Don’t let yourself fooled. Instagram might be centered around breath-taking images, but it also has a sweet spot for words. And if you’re just about to throw in the cliche that “a picture is worth a thousand words”, stop right there. Truth is, you won’t get away with doing just half the job. Sure, photos are what make Instagram go round, but captions are equally important. A well-thought and greatly-written Instagram copy can enrich the social experience of your Instagram followers, it can provide context, provoke curiosity, start a conversation, entertain or prompt users to take action.
That means that if you want more followers (and happy followers, that is), you need to learn how to deliver copy that’s been crafted in Instagram heaven. And while there are many copywriting practices out there, the trends for Instagram copy are still emerging. However, there are a few golden nuggets you can pick up in order to improve your Instagram copy. So, if you want to find out what the most successful Instagramers and brands on Instagram do right when it comes to captions, here are our two cents on the matter (golden cents!).
Know your audience inside-out
There is no greater truth in marketing, offline or online than the vital necessity of correctly identifying your audience. Knowing who you are speaking to means winning half of the copywriting battle. Learn that writing great Instagram copy starts before even putting pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. It starts with a good knowledge of your target.
So take your time to build the profile of your Instagram followers. How old are they? Do they consider age just a number? Where are they from? Do they have a sense of humor? Do they like short espressos or are they more of the cappuccino type? Well, you get the drill. Get to know as much as possible. These bits of info will turn into the foundation for your future caption-writing.
Find your voice
Yes, great Instagram copy means knowing who you’re speaking to, but also knowing who is speaking. Sure, it’s you doing the speaking, or your brand, but dig deeper, because you must maintain one coherent voice throughout your communications. This might be harder than it sounds. At a first glance, you might even think that it will come naturally, but you will painfully learn that it doesn’t.
Thus, reflecting on the issue. Start by listing the values you want to follow and continue by answering a few philosophical-marketing questions: How do you want to speak? Will your captions be inspirational, humorous, punchy, ironical? A mix? What type of voice is the most relatable to your brand or product? How will it make your audience feel and how does it bring value to your profile?
The end goal is to create a coherent tone of voice that will best express what your Instagram profile is trying to send across. It’s the only way to build a brand and, most importantly, trust among your followers.
Tell the story behind the image
Once you got the first two points above clear in your mind, it’s finally time to get down to the actual copywriting. A great technique for creating compelling Instagram copy is writing about the story behind the image, thus offering some well-deserved context to your followers. Just take a look at some of NatGeo’s amazing captions. Each copy brings extra value to the image, offering a clearer idea of what’s going on.
People love to be captivated by stories and to feel as part of one. So, whenever you get the chance, complement your lovely photos with some equally lovely descriptions, igniting the imagination of your Instagram followers and helping them to better grasp what you’re all about.
Make clever use of user-generated content
As you’ve noticed by now, creating great Instagram captions doesn’t necessarily mean writing them. What makes a great Instagram copy is first and foremost, strategy.
For example, sometimes you might get more post engagements with an Instagram copy you didn’t write yourself, but one of your followers. Reposting captions from your followers can have a big effect on your engagement rate and can further help build trust among your target. So, keep a close eye on what your followers are saying in regard to your Instagram profile and don’t hesitate to share their thoughts.
Long or short, make your caption count
Instagram imposes a 2200 character limit for captions, so the available space for expressing yourself is rather generous. While there are no definite rules regarding the length of captions, you should follow one vital one: make sure your caption is high quality, providing information or entertainment.
If you take a look at some of the most successful brands and influencers on Instagram, you’re going to notice a big diversity when it comes to caption lengths. Red Bull often goes for short and punchy, while Airbnb is not afraid to step on the longer side. No matter the case, what makes these captions successful is the way they perfectly complement the pictures and the way they flow.
Use your Instagram copy to start a conversation
Your Instagram copy shouldn’t exist in a bubble. In the end, the purpose of the copy is to generate post engagement aka likes and comments. Thus, a witty way of ensuring your caption gets people talking is to…actually talk to them. How? You can ask questions, start challenges, propose a debate theme or leverage a hot theme. This way, you’ll indirectly improve your copywriting and generate the results you’re after.
So, don’t just limit your captions to descriptions or stories. Although these do work, you will want to mix things up from time to time and give followers something to actually do themselves. Start thinking about your brand and its values and extract the actions that you deem most relevant in connection to it. Then, craft an Instagram copy that will get people to take that action. Because remember, the secret is always in the doing, not the talking.
Choose your hashtags wisely (and sometimes sparely)
Unlike other social media platforms, Instagram copywriting also includes the way one uses hashtags. Instagram allows up to 30 hashtags per posts, but that doesn’t mean, in any way, you should use them all.
Most studies show that the best results are delivered by Instagram copy that contain an average of 5 hashtags per post. However, feel free to experiment with the number. More importantly, what you should focus on are the actual hashtags you use. Do your research and if needed, even get some inspiration from programs that are able to generate hashtags. And remember quality, not quantity.
Throw in the right emoji at the right time
The secret to leveraging the power of emojis in an Instagram caption is using them at the right time. A well-placed emoji can make your followers stop, stare and read your well-crafted Instagram copy. We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: writing great Instagram copy doesn’t actually means more than…writing. It is highly dependant on the strategy you set out for yourself and the other Instagram specific symbols and tools you have at your disposal and, of course, the way you use them.
So don’t be afraid to use emojis in your posts, just make sure not to abuse their power and overuse them, because these could turn against you. You’ve been warned!
Make your call to action original
One of the key points to writing better Instagram copy is focusing on crafting your call to action. Besides a few clear rules that require the use of active tense and choosing the right verbs, you should also follow some style guidelines.
The science of words is real and the more you focus on selecting the right ones and writing and rewriting them until you land with the right combination, the more success you will have.
Full disclosure, it might take you a while before perfecting your Instagram copy. However, by following the guidelines above, you’ll have a better chance at polishing your craft as soon as possible. Keep in mind that there’s no fixed recipe, especially since everybody lingers for originality (and Instagram followers are some of the most pretentious originality-seekers out there).
The best thing you can do is write, rewrite and rewrite again. Try new things, be bold and, most importantly, have fun!