Writing engaging Instagram captions is one of the best ways to increase the visibility and success of your posts on the platform, but there’s an art to getting it right.
While “the Gram” as it’s affectionately known is a visual social network with a photo-first philosophy that doesn’t mean you can be lazy with your captions.
Captions are the best way to add additional context to your image and entice your followers to engage by commenting or liking your post.
In the modern era of online business having a strong social presence gives you more credibility.
Being on social media and effectively managing your social profiles are two completely different things.
Did you know that as much as 80% of all social media activity takes place on portable devices like smartphones and tablets? Keep this in mind when optimizing your social media content, particularly a status like your Instagram caption.
Instagram has been one of the fastest growing social media platforms over the past few years and businesses have been catching on quick.
With organic reach on many of the more traditional social networks being squeezed by their owners to drive more advertising sales, marketers are always flocking towards new opportunities offering improved ROI and free exposure, Instagram is one such network that has filled that void.
Why Instagram Captions are so Important
If you have been using Instagram for a while then I am sure you have been posting photos, maybe some videos and even going live and publishing Instagram stories but how much effort and thought are you putting into how you are captioning your images and videos?
While your Instagram feed may be the most important factor writing a good caption is surely a close second.
A beautiful image or fascinating video will go a long way to grab attention but your caption is your opportunity to direct the viewer and drive them to take action.
So this means you need to be thinking about how you can write actionable Instagram captions that are more likely to:
- Get likes
- Get more followers
- Drive conversions and sales.
So if you need help improving your captions I’m here to help!
Put thought into your Instagram captions
It’s common for people to take and retake a photo countless times before being satisfied enough with it to share it.
Then you edit it and get it absolutely perfect.
So why do most people quickly whip up a caption and publish?
You should spend just as much time thinking about the message you want to get across and the best way to say it.
Draft out your first Instagram caption and then put yourself in the shoes of your reader.
Ask yourself “Does the caption add value and does it increase the chances of me liking, following and engaging with this account? If the answer is no, back to the drawing board we go!
So it’s time to start applying the same process you would when writing a blog post, don’t be afraid of writing a few drafts and comparing them.
How can you connect the image to a story? a personal experience or your products and services?
Doing a few drafts of your captions will also help you avoid any embarrassing spelling or grammar mistakes too!
Sure you can edit your caption later but you may get penalized for doing so and even if you don’t it’s often too late since your Instagram post will get the most exposure when it’s still fresh.
Start with the most important message
When you craft your Instagram caption make sure to top load it with the most important and poignant info first.
When you have longer captions certain pages will only show the first couple of lines followed by ellipses and a link that says ‘more’ which needs to be clicked to reveal the full caption.
Not only that us humans have very short attention spans and unless your first line is catchy and relevant people may not even bother to continue reading.
So make sure you grab the audience’s attention from the get-go! Give them a reason to keep reading and click the more link!
You can use up to 2200 characters in your Instagram captions but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should always use it.
For the most part, short and catchy captions are better however for certain industries, niches, and audiences telling a longer story or addition more detail might work.
So test it and find out what works for you and your market.
Try summarizing your content in the first like and see if you can leave it open-ended to encourage people to keep reading.
Take advantage of location tags and get additional exposure but keep in mind you can simply tag your location and don’t need to re-write this in your actual caption text.
Don’t waste space in your caption, if you have a short caption then it won’t hurt to include the location but there’s no benefit to adding it again, it also allows you to prioritize the important point you are trying to get across.
You want to grab attention with the first line of your caption so why waste space on the location name when you don’t need to.
Of course, the exception to the rule is when your post’s subject is the location in question, in that case, it would make perfect sense to mention it in the caption.
When you tag yourself in a specific location your post then appears under specific location pages which are similar to browsing content by hashtags
And since a lot of people like to browse photos in certain cities or nearby this can bring a lot of additional exposure and if your post goes viral then it will be listed in the Top Posts part of the location tag page.
Increasing Discussion with Calls to Action
To drive more visibility on Instagram you need to encourage interactions on your images in the form of likes and comments.
Of course, comments don’t come as easy as likes so you need to work on ways to get people to write something.
Anybody on Instagram who sees your post, whether they are following you or not can comment on your images and start discussions.
Users can leave their opinion, ask you a question, or tag friends they want to share it with which can lead to community conversations.
Here are ways you can encourage conversation on your posts:
- Ask a question at the end of your caption.
- Ask peoples opinion on your post.
- Reply to all comments and tag the users by @ tagging them.
- Tell people to tag their friends or followers.
- Add a funny comment – humor works well on Instagram.
- Tag your own friends and influencers who might reply.
Generate Traffic from Instagram
If you are running a business the chances are you have a website too and that driving traffic to your site from Instagram is one of your objectives.
To turn followers into customers you will need to have a strategy for your captions.
Since you can’t sell directly on Instagram and you can’t include links in your captions you have to be a bit more creative.
The only link opportunity on your Instagram profile is in your profile description, so you want to make sure this is pointing to the most important and useful page.
If you publish a photo on Instagram that is promoting something specific you want to update the profile URL and tell people using your caption that they should click on the link in your bio.
