The Ultimate Guide to Writing Instagram Captions

Instagram is a visual platform. High-resolution photos and videos are what drive the social network. But the unsung hero that steers engagement to your posts is in your ability to write Instagram captions that entice your audience. 

Although it’s not an easy task, focusing your efforts on writing Instagram captions is critical to the growth of your brand or business. Sure, your photos hold the most power on Instagram. However, a great strategy for writing Instagram captions will strengthen your reach and help you grow your following. 

Today, we will break down how writing Instagram captions the right way will grow your brand. So get out your notepad and dig in below:

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #1: Create an Engaging Opening Line 

While it’s not always easy to be creative or write at your best at all times, the first thing to keep in mind when writing Instagram captions is crafting an opening line that will catch your reader’s attention. 

You want to stop them in their tracks when they scroll over your post. Leadoff with your most important piece of content. Let the reader know that you just launched a new product, offering an exclusive via Instagram, or provide eye-catching stats. 

Make sure the copy is easy for your audience to read. It should be clear, concise, and always designed to get the interest of your audience. Make sure that opening makes the viewer want to read on and learn more about you and your brand. 

Implement fun and authoritative tools like all caps, hashtags, and emojis smartly. Use these tools to enhance your captions, but don’t go overboard!

Fact: The average human attention span is eight seconds, on social media, it’s even shorter. All the more reason your opening line needs to be catchy!

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #2: 60-70 Words is Your Ideal Caption Length

The ideal Instagram caption length seems to change all the time. That’s because the Instagram algorithm changes all the time. 

In the past, short and attention-grabbing captions seemed to work best. Then, around 2018 and 2019, longer and more thoughtful captions are what registered well. So what’s best for today? Honestly, a mix of both. 

There are two ways to optimize your caption length. First, master the short game. Create captions with 125-150 characters packed with very to-the-point content. Limiting yourself to 125 characters ensures that your entire caption shows up in the Instagram feed.

If you have a longer story to tell, go for it! Just cap it at around 400 characters or 60-70 words. That’s when your reader may begin to lose interest. 

Fact: Instagram allows up to 2,200 characters that may contain 30 hashtags per post.

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #3: Add a Call-To-Action (CTA)

Every Instagram caption you write should include a call-to-action (CTA). This is a way for you to get your audience engaged by asking them to share their thoughts through comments, reshare the post, or click the link in your bio. 

A CTA creates a greater opportunity for viewers to share your content. Use “action” words that prompt people to do something. CTA’s should be inviting and create movement. Here’s where you get viewers to follow your page, add a comment, sign-up for your newsletter, and shop your products and services.

Also, if you have 10K or more followers, you can pivot from your grid feed momentarily and leverage the Instagram Story Swipe-up tool. The swipe-up option provides a great opportunity to generate traffic to your website or webstore. You can send viewers differently to product pages, showcase new releases, send them to a sign-up page for a webinar, online tutorial, or even a Zoom call.

Pro Tip: The Instagram algorithm has always placed a high emphasis on positive, engaging content. Ask your readers to answer a question, leave a comment, tag friends in the comments section, or even to “like” your post if they agree with its content. This type of audience engagement leans into how the algorithm ranks pages. Do more of this!

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #4: Use Hashtags and @ Mentions to Increase Discovery 

Hashtags

Hashtags remain one of the largest discovery tools on Instagram. As long as your account is public, users can find your content if you’re using popular or very niche hashtags. 

Believe it or not, hashtags help you win in multiple ways. They do far more than just bring you more followers. Hashtags help you build a community. Another thing you can expect when using the right hashtags is that you’ll have new eyes on your feed outside of your followers. You’ll want to create one or two branded hashtags and use them on all of your posts.

Don’t use hashtags too early in your caption. It’s been proven that this causes people to click away from your posts. Add your hashtags at the end of your captions. Separate them with a few line breaks so they’re much further down the page.

Mentions

Mentions (or @ mentions) draw much more attention to your profile. Calling out customers, industry friends, or brand collaborators is an effective way to build your online community. 

Creating this type of communication on your feed will inspire people to engage with your brand’s Instagram content. Responding to follower’s comments will build trust and persuade others to talk, ask questions, and even follow you. Mentions in your caption is a small but impactful tactic to leverage as much as possible.

