Captions are often overlooked when composing a top-notch Instagram post. In a world of filters and hashtags, it can be all too easy to forget about that text plays an important role. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: Text matters more than you might think on a social medium devoted to pictures.
Photoslurp like nothing better than to see our customers build their Instagram presence: it’s good for them, and good for us. Always doing research on how we can help you improve your Instagram presence, we’ve found some useful tips on Instagram captions, an often underrated but crucial area.
With that said, we’ve collected 6 points for creating the perfect Instagram captions. How to make your captions stand out without clouding your message — it’s all here.
1. RESEARCH YOUR FOLLOWERS INTERESTS:
A good rule of thumb for all Instagram work, make sure you do your homework and research your target market. Find users whose interests match yours and you’ll reap long-term rewards in increased user engagement. Hold off on creating your captions — and posts in general — until you’re sure what your target audience wants, however time-consuming it may seem.
For example, if your business deals in fashion and wants to promote a specific line of exciting new tank-tops, don’t write captions which are:
- Too broad — ‘Do you like fashion?’
- Too specific — ‘Introducing our new tank tops, which come in a range of 23 colours and 7 sizes, are made from polyester and cotton and available in… (etc..)’
- Based on good images, but irrelevant — ‘Here’s a cute photo of my dog… buy our tank-tops!
2. GO SHORT AND SNAPPY OR HAVE NO CAPTION AT ALL
Keep your captions short where possible — consider having none at all if it suits! A study by Buffer showed that captions of 40 characters or less receive 86% more engagement than those of more than 40 characters. Each post can have a maximum of 2,200 characters per caption, but for the love of all that is Instagram, please don’t make a caption that long unless it is needed!
If you want to let the picture do all the talking and have no caption, it’s always an option. Minimalism works in select cases, and if your picture is particularly captivating or puts across a specific message, a caption may become distracting. As one Instagrammer puts it, ‘brevity is king’ — that includes having no caption at all if appropriate.
If you have a target demographic who want a lot of detail or perhaps a longer story behind your photo (see Point 4), then, a longer caption could be useful, but most users want to see shorter captions. Take advantage of how easily scannable Instagram captions can be when done correctly.
3. PLAN YOUR CROSS-LINKING — USE CLEVER HASHTAGS AND EMOJIS
Instagram and apps like Everypost are great for helping you cross-post on other social media, boosting the combined impact of your posts. However, bear in mind that your perfect caption needs to be optimised for all the media you use simultaneously. For example, don’t use Instagram usernames when cross-posting to Facebook — they won’t link back to the Instagram users and therefore become redundant.
Filling your captions with wall-to-wall blue text can turn a good post into an eyesore, so cut down on unnecessary spam hashtags. If you still have a long list of relevant hashtags (it happens), consider separating your tags from the rest of your text. A great way to do this is to place them in a separate comment, leaving your caption free to be asmall, easily legible slice of black text.
As well as thinking about hashtag use in your Instagram captions, remember that over 50% of the text on Instagram contains emojis: they’re everywhere. It helps that a wider variety of emojis than the basic smiles and frowns are now more widely used — you can take advantage of this to summarise more complex ideas.
For example, you can use emoji hashtags as an effective way to summarise the mood and tone of your post whilst keeping the perfect caption as short as possible. The post shown below has over 4,000 likes, a really good example of how an emoji hashtag is more effective than ‘#heart’ or ‘#love’ at getting across the upbeat message of generally loving life.
4. TELL A STORY WITH SIGNATURE STYLE, HUMOUR AND GIMMICKS
Hootsuite gave us a valuable lesson and reminder: social media is not meant for advertising but as a way to share with others.
This means that telling the story behind a photo can make it far more engaging. A user can become far more engaged with an image — taking time to stop, consider and enjoy it — because the caption showed them why they are looking at something special. Think about how music fans enjoy ‘rockumentaries’ showing how their favourite album was made (‘Funky Monks’ for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, anyone?), or director’s commentary for famous films.
If you decide to tell the story behind a post and multiply its value, you should do so using a signature style of some kind. Gimmicks, in-jokes, whatever you want to call them: having repeated structures gives you parameters to work with when writing captions.
Wits and puns are a good way to get such a signature style started and draw in new users with a caption. Someone once said that ‘cleverness is next to godliness on social media’. What were they referring to? Mainly the use of puns, word-play and general wittiness to gain attention online, and this is a technique which works brilliantly to create short, memorable Instagram captions.
Take this example from Innocent smoothies talking about spooning bananas:
5. ASK A RHETORICAL OR LEADING QUESTION
Asking questions when creating the perfect caption is a tried-and-tested way to engage with your users, and it rarely fails. Don’t just ask any old question: use leading or rhetorical questions to both engage your follower’s attention and give them an opportunity for dialogue with you.
This technique works especially well if you already have a strong, highly engaged fan-base, where you can ask your Instagram followers for help or advice. Everyone loves to share their two cents and many will comment with an opinion!
Combine this point with your research from Point 1 to make sure your question is relevant and you have a winning formula for the perfect caption (just don’t overuse it).
6. CHECK YOUR GRAMMAR AND TONE — NO FAKE ‘EDGINESS’
It may not be the first thing you think about when it comes to Instagram, but correct spelling, punctuation and grammar have an important part to play in good caption-making. Slang and abbreviations can be a good option when used sparingly and with a relevant target group. They can help keep your caption short and accessible, but make sure your caption is also legible, simple and easy to understand.
Just don’t take any attempts at slang, local customs or being ‘edgy’ too far. We can all think of marketing campaigns which backfired because marketers tried to hard to take advantage of the zeitgiest, such as American Apparel’s tasteless 20% ‘Hurricane Sandy’ sale, promoted on social media to abbreviate everything and sound like a texting teenager is a sure-fire way to make Instagram users roll their eyes and pass on by your caption.
If a quality image makes someone stop and think, the perfect caption would offer them more, and it needs to be well-checked for spelling and grammar in order to do so.
ALL OK ON THOSE 6 POINTS FOR THE PERFECT INSTAGRAM CAPTIONS? Read the full blog post with examples and images, written by Harry Brennan, HERE!