Have you ever stared at the “New Post” screen on Instagram, poised to post but paralyzed with writer’s block? “Write a Caption…” it taunts. Good instagram captions are harder to write than you might think, but they’re worth the effort! While Instagram is a visual platform, captions are essential for encouraging users to take actions like purchasing a product, visiting your website, or engaging with your posts.
Why Engagement Matters
Engagement matters on Instagram because it directly affects how frequently your posts are shown on a user’s timeline. Because Instagram uses an algorithmic model to determine what posts a user sees, interactions such as likes, comments, swipe ups, DMs, views, and time spent on the post all affect your reach. A caption could be the difference between a scroll and a double-tap, so let’s look at tricks to craft the best ones.
Encourage Comments with Your Instagram Captions
While comments aren’t the only measure of success, they’re a strong signal to Instagram that your content is engaging. Comments offer a great way to engage with your audience and foster a community. Here are a few ways to encourage comments:
Just tell them to comment. Don’t overthink it! Ask your users what they prefer to see from your product or to contribute tips to an ongoing conversation.
Tell them to tag a friend. Tagging friends in posts is super popular. People will do it without prompting, but you can encourage it by asking your audience to do so in your captions.
Run a contest. Contests typically require entrants to take multiple actions such as tagging a friend, liking the post, and following the account. It’s a great way to get an engagement boost in one post and increase the reach of additional posts.
Ask a question. Questions can range from long-answer—“What are your Paris travel tips?” to quick and easy—“Chocolate Crunch or Mango Madness?”
These days comments aren’t the end-all-be-all, and the feed isn’t the only spot to get some action. You can also use your Instagram caption to direct users to other parts of your Instagram account, such as Stories or Story Highlights.
Know Your Limits
Instagram captions can be up to 2,200 characters long. This allows for a ton of flexibility. You can include an excerpt from a book, a recipe, or share a personal story all in that space. And here’s another reason to consider the long caption: the time users spend on your post will give you an algorithm boost as well.
Although you have up to 2,200 characters in your Instagram captions, the challenge is that it will get truncated after 125 characters, which if you think about it is not much—it’s less than an old-school Twitter post! This means that the first 125 characters are the most important. They should inspire a like or a tap on the “more” button. When posting others’ work, it’s also polite to include the credit up front.
Jokes, Puns, and Word Play
Another way to inspire a double-tap is to offer a chuckle. But while your bestie might lol at your jokes on the fly, you may suddenly find yourself with writer’s block when trying to craft the perfect Instagram caption. The best thing you can do is think about captions in advance as much as possible so that you’re not stuck in the moment when you’re ready to post an image. Keep a notebook or note on your phone for any time you think of something punny and jot it down. Then, use these ideas to fill out your content calendar in advance.
Focus on One Voice
Just like you may have plotted out a visual style for your Instagram account, you need a consistent tone of voice for the captions. This should be pretty easy if you already have an established brand; you can essentially take your normal brand voice, but make it a little bit more playful for Instagram. Another thing to consider is your pronouns. Do you say “I” or “We”? For example, even if you’re a one-woman show, you may choose to use the “we” pronoun to sound more like a business than a person. Another example is pet accounts; some choose to use the voice of the pet rather than the owner.
On Instagram, there aren’t too many rules when it comes to the tone of your captions. The most important thing is to be consistent.
Make Use of Hashtags and Emojis
The best rule of thumb when it comes to hashtags and emojis is to use them—but in moderation. Emojis are a great way to draw the eye to the caption. You can use them to highlight words like “giveaway” or even to replace words.
Hashtags are an excellent way for people who don’t follow you to discover you as they might follow or browse popular hashtags. Do a little bit of research first to ensure you’re using popular and relevant hashtags. If a hashtag or two fits naturally in the caption, go for it. Otherwise, just tag it at the end.
The main thing to remember about Instagram captions is that while they often seem off-the-cuff, the good ones aren’t. Plan ahead to craft captions that inspire your users to become part of your community.