Social media marketing copy does a lot of legwork for your account – especially your Instagram captions. So, if you’re not being creative with yours, you could miss out on a key opportunity. Instagram captions can be used to grow your account and business by driving traffic to important pages, highlighting key messages, and growing your following.
A strong visual on Instagram can catch users’ attention, but a carefully thought-out caption can do more heavy lifting for marketing and sales as it provides all the extra information you may not be able to include in the post itself. This article will cover how to create your next best Instagram caption with expert advice.
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What makes a good Instagram caption?
A strong caption supports your Instagram photo, offers a window into who you are, or educates with longer copy. Simulate is a great example of sticking to an identity on Instagram. They're well-known for being a meme account that also happens to be a business. If they suddenly started posting like McKinsey, their followers would likely be confused.
When thinking up captions for your account, consider the following:
- How does it fit into your marketing goals for Instagram? Is it creating awareness, encouraging customer engagement, or sales?
- Does it come across as authentic to your brand identity? Not every brand is witty, and not every brand is super serious.
- Closely tied to authenticity is brand consistency in voice and tone. Your audience stays for the type of content you’re known for publishing, so a good caption should reflect who you are.
- Does it encourage user engagement? Engagement is the bread and butter of any social media platform – your likes, retweets, shares, and more, show that your account resonates with your audience. Your captions must focus on getting users to engage with your post.
Ultimately, however, your caption should be relevant to your image. Is there an object you want to highlight? Is there a theme you can run with? Stephanie Gutierrez, a Senior Social Media Strategist at Online Optimism recommends using playful puns to keep your caption light or clear and concise CTAs to drive your desired results.
How to write a great Instagram caption (according to experts)
A good caption can create more engagement, which improves how Instagram’s algorithm highlights your content on the feed.
Decide on what goals you want your caption to achieve
Once you know your goals: to sell, engage customers, or otherwise, you can better understand how to craft the copy of your caption.
Mireia Boronat, a Senior Content Marketing Executive at The Social Shepherd, agrees, sharing, “When coming up with a caption, there are two things [to keep] mind: The goal of that piece of content (awareness, engagement or conversions) as well as the type of creative (entertaining, inspiring, promotion or educational). These two factors will dictate how sales-y or creative we should be."
You also need to keep your audience and the circumstance of each post in mind. A silly caption on a post about your brand’s giving back initiative might not go down well. Alternatively, if you bury the main point too far in your caption, you may not achieve the goals you set for that post.
Determine the length and content of your caption
Not every caption needs to be short and sweet, but not every caption must be an essay. Some brands have super engaged audiences who will read every word of their caption, while others are there for something else like the new sale or product announcement
As Mireia shares, “There's nothing better than knowing your audience to write something that will be relevant to them, and that is the right tone of voice.” Each post should have a purpose and intention, so lead each one with its specific goal and let that goal dictate the call to action. What do you want followers to do?
Several experts also recommend keeping your captions short and snappy. Mireia states, " People spend less time on each creative and scroll down to the next piece of content pretty quickly. That's why keeping things short and sweet has more chances of performing better and referencing any pop culture or current trends.”
And Stephanie also corroborates the short and sweet strategy, saying, “Microblogging rose in popularity, but the trend was short-lived on Instagram. In a day and age where you have 3 seconds to capture attention, it’s best to keep it short and simple!”
Grab the reader’s attention immediately
Instagram’s format means that an attention-grabbing strategy is not always necessary, but it could be the difference between a user staying a few seconds longer on your post or scrolling past.
There are different ways to grab a viewer’s attention with your caption – the most effective is to include the most important details first. After a couple of lines of text, Instagram hides the rest of your caption behind a “more” link, so say the most important bit first. Only about the first sentence will be seen in a user’s Instagram feed, so make sure it’s compelling or asks a question.
You should also play around with emojis and text to get users to look twice at your post, as Elizabeth Kraus, the Marketing Expert & Content Producer at Fit Small Business recommends. “A couple of easy ways to do this are through using bold or italic or 𝓈𝒸𝓇𝒾𝓅𝓉 or even really extended •.,¸¸,.•´¯ 𝓊𝓃𝓊𝓈𝓊𝒶𝓁 ¯´•.,¸¸,.• 𝕧𝕚𝕤𝕦𝕒𝕝 text, which you can get painlessly through cut and paste functionality on a site like LingoJam. The second is to add emojis to break up the text. Emojipedia has one of the easiest search engines for finding just the right icon for your posts.”
Once you’ve got the reader's attention, make sure your caption will evoke some type of emotion. Elizabeth highlights a study cited in the book “Brand Immortality” which shows that emotional content is twice as effective as it appeals to an instinctive part of the brain versus content requiring more cognitive processing.
Some other ways to grab attention are asking a question, directing people to your “link in bio” for more details, or using a clear call to action.
3 Examples of Accounts with Great Instagram Captions
Here are some accounts to take inspiration for your next great Instagram caption for:
National Park Service: Longer captions with great engagement
We first discovered the wonder of the National Park Service’s Instagram account when it was featured in Link in Bio, a newsletter about social media. Their account often defies the convention of keeping Instagram captions between 150-300 characters with long, humorous, and engaging captions.
The account often starts with a funny sentence (as seen in the post above) or a CTA (like the following post) that encourages readers to follow through with reading the post, which follows through on the engaging introduction.
We’re Not Really Strangers: Connecting to your audience through short but engaging captions
The Instagram account for the We’re Not Really Strangers card game has great engagement – over 5.6%, which is a lot for its audience of 5 million followers.
The captions on the posts tend to be short, but in tandem with the post, always encourage conversation in its comments. In the post below, the brand's audience shares their "little things that aren't little" in the comments.
shut the kale up: Mixing long and short captions as the post calls for
Jeanette Ogden, who runs shut the kale up, is a small Instagram influencer who posts a lot about motherhood, fitness, and food on her account.
She mixes caption length up depending on the post and sees a lot of engagement from her audience. People seem to resonate with her and enjoy it when she goes more into detail.
Jeanette’s account is a great example of understanding your audience and knowing when to go in-depth.
Less is more when it comes to Instagram captions
Treat your captions like you would a press release and look for ways to remove anything unnecessary. “Less is more” doesn’t just refer to the length of the post but also to the number of hashtags or emojis you include. Or, instead of tagging someone in the caption, use Instagram’s tagging feature instead.
You have up to 2,200 characters for every caption, but you don’t have to fill that space. But this doesn’t mean your captions can’t be long, either. It means you’re communicating the most important information and not adding filler.
🖊️You’re free to create captions without distractions if you write them on another platform. Draft your captions within Buffer when inspiration strikes and modify them as needed for the future.