A quality Instagram caption is a combination of an attention-grabbing introduction, educational information, product or service promotion, and relevant keywords to optimize for Instagram SEO.
Consistently nailing all of those aspects in each post is much easier said than done, so we’ve compiled best practices, tips, and examples of high-performing captions in this guide to help you level-up your Instagram caption game!
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Why is writing captions important on Instagram?
Instagram is a visual social platform. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. However, it’s the captions that are the unsung underdog art of the social media marketing world.
While that space below the post holds only a handful of words, it’s hard to overstate its true value. New followers, customers, or repeat buyers—80% of users on Instagram say it helps them make buying decisions. As such, it’s critical to write engaging captions to drive viewers to convert.
But, publishing consistent creative captions that show results takes enormous effort.
Studies have shown that writing captions and how you do them can make a big difference. Captions provide a greater context to the image, giving visitors the full picture. They can increase engagements and conversions, regardless of the goal. Selling a product? Check. Promoting a sale? Check. Advertising your service? Check.
Overall, captions give your posts (and your brand) greater visibility. Instagram naturally rewards posts with the greatest engagements (likes, comments, shares, time spent on the post).
In essence, writing outstanding captions provides the following benefits:
- Captions add context to the image
- Captions increase engagement
- Captions increase the chances of algorithm success
Knowing this, you need to make sure you are hitting all these targets.
How do you know if you’re writing a good caption?
An excellent caption must be relevant to the audience, personable, and valuable. Finally, it must propel viewers to take action.
- Relevant: The caption must provide details that give the post meaning and intention, and it must resonate with viewers.
- Personable: The caption must accurately showcase your brand’s personality while attracting the right audience. One way to do this is to imagine yourself from the audience’s point of view.
- Valuable: The caption should provide value in some way. Whether it is informative, offers practical advice, or is simply entertaining, it should offer something fresh and new that leaves an impact.
- Inspiring: Most importantly, the caption should inspire visitors to do what you want them to do most. Follow, like, comment, or click on your landing page link — the options are endless.
The following best practices can help level up your strategy for writing captions on Instagram.
Best practice #1: Hook, line, and sinker
You need a hook before you can use the bait. The hook is the first sentence or the first part that people will see before the “Read more” line. It’s how you will get your audience to engage longer with the post.
If you want to snatch up people’s attention before the limits of their attention span on Instagram, a compelling hook is just what keeps them hungry for more. Here’s how.
The hook can be a number of things:
- An interesting or surprising fact
- A question
- A statistic
- An exclusive offer
- A first line to an intriguing anecdote
The first line should be short and sweet. It’s an introductory sentence that gives just enough information to make readers curious while still withholding the meat of the caption.
Here are some examples:
- What type of person are you?
- Did you know…
- How to [solve a problem]…
- Fun fact…
- Hey [niche audience]… (e.g., “Social media marketers!”)
- You won’t believe this…
- Are you [insert relatable pain point]?
- Hate [pain point]? Here’s how you can fix that…
With an attention-grabbing hook, you can pull users into the actual message you want to communicate.
Best practice #2: Weave a story
Storytelling is an age-old human tradition that’s not just for entertainment. It’s also a way to embed an experience into memory. According to cognitive psychologist Jerome Bruner, the brain is 22 times more likely to remember messages in story form. Humans are built to retain information that’s in a cohesive, narrative format.
While this may not apply to every post, telling a story when writing captions can connect with your audience.
Incorporating brand storytelling when writing captions humanizes your brand. For one, it creates a narrative out of the “pain point + solution + CTA” formula. For another, storytelling appeals to the ethos of the audience. In other words, a story draws your audience in deeply enough to feel emotionally compelled by the post. The shift in emotion makes your audience more invested in and fond of your brand.
A story also highlights your brand voice and values. The main message you reveal through a story or anecdote shows audiences what kind of business you are.
One issue that might come up is length. If your caption gets too long, keep it readable with spaces between each line and maintain short, punchy sentences. If possible, keep your posts informal to make captions more relatable and digestible. Finally, make sure your brand voice or personality is consistent across posts.
End your caption with the “lesson learned” or the main message. By this point, the reader feels connected emotionally, so you just have to relate the story’s message to the value you provide.
Glossier uses UGC to tell a story
One way to weave great storytelling in your captions is to embed customer stories. The makeup and skincare brand Glossier uses user-generated content from a satisfied customer with her words in the caption. The caption highlights a narrative of being on vacation in the snowy mountains, with the pain point being the customer’s skin suffering from the sun and wind. But it’s “nothing Glossier can’t handle” — a short, sweet conclusion that speaks volumes.
