7 Tips for Writing Good Instagram Captions in !
Updated: Nov 9, 2019
Writing and Instagram aren’t exactly synonymous. After all, Instagram is all about images, isn’t it? Well, no.
Your photos will grab your followers’ attention and may even snag you new Instagram followers. And a polished profile and catchy bio can make them want to hang out on your feed for a while. But it’s your captions that speak to your followers, helping to increase engagement and build relationships.
Which is why writing good Instagram captions can be difficult.
As these words have such an impact, it’s important to make them count. But what do you want your captions to say? And what about the tone – should your Instagram captions be inspirational? Or do your followers look to you for funny, lighthearted captions? And what about the length?
The Importance of a Good Instagram Caption
The visual side of your Instagram profile is the most important factor. And it’s true that great photography can help you maintain your followers and even attract new ones. But building engagement beyond Instagram likes and the occasional ‘nice picture’ comment is another matter altogether.
It’s the words you use and the reaction they provoke that will help build an engaged community on Instagram. And this community will then help you build brand awareness, promote your products, expand your reach, and help you sell more.
And a great caption can start all that, by encouraging comments, discussions, and more.
But what makes an Instagram caption great?
There are no hard and fast rules on how to caption a photo on Instagram. The success of a caption depends a lot on the photo it’s referring to, as well as the brand, their specific voice, and their audience.
That said, there are several main aims of any Instagram caption. These are to add context to the photo, entertain the audience, show off the brand’s personality, and ideally to compel people to take action beyond a simple ‘like’.
Your Guide to Writing Good Instagram Captions
Before we get on to making captions work for you, it’s important to know the rules Instagram imposes for captions. Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long, they can include as many emojis as you like, and up to 30 hashtags.
But that doesn’t mean your captions should be long and rambling paragraphs stuffed full of hashtags and emojis. As with any good writing, Instagram captions should be easy to read and understand. They also need to be relevant to the content of the photo and speak to the audience.
Here are our top tips on writing great Instagram captions:
1. Know Your Audience
The first step to building an Instagram strategy is knowing who will see your photos and read your captions. That means finding out who, of Instagram’s one billion monthly users, fits your target customer profile.
Knowing your audience makes it easier to tailor your Instagram strategy to their expectations. And the best way to understand your audience’s expectations is to build audience personas. These are basic outlines of your target customs and what they want from social media, and from you.
Creating audience personas means asking yourself questions to determine who your customers are. Where do they live? How old are they? What is their income bracket? What kinds of jobs do they have? What do they do in their free time?
Once you know this information, you’ll be able to decide on what to include in your captions. For example, whether they will understand certain local references or whether emojis are appropriate.
2. Identify Your Brand Voice
Once you know your audience, it becomes a lot easier to find your voice and carve out your own corner of the internet. There, the people you aim to appeal to will find it easier to locate you and resonate with your message.
In broad terms, your brand voice includes the qualities and values you want your brand to embody, as well as adjectives you’d use to describe your brand.
For example, a skincare brand might focus on promoting body positively, feminism, and freedom. And their strategy may use words such as ‘honest’, ‘raw’, and ‘confident’ to embody their brand voice. From there, they can then work these concepts into their Instagram captions and photos while promoting their products.
3. Show Personality
As part of finding your brand voice, it’s important to show personality when making captions on Instagram.
As a rule, Instagram users look to the platform for light and informal content. Whether that’s updates on their favorite celebrities and influencers or cute photos of cats, they don’t often expect serious captions or a formal tone.
Of course, your tone can depend on your industry and audience. But for most brands, it’s best to keep things light and use humor where appropriate.
If it’s appropriate for your brand, using emojis, abbreviations and acronyms, and funny hashtags in your captions can help add humor and bring personality to your posts. Emojis can also help capture the context of the photo in a more concise way or add interest to longer captions. Remember not to overuse emojis though as this can come across as lazy or give the impression that your brand isn’t serious.
4. Tell a (Short) Story
Once upon a time…Stop! Instagram captions might allow you to include up to 2,200 characters but this is no place to write your life story.
That said, overused one-word captions such as ‘vibes’ or ‘mood’ aren’t the way to go either. You want to get the balance right between using your captions to tell the story behind the photo and keeping it brief enough to maintain your followers’ interest.
