How to Write Good Instagram Captions: 8 Tips for Perfecting Your Copy

Picture of Ashley Monk
Ashley Monk
CEO of Onya | Marketing Growth Strategist | Marketing Consultant

How to Write Good Instagram Captions: 8 Tips for Perfecting Your Copy

Picture of Ashley Monk
Ashley Monk
CEO of Onya | Marketing Growth Strategist | Marketing Consultant

Instagram marketing is all about the visuals. The quality of your photos/videos will be the differentiating factor for a lot of things. Stand out when it comes to getting users interested in your brand. Let them know what your brand is about, and show off the human side of your business.

The caption of your post is where you can give a voice to that visual content. A good Instagram caption explains what the photo is about. It also tells your followers to take action, or cracks a joke. Both ways make your content all the more delightful and shareable.

Captions should not be an afterthought. Don’t lose out on an opportunity to engage and delight your followers in ways you can’t with just a visual. Here are some tips to help you write better Instagram captions.

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1. Write Several Drafts

Ever thought of the perfect joke after it was a little too late to tell it? We’ve all had a similar feeling when we come up with the perfect Instagram caption once we’ve already published the post. Don’t rush the process. Instead, write a few ideas for captions down, sit on them for a bit, poll coworkers on which one is best, and take your time.

You might be asking yourself at this point, “But aren’t timeliness and chronology important on Instagram?” They can be, depending on the subject of your post. But thanks to the Instagram feed algorithm change, the level of engagement your posts receive matters more than chronology. 

That’s why it’s important to take your time constructing a great caption that’ll keep your followers around, delight them enough to share with their friends, and encourage them to engage with your content.

2. Front-load Important Stuff

The maximum character count for an Instagram caption is basically a formality. The important thing to note is that captions are cut off in users’ feeds after three to four lines of text. That doesn’t mean you should keep your captions super short so users can see 100% of it without having to click “more.” Instead, front load your captions with the important content or text calls-to-action — and leave any hashtags, @mentions, or extraneous information for the end.

3. Include a Call-to-Action

The best way to increase the share potential of your Instagram post and engage your followers is to have some sort of call-to-action in the captions of your photos. That means using action verbs to prompt people to do something, instead of just passively scrolling by. We found that verbs generate more shares on Twitter than nouns and adjectives — the same can be true for Instagram.

For example, you might say, “Double-tap if you find this funny” or “Share your story in the comments.”

Here are a few other action-based ideas to get you started:
  • Ask a question – Encourage people to comment with their own experiences. You might be able to draw on these experiences to shape your Instagram strategy moving forward, or to develop new content ideas.
  • Direct people to a link in your bio – Clickable URLs aren’t allowed anywhere except the single “website” box in your bio. That’s why optimized Instagram profiles update that URL frequently to point to their latest blog content, YouTube videos, products, or offers — and then refer to that link in their Instagram captions.
  • Invite people to tag their friends – Encourage your followers to share your post with friends by inviting them to tag their friends. Here are a few examples of fun, clever ways brands have asked followers to tag friends.
  • Invite people to enter a contest – Contests are great for increasing engagement and brand exposure on Instagram. Simply invite people to post their own pictures and tag them in the caption using a hashtag. Consider including the contest’s official rules in your caption for folks who are interested and even a link in your bio.

4. Limit Yourself to Four Hashtags

On Instagram, a hashtag behaves the same way as it does on Twitter and Facebook: It ties the conversations of different users into one stream. As long as your account is public, anyone who does a search for that hashtag may find your Instagram post. They’re also a great way to add some fun and coy humor to your posts

However, use hashtags sparingly. Some Instagram users include a string of searchable hashtags as a way to get more followers — but the fact is, it looks spammy to the followers you do have. If you use a ton of hashtags, people will notice, and they will think it’s lame. And remember, you don’t have to include any at all if you don’t want to. You don’t need a hashtag to have an awesome Instagram caption.

Pro tip: Need inspiration for a hashtag that’s already popular? Instagram will suggest hashtags to you based on their popularity when you open up a new post and type out the # symbol followed by an incomplete search.

5. Combine 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, 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 a brand.

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. For others with a more serious brand voice, find a balance between sincerity and relatability.

6. 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. There are a lot of different ways to use emojis in your posts. For example, you can use them at the beginning of a post to catch people’s eye. 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”. 

7. 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.

8. 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.

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.

Getting lost when it comes to knowing how to shape your content for social media in a way that drives business? We can help! Contact Onya today and we will help you get started!