What 2 Instagram Ads Can Teach You About Standing Out on a Date/Profile


My fingers were poised. I was an expert scroller — especially when it came to ads. Like most people, the response was almost automatic (much like how my female friends describe their automatic swipe left responses). But one ad stopped me in my tracks. A topic I had ZERO interest in no less.

Here’s what the 1st sentence of the ad said:

“How much can a beginner public speaker with no experience make?”

To put things in context, I had just purchased two homes, was in the midst of moving, am planning a trip to Burning Man, and am heading up a large project at work. All of these things had been filling up my mind that morning and the last thing I needed was a suggestion of something else I could pursue.

So, why did I stop? Because her ad was a masterclass in human psychology. I only realized this when I saw another ad (we’ll call this person Jack) offering the exact same services. Only this time, I was completely turned off despite now being interested in the topic.

So, what happened? Let’s break down both ads to see what Jacinta’s main strategies were and what Jack did instead. If you would like to know if you are a Jacinta or a Jack on your dates and whether you are engaging with people or turning them off, read on!

Key point #1. The most interesting person to anyone — is themselves

The number one principle in communication is to remember that the most interesting person to someone — is themselves. As caring, loving, and giving as a person is, their own struggles and happiness are still going to occupy more of their minds than the wellbeing of anyone else.

Let’s go back to Jacinta’s ad. Her magic words here were “beginner speaker with no experience.”

Essentially, she trusted that your brain would replace “Beginner with no experience” to “I”. So, she wanted you to read that phrase as, “How much can I make?”

Which is exactly what my brain did. It did not matter that I wasn’t interested in public speaking right now. It only mattered that she had made it feel like something I could do. I have now inserted myself into the subject matter of her ad and because I’m the most interesting person to myself, the ad suddenly got a whole lot more interesting.

Let’s contrast this to Jack’s ad for the exact same services.

Jack’s first 10 seconds were, “I speak in front of audiences of up to 30,000 people and I got paid $20,000 for for my last engagement. As you can see, there was no way my brain was going to be able to insert “I” in there. So, then it just became a story about Jack. And honestly, I’m not that interested in Jack.

How you can apply this in dating

Most people who go on dates prepare extensively on how to talk about themselves. Their mind is occupied with “How do I want to come across?”, “How should I present the fact that I’m unemployed and searching for my purpose?”, or “How do I make myself sound desirable?”

The far more effective and much lower effort strategy would be to craft good questions (like these ones here) that immediately bring the focus onto the other person. Pro tip would be ones that also bring out emotions (e.g. excitement, hope, passion, etc.) For example, instead of asking them what they do, you could ask, “What are you most passionate about?”

In your online profiles, you can convey the same desire to focus on the other person by saying things like, “I would love to cook for you and spoil you” instead of saying, “I need a partner who is giving and kind.”

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Key point #2. People pay more attention to pain than to joy

Psychologists have known for a long time that humans fixate on negative events more than positive events. It is called negativity bias. This bias made sense in the past when we had to stay alert to dangers and where being eaten by a tiger was something that you should pay more attention to than seeing a pretty flower. However, now it seems to have stuck around as a low level anxiety for most of us. A fact that marketers are skilled at preying upon.

Let’s go back to the Jacinta’s Instagram ad.

She had said, “How much can beginner speakers with no experience make?”

With endless news stories about the recession and also my recent obsession with the craziness of the real estate market, she had stuck upon a pain point — money. If people are worried about money in general, they are ten times more worried about money now with rising inflation costs, high interest rates, and low housing affordability. Jacinta was also smart enough to hit a universal pain point. One that most everyone would likely be feeling right now.

Now let’s look at how Jack turned on the emotion in his ads. Jack’s strategy was to try and help you imagine standing in front of a large auditorium of people lapping up your every word while getting paid thousands of dollars. Although there are many people who would enjoy that fantasy, not everyone will. It also lacks urgency. Sure, I may like it, but it doesn’t make me want to engage with it right now.

