Let’s take a poll: When ideating a post, which do you plan first? The photo or the caption?
Eye-catching pictures are usually the first priority for social media managers. Many often make the mistake of leaving the caption as an afterthought during their content planning process.
A picture is worth 1,000 words; however, a caption can convey your brand voice more effectively than a photo can. Your Instagram captions are where you speak directly to your followers.
Since Instagram nixed its chronological feed, users will most likely first see content with the most engagement. The more engagement your posts have, the more likely the algorithm will favor your content.
This is why writing a good caption is so essential. It is an opportunity to start a conversation with your readers. So, why does social copy often get left on the backburner?
If you find yourself lost for words, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading as we break down the best practices for writing Instagram captions that engage.
Know Your Audience
Your Instagram post is competing against a lot of noise. Your content is sitting among your follower’s favorite influencers and businesses.
Knowing your audience is how you discover what they value. You need to make sure your content is always adding value to your audience. Is your post telling them important information? Does it add humor to their day? Is it encouraging them to take part in the community? Knowing your audience will tell which of these things are of value.
Your Instagram analytics can tell you a lot about your audience. You can look at statistics around your existing followers and determine their age, gender, and location. You can find this in your insight tab on Instagram if you have a business or creator profile.
Looking at your competitors’ engagement will also tell you a lot about your audience. What are they talking about in the comment section? What type of posts gets people excited? Simply looking at your follower’s profiles and Instagram stories will tell you what kind of content would encourage them to share your post.
Consistent Brand Voice
Consistency builds trust. Defining your brand voice and tone can help you stay consistent. Your captions should carry your brand voice, making it clear to your followers who you are and what your brand is about.
Switching between formal and informative to casual and conversation can be confusing for your followers. It’s okay for your brand voice to differ slightly on social media than on more official marketing collateral since the format is generally more casual. Whatever angle you chose, just be sure to keep it consistent.
Front-Load Your Instagram Captions
When considering your Instagram caption length, it is important to note that only the first 125 characters show up in a user’s feed. This is because the captions are cut off after a few lines of text until the user clicks the more button to see the rest.
This means you have 125 characters to convince someone to click the more button. You want to get to the point right away, and you want that point to be good. Like we said before, you need to grab your followers before they scroll past. The challenge is a little trickier now that I tell you you only have 125 characters to do it, right?
Now the maximum caption limit is 2,200 characters. So once you have someone clicking the “more” button, you have some space to convince them to engage.
Hootsuite says that 11 is the magic number of hashtags. They saw engagement increase with the number of hashtags up until they hit eleven. This tells us that more isn’t necessarily better. Be strategic with your hashtag choices and do your research.
30 is the maximum amount of hashtags Instagram lets you use. Your Instagram captions will look less cluttered if you place them below line breaks. You can also put them in the comments section to make your caption look more presentable. To learn more about hashtag research, check out our guide to social media hashtags.
Emojis are eye-catching. 😍 💥 🙀 They get your follower’s attention and add personality to your Instagram captions. Emojis can make your brand feel more approachable. They can also replace words and phrases, keeping your post short and fun.
Check out this post from Farm Brand. They start their caption off with emojis and that draws your eye right to it. They give you those spring vibes before you read any words.
When you tag an influencer or another brand, you get their attention and often their followers’ attention. This is an excellent way to reach new people. The user you tagged may repost or respond in their Instagram stories which would be good exposure for your account. Getting your name and content in front of more people is always the goal. Don’t be afraid to give some love to other users, and you will see love coming back to you.
Call to Actions
At the end of every Instagram caption, ask yourself, how will the followers engage? If you can’t easily answer that question, then neither will your followers. You need to make it so easy to engage that they have no reason not to.
Some good call to actions to consider:
- tag your friends
- check out our new story
- ask a question
- “let us know in the comments”
- check out our link in bio
- invite them to comment and share
- invite them to tag you in posts and stories
These are all things that you want your following to do, so make it as easy on them as possible! When you ask a question, don’t make it a hard question that they have to put a lot of thought into. Give them an easy question.
For example, look at this post from a bridal dress store. They ask, “Are you team lace or team beading?” When their audiences read this their stance instantly comes to mind. If they asked, what do you like about this dress? That would take more thought. The question is still better than nothing! They will get answers, but they get even more with the specific question.
Link in Bio
Inviting your followers to check out your link in bio is an excellent call to action. This gets them to your profile page, where they see your bio, your feed, and hopefully onto your website.
Instagram doesn’t allow users to post links all over their site. Instagram users are only allowed to include the link in the website section of their profile. This is why you see “link in bio” so much on Instagram; it’s one of the only opportunities you have to drive traffic to your website.
Tell a Story
Stories can inspire your readers. Using your Instagram captions to tell a story is a good way to get your followers to relate to you. Once they can relate it is easier to engage. A lot of brands use their Instagram to promote a lifestyle instead of just a product. Bring stories of your follower’s lifestyle to the front of their mind with your story. You can also make them laugh with the relatable story.
This post tells a quick story about Christmas in Venezuela. The caption grabs your attention by sharing an interesting fact and then gets you thinking about your own Christmas traditions. Instagram captions were at one point encouraged to be short and sweet. As time went on, longer captions seemed to become more acceptable. Don’t be afraid to share a detailed anecdote if it means connecting with your audience.
With these best practices in mind, you are now ready to grab your follower’s attention and break the ice. Instagram is a great place to develop your brand voice because you can do it while interacting with your audience and creating a community around your brand.
Don’t wait until the last second to draft up your social copy. Put some thought into your wordsmithing and come up with something to inspire your followers.