Fact: PLANOLY’s Hashtag Manager is a great way to organize your hashtags. You can create custom groups of hashtags to easily add to future captions and save yourself lots of time in the process! Learn more here

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #5: Define Your Brand Voice

Your brand’s voice and tone should always be at the forefront of any communication with your customers, especially on Instagram. Make sure any written content is consistent with your brand’s values so that followers and viewers can easily identify who you are and what you’re about. 

Your brand has a personality that needs to shine through on Instagram. That may mean your captions are informative or humorous. Whatever it is, lean into that voice and be personable. Instagram is mostly informal and laid back – for the majority of users, it’s not a place to be overly serious. 

Inspo: Gweneth Paltrow’s lifestyle and wellness company, Goop, does a great job on Instagram to maintain a consistent voice in its captions. Their tone is fun and inspirational, and their CTAs are always clear.

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #6: Cross-Promote Other Social Channels

Although it’s not directly related to Instagram growth, you can use your Instagram captions to cross-promote your other social channels. If your following on Instagram is large or influential, use your captions to let those followers know about staying in touch through other channels like Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook.

This is a great way to build a 360 community, which means making sure that their followers are in tune with big announcements or updates across all social networks. By connecting these dots, you provide users with a greater opportunity to get to know you or your brand.

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #7: Use Emojis

Remember a few moments ago when we were talking about your brand voice? Add a little personality to that tone with emojis!

Fun, lighthearted, and now a universal language, emojis are almost expected when it comes to communicating online. Use them often but don’t overdo it. Use them to add context to your images or your caption. 

Fact: 50% of all Instagram accounts use emojis in their posts.

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #8: Dive Into Your Insights and Analytics

A/B testing is when you conduct an experiment to test two different approaches for the same goal. A/B testing different types of captions for similar content on Instagram is a valuable way to identify what resonates with your audience. Testing out what works best and learning where you can make adjustments is the backend work of all successful brands and businesses on social media.

The PLANOLY Analyze feature makes identifying the success from your test work quick and easy. This all-encompassing PLANOLY Instagram analytics tool will help you grow your brand and discover the trends that drive success. You’ll learn all about your engagement rates, impressions, reach, and your follower demographics.

On Instagram, you can tap “View Insights” on one of your grid’s post to analyze how the individual post performed. Compare your results based on engagement, saves, reshares, and impressions.

Fact: To access the full scope of PLANOLY Analyze, you’ll need to upgrade to an Instagram Business Account, if you haven’t already. It’s free!

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #9: Create Drafts

You won’t always write that magical caption that brings in new followers in droves on the first try. That’s why it’s great to create drafts for future caption inspiration on a doc or your PLANOLY app. Practice truly makes perfect when it comes to Instagram captions. 

There’s no need to rush your creative process on Instagram. You have all the time in the world to plan, come up with the perfect post, then schedule it at an optimal time. Don’t worry about missing your window of the chronological order of Instagram posts. That’s not nearly as important a factor in the algorithm as it once was. 

Your posts will appear in your followers’ feeds by the number of likes and comments it has, and your relationship to that user. And, a factor you can’t control, which is how important Instagram feels your post is to that specific user. That said, there’s no fault in taking your time to come up with the best possible caption for your audience.

PLANOLY Pro Tip: For all your other drafting needs, PLANOLY’s “Placeholder” feature allows you to plan content and organize it in the grid ahead of time with “placeholder” images. You can learn more about this helpful time-saving feature here

Writing Instagram Captions Rule #10: Add Structure and Line Breaks to Your Captions

When it comes to writing longer Instagram captions, it’s important to make sure they’re readable. Of course, spelling and grammar are always key, but you’ll also need to break up your copy so it’s digestible for the viewer. 

Use line breaks to split up the caption if its 60-70 words long. You’ll also want to use those line breaks to separate your caption from your hashtags to avoid visual clutter. Line breaks also come in handy if you’re listing items like new products, a how-to guide, or a recipe. 

Fact: Statistics show that more than 65% of all humans are visual learners. This means the way your content is structured means almost as much as the content itself. Put some thought and effort into how you display your content!

Instagram will always be a visual medium. But when you master your images and your words, you’re ahead of the game. Mastering your captions opens you and your brand up to discovery, excitement, empathy, and community. 

Start using the best practices above and you’ll quickly see why Instagram is one of your best marketing tools

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