Creating an awesome Instagram post comes down to three things: a picture that will catch the eye of your followers, a caption that will hook them and a call to action that will reel them in. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, if Instagram wasn’t so saturated in content, it might have been. Instead, people are posting over 95 million posts a day on the platform, so getting noticed is definitely not an easy task. Breaking through that content overload and getting people to follow your account or click the link in your bio means that you’ve got to continuously come up with some really catchy content.
There are tons of pretty cool Instagram accounts out there like @HM or @GoPro doing a great job at this, and those are exactly the kind of accounts you want to be associated with. You want to swim with those big fishes, and to help you get your feel of things and find your rhythm, we’ve created these guidelines for writing the strongest Instagram captions possible.
1. Know Your Brand Voice
Before you even begin to think about what you’re going to say in your posts, you first need to be aware of the voice that goes along with your brand. “It’s not about what you say, but how you say it” is an overused phrase, but that’s only because there is merit to it. When trying to write persuasive captions on Instagram, how you phrase your words should be reflective of your brand and also adhere to the conventions of Instagram.
Generally speaking, Instagram is a pretty lighthearted platform in itself, and this characteristic often gets reflected in the captions that you read on a regular. Many captions tend to be short, easy to digest, and often witty. So if you’re a wordsmith, then this is definitely the place where you should exhibit that talent. Eliciting some sort of positive emotion from users like a laugh or smile is highly likely to result in them liking your posts, following your account or performing whatever your desired action is. Try to be humorous without being offensive or a smartass. Being clever is good, but being a know-it-all, not so much.
At the same time, you need to be true to your brand and to your audience. This starts with first getting to know your audience to ensure you’re able to speak their language. If your brand is targeted towards parents of toddlers, then your captions will take on a different tone than if you were focused on young adults.
Take these two examples from GAP, a huge American apparel, and accessories store. While the caption of the picture from the @GAPKids account alludes to superheroes and speaks directly to parents, the caption from the @GAP account uses popular vocabulary among young people like ‘good vibes’. Now here’s what they are especially getting right with these posts. Both conform to the quick and easy feel of Instagram captions and the brand’s overall tone, while also speaking the language of their very different audiences. Finding that sweet spot between fitting in with who you’re talking to and aligning your voice to who you are as a brand is the way to go when it comes to creating a persuasive caption.
2. What is Your Goal?
After getting your tone of voice down pack, you need to establish what your goal is. Do you want people to like the post? Follow you? Click on the link in your bio? Or all of the above? Shooting an awesome and original picture is only half the work if you’re trying to achieve any of these goals! So it’s time to step up your caption game. One absolute must when writing your captions is not to confuse users with having too many call to actions like:
- Follow us!
- Head over to our blog to read more!
- Send in your best photos!
- Click the link in the bio!
If you have all this going on in the caption, you’re simply giving the users way too many options. Freedom of choice is great in some cases, but not in this one. Not only are you asking a bit too much of them, but having too many CTA’s in your Instagram caption can lead to the choice paradox. When we’re faced with too many choices, we get overwhelmed and even paralyzed, causing us to prefer not to actually do anything at all. So while you’re trying to elicit some sort of action from the users, they may actually just opt to scroll past your post instead. No like, no comment, no tag. Not a good move for your Instagram’s engagement rate.
Instead, create one strong call to action for each of your posts. You can opt to tell your followers to do something, like ‘tag your friends who need to see this’ or ‘double tap if you can relate’, for example. We know it can be difficult to be original when asking people to comment, tag or like, but try to mix things up as best as you can with your language. This will prevent the CTA’s in your Instagram feed from becoming too repetitive, and also help them to stand out from all the other posts asking for a tag or comment in the more generic manner. Also, incorporate persuasive words into the copy like ‘you, free, instantly, and because’. These four are often cited as the most persuasive words in the English language, so if you’re able to fit them in there, they will only serve to up your chances of persuading your audience.
You can also pose your CTA as a question. This will actually help you to get to know your followers a bit deeper. By asking users to share their travel plans or their schedule for the week, for instance, you can begin to take note of what kind of topics they are more keen to communicate about. Then you can use this data to help you figure out what content you should be focusing on in the future. Whether you give some instructions or ask a question, the key to a persuasive caption is being clear from the getgo about what you want your followers to do!
3. Get To the Point – Quickly.
Now, once you’ve got your CTA down, you need to ensure to place it at the right part of your caption. Instagram allows you 2200 words max per caption, but that doesn’t mean you need to use all of them. A general rule for Instagram is that less is more. We’re all scrolling through our feeds at a fast pace waiting for that one post to catch our eye. So opt for a more brief caption that will serve to help make your overall post that much more interesting. Your picture is already speaking tons of words to the users, so only add more length to the caption if it is actually necessary to help them understand what you’re trying to say.
Another good point to keep in mind is that Instagram captions get truncated after about 3 or 4 lines, requiring people to click to see ‘more’. This is not always an issue, but it is the reason why you need to frontload your caption. Your CTA should be visible in those 3 or 4 lines since many users choose not to see ‘more’ and just continue scrolling. So, make sure to be enticing!
On the other hand, it can happen that more context is necessary for your posts. If you need to give some more context to your image, go for it! Take for example Humans of New York (@humansofny), which is an account known for its elaborate captions sharing the stories of the people depicted in the photos. If your product/service falls into a category like this, then by all means, write to your heart’s content. This could even manage to work in your favor when it comes to Instagram’s algorithm. More text-heavy posts may actually drive up your engagement if people are taking longer to read it; causing your post to be exposed to more and more users. But again, to make this happen, you need the very start of your post to be interesting enough to get them to want to see more.
4. Emoji’s are Your Friends
Placing emojis into your captions are just another way to insert even more of your brand’s personality into your posts. Want another good reason why you should be using emojis in your captions? Well, it raises engagement. In a study of 20,000 Instagram profiles, Quintly found that posts that contained emojis in their captions resulted in higher levels of engagement in comparison to posts without. More engagement, more post reach, more followers, more people connecting with you!
In a nutshell, emojis are a good thing and definitely not an aspect to be ignored when crafting your captions. Use them to draw the attention of users to key parts of your caption (like around the CTA) and to complement what you’re saying. When using emojis though, be aware of who your audience is and how they use emojis themselves. If your business is a law firm catering to middle-aged businessmen, a heart emoji might not be the best option, you know? There are many symbols and more generic options that will not take away from your brand’s tone, while still allowing you to reap the benefits their presence allows
Before you’re ready to publish your post, here’s a handy checklist to see if you have the most persuasive caption possible. Ask yourself:
- Do you have one clear CTA right at the get-go?
- Will your target audience ‘get it’? Whatever reference or joke you’ve skillfully crafted into your caption should be easily comprehended.
- Is there enough context given for the image? Your overall message should be clear from the image and the accompanying caption. So if more context is necessary, lengthen your caption.
- Are you speaking as you usually do? Stay on brand! Consistency is key.
- Last but not least, and ignored more often than you think: are there any spelling or grammar mistakes? Ensure to proofread your captions before posting.
With these tips, we hope you’re ready to take the leap and start producing persuasive captions that will take your Instagram account to the next level.