If there’s an interesting story behind the photo, don’t be afraid to write a longer caption to tell it. The Instagram accounts Humans of New York, History Cool Kids, and National Geographic do just that with great success. While these brands have good visuals too, it’s the caption that brings their photos to life.
But, in most cases, a line or two for each caption will be sufficient. This way, you’ll have more scope to show off your brand’s voice and personality. And you’re much more likely to inspire your followers to engage with your profile and brand as a result.
Direct yet informal captions are always the best. But that doesn’t mean you can forget worrying about spelling and grammar. You aim is for all of your followers to read the caption and for it to attract new followers too. The last thing you want is for all of these people to see your brand as unprofessional, which is what errors in your captions will suggest.
5. Make the First Words of Your Caption Count
Most people scroll through their Instagram news feeds at a fast pace. If they follow many accounts they may not always see your photos, let alone have time to read your comments.
It’s also worth remembering that captions are cut off in users’ feeds after a few words. With this in mind, it’s vital to make the first words of your captions count.
Leading your caption with the most important words will hook the reader in and inspire them to click ‘more’. For example, this could be the theme of your caption, such as ‘exciting news’ or ‘important question’ before you go into details.
If you have a call to action (CTA), you need to say that first. For example, if you’re launching a new product, write something like ‘NEW’ or ‘NEW PRODUCT ALERT’ first. Or, if you want your followers to respond to your post in a specific way, you might write that first to grab their attention.
Instagram also allows users to hold giveaways and contests on the platform. If you post a photo to highlight a giveaway or contest, write ‘CONTEST’ or ‘WIN’ first and you’re sure to attract your followers’ attention with this CTA.
And while you may want to reference or thank other accounts in your caption, don’t write these at the start. Instead, you should always save @mentions and hashtags for the end. You don’t want to direct followers to other profiles before they have the chance to read your caption. And you definitely don’t want to bombard them with hashtags and hide your well-written words.
6. Keep Your Captions Relevant and Respectful
If there’s one thing that Instagram users aren’t afraid to call others out on, it’s writing captions that have nothing to do with the photo.
Influencers and minor celebrities are often guilty of this. They will post #ad photos to fulfill their brand obligations but use the caption to proclaim their concern for the environment as a way to take advantage of popular trends.
Or, even worse, they will include a caption that is then inappropriate and disrespectful in the context of the photo.
One case in point is the recent backlash that Swedish model and influencer Natalie Schlater received. The photo, of a bikini-clad Natalie in a rice field in Canggu, Indonesia, was no different to many of Natalie’s other posts.
But the caption in relation to the photo angered her followers, and with good reason. With her back – and butt – to the camera, and a man picking rice in the distance, Natalie captioned the photo with, “Thinking about how different my life is from the man picking in the rice field every morning.”
Many criticized Natalie for her insensitivity, describing her caption as a ‘humble brag’ and branding her ‘narcissistic’. And, while the photo got a lot more engagement than many of her other posts, it was for all the wrong reasons.
This shows the importance of writing a caption that fits the context of the photo and uses your brand voice to inspire positive comments and engagement. Depending on the context of your brand’s photos as well as the products you sell, sensitivity and respect are key when choosing the right words for your captions.
7. Encourage Comments and Interaction
One of the best ways to encourage your followers to interact with your posts is to ask something from them.
This can mean asking an open question as a way to get to know them, or encouraging them to comment with their opinion or feedback.
For example, you could post several outfit options and ask them which they prefer. Or, you could ask your followers a simple question, such as their favorite food or song. If you’re headed somewhere new, ask your followers for recommendations. Or, you can arouse their curiosity and test their knowledge by asking them if they know the location of the photo.
Another way to increase engagement on your Instagram profile is by asking your followers to tag someone in the comments section.
For example, you could caption a photo of a cat and a dog together with ‘best friends’ and then ask your followers to tag their best friend in the comments. As well as increasing engagement, this also brings new people to your profile.
How to Write Good Instagram Captions
As this guide shows, while good Instagram captions must fulfill certain criteria, their success often depends on the brand.
Some brands offer inspirational captions alongside touching photos. And others use humor and emojis in their captions to match the whimsy and fun of their images.
But, by finding the right brand voice for your captions, you’re sure to attract the attention of your followers and encourage engagement.
Myfollowershop Blog - 2019