Writing a decent Instagram caption can be a challenge. While Instagram is predominantly a visual social platform, the power that the caption has is pretty phenomenal and should not be dismissed.
Nailing the caption is an extremely valuable part of the post creation process that can be imperative in driving forward your strategy while allowing brands to tell their story, connecting with their audience in an authentic and informative way.
So how does one (with non-celebrity status) write an engaging IG caption?
What’s so great about captions?
Instagram’s algorithms are based on engagement – the more that users engage with the post, the more likely for similar posts to make their way the top of your feed.
A great caption will have users stopping in their tracks to focus on your message, which when crafted with the end reader in mind will drive measurable engagement in the form of likes, comments or shares, signalling to the algorithm that this is a post that deserves to be shared with a wider audience.
Why do captions matter?
According to research, more than 50% of Instagram users follow at least 1 business, with a further 80% claiming that Instagram helps them to make decisions on buying/using a product or service.
If your caption doesn’t grab your audience’s attention and tell a story around your content that inspires, drives engagement or results in engagement with your call to action, then it is a missed opportunity for brands. A cool picture is great but what’s the story. Ask yourself, “what do I as a user get out of this?” and cater to it.
Here’s our top tips on how to write an engaging Instagram caption:
Grab Their Attention
A killer opener will clinch the deal. Think of it like an email subject line; you need something that will immediately hook your audience and encourage them to pause and click ‘read more’.
Think carefully about your opening line – it needs to summarise and entice. If you reach the peak of visible characters in your caption, when posted, the text will get the three dots of doom, asking your audience to press to read on which in today’s attention economy, is quite an ask!
Now, I’m not saying don’t write a lengthy caption (we’ll come onto that shortly) but let this be a reminder that your opening line is the first – and potentially only – part of your caption your audience will see to determine whether they want to read more.
Make it intriguing yet to the point. Use it as a persuasive tool. Be controversial, ask a question, or blow the audiences mind with some hard-hitting stats. You could even stand out with careful use of emojis here too.
Think about the visuals
So you’ve got a killer opening line, and a value-packed caption that follows, but have you thought about the way your caption actually looks?
Forget about the content, just for a moment.
Grab you phone and open Instagram. Take a scroll through your feed and notice the longer captions. Don’t necessarily read it, just look at it.
Does it look good? Is it digestible? Or does it come across as more like word vomit on the screen?
If you’re choosing to go for a lengthier caption, consider spacing the information out, giving the readers bite-sized chunks that are easy to read.
If more detail is required, use the caption as an opportunity to signpost users to your website via the link in bio.
Micro-blog your way to success
Longer captions are sometimes referred to as a new trend called ‘Micro-Blogging’, which pretty much does what it says on the tin.
This trend is not exclusive to Instagram either; people have been for ages on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn too.
It is common to see influencers using the caption as a micro-blog to help create a sense of authenticity. This might be something worth considering to give your audience a better idea of your brand personality.
Speak your audiences language
Emojis are the new social language. If you’re not using them, or using them well, then you’re missing opportunities to speak to your audience in their own language.
Try replacing traditional bullet points for an emoji related to your point.
Using emojis in your caption is the perfect opportunity to show your personality and remind the audience that behind the screen is a human being writing these posts.
Which brings me nicely to the point…
Authenticity is a key marketing trend for 2023; showing that behind the brand, there are real people, talking to other real people about real things through the medium of social media. This is certainly important for brands trying to make their mark on their social media platforms.
You only have to look at the likes of Lizzo, Amy Schumer, or Chrissy Tegan to understand what it means to be ‘real’ on social media. Of course, these celebrities are largely proving their authenticity through the actual content rather than the captions – they already have their celebrity status and therefore rarely have to comment or justify anything in the captions. But the average Joe’s like you and me might have to work a bit harder to prove our authenticity, and captioning your images with a sprinkling of reality is the best way to do this.
Not to mention if you just show that you’re carefree, not afraid to push boundaries, and just like to have a little bit of fun on social media, you’ve instantly gained traction from a whole new audience.
Practice makes perfect
Writer’s block is real. We’ve all been there. It’s pretty brutal when you get stuck in a rut and just can’t think of what to say next.
This is where practicing comes in handy.
The more you practice writing captions for your social media posts, the more it will come naturally.
If it feels too forced to sit down and practice writing captions, wait until you have a sudden brainwave idea and don’t be afraid to stop to jot it down. Even if you don’t go back to it until later, you’ve got a springboard – then there will be no stopping you!
Call To Action (CTA)
A CTA is a tool used by brands to encourage their audience engagement to go further than just on their Instagram; it is the brand directly asking the consumer to physically do something as a result of interacting with their post.
“Comment below ???? ”
“Hit the link in our bio to find out more! ✨”
“Double tap if you agree! ????”
You know what all these captions have in common? They are literally asking for the engagement they want! They’ve not been put there just because. They’ve been tactically placed to gain traction. It’s a key marketing strategy which lots of brands are using to the full advantage.
Asking consumers to interact further reinforces this idea of being real. It allows a brand to engage in conversation with their audience; building rapport and reminding potential customers that your brand exists beyond the realms of Insta.
Pretty Little Marketer – founded by Sophie Miller – is a great example of maximising the potential that a CTA has. In every post they encourage some kind of audience interaction, helping to build that ever-important sense of community.
Generating posts that help people feel a part of something – i.e., by giving them something to respond to – rolls back around to the idea of being authentic on social media.
If there’s one thing to take away, let it be this: don’t let your captions be an afterthought.
Let your Instagram captions be guided by the primary goals of your marketing or PR strategy, but don’t be afraid to loosen that corporate mask ever so slightly to demonstrate your brand’s authenticity.
Whether you opt for shorter, more succinct captions, or longer, story-telling ones, see it as an opportunity to let you audiences know your goals and intentions, in a fun and engaging kind of way.