core audience is using social media for communication and inspiration.

The Takeaway: Video offers organizations a huge return on investment. Organizations that leverage the power of video on social media have the potential to build brand loyalty and reach a new audience.

The Brainstorm

Once Joy had decided to create a video for social media, she assembled a team of people from the office (the faces behind our marketing, design and content) for a brainstorming meeting.

Joy brainstorming for our video social media ad.

Joy brainstorming for our video social media ad. Photo by Todd Owyoung.

The goal was to show how PhotoShelter gives photographers an easier workflow from upload to sales. But how do you communicate that visually? And in 30 seconds, no less?

Here are some questions we asked ourselves during the brainstorm:

  1. What are the key points we have to hit in these 30 seconds?
  2. What is a relatable, compelling story we could use to demonstrate those points?
  3. What are the visuals? What do we want the audience to see, and what will be eye-catching as they scroll through their social media feeds?
  4. What should the feel of the video be, and how do we keep our visuals and storyline consistent with the overall vibe?
  5. How should we use audio – should we use dialogue or just music?

We were inspired by a story Joy shared about a photographer she interviewed who keeps his photos on dozens of hard drives in his closet, along with all of his other clutter. This story resonates with a lot of photographers (and anyone who’s ever had a mess they didn’t want to deal with). Photographers are busy, and many of them don’t have an efficient workflow after a shoot is over. They save their photos to hard drives, and then over time, they end up with dozens of hard drives that aren’t organized either.

The problem here isn’t just the mess – if a client calls you to get images from a shoot you did a few years ago, you have to dig through your hard drives to find the shot, which can take hours. Plus, what if you’re on the road and not close to your hard drives?

This story helped us hone in on the main point of our video: PhotoShelter makes client delivery easy and stress-free.

We brainstormed a number of ideas until we landed on our final concept: two photographers, one with a mountain of hard drives and the other with PhotoShelter, both get an image request from a client and have to send the photo as fast as possible. To save time, and to highlight the contrast between the two workflows, we decided to use a split screen and show both stories at once. Then, to go with the overall theme of an easy workflow, we decided we wanted the visuals to be bright and airy, and the music to be upbeat and easy-breezy (we decided not to use dialogue, because video ads on social media autoplay without sound).

The Takeaway: At the beginning of your brainstorm, throw out every idea you might have and keep a list (you never know when those scrapped ideas might come in handy). By the end of the meeting, make sure you’ve narrowed your focus to a compelling story. And, make sure everyone walks away from the meeting knowing the role they will play in the production process.

Now, to the drawing board!

The Storyboard & Shot List

Next, Deborah, who manages content for the PhotoShelter platform, put together a storyboard for the video. This document became our compass for the rest of the project. It gave us direction for the action and informed our production needs, from setting to props. Plus, it helped us define exactly how we would demonstrate our big idea.

“It was important that we highlighted how easy it is to search your PhotoShelter archive, locate an image, and deliver it using a feature like Quick Send,” said Deborah. “The comparison between a photographer who uses PhotoShelter and one who doesn’t was also a crucial part of the story. It helped drive home the point that having an efficient business workflow not only saves a photographer time (and stress!), but can also leave a great impression with clients.”

Take a look at this snippet from the storyboard:

A look at the storyboard for our video social media ad.

A look at the storyboard for our video social media ad.

Then, it was my turn to create a detailed shot list based on our overall vision (I produce content for Libris, and worked on this project with the PhotoShelter team because of my background in video production). A shot list helps you make sure that when the time comes to shoot your project, you are moving along efficiently and you capture everything you need.

For this project, we had a limited window of time before the light changed and the rest of our team started coming into the office. The shot list was key to making sure we got everything we needed.

The shot list included everything from a wide shot of our hard drive photographer unloading her hard drives…

Caitlyn sifts through hard drives and CDs.

Caitlyn sifts through hard drives and CDs.

… to a tight shot of our PhotoShelter photographer’s confirmation that his photo was sent to the client.

