Have you ever gazed at the “New Post” screen on Instagram, wanted to post but paralyzed with writer’s block? “Write a Caption…” it teases. Good Instagram captions are more challenging to write than you might think, but they’re worth the effort!
While Instagram is a visual social media platform, captions are necessary for encouraging people to take actions like buying a product, revisiting your website, or engaging with your content.
Why is Engagement important?
Engagement is essential on Instagram because it directly influences how often your posts are shown on a user’s timeline. Because Instagram uses an algorithmic pattern to decide what posts a user sees, Engagements such as likes, comments, swipe ups, Direct Messages, views, and time spent on the post all change your reach. A caption could be the distinction between a scroll and a double-tap, so let’s look at methods to craft the best ones.
#6 Meld your brand voice with Instagram’s lighthearted tone
Every social network has a different tone that works best. While serious, jargon-heavy copy may work well on LinkedIn, for example, that same copy won’t work as well on Instagram. The best Instagram posts tend to have a lighthearted, fun tone, showing off the more authentic, human, and personable side of brands. That’s why you’ll want to adapt your brand voice for Instagram’s more lighthearted tone. This’ll be easier for brands whose brand voices are already lighthearted and fun, like Wistia’s.
For others with a more serious brand voice, find a balance between sincerity and relatability.
Being relatively consistent in your Instagram voice can help you build your brand on the channel. For example, think about how long you’ll typically want most of your posts to be. Do you want to be a storyteller who writes a paragraph or more?
Or do you need the space to write out instructions, or a recipe?
Or do you favor a minimalist approach with just a few words?
When in doubt, be punny. Cleverness tends to perform quite well on social media, especially Instagram. People love when brands crack a joke or include a play on words. JetBlue, for example, is always an excellent source of puns:
Here’s another one from Chobani:
#7 Use emojis
Emojis, the cartoon-like emoticons available to most smartphone users, can add some personality to an Instagram caption. That’s why a lot of brands use them in their captions — even the more “serious” brands.
There are a lot of different ways to use emojis in your posts. For example, you can use them at the beginning of post to catch people’s eye, like this:
You can also use them in the middle of sentences to replace words, or at the end of a post as a sort of “punchline,” like this:
#8 Cross-promote your other social channels.
You can also use your caption to cross-promote your other social media accounts. This is a great way to let your followers know where else on social media they can find you — so that your Instagram followers can become your Twitter followers, your Facebook fans, your Snapchat audience, and so on.
For example, you might promote a campaign that’s taking place on another channel, like Coca-Cola did here:
Pro Tip: If you have a Snapchat account, Snapcodes are perfect for cross channel promotion on your other social media profiles. Every Snapchat user has a unique Snapcode, which is an image that looks like the Snapchat logo but with a unique pattern of dots. To follow you on Snapchat, all users will have to do to is open the Snapchat app, take a photo of your Snapcode, and tap their screen.
Here’s an example from WeWork:
#9 When in doubt, keep it brief
Depending on your audience, your captions might need to be longer than a few words or a sentence. For example, if you’re a food company, you might post entire recipes in your captions — and that’s OK, as long as you’re front-loading the caption with the most important information (like the name of the recipe) so it doesn’t get cut off.
But if you’re not sure what your brand voice is yet, a good rule of thumb is to keep it brief. Some of the best Instagram captions are short punchlines, or in some way make their point quickly and let the visual content do most of the talking.
Coca-Cola: “Goodbye, tan lines. Hello #SpringBreak.”
WeWork: “Every day.”
BuzzFeed Tasty: “Whip it good.”
As you test out different types of posts on Instagram, keep track of how different post types work — including your captions. Instagram doesn’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of analytics, so you’ll have to do this manually. Try listing each post on a spreadsheet and keeping track of its URL, the time it was posted, how many Likes and comments it got, and the types of feedback you’re getting from your followers.