— August 14, 2019
I am not going to lie. Sometimes, I am very jealous of the way people write their Instagram captions. Are there more important things in life? For sure! Still, I would not mind improving my caption game. As Grace Carter, content manager at Boom Essays and Coursework Help, says: “If you think that jaw-dropping photos are the only thing that helps you get social media engagement, you’re wrong. Though often underrated, Instagram captions can be a powerful tool that can make or break your post.” Therefore, I am examining Instagram caption best practices in this blog post. If you are using your Instagram account for business purposes too, you can learn from these experts how you can skyrocket engagement and reach your set goals.
Why do you need effective Instagram captions?
Think about how you act on Instagram yourself. You see a photo, and what do you think? I usually want to know the story behind it, even if it is only a brief description. That way, I know what I am looking at and maybe even the reason why that person or company posted the photo.
Carter fears that some businesses still place more emphasis on Instagram photos, with the caption serving only as an afterthought. However, she even thinks it could make a big difference in increasing engagement, bio visits, or click-throughs. She claims copywriting is an art and that any good Instagram strategy takes the copy written for Instagram captions seriously. After all, good captions are major opportunities to build a strong community, raise brand awareness, engagement, and reach.
Michael Aynsley, manager of Hootsuite’s Inbound Marketing team, adds: “A great Instagram caption will add context, show off your brand’s personality, entertain the audience, and compel people to take action.”
How to write perfect Instagram captions that engage your followers
You have up to 2200 characters to say what you want to say. How can you best go about it? Below are some of the best tips I found in my research.
· A minimum of three drafts
Carter urges you to write at least three drafts of your Instagram caption. She says it will give you a chance to edit, proofread, and compare your drafts side-by-side to see which one has the most impact. I have never done this before, so maybe I should try this practice. She thinks this will work because your first draft will rarely be chosen as the best option. This is precisely the reason why you need to give yourself plenty of time to write several.
Aynsley agrees: “Great writing—whether you’re aiming humor or education—takes multiple drafts and edits. Make sure every word supports the content and message you’re trying to convey. Cut out words that are clearly unnecessary to keep it as concise as possible.” He even suggests having someone else edit your work.
Take your time and know your audience
Carter also urges you to take your time; everything you write needs to provide value to your audience. Aynsley thinks that the better you know your audience, the easier it is to tailor your Instagram marketing strategy to their needs and expectations. He recommends building audience personas.
If you find that you usually need quite some time, you can consider scheduling your posts in advance. This way, you can take as much time as you need to create engaging Instagram captions, Carter explains.
You might wonder about the importance of chronology and timeliness. Lindsay Kolowich, a marketer at Hubspot, claims that it is better to worry about Instagram’s algorithm than chronology. “Our Instagram feeds are ordered to show the moments Instagram thinks we care about the most. The visibility of your posts in your followers’ feeds depends on the number of Likes and comments a post has, your relationship with the user posting, and other factors.” She claims that is why it is vital to take your time constructing a great caption that will encourage engagement.
Write captions in batches
Jillian Warren, a content marketer at Later, thinks it is wise to write your captions in batches: “Instead of jumping from task to task, it’s much more efficient to write your Instagram captions in one solid batch writing session.” It allows you to get in the zone, so carve out some time and dedicate it just to captions.
· Watch your brand voice
Ensure that your writing aligns with your brand. This is not specifically for Instagram; your brand voice should be part of a broader social media marketing strategy. Aynsley thinks it helps to ask yourself: ‘What are the qualities and values I want my brand to embody?’ Warren agrees: “Your Instagram captions should mirror your brand personality, and they should sound and feel like the rest of your marketing channels.”
Also, Instagram users do not expect a formal or serious tone. According to Aynsley, it depends on the industry and audience, but you should strive to keep things light, use humor where appropriate, and show personality. Warren agrees with this and says that a more informal tone in your captions makes your posts more personable, which encourages engagement. Kolowich agrees too: “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 a brand.”
Warren has a handy tip. She recommends reading your captions out loud. If it does not sound like how you naturally speak, you might have to look at the caption again.
· Put the most important information first
You can use 2200 characters, but Carter warns you to include the most critical information at the front of your Instagram caption. The first words your audience sees need to be compelling and relevant. You could try starting your caption with a question, emoji, or an interesting statement.
· Use call-to-actions in your Instagram captions
Whatever you do, add a call-to-action.
· Use emojis
Emojis are a great way to emphasize or illustrate a point without bogging down your Instagram caption with more copy. Arrows work to highlight links and promo codes, for instance.
· Use hashtags
· Ask questions in your Instagram captions
A question in your Instagram question helps your audience to respond to your post. They do not have to come up with a topic themselves; you ask them about a topic, and all they have to do is respond. Aynsley suggests skill-testing questions, open-ended questions, and multiple-choice questions. He also thinks it is an easy way to get tips or recommendations from the audience. Kolowich even says that you might be able to draw on these experiences to shape your Instagram strategy moving forward, or to come up with new content ideas.
· Talk about you (but not too often!)
You do not want to be the person who always talks about oneself. Still, social media is a great way to show the face behind the brand. So, using your Instagram caption to tell your followers something about yourself is a great way to make them feel more connected to you.
Carter offers some example questions you can answer. Why have you started working in this line of work? What gave you the idea for the product or service you are offering? Has something interesting happened in your company recently?
· Mention other users in your Instagram captions
If you mention another user in the caption (only if it makes sense), you might compel that user to comment on your content, Aynsley says, or even share it on one’s Stories. Consequently, some of their followers might engage with your post too.
· Disclose sponsored posts
There are two things you need to consider with sponsored posts. First, you have rules and regulations. As Warren says, when you are being rewarded or paid to promote a business or product, it needs to be correctly disclosed. If you want to disclose sponsored Instagram posts using a general hashtag, the only FTC-compliant ones are #sponsored or #ad, she claims. The second thing is that your followers want authenticity and transparency. They will simply respond better if you are not trying to hide things.
A personal tip for fun Instagram captions: caption this
There are times you truly have a message to share. You might want to share some of your thoughts about your mission or values. You want to announce a new product or update. There is a contest you want people to know about. Sometimes, though, you simply want to share an entertaining image to stay in touch with your followers. That is completely fine.
I have noticed something that works well with this type of images. You ask your followers to caption the image! It does not even have to be a contest; people will respond just because they like doing it. And I read comments I would never think about myself. It does give you a bit of insight into what is on your followers’ mind and how they perceive you. It is a light-hearted, fun way of staying in touch with everybody online that does not require a minimum of three drafts.
Social media translations
This blog post has shown me how I can pay more attention to Instagram captions. I think the scheduling part may work for me partly, but I will continue to do some posts on the go as well. That is part of the excitement when you cover international LGBT+ events. You go on an adventure and online, you bring people on your journey with you. Some Instagram posts will remain unplanned. Other tips are definitely feasible for me.