Jon gets a confirmation that his photo has been sent to a client.

Jon gets a confirmation that his photo has been sent to a client.

The Takeaway: Have a clear vision of your final product before you start shooting. Not only does this keep your whole team on the same page, but it also ensures your final edit will be consistent with your original goals for the project.

Once we had our vision laid out on paper, it was time to bring it to life.

The Shoot

By the time we gathered for the shoot bright and early on a Friday morning, everyone knew their roles – including our two “actors,” Jon and Caitlyn, who are both customer service representatives here at PhotoShelter.

Behind the scenes of our PhotoShelter social media video shoot.

Behind the scenes of our PhotoShelter social media video shoot. Photo by Ciera Battleson.

Our biggest hurdle during the shoot was capturing Caitlyn’s wide shots. As our hard drive photographer, her challenge was to react to the client request, pick up her bin of hard drives, sort through them (while making hilarious facial expressions), and eventually look up at Jon in confusion, as if she was thinking, “how did you do that?” The timing had to be just right – her one long shot had to match up with Jon’s sequence of many tighter shots, showing how he could use PhotoShelter’s Quicksend feature to send the photo in seconds.

To make the timing work, we had our designer Erin set a timer for 16 seconds, give Caitlyn a signal to look over at Jon. This is what it really looked like when Caitlyn watched Jon send off his photo and walk away:

Behind-the-scenes with PhotoShelters social media ad

Since we shot each person’s scenes separately, we weren’t sure if the joke at the end would work. Just in case, we shot an alternative ending where Caitlyn dropped her head in disappointment. Check it out:


We also shot a nighttime sequence, where poor Caitlyn finally sends off her photo to the client after a long day of searching through her hard drives. We ran out of time for that bit, and it made the spot feel a little less cohesive.

Poor Caitlyn.

Poor Caitlyn.

The Takeaway: Shoot with your edit in mind. Don’t shoot so much b-roll that you’re inefficient, but make sure to get enough cutaways and enough alternate shots to ensure you’ll have everything you need when you’re editing.

The Edit

My first step during the edit was to review all the clips and log each of them. This helps me rank my favorite shots, take note of anything unusable (and the bloopers!), and find everything easily during the editing process.

Editing the PhotoShelter social media video.

Editing the PhotoShelter social media video.

Next, I edited a first draft in Adobe Premiere Pro, exported it, and uploaded it to Libris. I granted everyone on our team permission to view the video, so they could review and weigh in with their thoughts. Remember, at this stage of the process it’s important to have those permissions settings so your video doesn’t get out before it’s ready. Plus, it’s helpful to have a cloud-based platform to share your content with your team (one of our team members was working from home, and was still able to review the draft without slowing down our progress).

During the editing process, we constantly asked ourselves if the story was clear and easy to understand, and if it would make our audience slow their scroll on social media.

“We know how hard it is to grab someone’s attention online, so we needed to make sure that although there were two scenes happening simultaneously, we could still draw the viewer in to major parts of the narrative – especially on the PhotoShelter side,” said Deborah.

The editing process is also where we finessed the details – we changed the opening shot, the text of the image request, and made the decision to freeze the frame when Jon and Caitlyn opened their emails. Each of these details helped us simplify the story and highlight the most important points.

Check out our original email shot…

Our original image request.

Our original image request.

… compared to our final choice:

Our image request in the final edit.

Our image request in the final edit.

Our final choice (created by our graphic designer, Todd) is easier to read, and it fits with our bright and upbeat visual theme.

The Takeaway: During your editing process, measure everything against your original vision and your goals for the project. Make sure each shot conveys the right message. When you only have :30 seconds to tell your story, every detail counts.

The Delivery

I uploaded the final edit to my Libris account for one last round of review. Once everyone on the team had given the go-ahead, Joy downloaded the high resolution version of the video. Then, she uploaded it to Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and set up a campaign targeting our audience of photographers in each channel.