Adding ‘Link in Bio’ is usually sufficient but feel free to get creative.
You should also be tracking the clicks and conversions so use an URL shortener and shorten each link.
Bit.ly, for example, features tracking so each link you create can be tracked easily.
If one link really isn’t enough and you want to promote multiple products, why use LinkTree.
LinkTree allows you to create a clean page with a series of links.
This way you link to this page from your Instagram bio link and then you can provide visitors with 4 or 5 options without overwhelming them.
If you have 3 or 4 services you are promoting in your posts you can simply say “Click the Link in Bio and then select <insert name of next link>” so it’s still easy to follow.
You can see my LinkTree here.
Run a Competition
If you have a budget and are willing to give away freebies or prizes then nothing gets peoples attention like the chance of winning something for free.
There are lots of types of competitions such as contests, and random prize draws but we won’t get into that in this post, we will just focus on the general idea.
Give something away = increase engagement but you still need to grab attention with a great caption that quickly lets people know you are doing a giveaway.
Contests involve people doing something to enter, this could be them liking or commenting but could extend to asking your followers to submit a creation.
User-generated content can be a great byproduct of running a contest that you can then use in future marketing campaigns so this tactic can pay for itself if you are tactical about it.
Ask your followers to submit a photo or something else you ask them to create in relation to the product or service you offer, then select the best submission and announce the winner. It’s really as simple as that.
You can also use websites that help you to run a fair and safe competition on various social networks.
While Hashtags can justify a post of their own they are essentially a part of the caption so it’s important to touch on them since so many are misusing them.
Firstly yes it’s important to use hashtags in your captions, let’s get that out of the way.
When you add a hashtag much like the location pages your post appears on that specific hashtag page.
So if you used #marketing and then searched “marketing” and clicked on the hashtag your photo will appear here under recent posts, if you can get your post to trend then there’s a chance you can get it into the top posts section too, though that involves a mixture of both skill and luck.
Put your hashtags at the end of your caption if possible as we discussed already how important the first line is earlier you want to reserve that for your catchy intro.
Search for hashtags and select tags that are both relevant and popular, Instagram will show you the number of posts in each hashtag when you add them.
Instagram is constantly updating its algorithm and many people are still using old tricks.
Avoid stuffing your Instagram caption with 10+ hashtags, Instagram is wise to this and let’s face it it looks spammy as hell.
It’s good practice in 2018 to stick to a more modest number between 2 and 5 to stay on the safe side and avoid being shadowbanned.
Consider mixing in branded hashtags, this is where you create your own hashtag for your brand and use it in your posts, this can greatly help to grow your brand awareness.
Also, avoid using the same hashtags in every post, this means you are limiting the audience you are exposing your content to and it means you may not be using the most relevant hashtags, the more relevant they are the more likely they are to perform well.
If you want a great tool to help you improve your hashtag game then check out Flick.tech (pictured below) which will help you research and discover more relevant hashtags to test in your posts.
Another great way to use your caption is to add something you can’t in the image or video.
If you are sharing a photo you might find this limits the amount you can say, so turn your caption into a blog post and go into detail every once in a while and compare longer captions to shorter ones.
- Share interesting facts or information
- Give tips and advice
- share a story related to the image
- Be yourself and add a splash of personality
One of my best tips is to start at the end, before you even take a photo or record a video list out 10 examples of the above three, interesting information you can share, tips and advice you can give and stories and then use that list to decide which images and videos you want to share.
Don’t be afraid to add some fun either, use emojis to attract attention to your caption and drop the occasional pun as long as it’s not too lame.
Best Instagram captions?
Avoid using copy and paste Instagram captions from websites that contain endless lists of supposedly quirky and catchy captions.
These mostly suck and anybody in their right mind will think they are odd. Write something unique and relevant to what you are sharing.
Generic marketing will get you nowhere if you copy all of the advice out there and copy some of the most popular captions you will see they are mostly written in bad English and actually don’t make sense in any setting.
If you have to use song lyrics in your captions then you are just showing that you lack imagination and creativity.
Go against the grain and be a contrarian, don’t be a sheep, the sheep get slaughtered in the world of internet marketing.
Don’t underestimate the power of Instagram captions. Writing good captions is probably the second most important factor after the image or video content itself.
Stop obsessing over your images and videos and neglecting your caption, it’s not something you should be rushing.
I know it’s exciting when you have a great piece of content and want to unleash it to the world but stop and take stock!
Ask yourself the following:
Do you have the perfect message to compliment it?
Can you generate a meaningful conversion?
Could you ask a question to increase comments?
How about a story to gain peoples attention?
There’s a lot of ways you can make your captions more engaging, you don’t have to do all of the above but one or more will give you the ingredients for success on the Gram.
To test your performance you will want access to Instagram analytics and Insights and to get these features you need to upgrade to a Branded Instagram Account, but don’t worry, it’s still free.
If you want to learn more tips and tricks then go to our guide on how to get more followers on Instagram.
Follow these tips and you are sure to increase your followers, likes, and comments. Let us know if you have any tactics you think we have missed and if you have put the above into action and got some results to share with us.