Writing for Instagram: How to Tell a Powerful #Story in Your Caption Copy

Since its launch just five years ago, Instagram has become one of the world’s most successful social networking services. According to recent stats, more than 300 million people use it each month and an average of 70 million images is uploaded to it daily.

However, despite its popularity, Instagram doesn’t seem like an obvious medium for content writers. There are a lot of selfies, cute cats, lattes and pictures of uneaten food that built the social network’s reputation for triviality.

Despite its popularity, Instagram doesn’t seem like an obvious medium for content writers.

But, what if you could use Instagram to share powerful narratives?

Some of the most creative article writers and content creators are already experimenting and finding new storytelling possibilities within Instagram’s text box.

Here’s how to tell a powerful story in your caption copy.

1. Give Context

Captions are often overlooked or not given significant thought by photojournalists, bloggers and content writers alike. Most of them invest their efforts into finding the best filter or the right hashtag for their photos. If they write a caption, they are only stating the obvious most of the time.

Instead of simply restating what’s already obvious in the photo, try to give your audience some context. Use the five 5Ws and one H rule — Who, What, When, Where, Why and How — to give information that the audience can’t see for themselves.

Creating a backstory is a great way to add a temporal sense to your posts and to help your audience feel like they are part of the story.

2. Intrigue Your Audience

We humans have a deeply curious nature. Curiosity has been the driving force behind our greatest discoveries and the fuel that fed our desire to make sense of the world.

Creative content writers know how to use Instagram’s captions to create intriguing stories that trigger curiosity.

Take National Geographic as an example. Their photos are stunning, and work as an excellent hook to engage users. But, they don’t say too much, so the reader has to read the caption in order to understand the story behind the photo. The captions are written in such a manner that they offer powerful insights that make the reader look back at the picture to completely understand it.

3. Write Like It’s Happening Now

Appeal to the five senses to transport your audience into the scene you are describing. Help them imagine how things smell, sound, taste and touch. Describe how the protagonist of your photo looked, acted and talked. Don’t simply tell your audience what is going on. Show them.

Use present tense and an active voice to make your copy more powerful and present.

Don’t simply tell your audience what is going on. Show them.

4. Experiment With Different Story Structures

Try to alternate story structures and voices to make your captions more engaging. Write your copy in second person or in third. Or, write the caption like a letter addressed to the subject of the photo. Write in the voice of another person who remembers events from his past experiences and so on.

5. Embrace the #Hashtag

Adding hashtags to your caption copy can add some static factual context to your story, such as the topic you are covering or an issue that’s often handled in headlines. More than that, recent studies have shown that, posts with 11 hashtags or more are more engaging. However, it’s not a great idea to stuff your captions with hashtags just for the sake of it. Use them only if they are relevant to your story.

Hashtags are also a great way to organize your posts and help your audience find custom stories.

Writing for Instagram is different and it should be approached with a different strategy than, let’s say, Facebook. Creative content writers are using this social network as an opportunity for innovation, and are constantly experimenting to see what types of narratives work best.

Are you using Instagram as a medium for storytelling? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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