Delivering the final product.

Delivering the final product.

The Takeaway: The transfer of high resolution visual assets is a pain point for many organizations. It’s important to use a system that makes delivering your videos easy and fast, so you can share your content as soon as it’s ready.

The Rollout

Now, our video ad is live on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Check them out:

From upload to sales, we power your photography workflow online. Click for a free trial!

A video posted by PhotoShelter (@photoshelter) on

From upload to sales, we power your photography workflow online. Click for a free trial!

Posted by PhotoShelter on Thursday, February 4, 2016

Over time, Joy will measure the video’s impact on our target audience. Are they engaging with the video and sharing it with their friends? Is the video helping PhotoShelter reach a new audience? Is adding video to our Instagram, Facebook and Twitter strategies driving new business? Time and testing will tell!

The Takeaway: After you spend valuable time and resources producing video content, make sure to measure its impact.

The Archive

Now that the project is finished, my footage is backed up on a hard drive, tagged with metadata and uploaded to my cloud-based Libris library. If I ever need to repurpose this footage in the future, I’ll be able to search for it quickly and easily.

This will also be useful if I ever decide to make a blooper reel…

Behind-the-scenes of PhotoShelters social media ad

Cover photo by Jon Gorman.

White Paper: From Creativity to Content via the Libris blog

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  • Reply
    Chris Rakoczy
    February 12, 2016 at 12:12 pm

    The chosen ending is much more effective. It’s always fun to break the line between worlds in a video, sort of like breaking the “fourth wall” in film or theater.

    I’m curious, since you didn’t use nat sound, if you ensured the correct timing with Caitlyn by simply starting recording and having someone counting down the seconds, since you knew her one shot had to fit 30 seconds exactly and that you could simply fine tune the edit on Jon’s side to match up in post.

    • Reply
      Kristin Twiford
      February 12, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      Thanks, Chris! Glad you liked the joke at the end, and that’s exactly what we were going for!

      And great question. We had our designer Erin set a timer for 16 seconds, and at 16 Caitlyn would look over at Jon, who was actually sitting behind the table in real life. That’s why her eyes are realistic as she watches him go – they really were following him!

    • Reply
      Kristin Twiford
      February 12, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Chris, just updated the post with a look at how that scene played out when we were shooting! Enjoy!

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  • Reply
    Tzvi Harel
    July 27, 2016 at 9:24 am

    Nice blog post Kristin!

    You said it yourself, “The importance of video will increase in the future” but unfortunately, the vast majority of businesses out there, fear the hassle and time commitment involved with creating video ads. Not only for Instagram but for other platforms as well.

    Luckily today, there are many video ad creation tools which are lightning-fast, simple-to-use and are also at affordable prices. Tools like Animoto, Shakr and others were created exactly for that. I suggest to check them out as not all businesses are created equal. Especially when your budget is limited and you’re low on resources, it is a perfect fit.

    Finally, although I’m biased as I work here, I do invite you to check Promo ( — Where businesses can create marketing videos for any platform, including Instagram. It is an alternative way to create videos like the big brands do.

    • Reply
      Kristin Twiford
      July 27, 2016 at 10:37 am

      Thanks, Tzvi! Great point, there are lots of great services out there to help brands create video content.

      For this project, creating a video in-house was the right fit, but every team has to decide what works best for each project. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    August 10, 2016 at 4:50 pm

    What’s great yet somewhat limiting about social media videos is that they are short and to the point. This can be a bit of a challenge to companies because you have to make sure to get your point across in such a short amount of time. But making simple, bold statements can really help your ads stand out. Thanks for sharing the tips!

    • Reply
      Kristin Twiford
      August 10, 2016 at 5:42 pm

      Great point, Rachel! It’s important to keep it simple!

  • Reply
    September 24, 2016 at 5:43 pm

    This design is spectacular! You definitely know how to
    keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos,
    I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Wonderful job.
    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you
    presented it. Too cool!

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