Jacinta touched on a pain point that I’m likely feeling right now so I felt compelled to engage with her. Jack painted the image of a future fantasy, and in my busy world, I just didn’t have time to think about it right this minute.

How you can apply this to dating

To be clear, I’m not saying that you should intentionally introduce more painful elements rather joyous topics. However, what I am suggesting is for you to take more time to notice if your date seems uncomfortable or seems stressed that day. If someone is feeling any negative emotions in that moment, it will be much more difficult for them to pay attention to anything else.

Giving people the space to express negative emotions and providing them with sympathy is a gamechanger. You are simultaneously unblocking the obstacles in your way while creating intimacy. More importantly, you are compelling them to engage in the present moment. You can start with simple observations like, “Are you cold?” or “You seem a little stressed. Would you like to talk about it?”

In a dating profile, you can address common pain points people experience instead of just highlighting your good qualities. For example, you can say, “Will actually communicate instead of ghosting!”

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Key point #3. People prefer comradery over superiority (We versus I)

Jacinta had a second powerful hook that allowed me to insert myself in the ad as a subject matter again. Here’s what she said:

“I want to tell you something. You already have everything you need to do this.”

Of course, my interest was immediately piqued. I do? I kept listening.

Jacinta continues, “I haven’t won a gold medal in the Olympics or launched a highly successful startup or even had a particularly traumatic experience I overcame. I think of myself a pretty average. But I did re-train myself for free using the power of the internet and had a hilarious journey doing it. You just need to be able to tell your story in the right way. I can help you with that.”

I smiled. Yup, could definitely still see myself in this. No Olympic medals or unicorn startups but I’ve solved some problems and learned some things and definitely had some funny stories. The more I watched, the more I believed that I could do it — which is a pretty impressive contrast from giving zero cares about speaking gigs.

Now, while I got more engaged when Jacinta talked about her services, I pretty much turned off Jack’s ad when he started talking about his value because it was so obnoxious.

Here’s what Jack said, “Here’s what most people are doing wrong. If you’ve maybe thought about public speaking and given out a few free presentations, you probably have no idea how to tell a story that packs a punch.”

In one sentence, he’s almost completely alienated me by saying, “I’ve probably thought about speaking gigs (nope) and I have no idea how to tell a story (I do, in fact).”

You’ll notice that Jacinta’s words are empowering, “You have everything needed to succeed, I’m just here to help you unlock it,” while Jack’s are diminishing, “You have no idea what you’re doing and you need me.” They may both be right, but nobody likes to be talked down to.

How to apply this to dating

A common complaint I hear from my clients is that their dates try to “solve” their problems whenever they open up about what they struggle with. I get it. We think we’re helping. I am very guilty of that myself. A better way to approach this may be to help them see things about themselves that are empowering.

For example, if you are more successful at them at investing, instead of saying, “Here’s what you should do,” you might say something sympathetic and empowering like, “I know exactly how you feel. I made so many mistakes myself! But I think your rationale around investing seems to be very suitable for your lifestyle.”

When in doubt, offer sympathy over solutions unless they explicitly ask you for your opinions. And of course, always refrain from bragging.

In profiles, instead of boasting about how great you are (e.g. I’ve got my life together, If you don’t, please swipe left), highlight that both sides have shared commonalities (e.g. I want to know all your flaws so I won’t feel so bad about mine!).

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I have a coaching client (we’ll call him Max). Max is someone who loves data and detail. He lives in his head and needs precise instructions to execute in order to feel that he can affect real change in his actions. If you are like Max, then here are a few more resources for you:


For everyone else, most of the advice above can be summed up by saying, “Stay curious and focus on the other person instead of yourself.”

Most of all, have some fun! It will change your entire vibe. As Yogi Bhajan (the person who brought Kundalini yoga to the West says,

“If your presence doesn’t work, neither will your word.”

This post was previously published on medium.com.


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