Best practice #3: Call readers to action
Everyone knows the call to action is crucial. This applies to writing captions on Instagram as well. Every post will have a purpose, and you need to inspire the audience to fulfill that purpose.
When writing Instagram captions, the CTA is the gateway to results. Utilizing CTAs effectively helps you get the desired type of engagement instead of stabbing at nothing and hoping for the best. It improves your place in the algorithm. You can use a CTA to remind the audience to give your post some love and drive sales.
Another hidden benefit? CTAs are a chance to ask the audience to use hashtags, which engages your audience in a more active way. They open the doors for user-generated content that you can collect and reuse in your social media marketing.
With your CTA, you can ask your audience to…
- Like the post
- Save the post for later
- Share with their friends
- Sign up for your brand’s newsletter
- Use hashtags related to your brand
- Follow your brand
- Visit your website or sales page
- Enter a giveaway
- Click a link in your bio to direct them to your site or shop
You can use a call-to-action in a variety of creative ways. To get more likes, encourage users to double tap if the caption is relatable or if they agree with your claim. For comments, ask a personal question relevant to the topic, like “What are you doing this weekend?” or “What’s your favorite flavor?” Alternatively, you can ask users to tag their friends in a comment to increase post views.
A good idea is coupling your CTA with its value or benefit. For instance, “Click the link in bio to get a chance to win this giveaway!”
The CTA must be visible and clear. A way to achieve this is with stylistic elements like custom font, bolding, capitalizing, or underlining the CTA, and using emojis or symbols.
How Brightland encourages engagements
In this Instagram post, the Brightland brand smoothly prompts the audience to engage with the post by commenting. They do this by asking a relevant question: “Tell us where you want to see Brightland on the shelves.” With this, users feel more involved with the brand.
Best practice #4: Provide value in exchange for action
Valuable content intrigues, explains, offers new knowledge or perspectives, gives practical tips, or makes a user’s day. If every caption is pure fluff, the audience will bore quickly. Keep them anchored and curious to read more with value-based content.
Types of valuable content:
- A personal account or customer’s experience
- Useful tips
- Relevant (free) resources
- A common pain point and a hope-inspiring solution
- Questions that get the audience eager to share
Think of a caption as adding something to your audience’s life. It’s not just an area to fill with words relating to the image. It functions as a way to enhance a person’s life in some way, be it by teaching them something new or making them chuckle.
SokoGlam’s valuable information on their skincare products
Sokoglam offers a lot of value by describing the components of its products in-depth. They don’t simply promote the product and its benefits. The caption makes sure to highlight key features and ingredients in the formula. It further informs by explaining the functions of the ingredients and when potential customers can expect to see results. Despite the wealth of value, the caption remains succinct and easy to read.
Best practice #5: Pre-draft before writing captions
A major risk of a long-term Instagram strategy is fresh ideas fizzling out. Experts recommend drafting post captions in batches beforehand. Then, revisit them once or twice afterward before scheduling them to post.
Pre-drafting elsewhere allows you a bird’s eye view of your captions concerning your campaign plans and goals. It gives you space to write captions with a creative focus.
A system like Loomly can hold and save your post and pre-written captions in one place.
Loomly offers a space for writing and storing captions
With Loomly, you have a system in which you can draft captions and tweak them to perfection. As a social media content library, Loomly provides a space in which you can plan your Instagram posts. It empowers you to draft captions ahead of time, even a whole batch of them. Get ahead on your social media strategy by preparing your posts and captions with plenty of time to bring them to perfection.
Because it’s also a collaborative tool, Loomly can help your team review post captions and make data-driven decisions. It reports what worked best in past posts, so you can keep improving future posts.
Writing captions for your Instagram marketing campaigns is the icing of a perfect post. More value for your business goals exists in writing captions than you think, and some strategies can help you cut through the fat and get straight to the message that will evoke the right emotions in visitors to your post.
Writing captions isn’t just adding any old text that’s slightly relevant to your post. Consistently curating captions that draw people into your brand requires more effort and planning.
A social media management system like Loomly can help you do just that. Armed with Loomly, alongside a strong understanding of the anatomy of a high-performing caption, you can take your Instagram campaign to the next level.
To optimize this process for efficiency, try Loomly for all your Instagram post needs. Visit the Loomly website to see how you can set a consistent post schedule, pre-draft your captions, and make sure your posts are brand-ready before sending them off to the spotlight.